Death at sea


The gap at the mouth of Port Phillip Bay is called the RIP , or The Heads, which can be very dangerous. The gap between the two points of land is just over three kilometres, so of course to pass into Port Phillip requires a pilot.

It is said that this stretch of water is the most dangerous in Australia the tidal flow from Bass Straits into Port Phillip can be around 15 k/m per hour (9.5 miles mph) through a very narrow channel.


The above picture is downloaded off the internet

The pilot boat that came out to a ship had to fight the Rip outbound, and after leaving the pilot to board the inbound vessel it would return to the relative safety of Port Phillip.

We had sailed from Sydney and arrived off Port Phillip Bay on the 24th April and were slowly making out way to seaward of the Rip to pick up our pilot.

We regularly practiced emergency signals for fire drills, man overboard, collision  etc so as we approached the pilot area for Port Phillip, which was around 11.00 am the alarm bells sounded and the ship’s whistle blew long blasts and kept on sounding three long blasts. At first, I thought it was another drill until I realised it was a genuine emergency. The three long blasts indicated a man overboard.

As I ran on deck, I saw a warship racing towards us and our manned motorboat was being swung out to be lowered to the water as we slowed.

As I reached the bridge I was told that an engine room fitter had gone mad and thrown himself overboard.

I was ordered to the mast head so grabbed a powerful pair of binoculars and climbed the foremast in the hope of spotting the man in the water.
The problem was that the sea was covered in ‘white horses’ or breaking wave caps due to the wind  The above picture from the internet illustrate my meaning. The boat in the picture is one of the Port Phillip pilot boats.

Every available advantage point on our ship was covered with crew trying to spot the ‘jumper’.

The warship called in a spotter plane, but from memory it was a jet and at the speed it travelled, even though quite low, it had little chance of sighting anyone in the water. I thought I saw him once waving, but as I tried to focus the binoculars on him, he or what I thought was a man in the water disappeared.

My own ship, the warship & the spotter plane spent two hours looking for the missing man, but the only things we recovered were our own lifebuoys that had been thrown overboard in the hope that the man would use them to stay afloat.


We were required to recover our lifebuoys because each lifebuoy had our ship’s name printed on each buoy and the last thing we wanted was a stray lifebuoy to be found washed up on a beach, which might cause people to think that we were in distress.

At the time we doubted that the seaman wanted to be rescued so perhaps he would not have made it easy for us to find him. The wind was quite strong to he could have been blown further out to sea, plus the tidal rip would not have helped.

We eventually entered Port Phillip Bay and made our way to the docking area only to be told that because we were two hours late, we’d missed our docking time so we had to anchor off Melbourne and wait until the following day, which was ANZAC Day, so there wouldn’t be any cargo work done that day.

It was not long before some of the crew considered the ship to be unlucky. She used to be called MV Cornwall, and now she had a new name MV Juna, and changing a ship’s name is supposed to be bad luck . . .  we had had some accidents during the voyage, we had been short of water, and short of food, and now we had a death. We also had three wives on board, which is supposed to add to our bad luck.
You’d of thought that we were still in the sailing ship days, with sea monsters and mermaids.


Picture is an illustration from the original 1870 edition of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. 


I always see pictures of mermaids never a merman, very un pc . . . .

We worked cargo most days until we sailed for Adelaide in early May, the city of churches. Pleasant enough town, but quiet.

Sailing from Adelaide was on the brink of the southern winter (June, July & August is classed as winter), and our next port was Fremantle.
This would require us to cross the Great Australian Bight again, and this time it was a rough crossing and it was cold. I remember wearing two pullovers and a duffel coats on the bridge during the midnight to 4.00 am watch.

On the plus side the stars were spectacular due to the clean air and lack of light pollution, but it was far too cold to spend too much time admiring them from the wing of the bridge, which was open to the weather.


This is a recent picture of the southern night sky; I was unable to find exactly what I wanted.


An illustration of part of a bridge (not MV Juna) – the helm can be seen and the engine room telegraph. The helmsman would stand on the wooden platform when required, but as M.V Juna had auto-steering we would only become ‘manual steering’ when close to shore, or when picking up a pilot.

When the autopilot was in control the helmsman would become a bridge lookout, along with the officer of the watch, but on the opposite side to where the OOW stood. We would regularly swap sides to keep warm and awake!
As usual at night, we had a seaman in the bow of the ship who was also on lookout, but he didn’t have any cover, so his night watch was only two hours.
On seeing anything (light, shape in the water, or anything unusual) he would ring the fo’c’sle bell – one trike for starboard, two for port or three for dead ahead.


Picture from the internet – could not find a picture of MV Juna’s bell.

It was a pleasure to arrive in Fremantle, because we were out of the cold wind & choppy seas, and the weather was very pleasant.






Wonderful wonderful Copenhagen


As we entered Copenhagen we were being followed – Sapphire Princess again, and later the Queen Victoria.

DSC02489cCopenhagen is located on the island of Zealand.

