34[Extracts, Court of Marine Inquiry, loss of s.s. "Koombana", Harbour & Lights Department, Western Australia, 25 April - 6 May, 1912. WA Museum (on loan)]
IN THE COURT OF MARINE INQUIRY, WESTERN AUSTRALIA.
IN THE MATTER OF THE NAVIGATION ACT 1904.
IN THE MATTER of an Inquiry into the circumstances attending the loss at sea between Port Hedland and Broome
whilst on a voyage from Fremantle to Derby via Ports of the S.S. "KOOMBANA" on or about the 20th March 1912.
April 25th 1912.
BEFORE: E. P. Dowley Esq. R.M. (presiding)
Captain F. L. Parkes ) Assessors.
Captain J. W. W. Yates )
THE CROWN PROSECUTOR (Mr. F. PARKER) appeared to represent the Chief Harbor Master, Captain C. J. Irvine.
MR. MOSS K.C. appeared to represent the Adelaide Steamship Company.
[Upjohn testimony p1]
HARRY UPJOHN, Sworn.
EXAMINED THE CROWN PROSECUTOR.
You are the Master of the s.s. "Bullarra,"? - Yes.
Were you the Master of her on the 18th March last? - Yes.
Did you arrive at Port Hedland on the 18th March? - Yes.
What were the tides then? - Tides were making 19 feet springs.
What day did the s.s. "Koombana" arrive at Port Hedland? -
On the 19th March.
During the time you were in Port Hedland did you have any
conversation with Captain Allen in respect of the weather? -
On what date was that? - On the morning of the 20th.
Will you tell the Court what the conversation was? - It took
place on my ship. We had a general conversation and Capt.
Allen said "What do you think about the weather?"
What was your reply? - "Its overcast and a bit dirty but there is nothing in it."
Can you fix the time that this conversation took place? - It was just before breakfast or just after.
That would be about 8 o'clock? - Yes.
What was the state of the weather at this time? - Very nice fresh breeze, overcast and cloudy.
It struck you as being a bit dirty? - Just overcast.
What did you expect from the weather? - I expected the same right through: fine if anything.
Did you have any further conversation with Capt. Allen about the weather? - None.
Was anything said in reference to leaving Port Hedland or not? - No.
MR. DOWLEY. He left before you? - Yes.
PROSECUTOR. At what time? -
[Upjohn testimony p2]
UPJOHN. About 20 minutes before I did: between 10 and 11 o'clock a.m.
PROSECUTOR. Can you tell the Court: did the weather alter between 10 and
11.20 ? - No. (ctd)
What was the reading of the barometer? - I looked at the
barometer at 6 o'clock and it stood at 29.50.
Had there been anything during the night or early morning? -
There was a squall at 4 o'clock that morning.
What was the nature of this squall? - Just a puff.
Did you look at the barometer on account of that? - No: it
was my usual practice to look at the barometer at about 6
It stood then at 29.50? - Yes.
Did you look at the barometer again before you left Port
Hedland? - I do not recollect.
When Captain Allen spoke about the weather, did he mention
anything about the barometer reading? - Yes he did mention
it but I do not remember what it was.
Was your glass a high or low one? - Low.
There was nothing whatever said about leaving or not? -
Not a word.
Where were you when the "Koombana" left Port Hedland? -- I was
on the lower bridge and the Chief Officer was with me.
What were you doing? -- We were just looking at the "Koombana"
Did you notice her trim? -- She was in excellent trim.
Did you notice the draft? -- No. I noticed how well she
behaved and the Chief Officer said the same.
Have you any reason for that remark? - No, but she looked so well.
Did you notice her propeller? - It was well submerged.
You and the Chief Officer were standing watching her? - Yes.
When she went out of the Harbor, did she roll at all? - No.
[Upjohn testimony p3]
CROWN PROSECUTOR (ctd)
When you went out, what length of time did you follow in the
"Koombana's" Course? - I followed out in her course, keeping
leads astern, somewhere about half an hour or three quarters.
And you last saw her? - About two hours after leaving.
Was she proceeding on her ordinary course to Broome? -
On the ordinary course to Bedout.
Was she in good trim? - Yes.
The top of her propellor, according to the plan, is about on
the 18' mark: You say she was well submerged? - Yes.
From the time you left Port Hedland until the time you lost
sight of the "Koombana", had the wind changed? - No.
Had the velocity altered? - No.
During that day, when did the direction of the wind change
first? - About 4 p.m.
