17a["Six Days Out", The West Australian, Wednesday 27 March 1912, page 7]







No tidings, good or ill, were flashed down from the North-West yesterday to relieve the anxiety and suspense felt everywhere in connection with the s.s. Koombana, which steamed into the cyclone on the coast last week and is now six days overdue on the journey from Port Hedland to Broome. Questions as to her safety framed themselves on every lip, but the hope of a definite answer remained unsatisfied in view of the entire absence of news. Her whereabouts is still shrouded in the mystery which surrounds the fate of many a deep sea ship. There was every expectation that yesterday would announce her safe arrival at one or other of the ports along the coast, and even in the absence of such cheering news the belief was still firm that she will eventually turn up all well. The increased speculation occasioned by her continued absence in some minds naturally led to the expression of the most sinister fears, and at one stage, indeed, it was freely circulated that the Koombana had struck one of the reefs which abound along the coast. The owners of the vessel, however, hold out every hope for her safety and express the fullest confidence in the ability of the skipper to bring her safe to port. As the result of a conference yesterday between representatives of the shipping companies, the Chief Harbourmaster, and the Premier, complete arrangements have been made to scour the sea, islands, and reefs from below Port Hedland to Broome and beyond, the details of which are given below.

The belief expressed that the Koombana put back to Port Hedland rather than face the storm found no support among mariners, who hold that the only hope for her safety lay in making a run for it out to sea. Ever since the intelligence of the hurricane reached the city the telegraph officials have been endeavouring to re-establish communication with all the stations north of Roebourne. Most of them can be spoken to via South Australia and Broome, but up to yesterday no word had come through, so far as could be ascertained, from Port Hedland, where it was thought there was a possibility of the missing steamer being found. At a late hour last night it was ascertained on inquiry at the General Post Office that for a very brief period the telegraph official had succeeded in speaking to the Port Hedland Post Office, and as the postmaster had made no reference to the Koombana being in port it is assumed that the vessel is not there.

A long message from our correspondent at Whim Creek gives a graphic account and fuller details of the blow around Depuch Island.




In accordance with the arrangements made by the Premier (Mr. Scaddan) on Monday evening, a conference was held at Fremantle yesterday morning between representatives of the shipping companies and the Chief Harbour Master (Capt. C. J. Irvine) who represented the Governor. The Premier thought it desirable that the conference should take place at the port in view of the fact that the shipping companies representatives were familiar with the coast, and had charts available in addition to which they were the people who would be competent to judge as to the nature of the message that was to be sent to the captain of the steamer Minderoo, which should reach Carnarvon during to-day.

At the conclusion of the conference Mr. J. E. Clarke, inspector for the Singapore line of steamers, despatched the following telegram to Carnarvon for Captain Mills, the master of the Minderoo, so that he should receive the instructions on his arrival at that port:--

Government request you to make thorough search for Koombana. I authorise you to use your discretion and do what you consider best in the interests of life and property. Captain Irvine suggests you proceed Cossack, using every means to get despatch Carnarvon and Onslow driving ship utmost speed, examining Montebello as far as possible. Will wire you further at Cossack.

The Minderoo is expected to reach Cossack Friday morning.




On every hand at Fremantle yesterday the predominant query was: "Any news of the Koombana?" Unfortunately in no direction whatever was a cheerful reply forthcoming, and the agents for the vessel, the Adelaide S.S. Company, were again besieged with inquiries from friends and relatives of those on board. No information came through from the North-West yesterday to allay the fears of those who are keenly anxious for news. As usual, when a ship is, or is supposed to be, in trouble rumours of varied character are rife. In some quarters the worst is instantly predicted with the usual vague references to the unsuitableness of a steamer for trade. Comments of this nature in connection with the Koombana were brought under the notice of Mr. W. E. Moxon, the manager of the Adelaide S.S. Company, at Fremantle yesterday, and in reply to a query in that connection he replied: "Any such reports are nonsensical. She has proved herself to be an excellent ship in bad weather over and over again. Human ingenuity has not yet, however, reached a pitch when it can be claimed that it can overcome nature in her wildest moods."

