42a["A Blow at Port Hedland", The Hedland Advocate (Port Hedland, WA), Saturday 23 March 1912, page 5]

A Blow at Port Hedland

Esplanade Washed Away

Railway and Telegraph Lines Damaged

Wrecks Reported

As if to palliate the tedium of the scorching, enervating heat, Hedland was visited this week by a cross-bred willy-willy, which, coming with the equinoctal tides, did a fair amount of damage. It is pretty certain that had it been a full-blooded willy it would have spelt disaster to the lowlands of Hedland.

It started on Tuesday night, with a strong easterly wind whistling and roaring, and the sea thundering and crumbling on the beach, indicative of heavier and deadlier surges out at sea.

Wednesday morning saw about 40 luggers running to the shelter of Port Hedland, where they were soon safely anchored, with bowsprits swinging up and down in salutation to the dip and rise of each other. These luggers had a rough time on Tuesday night, near Turtle Island, the cutting away of masts on some being seriously contemplated.


42b[Extracts, Court of Marine Inquiry, loss of s.s. "Koombana", Harbour & Lights Department, Western Australia, 25 April - 6 May, 1912. WA Museum (on loan), Letter, W. Gardiner, A.S.S. Coy agent in Port Hedland, to W.E. Moxon, A.S.S. Coy Manager for W.A., Fremantle, Wednesday 17 April 1912]

"Appendix "I".


Port Hedland.

17th April 1912.


Manager for W.A.


Dear Sir/

I am just in receipt of yours of 4th instant per

"Paroo". I have written a quantity of matter by a

previous mail relative to the "Koombana" and the weather

at the time of her departure and I shall probably repeat

myself in replying to your letter of above date.

(1). I was not aware that Captain Allen and Captain

Upjohn had any conversation regarding the weather before

they left until I saw it reported in the press. I was

with them both on sailing morning and spent the last hour

with Captain Allen on his Bridge Deck. The glass at that

time was not more than 10 points below normal at the

particular period of the year. Only a fortnight before

the glass fell nearly 60 points and nothing eventuated.

Captain Allen discussed with me the advisability of taking

the ship over the outer bar as the stiff easterly wind

blowing at the time was causing the sea to break in the

channel and he didn't half like the idea, as he feared if the

sea was very heavy outside he might bump heavily. However,

after consideration, he decided that as he would be leaving

on the top of high water equinoctial springs he should be

safe. It blew rather hard during Tuesday night but had

eased off Wednesday morning (sailing day) and the question

of Willy Willy never arose in the conversation. As to the

remarks said to have been made by Captain Allen that he

would not arrive in Broome for several days, he said to me

that with the stiff head wind lowing he would have no

hope of making Broome in time to catch the following day's

tide. In fact, he would be surprised if he wasn't a day

late as he wasn't too keen on Broome at night in dirty

weather. I did not repeat this conversation but I heard

a publican named Bush state that he heard Captain Allen

say he reckoned he would be a couple of days reaching

Broome but ther was no talk of standing out to sea and I

do not think for a moment Captain Allen thought he was

going out into a blow or that there was any immediate pros-

pect of a blow. As to a report that the vessel pitched

heavily as she went out, she only moved a little to a little

rough water caused by a high spring tide converging into a

narrow entrance. The only consultation I know of between

Captain Allen and Captain Upjohn was regarding the beacons

and I sent you a joint wire which they had written out.

(2). The weather for 24 hours before leaving was not

encouraging but with only a drop of 10 points in the

glass. The wind had been blowing fairly hard during the

night but eased in the morning. The sea was not running

particularly high as far as could be seen from the land but

as we have so much shallow ground around us were not in

a position to say what it was like further out. For

twenty-four hours after conditions got slowly worse, but very


(3). A large number of luggers came into the creek on

Wednesday morning and I spoke to a number of them and they

explained that they came in on account of dirty water caused

by the strong easterly wind and there was no talk in any way of a

blow. In fact many of them have said to me since that the

pearling fleets narrowly escaped a disaster which would have

been the greatest in their history as they never thought of

a blow when they came: it was solely on account of dirty

water. They arrived in mostly before the steamer sailed.

(4) I have already written and telegraphed you with

reference to the Bedout Light. You can take it as authentic

that the light was not burning later than the 13th ult.

Being equinoctal tides the water was naturally

higher than usual. It did not damage but washed away a few

yards of sand and was in danger of undermining the light tower

which was built on the water's edge, and a few sand bags

secured it.

BEDOUT LIGHT - It is hard to say what bearing the absence

of this light would have on the disaster. If she caught the

full force of the blow out there, I don't suppose she would see

it in any case.

Yours faithfully,