Where were you bound? - South to Balla Balla.
You were going in the opposite direction to that taken by the
"Koombana"? - Yes.
What time did the wind change its direction first? - Some-
where between 2 o'clock and 4 o'clock. It is very carefully noted
in the log book. The wind was E.N.E at 5 o'clock. Commenced
to flicker and went back again. (portion of log book put in).
When did the wind change? - Between 2 and 4 o'clock.
Coming back to the time you left Port Hedland? - At 6.20am
we commenced swinging, at 10.40 cast off. There was a strong
N.E. wind, cloudy.
Mr. DOWLEY. You say the wind changed from E.N.E. From what? - There was a
strong breeze which changed from N.E.
PROSECUTOR. At what time did you lose sight of the "Koombana" - about
12 o'clock? - A little before, when the sea became rough.
When did you notice the sea change to rough? When you left it
was a nice pleasant breeze and smooth? - Yes, it
[Upjohn testimony p4]
When the wind freshened and the sea became rough, was the
Koombana still in sight? - Yes, but I lost sight of her shortly
Did you notice what weather she was making? Did you see her? -
I saw her but could not tell how she was behaving.
The next entry is in regard to the weather? - Heavy N.E. gale,
heavy sea, 4 o'clock.
You were still on your course for Balla Balla? - Yes. At 4.2.
p.m. I slowed the engines.
At 5 o'clock you altered your course from S 50 W to N.E? - Yes.
What other note have you? - Put screens up and tarpaulins in
main weather rigging and round poop, took soundings and found
You were then steering out to open sea after doing this? -
The next entry? - At 8, heavy gale, high seas, ship laboring
heavily and heavy rain.
At that time what did you think of the weather? - That it was
bad and getting serious. This was between 8 and 10 p.m.
You continued out to sea? - Yes.
Will you tell the Court what the weather was. At midnight
you reported it being a hurricane? - Yes, the ship was rolling
Were these entries made afterwards? - The entries were made
roughly in another book and copied afterwards.
At 10.30 the wind went from E.N.E to E.? - Yes, at 11.20
mountainous seas. (log book read).
I notice that the wind after 8 o'clock got to W.S.W. The
wind increased in velocity about midday of the 21st? - Yes.
Was there any alteration in the barometer? - There was no
difference until between 3 and 4 o'clock.
What then? - It dropped a little but not suddenly.
Did you keep watch of the barometer? - Yes, later on, every
[Upjohn testimony p5]
Between 3 and 4 o'clock you did not pay particular attention
but at 10 o'clock, when you realised the weather was bad, you
kept constant watch? - Yes.
I notice you were in the centre of the cyclone between noon
and 4 p.m.? - At 12.30 it was calm.
After the blow was over and you had effected temporary repairs,
did you engage in searching for the Koombana? What area did you
(Chart put in and area shown).
[Upjohn testimony p6]
What wreckage did you pick up? - An awning spar, portion
of motor launch, a panel from the ceiling of the smoking
room or musicroom, some covers of the lifeboats tanks and
You examined that carefully? - Yes.
Did you form any opinion as to what had caused the wreckage? -
The force of the wind and sea.
The panel is forced right out with the screws adhering? - Yes.
Have you formed any opinion? Does the Court desire to hear
any opinion? -
MR. DOWLEY. It may be given.
PROSECUTOR. Have you any doubt as to this being the wreckage of the
"Koombana"? - There is not the slightest doubt. The piece
from the motor launch has the Company's crest on it.
You know the door? - Yes, it belonged to the cabin on port side on the promenade deck.
What door is it? - It is a stateroom door.
During this blow, did the wind shift any of your boats at all? -
Yes. The lee boats. One of the boats had a hole bumped in it.
Were any other boats effected by the wind? - They were
strained and damaged, and chafed in the chocks.
Did you lose any boats? - No.
Were all the boats damaged? - Yes. They were all lashed down.
[Upjohn testimony p7]
PROSECUTOR. You know the "Koombana" well. Where did she carry her
cargo, etc? - Yes, I know her well. She had her bunkers
full and they carry about 580 tons. According to Captain
Williams she had 80 tons of cargo in the lower hold, 150
tons in No. 2 lower, between No. 2 and tween decks - 20 tons.
A total of about 800 tons.
Have you known of a case when the "Koombana" has all her
tanks empty at one time? When she was a light ship? - No.
