Great Australian Bight


We sailed from Fremantle on the 5th April, the weather was fine and we hoped it would remain so as we were about to cross the Great Australian Bight, renowned for rough seas and sensitive stomachs.

The Great Australian Bight stretches from Cape Pasley in Southern Western Australia to Cape Catastrophe in South Australia.

There are always stories if you have just a hint of something different.

For years there have been rumours of a Portuguese ship, the Countess of Selkirk  that sank in the area of Cape Pasley.
Part of a ship was found in 1913  and what was thought was the bow still had the name Countess of Selkirk attached to the ‘bow’ by screws.

The finder, who was a stockman, employed by the Cape Pasley Station (for none Australians think a large farm) took the plate and gave it to his employer.
The station owner wrote to Lloyds of London and the Dutch shipping registry asking if they had any details of the ship.
Before the station owner received a reply he was drowned when out fishing and the exact location of the ‘ship’ was lost.

Historians have checked the screws that held the plate and confirmed that they were made after 1770, and the same type of screws were shown in an 1880 catalogue.

It is thought that the name plate was sent to the maritime museum in Adelaide, but it has never been found.

The Earl of Selkirk is a Scottish peerage, which was created in 1646 and is still in existence.

The area around Cape Pasley is an isolated area with only a dirt track, rather than a road, and the nearest  proper road is about 55 km (33 miles) away.

Cape PasleyIt is a wild area.

Just to make the ‘legend’ a little more confused there is a thought that the ship’s name was Countess Sulkaat. 

For those of us in the Juna it was a peaceful voyage and overall, it was a calm crossing of the Great Australian Bight, which stretches 1160 km (720 miles) from west to east.


The cliffs on our port side ranged up to 60 mtrs tall (200 ft), and behind the cliffs was the Nullarbor Plain, which is Latin for ‘No trees’, a flat landscape as far as the eye can see.
The depth of the water of the Bight is from less than 15 mtrs (50 feet) to 6000 mtrs (a little under 20,000 ft).

On reaching the eastern area of the Bight we came across Cape Catastrophe, so named by Matthew Flinders who, in 1802, was charting the coastline in HMS Investigator.

Mathew Flinders had been given the task of mapping the whole of the Australian coastline by the British Admiralty. He sailed from the UK in July 1801 and called at the Cape of Good Hope on the way.

In February 1802 he sent a cutter (small boat) with a crew of eight to see if they could find fresh water in the area.

As the cutter was returning in choppy waters it capsized, none of the crew survived. Mathew Flinders was unable to find the bodies of his crew.

He then named the headland Cape Catastrophe and the small cove in which he had anchored, Memory Cove.

We arrived in Sydney on the evening of the 9th April, which was a Wednesday, and docked waiting for the labour to come onboard the next day. The next day was the Thursday before Easter, so of course it was half day, at which time the hatches were closed and the labour disappeared shouting that they might see us on Tuesday (the Monday after Easter Sunday is a holiday in Australia).

We did not complain.

Three of us went ashore in the evening to see a bit of ‘life’.


The Hickson Road dock area (shown above) is a short walk in to the city – short as in comparison to other city’s dock areas around the world.
The above photograph was taken in 1968, but now many of the piers that you can see have been converted in to expensive apartments.



There were three of us so we could afford a taxi to Kings Cross, the red light area of Sydney at the time.
In 1967 Sydney had been added to the list of cities that catered for US troops during their short R & R away from Vietnam.


A daylight shot, all quite until night time  . .

Cities and towns - Sydney - William Street - Kings Cross at nigh

 Overall, we were disappointed with our visit. We were looking for a beer and something to eat and ended up stairs in a packed drinking place where we were asked to buy food along with drinks. So, we thought we’d have a ‘pie & a pint’ and found an empty table. The problem was that we couldn’t catch the eye of a waiter, we had the feeling that we were being ignored as the place was full of American sailors and they spent real money and we looked like country bumpkins.

Eventually one of us climbed on the table and grabbed his chest and shouted that he was having a heart attack and collapsed and rolled off the table. A waiter ran over a looked down at the heart attack who said to the waiter ‘ A jug of beer, three glass and three meat pies before I die.’

We got our drinks and pie and as we finished were asked to leave, which was fine with us as we had lost interest this ‘red light’ district, which we couldn’t help compare to those we visited in Asia.

We walked to the famous Coca Cola sign and turn right down William Street.

william st

The Coca Cola sign is behind the photographer, (which is from the internet) so we started to walk.

When we came alongside the previous day we were all given an invitation to a weekly Thursday dance at the Royal Blind Society of Sydney, which assured us that they were associated with the British Seaman’s Society.
The address of the dance was at the top of William Street, so we decided to have a look at what was going on. I think the address was Boomerang Place, an area, which has all been redeveloped.

