23a["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.

23b["Not Sighted", The West Australian, Thursday 28 March 1912, page 7]








The Koombana is now a full week overdue on her journey from Port Hedland to Broome. Notwithstanding the active search from every point along the coast, no cheering message came through yesterday to allay the general anxiety. Rumours there were in plenty, both of sad portent and otherwise, but the result of the day's search revealed nothing to justify the turning of fear into thankfulness or hope into sorrow. Her whereabouts is a problem which can only be solved by the skippers of the boats which have been directed to steer out to the shoals and examine every inch of sea where there is even the most shadowy hope of finding the missing steamer. With a crew of 80 odd and an original passenger list of 47, there is a wealth of human life at stake which the Government and shipping companies are leaving no stone unturned to succour.

In shipping circles yesterday belief was still unbounded in regard to her being above the waves. That optimism, however, was clearly not shared by all. Among the many relatives and friends of those on board the suspense of the last seven days has produced an undeniable foreboding, and even the "man in the street" lost a little of his confidence regarding her safety. A finer skipper than Capt. Allen could not be wished for in command, but the most unerring judgment cannot always prevail against the elements. The wires have been tapping away incessantly during the last week, the circle of her possible whereabouts has been freighted with her code in wireless, "M.Z.P.," but still no word has come in reply. The fact that no ship has been able to pick her up may be discounted to an extent on account of the tempest probably having wrecked the Koombana's own means of wireless connection. The last seen of her was on March 20 at 1 p.m., when she was sighted by the Bullarra two hours out of Port Hedland, steering north-east, the gale then blowing from E.N.E. There are those who believe that she rode through the storm and was carried far out to sea, a breakdown of machinery having delayed her appearance in port. As shown in the information given below those in the best position to judge, and who are armed with the necessary knowledge, are unshaken in their allegiance to the belief that all is well. The public sincerely re-echoes the hope that it may be so. It is expected that within the next 24 or 48 hours some one or other of the luggers which have been out since the beginning of the week, or the steamers which are shaping their course in tracks where the missing steamer would probably go, will be able to communicate the news which the public is now awaiting. The reassuring information was wired to the Deputy Postmaster-General from Port Hedland yesterday that although the blow was severely felt there no damage has been done and no lives were lost. Advices from Port Hedland are still coming to Perth via Banjowangie and Adelaide, but it is hoped that the work of linking up the wires from Balla Balla to Port Hedland will be accomplished within a short time. The trouble is on the stretch between the Yule and Turner rivers. Up to Balla Balla communication, although interrupted, is well established. At the Turner River it is feared that a serious breakdown has occurred owing to the abnormal floods. The postmaster at Roebourne spoke to the line repairing party, which is working up from the south, at 9 o'clock yesterday morning. They reported that progress was necessarily slow, as the country is too boggy for horses, and they have been compelled to travel on foot most of the way. The Port Hedland postmaster reported at about noon that he had a party out working towards the south, but he could give no idea when it would be possible to restore communication. It depended on the rivers and the extent of the damage. He believed the lines were badly damaged at the Turner. Later this official advised that it would be impossible to restore the line on that day or even to-day. The men were doing their utmost, but were hampered by the flooded rivers. The postmaster at Port Hedland was advised to cable at once immediately anything was known of the Koombana, and to send a closing report in any case before leaving for the night. In reply the following message was received late last evening: No news of the Koombana. Luggers patrolling the coast. These messages also covered the information already given in our columns concerning the blow at Balla Balla. That town, it was stated, received the full force of the storm. They added that in all about 40 lives were lost in that vicinity. Mr. T. Carter (of Dalgety and Co.) states that although the absence of news concerning the Koombana is undoubtedly most disquieting, at the same time, nautical men think there is a possibility of the steamer being driven by the storm, and in difficulty at the Rowley shoals, which are at a point about 150 miles east of Cape Baskerville, or, in the contrary direction, at the Monte Bello group. The commander of the s.s. Gorgon at Java has been asked to deviate from his usual course and pass close to the Rowley shoals, while Captain Mills, of the s.s. Minderoo, will keep a keen look-out while passing the Monte Bello islands on his way from Onslow to Cossack, at which port further instructions will be forwarded to him. The Consul for Norway has received an other telegram from the captain of the Concordia, which went ashore on Depuch Island, to the effect that the vessel's plates had been strained and the rudder buckled.

AB notes:

Koombana's wireless identification given as 'MZP'.

The break in the telegraph line is reported to be between the Yule and Turner Rivers, with the country "too boggy for horses".