If she had all her tanks empty and only 800 tons on board
her, with coal and everything, what draft would she be? -
She would be 16'6 aft and about 12' forward.
MR. DOWLEY. The tanks are distributed about the ship? - Yes.
PROSECUTOR. About how many times did you go into Port Hedland on the
"Koombana"? - About 18 times.
When at spring tides, what empty tanks would you have? -
The after peak tank would be empty: it would be consumed on
the voyage up from Fremantle to fill tanks 4 and 5 - fresh
How would the other tanks be? - All full. Numbers 1, 2, 3,
4 and 5 No 6 might be pumped out.
With the tanks in this State what draft would she be then? -
About 17' with the after peak tank out.
Could you go into Port Hedland on a spring tide with that? -
There would be no necessity to empty any tanks? - No.
If there were any tanks empty in Port Hedland, how long
would it take to fill these tanks? - Number 8 would be run out
in an hour and the after peak in about an hour and it would
then be pumped up.
How long would it take to fill them? - From 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
[Upjohn testimony p8]
Have you formed any theory as to what became of the "Koombana"?--
The only thing I can think of is that she was smashed
up by the cyclone.
In what way to you think?-- By the force of the wind and sea.
Could she have turned turtle?-- Impossible.
MR. MOSS. Do you consider you were lucky in having escaped? - We escaped by a miracle.
Your boat was in a battered condition? - Yes.
What occurred to your funnel? - It was carried away in the early part of the blow.
You went to Broome to effect temporary repairs and for water? - Yes.
That was before you searched for the "Koombana"? - Yes.
Have you been in cyclonic weather before? - Yes, in the China
Sea, when a ship went down alongside of us.
Was it very bad? - Not so bad as this.
This was absolutely the worst thing you have experienced? - Yes.
And it was only by a miracle you came through? - Yes.
[Upjohn testimony p9]
... I think when you
crossed the bar you felt more wind outside than inside? -
Yes. There is always a fresher breeze outside.
Was there any sea on the bar? - No.
You saw the "Koombana" go out. Did she roll much? - I saw
her go, but there was no roll.
There is another report that has been spread, about the
propeller beating the air? - I remarked to the Chief Officer
how well she looked and the propeller was well submerged.
There is no truth in the report then? - None whatever.
MR. DOWLEY. In the papers there was a remark of Captain Allen saying he
would be lucky to get to Broome by Saturday? - I did not
hear him say so.
MR. MOSS. How long would it take in the ordinary course? - About 24 or
MR. DOWLEY. He should have got there on Thursday? - Yes.
MR. MOSS. When you were searching for the wreckage of the "Koombana" did
you notice any oily substance floating on the surface? - Yes.
Please tell the Court? - It was in latitude 19.11 and 119.25 E.
What distance would that be off Bedout Island? - About 27 or 28
miles - I cannot say which.
Did you take any samples of this oily substance? - Yes. Two or
three dozen bottles.
What depth was there at this place? - 30 or 35 fathoms.
Did you see any trace of the vessel in that depth? There would be
nothing to indicate that the Koombana or any other vessel would be
there? - It was getting dark and it looked like the outline of a
vessel. The Chief Officer said "It must be one of her decks," I
said "No, the decks would not look like that." I could see no more.
The engines were stopped and we drifted for about 4 miles.
What was the stuff in the bottles? - Oily, greasy water.
Have you any idea as to how that came there? - It looked as if
it came from a wreck.
[Upjohn testimony p10]
There would be stuff on the ship to make this? - Yes.
Where are those bottles? - At the Company's office.
We will produce these if desired.
MR. DOWLEY. You saw this at dusk? - Yes.
MR. MOSS. When you went out from Broome to make this search, was it a
careful search in every way? - Yes.
Did you land anyone on Bedout Island? - Yes, the Chief Officer
and a party.
You searched with every care in the vicinity where you found
this wreckage? - Yes.
Was there any wreckage about then? - Yes, an awning spar and
one of the doors.
What difference in distance did you find any other pieces? -
There was a difference of as much as 20 miles.
MR. DOWLEY. ...
You say that this is the "Koombana's" door. Would it have been
possible for it to have been washed off before the boat sank? -
It is quite possible.
-:- 1 -:-
HARRY UPJOHN - Recalled.
(Official Log-Book put in).
PROSECUTOR. This is your official log-book, in use on the 20th March? - Yes.
Whose entry is this: "Strong N.E.Breeze and cloudy"
Mr Crossley's? - Yes.