We arrived at what looked like an old church hall and wondered in to be greeted by a middle-aged lady at a table by the door. We produced our invitation and she smiled and offered us raffles tickets. She had three or four different colours of tickets.

I asked if we could get a beer while we had a look inside and she said, only if you buy a raffle ticket.


OK, how much are the raffle tickets – I cannot remember the prices but for illustration purposes she said – ‘The blue ones are $1, the yellow is $2, and the pinks are $5’.

‘What are the prizes?’ I asked and she said, ‘You’ve not been here before have you?’

‘No’ I replied.

‘Buy the tickets and swap them at the bar, blue for beer, yellow for wine and pink for spirits, we don’t have a licence to sell alcohol, but we can hold a raffle.’

We bought several blue and a few yellow and entered.

The place was nearly empty except for a groups of  young girls – they were mainly British girls who worked in local offices and were homesick and liked to dance and socialise with British visitors.
The place slowly filled and we had a pleasant evening. It was strange to be in Sydney and listen to a strong Yorkshire accent and to have it translated occasionally.

The idea of buying raffle tickets for beer has stuck with me for years, I hope the inventor became a millionaire.

Because the port was ‘closed’ I was off on Good Friday, so went to a beach for a swim. I cannot remember which beach, but I assume it was Manly on account of the lack of public transport to Bondi Beach. Getting to Manly is easy because of the ferry service.


Hydrofoil much faster than a normal ferry.


A holiday weekend . . .

We took it in turns to have a day or half day ashore and I managed to get to Luna park as well as the Manly beach, and on Easter Monday a couple of us visited the Royal Easter Show – which was very impressive, it was first held in 1823.


All things come to an end and we sailed on the 23 rd April having been in Sydney for two weeks and only worked cargo for about eight or nine days – the Australian run has always been popular . . .

 Our next port was to be Melbourne.






A radio message arrived to inform us that we were to call at Trincomalee to pick up mail and to investigate the situation before leaving the area for Fremantle in Western Australia.

This suited us all of us on board because picking up mail was one of the most important events for anyone at sea – news from home. The mail had been forwarded from Colombo.

At that time, in the late 60’s, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) was not a common holiday place for those living in Europe, so there was little in the way of holiday style facilities. The above picture is a current view of a Trinco beach scene.

We arrived at 5.00 pm (1700 hr) and anchored. Trinco was a port where we had to anchor to work cargo and barges would come out to the ships.

Work started the following morning to load tea – the strike was either over or we’d offered an ‘incentive’ to get them to work, I never knew which.

A few of us had the afternoon off so we took the ship’s motor boat for a spin.
Trinco  harbour is the finest  harbour in this part of the world and the water was as clear as could be, so clear and safe that one could swim off the side of the ship.

We found a small beach and secured the boat while swimming – the choice of beaches was unlimited.

Then we found an old small raft that still floated, so of course we wanted to tow it behind the ship’s motor boat – this is when I had my first experience at ‘water skiing’ . .


Look Dad – no hands . . .


It was great fun and we all took turns to ride the raft and steer the boat.

Two days later I had a full day off (I worked nights) so a group of us took the ship’s boat again and landed on tropical island that was pure story books – yellow sand, lush vegetation just beyond the sandy beach, palm trees, clear blue water and a bright blue sky. It would have cost a fortune for anyone to have joined us as a holiday maker from the UK.

Late in the afternoon we went back to the ship to pick up the rest of the officers, all but the second mate and one engineer, both had volunteered to stay on board.

We collected a stack of food and of course a crate or two of beer – it was picnic time.

We built a fire in the sand and set about our B-B-Q, plus we had our own music (battery tape recorder).
The food was well cooked – didn’t wish to take any chances of the Trinco Trots. I was so concerned that my steak was more like a burnt offering than a well-done steak. We also managed to cook chips (French fries), which was a surprise to me.

I was back on board by 10.00 pm (22,00 hr) dead beat and slept like a log – my next shift was 7.00 am in the morning – I slept the sleep of the dead.


One of the senior people in the agency asked the First Mate if he’d like to go hunting – of course he would . . .  wouldn’t we all if we had the chance?

The First Mate was supplied with a rifle, and along with his host went wild boar hunting.

He was successful and arrived back on board with his bounty of wild boar. It was given to the cooks and that night we had wild boar for dinner. It had a strong pork taste, which isn’t all that surprising.
The comment was made that it was a pity we didn’t have it on a framework over the BBQ.