Asked if the company had given up hope in regard to the Koombana, Mr. Moxon replied emphatically that they had not relinquished expectations of hearing of her safety. "It is impossible to say," he continued, "what has happened, but it looks as though she has met with some mishap in the cyclone. We are looking for her, that is all we can say. Her Marconi apparatus has probably carried away, which would account for no ships having got into communication With her, although we have communicated with all wireless ships and have got them to communicate with others, also fitted with wireless, to take up the work of trying to get into touch with the vessel. We have made complete arrangements for searching the sea, islands, and reefs from below Port Hedland to Broome, and more than that we cannot do at present." The various theories which have been advanced and to which reference has been made in these columns are canvassed and re-canvassed by those having more or less expert knowledge of the North-West coast. The idea of the Koombana returning to Port Hedland when the cyclone was observed to be bearing down on the vessel is scouted by most people, who hold that it would be a suicidal policy for Captain Allen to have attempted to seek safety in the Hedland anchorage. On this point, Capt. Ulrich one of the pilots at Fremantle, who knows the North-West coast thoroughly, remarked yesterday that it would be simply courting certain disaster for the Koombana to have returned to Hedland. "If she went in there," he remarked, "she would be up among the mangroves in less than no time. Capt. Allen would make a run for it out to sea. It is a nasty place to be caught in, and if Capt. Allen got into some of the corners, so to speak, he would simply be caught in a trap. He may have seen the weather coming and steamed out to the westward, which, If he managed to keep going with the storm coming from the direction it did, might enable him to get to the open sea where he would have a better chance of braving the storm. He made out towards the west, and that was the last seen of him. What became of him then is what we would all like to know."




Cable messages received by the Premier yesterday fron the Resident Magistrate at Broome conveyed information which was forwarded for the advice of Captain Mills of the Minderoo, which information was supplied by the master of the steamer Moira. The messages indicated the severity of the storm, the barometrical readings, the direction of the wind etc., at the time that the Moira was struck by the hurricane. The contents of the wires were conveyed to the gentlemen who met in conference prior to the message being sent to the master of the Minderoo. Communications are passing between the Premier and the owners of the Moira with a view to ascertaining whether it will be possible for that vessel to postpone her trip south with cattle and proceed on a special search for the missing steamer. Arrangements in this connection will probably be definitely fixed to-day. The Resident Magistrate at Broome has cabled to the Premier to the effect that it would be most advisable for the Moira to be despatched immediately. Through the good offices of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company inquiries by cable have been made by the manager on behalf of the Premier as to whether any news regarding the Koombana has been received at Broome. A reply was received yesterday stating that no news whatever had come to hand. A proposal has been made that the Government steamer Penguin should be despatched from Fremantle at once to join in the search for the Koombana, and this suggestion will be taken into consideration by the Premier to-day.

17b["No Tidings", The West Australian, Monday 01 April 1912, page 7]





In order that the public may be fully acquainted with the latest details of the search for the missing liner Koombana, a representative of this journal interviewed Mr. W. E. Moxon, the manager of the Adelaide S.S. Company in Western Australia, last night. With reports from the North-West and charts of the possible catastrophe area in front of him, Mr. Moxon made the following statement:--

"Captain Mills has reported that the s.s. Minderoo from Thursday to Saturday last, shaped a course taking her on the western and eastern side of Barrow Island, and the Montebello Group, and then went round Ritchie Reef searching thoroughly there. Shell and Stewart Islands were visited before he proceeded to Cossack via the Dampier Archipelago, taking in Mermaid, Rosemary, Eaglehawk, Legendre, and Delambre Islands en route, without finding any trace of the Koombana after a most exhaustive and thorough search.

The Bullarra, from Sampson to Hedland, commencing on Tuesday last, searched the Turtle Islands, thence to Bedout Island, where she landed a search party. Here I might mention that they found the new automatic light had been extinguished. This is a matter to which the authorities will give careful consideration. The Amphinome Shoals were visited, and a course shaped along the Eighty-Mile Beach, taking in LaGrange Bay and Roebuck Bay. This also produced no trace of the missing liner.

Close and wide the luggers have been searching from Roebuck Bay round the Amphinone Shoals to Port Hedland, and we understand that Captain Parkes' luggers have been searching from Monte Bellos to Cossack. In addition, luggers have searched Depuch Island, in the neighbourhood of Cossack and Hedland without avail. There is no report at present from the lugger that visited Rowley Shoals, but this, in view of the Gorgon's report, is negligible.

The Gorgon arrived at Broome this morning, her instructions having been to search the Rowley Shoals with Impereiuse, Clark, and Mermaid reefs. She signalled this morning that her search had been thorough, but no trace of the Koombana had been seen. It will, therefore, be seen that the whole of the coast from Barrow and Monte Bello Islands has been searched to Broome, and across from Broome to Rowley Shoals inclusive.