Is it all in the same writing? - Yes, it is not my writing.
Can you give an explanation of the barometer at noon being
28.83? - The ship is provided with two barometers - on is
more valuable than the other and is kept in the Commander's
room because it is nice room and not too warm. The Chart
room is not a fit place to house this barometer. The other
barometer is in the chart room for the use of the officers.
It is on the low side and not a good instrument. When I said
the reading of the barometer was 29.50 it was the reading
of the barometer in my room which the officers have not access
to. During the cyclone, finding such a difference
between the glasses, I told one of the officers to take my
instrument up to the chart room because this was then the
better place to house it as it might have been smashed to
pieces, my room being on the lower deck.
That reading on the 20th March was by the barometer in the
chart room? - Yes, it is on the low side and an inferior
istrument to mine.
Who can tell us about the instrument in the chart room? - The
What difference was there between the barometer in the chart
room and the one in your room? - I do not know. A
April 26th. 11 a.m.
WILLIAM ERNEST MOXON, Sworn.
PROSECUTOR. You are Attorney and Manager in Western Australia for
the Adelaide Steamship Co.? - Yes.
MR. MOSS. ...
-:- 2 -:-
There have been various suggestions and rumours in the papers
and the Court has invited the Public to come here and say what
it has to say. Are these rumours ill or well founded? -
I have to take particular notice of a report from Port
Hedland published in the "West Australian" on the 3rd April.
The report from Port Hedland referred to and states that Capt.
Allen seemed disinclined to go out and when he decided to do so
said "I will go out, but we shall be lucky if we get to Broome."
Have you any reliable information on that? - I called upon
the Branch Manager at Port Hedland to report and received this
letter dated April 17th. from him stating that he called on
board the "Koombana" just before she left. Fortunately I am
in a position to give the conversation that took place
between Gardiner, the Branch Manager at Port Hedland, and
Captain Allen during the last hour before she left port.
(Letter read and put in).
-:- 3 -:-
Wreckage has been found in many places. Please say where
that wreckage was discovered? - The first wreckage on record
is the air tanks from the life-boats, found on Turtle
Island. Wreckage has been picked up by the "Minderoo"
as far as 70 miles west of Bedout Island and by the "Gorgon"
nearer than that, by the "Una" and "Bullarra". Captain
Dalziel of Broome observed floating wreckage and Mr. Thomson
of Pardu reports that natives found the air tanks on the beach.
MR. DOWLEY. Can you say that all this wreckage belongs to the "Koombana"?
We know that all this wreckage here belonged to the
-:- 4 -:-
Have you anything further to state? - Yes, I have here a
report from Captain Challenor. (Report read and put in).
This is the only information as to
what occurred about Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
She would find the weather conditions getting worse as she
proceeded to Bedout Island. From all reports it was the
worst hurricane experienced on this coast.
When does he say the hurricane was blowing? - It is a bit
tangled as to dates. On the 21st. bad weather, and on the
20th scudded away from Bedout to Dixon Island.
What might effect[sic] a small lugger would not effect the
"Koombana"? - No.
MR. DOWLEY. Captain Challenor's letter says that the seas were very high? -
What should be a big sea to a small lugger would be very
little to a full powered boat. I might mention it would be
desirable if hurricane signals in hurricane areas were shown
at Ports. It is highly important that there should be a
proper system of signals exhibited...
Monday April 29th 2.15 p.m.
WILLIAM ERNEST MOXON recalled.
MR. MOSS. ...
There was a Mr. Thomas who was the Third Officer for a
long while? - Yes, I have evidence given by him.
(Evidence read and put in).
I cannot say how long Mr. Thomas was
in the ship but he left to improve his position. He was
the Third Officer for some time. I should like to mention
to the Court that I have marked upon the chart the whole of
the places where wreckage has been picked up. There are 5
steamer reports of wreckage and 6 lugger reports.
(Chart put in.)
THE ADELAIDE STEAMSHIP COMPANY Ltd.
15th April 1912.
To W.E. MOXON ESQ.,
Manager for W.A.
I confirm my wire regarding wreckage picked up
by the "Gorgon", "Minderoo", also by the "Una".
Regarding the statement of the Captain of the "Una"
that he considered that he was over the position of the
steamer, I do not think there is much in it, unless he
knew more than he stated here. According to his
statement, after picking up some boards around them in
a dead calm, they went to dinner. After dinner they
discovered more wreckage around them and believed that
it must have come from below. In the interval, however,
the ship would probably move by current at a different
rate to flotsam. Besides, objects would come in and out
of view at different angles of light. However, they do not
appear to have stayed on this spot any length of time
to test their theory.
