45a["Wreck of the Koombana", The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), Sunday 19 May 1912, page 9]


BROOME, Saturday.

Mr. Barker, editor and proprietor of the "Port Hedland Advocate," who yesterday read the finding of the Koombana Inquiry Board for the first

time, says that the statement that the steamer when she left Port Hedland was drawing 19ft. aft is not in accordance with what the Harbormaster told him and said he was prepared to adhere to when the vessel was reported missing. The Harbormaster's assertion was that she was drawing 11ft. forward and 16ft. aft. As to the statement that there was no particular evidence of bad weather, Mr. Barker says that for some hours before the Koombana sailed from Port Hedland the people were battening down, preparing for the gale. Further, that 40 pearling luggers had run into the creek from outside for shelter; and that many divers had reported an almost infallible sign of a blow--that is, a heavy ground swell in various parts of the ocean bed where they had been working. Also other evidence and an erratic barometer made it patent that a big disturbance was on hand.

Furthermore, Captain Allen, when questioned by Mr. Barker as to whether he was going to put out, said he did not know. "I don't like the glass," was Captain Allen's remark, "and another 24 hours here will not matter."

His decision to put out was only announced subsequent to a conversation which took place on the Koombana between Captain Allen and Captain

Upjohn of the Bullarra. Upon deciding to go out Captain Allen asked the Harbormaster to have certain luggers that were obstructing the channel out of Port Hedland Harbor removed, and when one still remained said he would not go out unless it was removed. He was palpably uneasy and disinclined to go.

"My passengers think they will get to Broome to-morrow (Thursday)," he remarked, "but they will be lucky if they get there by Saturday. I am going to put right out to sea, and as I might bump the bar going out I will leave my ballast tanks until I get outside and fill them out there."

As the Koombana went out a choppy sea was rolling through the harbor entrance, Mr. Barker watched the vessel from his house on the foreshore, and she had an ugly list to port. She was rolling heavily, her propeller at times being out of the water.

Within the last ten days ten air-tight tanks from the lifeboat have been reported as found on the beach 14 miles south of Hedland.

The Penguin visited Bedout Island last Tuesday, but no wreckage was discovered.

[Why wasn't Mr. Barker called as a witness at the inquiry?--S.T."]

45b[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,