43["Loss of the Koombana", The Northern Times (Carnarvon, WA), Saturday 13 April 1912, page 2]






Capt. Townley, on the Gorgon's arrival here on Good Friday, kindly placed at our disposal the portions of the log-book referring to the Koombana wreckage. The following is a copy:--

"April 2, 10.15 a.m., Lat. 19.10 S Long. 119.6 E. Ship steering S 6 W. true. Sighted white painted piece of wood. Stopped and picked up same. Description: Painted door painted white one side, polished on other. Silver fittings marked cross-flags Walker and Hall (W. & H.). Fingerplate both sides ornamented with Grecian urn, with hanging wreaths each side. Door apparently had been forced by pressure. Handle on white side, and on reverse side drawn in. Builder's joiner written with hard pencil, 'Stat---- First-class entrance 429 J.D.' The lock is marked 'N. F. Ramsay and Co., Newcastle-on-Tyne. Several small leatherheads attached, about half-inch long.

"10.40 a.m., Proceeded.

"10.45 a.m., Stopped. Passed through several very small pieces, one a painting stage, and others apparently small pieces of board. Unusual number of birds about.

"P. Townley, Master.

"Henry Jones, 1st Mate.

"Harold Stead, 3rd Mate.

"0.40 p.m., Bedout Island, S. 60 E. 6.m. Passed island. NO signs of wreckage. Capt. Upjohn, s.s. Bullarra, reported that he had landed a search party on the island on 25th. Nothing was found. He reports that the unwatched light is not burning. There is no evidence to show when the light went out.

"P. Townley, Master.

"W. E. Collins, Purser."



In a brief interview, Capt. Townley expressed his and his officers' deep sorrow at the terrible disaster. There was a feeling of gloom throughout the ship in consequence of the sad news. He felt pretty confident that the Koombana met its fate on the 3 1/2 mile reef running out west from Bedout Island. If his surmise proved corrrect, he would have something to say about the cheap and nasty Norwegian unwatched light on Bedout Island, which apparently at the critical moment failed and proved a snare instead of a warning. Such lights were intended for a course where one light was not lost sight of before another was picked up and not for an isolated island fifty miles from the coast, and where its failure would not be promptly noticed.

The captain later on informed us that the captain first heard at Sourabaya that the Koombana was six days overdue, and got his instructions to make a search. This was done without success, till after leaving Broome, when the door was found. The leatherheads alluded to in the log entry are forms of sea life which attach themselves to rocks and other hard surfaces after the fashion of periwinkles.




Captain Townley later in the evening showed to us by the aid of a lantern the door picked up near Bedout Island. Anyone who has travelled frequently in the fine [unclear] steamer could not doubt that it was a Koombana state-room door, the familiar decorations and fittings putting the matter beyond dispute. When the captain took the canvas covering from the door and the bulls-eye lantern was turned on, we could not but be solemnly impressed by the sight of this silent but eloquent witness of the ocean tragedy. It clearly told its own tale. It had given before the force of an even pressure from outside, and in falling in had smashed the inside handle against a bunk or some hard object. When the pressure came, the catch began to give (the door was closed but not locked) and the lock was being forced through the woodwork when the hanging stile--the upright post to which a door is hinged--came away, and with the door fell into the cabin. On the inside, and therefore unpainted, part of the stile, was the joiner's note in pencil, the number "429" doubtless being his registered number on the job, followed by his initial. Captain Townley says it is the door of a port cabin and judges that it belonged to the cabin 1-2-3- opposite the music room. Mr. Burges and Mr. Norbert Keenan, both of whom were passengers as far as Roebourne on the Koombana's last trip, informed us that 1-2-3 was occupied by Mr. Simpson of the Public Works Department, and Capt. Pearson the Derby wharfinger. The fact that the door was unlocked may not prove that the shutting in of the passengers was not carried out, for the outer doors leading from before the music room to the outer deck may have been locked and the pressure on the cabin door came only after the sea forced its way through the outer door or through the music room windows. The polished side of the door had the marks of the sea upon it, but these may have been caused only by its immersion for some fortnight before being picked up.


From the Gorgon passengers we learnt that there is much gloom in Port Hedland and Broome over the disaster, most of the passengers being well known in both towns. In the former port, it is said that practically the whole town assembled to see the fated vessel off, little dreaming that they were the last to see the Koombana leave port, and that within a few hours she would be lying broken deep in the bed of the ocean--a gruesome coffin. It is noteworthy that the editor of the "Hedland Advocate," in writing an account of the storm at Port Hedland, speaks of the rough water in the harbour being indicative of heavier and "deadlier surges" out at sea. When that was written the Koombana was not known to be missing.



Perth, April 6.

Telegraphic messages which came to hand yesterday...




The s.s. Una found the Koombana five miles off Bedout Island, the masts being out of the water.

Roebourne, April 6.

The report that the Una found the Koombana is false. What was found was one mast...


(Private information to hand states that the Una also found oily water and bubbles, and that, after picking up a deal of wreckage there, the captain was surprised to find himself again surrounded with wreckage. There are forty fathoms of water there.)