THE ADELAIDE STEAMSHIP CO. LTD.
Acting Branch Manager.
THE ADELAIDE STEAMSHIP COMPANY Ltd.
17th April 1912.
W.E. MOXON ESQ.,
Manager for W.A.
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 there 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 move 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
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.
ADELAIDE STEAMSHIP CO. LTD.,
Sd. W. GARDINER.
THE NAVIGATION ACT 1904.
DECISION OF THE COURT.
THE COURT OF MARINE INQUIRY AT FREMANTLE.
IN THE MATTER of a formal inquiry held at Fremantle before E. P. DOWLEY ESQ., (Resident Magistrate), assisted by CAPTAIN F. L. PARKES and CAPTAIN J. W. W. YATES (Assessors) into the circumstances surrounding the loss at sea of the S. S. "Koombana" on or about the night of March the 20th. between Port Hedland and Broome, whilst on a voyage from Fremantle to Derby via Ports.
In conformity with the request of the Hon. the Colonial Secretary, the Court of Marine Inquiry investigated at Fremantle on the 25th, 26th and 29th days of April 1912, the circumstances surrounding the loss at sea of the S. S. "Koombana". The difficulties attendant on doing so were exceptional because, though in many Inquiries under the Navigation Act of 1904, the Act under which this Inquiry is held, evidence can be adduced from persons who were on board and who can depose to the circumstances immediately attendant to a disaster on a ship, no such evidence is obtainable in this case owing to the fact that the ill-fated vessel has totally disappeared at sea, with all on board of her. In order, therefore, to account for such total disappearance, the inquiry for the most part must be directed to considerations of the ship's stability, equipment, and seaworthiness, together with Captain Allen's efficiency and carefulness as a Shipmaster.
During the inquiry Mr. Parker, the Crown Prosecutor, appeared on behalf of the Chief Harbor Master, and Mr. M. L. Moss, K.C., appeared on behalf of the Adelaide Steamship Company, the owners of the S. S. "Koombana".
The Court was considerably assisted also by the presence throughout the Inquiry of a large model of the "Koombana", complete in minute detail, as also by various plans, etc., readily produced.
The S. S. "Koombana" was a steel screw steamer of 3668 tons gross and 2182 tons net. Her length was 340 feet 1 inch, breadth 48 feet 2 inches and depth 20 feet 8 inches. Her indicated Horse Power was 4,000 and her normal Horse Power 433. She was built by Messrs. Alex. Stephen and Son, Ltd., Glasgow, in the year 1908 from specifications to the highest class of British requirements, which in many instances she exceeded. She also held a Marine Certificate to August, 1912, issued by the Department of Navigation of New South Wales, and was last docked in Sydney on August 15, 1911.
The Court heard evidence from:--
Mr. S.R.P. Stevens, an officer of the Commonwealth Weather Bureau, Perth.
Captain Upjohn, who is Master of the S. S. "Bullarra", and who was chief officer of the S. S. "Koombana" for 12 months.
Mr. James Crossley, Chief Officer of the S. S. "Bullarra".
Captain James F. Morrison, Inspector of Shipping at the Port of Fremantle, who had official knowledge of the S. S. "Koombana".
Captain Matthew John Williams, Marine Superintendent for the Adelaide Steamship Company in Western Australia.
Captain Henry John Clarke, asistant wharf manager for the Port of Fremantle, and formerly Chief Officer of the S. S. "Koombana" for fifteen months on the North-West coast of Western Australia, and also on her maiden voyage to Australia from Glasgow.
Mr. Alex. Craig, the Chief Engineer of the S. S. "Bullarra".
Captain J. A. Rankin, Acting Marine Superintendent for the Adelaide Steamship Company for Australasia, who produced to the Court and explained by actual test a Ralston stability and trim indicator specially made for the S. S. "Koombana" and which was not on board the vessel owing to its having only recently arrived in Australia.
Mr. A. C. Butcher, Engineer Surveyor for the Harbor and Light Department at Fremantle.
Mr. W. E. Moxon, Attorney and Manager in Western Australia for the Adelaide Steamship Company.
Captain Irvine, the Chief Harbor Master for Western Australia.