I went to the internet for a picture of the Sri Lankan wild boar (see above) and on reading of the history of the boar I realised that shooting wild boar was illegal in 1968 (the time I was there for the shooting) and had been since 1964, although to be technical the actual shooting of the boar was legal if the boar had invaded farmland  . . .  it was the moving of the remains, which was illegal, and perhaps the eating of the same in a restaurant (which was very popular). So, the First Mate had not broken the law by killing nor by removing the remains (the agent did this) it was like all of us on board, it was the eating of the beast.

Small roadside shops who usually sold coconut and corn products, would at times have boar meat for sale, and the locals would ask for ‘dadamas’, which in the local Sinhala language means ‘bush meat’ because it was illegal to sell boar meat.

Currently the boars have become so prolific that the current Sri Lankan government is considering allowing the shooting in certain circumstance.

We arrived in in Trinco on the 18th March, and should have sailed with our cargo of tea on the 21st March, but we were delayed (for reasons that I can’t remember) but I do remember that every three hours we were told that we’d be sailing, but didn’t, and these three hour delays added up to three days in the end when we finally sailed on the 24th March for Fremantle in Western Australia.

Once out of the shelter of the island of Ceylon the weather began to deteriorate as we head on a south easterly course for Western Australia.

Punduastorm2 The storm that we encountered was not as bad as the typhoon off Formosa (Taiwan), but overall, we found it very unpleasant. The above picture is a from the start of the typhoon, so I used it as an illustration.

The main difference being that the storm in the Indian Ocean caused the ship to pitch up and down, which one can get used to it and compensate.
In a corridor outside your cabin one minute you are climbing up, and the next minute you are running down.

The other movement is that the ship will roll, and again you can get used to the ship rolling, (watch a sailor walk down a street).

The problem is that when the ship rolls and pitches at the same time the movement, called corkscrewing, will cause the brain and stomach to be out of sync causing a very unpleasant feeling that goes on for days . . .you still have to stand your watch and do your job.


Another from the Pundua to show that pitching will bring tons of water over the decks.

Of course the storm slowed us down, which was a concern for the chief steward, because we were getting low on meat and potatoes.
He’d bought an extra 200 pounds (91 kilos) of potatoes in Colombo and paid an extortion price of 2/- (two shillings) a pound (the average cost in the UK was 2d (2 old pence) a pound. or 1100% more expensive than the UK retail price, never mind the wholesale price. Our chief steward was not happy.

A couple of days out from Fremantle we’d ran out of potatoes & meat – the wild boar had long gone, and we were low on water.
All we seemed to dream about on watch, as we scanned the horizon for the first sign of Australia, was an Ozzy steak.


The simple things in life are only missed when you don’t have them such as – fresh meat and fresh crunchy salads – from memory we made a pig of ourselves on arrival in Fremantle.

British India Steam Navigation Co.’s ships were known as good ‘feeders’, we seldom went without and we always had plenty of good food unless circumstances out of our control caused a shortage. It was not unknown to order a steak and eggs and chips (French fries) for breakfast. I only did this once after a very long night shift and slept well after.

We had three good meals a day – breakfast, lunch & dinner, plus I used to have a plate of sandwiches wrapped in a damp cloth on a tray that contained cup & saucer, milk and sugar and the ‘makings’ for either coffee or tea – we had a kettle on the bridge.

I’m surprised that I didn’t put on more weight, but we did work hard particularly when in port.


This has been posted before, but it is an illustration of a lunch menu on a BI tanker (my first ship),
I know it states Christmas menu, but overall, it was similar to most days, but without the Christmas feel.


Each day we had a menu for each meal, and the main courses changed every day – breakfast was of course eggs to order, with sausages & bacon, and most days we had a choice of fish.
If you were hungry you could start at the top and work your way through, but this was not common.

Food wasn’t wasted because the evening roast was the following day’s curried lunch, and the Goanese curries were very good, and were one of the choices for lunch.

I thought all ships ate like the BI, until I met up with several old Conway cadets who put me right.


Fremantle 1968 – the white ship is not the one I sailed in . . . you can see the cranes on the left of the picture, which is how cargo ships were unloaded at that time before containerisation became the norm, which was just over three years later.


Loading cargo – all my yesterdays . . . .

At the same time as containerisation became popular in 1971 the Juna was sold to the Great China Steel Enterprise Company to be scrapped in Kaohsiung.

Like at sea was about to change








Bay of Bengal


Upon sailing from  Colombo we cleaned ship – the crew hosed down the decks and all rubbish was thrown overboard (well before it became un pc), the smell of the land fell away and we could unlock our windows and doors, we were free of petty thieving and the smell of industry, our destination was Chalna in East Pakistan (now called Bangladesh).

Each cabin had two doors – an outer door that was a thick solid door that was only closed when in port, and an inner door (only a couple of inches between each door) which was a louvered door. When opening the main door we could lock it open by the use of a hook attached to the bulkhead in the passageway.