According to legend the Swedish King Gylfe allowed the Norse Goddess Gefjun to carve out of Sweden as much land as she could plough in twenty four hours. The Goddess turned her four sons in to four immensely powerful oxen to help her. They ploughed so deeply that they raised the land and were able to tow it across the sea. The land that they ploughed is now known as Zealand. Apparently the lake that was created, Lake Vanern,
by the removal of the Zealand from Sweden is similar to the shape of Zealand . . . . .
The above photograph is the statue of the Goddess with her ‘oxen’ sons carving out Zealand. It is the largest sculpture in Copenhagen and is now used as a wishing well.


Next door to the statue is the Anglican church of St Alban’s, often referred to as the English church.
Due to strong trading links over the years a large British contingent had grown up in Copenhagen. The English would hold religious services in rented halls because they didn’t have a church building. A committee was set up in 1854 to try and raise the money to build a church. In 1864 they appealed to the Prince of Wales, and his Consort the Danish Princess Alexandria took up the challenge to raise funds and find an attractive site. The foundation stone was laid in 1885 and it was consecrated in 1887.

St Alban was the first British Christian martyr, who was beheaded in 304 AD by the Romans. If you wish to read further about St Alban click the link.

Attending the consecration ceremony were the King & Queen of Denmark, Tsar & Tsarina of Russia, King & Queen of Greece, Prince & Princess of Wales, the entire Diplomatic corp, representatives of the Army, Navy, church officials, and representatives of the Greek, Russian, and Roman Catholic churches, even though St Alban’s is a protestant church. After the service many of the dignitaries were invited to lunch aboard Royal Yacht HMY Osborne .


Found this picture of the Osborn on the internet as she is seen leaving the Kiel canal. She was also used to carry the Royal family to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. This vessel was launched in 1870 and scrapped in 1908.

Not far from the fountain and St Alban’s church is the most famous of all Danish statues.



The Little Mermaid – commissioned in 1909 by the son of the founder of Carlesberg brewery. The statue was unveiled in 1913.
When I first saw the statue in 1965 she had not long had a new head attached, because vandals had cut her head off the previous year.

The statue is not very big and the background is not a romantic open stretch of water, but a working harbour.

mermaid 01The above is an earlier Mermaid, note the difference in the position of  her head.

A short walk from the Mermaid we came across Copenhagen’s first statue to a black lady.


She is a statue called ‘I am Queen Mary’ – her name was Mary Thomas and she was one of three women who have gone down in history as symbols of the revolt against the colonial powers of Denmark in the Caribbean in 1878.

She was captured and sent to Copenhagen and imprisoned 1.6 km (about a mile) from where her statue is located. The building behind the statue used to house the sugar and rum produced by the slaves.

As a colonial power it is estimated that Denmark shipped about 111,000 slaves from West Africa to work in the cane fields of  St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, in the Caribbean.

In 1917 Denmark sold these islands for USD $25 million to the USA, they are now called the United States Virgin Islands.

The seven meter (23 ft) tall statue is not made of stone or metal, but was created by 3-D computer technology. As I looked at it I could see it move slightly in the wind. Not move to blow over, just the extremities made a slight movement. The lady holds a torch and the cutting knife that was used to cut cane.


Leaving the wharf behind we passed the fountain of Amalienborg near the palaces.


Four main palaces face the square and the one above is where Crown Princess Mary (of Tasmania) lives. They feel comfortable enough to allow their children to go to school, on foot, with very limited security.


Royal guards, outside another of the palaces.


The courtyard in front of the palaces is octagonal – the statue is of King Frederick V can be seen in the photograph.


Another of the palaces – but I can not remember who lives in each, other than Princess Mary’s.


Being used to the guards outside Buckingham Palace in London,I was a little surprised at the casualness of some of the guards in Copenhagen. Not a complaint just an observation.


From the Palace area we visited a merchants house for a cold dink, before walking to the famous Nyhavn waterfront area of Copenhagen. For centuries this area had been a very busy port and only after WW2 when the ships had grown too large to enter the canals did it fall in to disuse. The fact that Hans Christian Anderson used to live in the three of the houses at various times, helped revitalise the area as we know today. Most of the vessels tied alongside were fishing boats, rather than trading vessels.


Once again we would have liked more time to explore this area, but our tour was timed so it was a quick look-see and move on.


Plenty of restaurants and places to buy a drink and watch the world pass by, but we were the ones passing by.


More walking and we came to the parliamentary building or Christiansborg Palace- the work outside is due to a new subway being built.

This is the equivalent of the British Houses of Parliament – the Palace of Westminster.


We saw the outside of this department store – Magasin Du Nord, founded in 1868 and still going strong – a little expensive, but apparently you can get anything. – perhaps the Danish Harrods.

Just a little trivia for those who like shopping – Debenhams of the UK bought Magsin du Nord for £12 million ten years ago, and it is now valued at between £200 to £250 million.

Across the road from the department store we boarded our bus back to the ship.


The tour was over, but from our balcony a touch of yesterday, if you ignore the fact that she is moving without having set any sails.

Overall I think the ship’s tour I took in 1965 was better than our recent tour, I saw much more then than we did this time. I think Maureen was also a little disappointed, which might have been my fault because I talked up the place too highly. I know Wonderful Copenhagen isn’t at fault.