27["The Koombana Inquiry", The Hedland Advocate (Port Hedland, WA), Saturday 25 May 1912, page 10]



The unwarranted attack on the editor of this paper, by Mr M. L. Moss (solicitor for the Adelaide S.S. Coy. at the inquiry into the loss of the Koombana), calls for a parting shot. We would be the last in the world to wish to say anything which would leave the slightest smudge on the reputations of the capable officers who went down in the ill-fated Koombana, but no mercenary motive would induce us to deviate from the course of justice in the public interests, and we have heaps of company [in the Nor'-West, at anyrate] when we assert that the finding of the Marine Board of Inquiry suggests capable handling of the whitewash brush and a prodigal use of lime. No sane man in Hedland can be found who can find any excuse for the completeness of the job in the application of the preparation of lime. Leave aside the improbability of the British Board of Trade countenancing the constitution of a board of inquiry as this one was constituted. The court was faced with a surfeit of evidence with a [perhaps unconscious] bias in favor of the ship and the Coy., and evidence diametrically opposed to fact by several witnesses. The whole of the statements that there were no indications of bad weather at Hedland find flat denial on every hand locally. Several can be found to prove the ship drew no more than 16ft 6in aft and 11ft for'ard as she lay at anchor at the Hedland jetty. Before the vessel left port, Hedlandites were preparing their houses for defence against attacks of a threatening blow. Scores of people discussed the weather outlook with Capt. Allen, who gave everyone, including the writer, the impression that he did not want to leave port. "Twenty-four hours here," he declared to the writer, "will not hurt; I might bump the outer bar going out on a sea like this." Capt. Allen's attitude change immediately Capt. Upjohn had a conversation with him, after which he said, "I am going out; the Broome passengers, who think they will get to Broome to-morrow, will be lucky if they get there on Saturday--I'm going straight out to sea, and will fill my tanks when I get outside." The ship's propellor was showing when anchored at the jetty, and raced out of the water as she sailed over the rolling seas at the harbor's entrance; the boat also rolled heavily when the wind struck her on the starboard side--so much so that those who were watching her exclaimed "She'll be over directly". We can hardly make out the use of such an inquiry, seeing that the only impartial evidence procurable as to the ship's draught and indications of the weather was rigidly excluded--no reasonable opportunity of tendering such being provided.

One word more. The Bullarra was not in the worst of the gale. She had a bad time, undoubtedly, to which the gale contributed considerably, but, if the evidence of passengers can be believed [and it is at least free from the possibility of bias], she caught but the fringe of the gale. she left Hedland in such a hurry that the cattle races were not taken out of the holds, and, according to passengers, when she got outside it was impossible to work the gear for lifting them out, and she rode through the storm with her hatches off. The passengers were on deck during each day, declare, very little water came aboard, and that they slept well each night. How does that fit in with the statement of Capt. Upjohn that "the seas were coming over the bridge"?