The door was similar to the one in the picture, but on the ships in which I sailed our inner door was not full height, but about three quarters high of a standard door, and the slats could be moved to allow more air in to the cabin or to close it off completely.

One seldom locked the inner door so if one wanted to sleep or a quiet time, we would hang a bath towel over the top of the door and people would respect your privacy. We never locked our cabin doors when at sea because we felt that trust of ones colleagues was paramount.

The feeling that the ship is ours again after being in port is a definite feeling of ownership.

Once again, I was on the ‘graveyard’ watch – mid-day to 4.00 pm and midnight to 4.00 am, I loved that watch – peaceful, and particularly at night one felt in total command.

There are certain nights that I can remember and the short voyage from Colombo to Chalna has been in my mind for a long time.

The weather was perfect – cloudless sky, about 29 c (84 f) with a light breeze that took the sting out of the sun. The waves were small with very few white caps, and the flying fish were – flying, and visibility must have been about twenty miles.

Sunset was dramatic with shades of blue green yellow orange purple grey and red beams that reflected off the sea. As the sun set the sky became silver as the moon took over from the sun.


Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera at the time of the sunset but have used the above which I took during a cruise. of course the sunset was not during my watch times, but later when we would sit outside – feet on the lower bar of the ship’s rails and a beer in hand and all was well with the world.


The gives you an idea, but the deck space on a cargo ship was a small area and we didn’t march around the ship for exercise as people do on modern cruise ships.

As we approached the coast of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) we were looking for the light vessel that warned of sand banks and other dangers.


This is not the Chalna lightship, but I posted it to show those who may not be aware of a light ship. The lightship would be moored at a designated spot, and its light would flash at night in a certain pattern to warn vessels of danger.

We arrived off the lightship at around 5.00 pm (1700 hrs) and anchored and waited for the pilot to guide us up the Pasur River the sixty miles to Chalna.

Once again we waited and waited and finally, we heard that the agent didn’t even know that we were due in to Chalna. The added problem was that the date that we arrived was the 12th March, and we had to be out of the river and in to the Bay of Bengal no later than the 14th March because the water in the river might drop so low that we wouldn’t be able to cross the bar (sandbanks) at the mouth of the river.
I must admit that there were times when I was glad I was not the Captain, and this was one of them.

When the pilot did arrive to guide us up the river we could only cross the bar at high water, and when we sounded the depth we had less than two metres (seven feet) under the keel of the ship as we crossed the bar in to the river.

We moved up the river in the evening and moored to a buoy off Chalna.

Chalna at that time was the main seaport in the area (second only to Chittagong) having been created in 1950, but due to difficult currents in the Pasur river it was decided in  1954 that the anchorage should be moved nine miles south towards the river mouth to a place called Mongla although in the 1960’s it was still referred to as Chalna, but now it is known as Mongla, due to the port’s expansion.


Warehouse style barges came out to us and using our cargo derricks we unloaded / loaded cargo. I took the above picture in 1968.

The flat land on both sides of the river were just mangrove swamps, the main town of Khulna was thirty-two miles further up river, which was the regional administration centre. At our anchorage the river was about five miles wide.

We were due to load 1500 tons of cargo and so had five gangs working flat out because we had to leave the river while we had enough water to cross the bar at the river’s entrance.

We managed to load our cargo and cross the bar, although we were later than expected, the water was deep enough for us as we entered the Bay of Bengal on the 16th March.

Destination Trincomalee in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), a destination which is on the north east coast of Ceylon.


One of the finest harbours in the world, which was of great importance to the British during the colonial period. It was a safe harbour, and an ideal base to protect the Coromandel Coast, which is the south eastern coast of India.



The light brown area marked on the east coast of India is the Coromandel coast and I hope you can see the pink dot on Sri Lanka, which indicates Trincomalee.
Madras (now called Chennai), marked on the Indian coast with a pink dot in the light brown area, was an extremely important port for the British during colonial times.

In 1812 Britain order a couple of frigates to be built in India, due to the shortage of oak in Britain during the Napoleonic wars. The ships were built in Bombay (now Mumbai) out of teak.
One of the ships was named HMS Trincomalee after the battle of Trincomalee in 1782.


Launched in 1817, and is still afloat in Hartlepool ,in the UK after major renovations.


Considering where she was built note the figure head.

As we sailed to Trincomalee we heard that the labour in Trinco (as Trincomalee was called) were on strike, which meant that we would not be able to load our cargo of tea.

The Company asked if we could make Fremantle without stopping for fuel – we could, but it would be a ten day voyage from our location in the Bay of Bengal, and we had enough water for fourteen days, so as long as we didn’t hit any inclement weather we should be able to make Fremantle.










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