The Rev. William Patrick, who saw the S. S. "Koombana" leave Port Hedland on her last voyage, and
Captain G. Cumming, being the only person who volunteered evidence in response to an invitation from the Court publicly announced and published in the daily press.
The Court fines that the S. S. "Koombana", Official Number 122725, registered in Adelaide, Captain Thomas Allen master, and owned by the Adelaide Steamship Company, Limited, was on a voyage from Fremantle to Derby via ports. She sailed from Port Hedland on the 20th March 1912 at about 10.20 o'clock, am. drawing 19 feet aft and about 12 feet forward, in excellent trim, with her propeller well submerged, and shaped a course to round Bedout Island on her way to Broome. The voyage from Port Hedland to Broome is usually accomplished in about twenty-four hours. The S. S. "Bullarra" was at Port Hedland at the same time as the S. S. "Koombana", and left that port, bound southwards, about half an hour or so after the S. S. "Koombana" left, bound northwards. The S. S. "Bullarra" Had the S. S. "Koombana" in sight until noon. At about 6.30 p.m that day the wind increased until it blew a violent hurricane, which lasted for several hours, and the ill-fated S. S. "Koombana" has never been seen or heard of since.
During the day of the 20th. March last the wind was a fresh breeze from the North-East, and the weather was a bit overcast and dirty, but Captain Upjohn and Captain Allen in conversation decided there was nothing in it, and neither of them expected to encounter such a blow as is described in the S. S. "Bullarra's" log book as a "Howling hurricane" which apparently has totally engulfed the S. S. "Koombana", and which, according to Captain Upjohn's evidence, the S. S. "Bullarra" only survived through a miracle.
There was an unattended Lighthouse on Bedout Island, the light in which, however, was not burning on the 20th. March. The S. S. "Koombana" should, however, in the ordinary course of things, have been clear of the island before the wind became a hurricane, i.e., before it was dark that day.
The only wreckage discovered was picked up at distances varying from 20 to 70 miles from Bedout Island, and with the exception of some airtanks it was all picked up at sea, the air tanks alone having been found on the mainland.
The wreckage consisted of a part of a starboard bow-planking of a motor launch; a stateroom door and panel from the promenade deck, two planks for covering tanks of lifeboats, and some air tanks.
The Court cannot say what actually happened to the S. S. "Koombana", but it seems reasonably clear that the hurricane of the night of the 20th and 21st March was responsible for her total loss at sea.
With regard to her stability. It is known what cargo, coal, etc., she had on board when leaving Port Hedland, and where it was stowed--also the condition of her ballast tanks. She carried a load of 260 tons of cargo; properly stowed; 450 tons of coal, 87 tons of water in her tanks, and of stores she had some 60 tons. She also had on board 76 passengers and a crew of 74. Ths stability of the vessel with that load was tested with Ralston's stability Indicator, which showed she had a G. M. of 2 feet 7½ inches plus.
Seven other tests were made with the indicator under varying conditions of load, and in each of them her stability was shown to be entirely satisfactory. If further confirmation of the ship's stability and seaworthiness be required it is to be found in the career of the vessel since 1908 on the Australian coast. All the witnesses who have had experience in her deposed to her excellent seagoing qualities.
With regard to the personel[sic] of the vessel, it is of the highest quality, and both Captain Allen and the Chief Officer held Extra Master's certificates. The Court is satisfied that the S. S. "Koombana", in construction, stability, and seaworthiness, was equal to any vessel of her class in the Australian coastal trade.
The Court thinks it desirable that telegrams regarding the weather should be exchanged every day between stations where observations are made along the North-West coast, and that the information so obtained should be posted for general information, and that storm signals should be shown at all ports.
Thanks are due to Mr. W. E. Moxon, the Attorney and Manager in Western Australia for the Adelaide Steamship Company, to Captain Rankin, Acting Marine Superintendent for the Company; and to Officers generally for their efforts generally in supplying to the Court information regarding the vessel, and for supplying so readily plans, model, and details of every description (including detailed reports from Mr. Gardiner, the Company's Manager at Port Hedland) and producing witnesses, no doubt at considerable inconvenience. The Government and the Company are to be commended for their prompt action in endeavouring to obtain information as to the whereabouts of the missing vessel.
In conclusion, the Court simply finds, without indulging in useless speculation, that the stability and seaworthiness of the S. S. "Koombana" were unassailable, and the competency and carefulness of master Captain Allen, beyond question, and after being lost sight of at sea on the 20th March 1912, her fate passes beyond human knowledge and remains a mystery of the sea.