The Moira should have passed down by this time on her trip to Fremantle, taking in the Lacepede Islands, Rowley Shoals, and west of Ritchie Reef, but no report will be received from her, it may be assumed, unless she has something of an urgent nature to communicate before her arrival at Fremantle. It will be remembered that the Moira encountered the cyclone a hundred miles to the north-west of Port Hedland, bound to Wyndham. Detailed in formation of the winds encounteread by her will be of interest, and will only be received on arrival of the vessel at Fermantle. A condensed report, of course, was wired by Captain Ward from Wyndham for the guidance of searchers. The coast search, it will be seen, has been absolutely fruitless, except in so far as the reports that no trace of the vessel can be found.

"Now we come to the question of the ocean search. The Minderoo, we understand, has instructions from Captain Irvine, the chief harmourmaster, to proceed to the north of Ritchie Reef to work up to Rowley Shoals, and so into Port Hedland. The Una, with a month or more supplies of coal, is due at Cossack on April 2, where she will receive her instructions from Capt. Irvine. It is understood that the is to thoroughly search the waters to the west of Monte Bello and Rowley Shoals and between them. The Premier has specially arranged with.the Adelaile S. S. Co., at the urgent request of the public, for the Bullarra to make a six days' search. following up the cyclone track from the neighbourhood of Port Hedland, where the Koombana was last seen. As Captain Upjohn himself knows the direction and strength of the storm, he should, be able to carry out this work very thoroughly and efficiently. I might add that the management of the Adelaide Co., when I referred the matter to them on Saturday evening, instantly agreed to contribute substantially to the expenses which the Government will incur in connection with the Bullarra's search.

The Minderoo, on the way out from Cossack, is to traverse the open waters eastward from Ritchie Reef from the Rowley Shoals, thence to Port Hedland.

I understand that the Endeavour, the Federal trawler, has left Adelaide to conduct a search.

As evidence of some of the distances which a search in these waters entails, including the open seas, a line drawn from Ritchie Reef to Impereiuse Reef, in Rowley Shoals, is approximately 250 miles. From Ritchie Reef to Cossack, Depuch Island and Poit Hedland is about 200 miles, and from Hedland to Impereiuse Reef 150 miles. From Ritchie Reef to Lacepede Is lands is 440 miles, and from Port Hedland to Broome round the Amphinome group is about 280 miles. Thus a section only of this search area is (Ritchie Repf to Rowley Shoals and Port Hedland) like a triangle, 250 miles by 200 miles by 150, miles, with the open sea to the west, where also the missing boat might be found. The search so far has been very thorough, and everybody concerned has shown the utmost willingness to assist the authorities in prosecuting the search for the steamer and the unfortunate 140 people on board. All the public can do now is to wait the result of the ocean search and any further lugger reports.

"The Adelaide Company continue to hope that the Koombana may have survived the awful storm of March 21, and may be in a disabled condition somewhere at sea, although immediately authentic news of the direction of the cyclonic winds at Port Hedland was received it became abundantly clear that the Koombana, being in the left-hand semi-circle of the storm, must have been placed in circumstances of utmost danger and difficulty. It will be remembered that in the case of the Bullarra and the Moira the hurricane wind which they experienced veered from E.N.E. southwards to W. Port Hedland reports, on the other hand, show that the wind started E., backed to E.N.E., returned to E., again backed to E.N.E. with hurricane force, veering to N.N.E. and N. and N.N.W., blowing a full hurricane the whole time. This was, of course, in an entirely contrary direction to that experienced by the other two vessels, and indicating, so nautical experts affirm, that the Koombana was on the left-hand semi-circle, of the cyclone. Thus it looks as though she had Bedout Islands and the Amphinome Shoals under her lee with the hurricane ahead of her and backing to N., involving her in a most serious position. On the other hand, the centre of the hurricane was apparently right in the track of the vessel to the open sea to the westwards. It certainly is the opinion of nautical men that the s.s. Koombana, to avoid certain destruction near the Amphinome Shoals, had only one alternative before her, and has been face to face with the dreaded centre of the cyclone, with what result the ocean search can only reveal."


On Saturday evening Mr. Gardiner, M.L.A. for Roebourne, telegraphed the following message to the Premier:-

"Arrived Cossack in Minderoo today. Captain Mills made thorough search through Mary Ann Passage, along the east side of Barrow Shoal, round Barrow Island, and round Montebello Island and Ritchie Reef. Then steered east 25 miles, then south again to Sholl Islands. Searched the islands and then along the coast to Cossack, through the whole of the Dampier Archipelago. No trace of the Koombana. Going to Balla Balla tonight, then out searching."

It seems, therefore, that both the Bullarra and the Minderoo will be in the search and will be starting from opposite ends of the area which has to be covered. The telegram, continuing, stated that the search by the Minderoo had been most complete and that Captain Mills felt sure that the Koombana had not gone in that particular direction.