47a["Not Sighted", The West Australian, Thursday 28 March 1912, page 7]






The Adelaide S.S. Company have experienced trouble for two years running in the month of March, and in that connection a remarkable coincidence is noted. On March 26, 1911, the Company's ill-fated Queensland liner, Yongala, which left Mackay on a voyage to Townsville on March 23, was posted missing. Now, after twelve months, the Koombana is missing on exactly the same date, although it is to be hoped without the same sad consequences. The latitude in which the two ships were concerned in the cyclonic disturbances, although at opposite sides of the Commonwealth, is practically the same latitude.


47b["Three Marine Mysteries", The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), Sunday 31 March 1912, page 1]



The frequency of these appalling disasters during recent years is beginning to get on the nerves of the travelling public, and it is about time that the Federal Government woke up to the fact that it is their business to inquire into the causes and institute preventive measures. A little over two years ago the Blue Funnel liner Waratah disappeared in a wild storm off the South African coast, and not a scrap of her has ever been found since. She had over 300 persons on board, many of whom were Australians making the trip to the Old Country, so that her loss brought widespread sorrow throughout Australasia.

The Waratah was a 12,000-ton boat, well built and strong, but it was notorious that she was too high out of the water. There is convincing testimony to the fact that she had what is known as a "list," and that she was very dead in righting herself when rolling heavily. Her owners pooh-poohed the idea that she was unsafe, but several members of her crew left at Sydney because they were frightened to travel in her, and it is alleged that her captain declared that he had drawn attention to her suspicious behaviour. Yet she was allowed to go to sea with over 300 people on board who went to a tragic and watery grave.

Just under 12 months ago the Yongala went down off the coast of Northern Queensland in a furious storm. It is possible she was driven onto a jag of the Great Barrier Reef. The Yongala was a vessel of some 5,000 tons, and took about 200 people down with her. She left the port of Mackay on the Queensland coast, and that was the last seen of her till fragments were afterwards recovered off Townsville.

Now we have the Koombana, which is missing after encountering one of the fiercest cyclones known on the North-West coast of W.A. She was 4399 tons register, and was 100 yards long and 40 feet wide. The steamer was built in Glasgow about two years ago, and has been running on the North-West line most of her career. From the very outset she had bad luck and got stuck on a sand bank in Shark Bay on one of her first trips. On several occasions since she has had mishaps, and some people who are not at all superstitious would not travel by her. Others maintained that she was far too much out of the water, and did not relish her for that reason. It is to be hoped that at the inevitable inquiry particular attention will be devoted to the question whether vessels of the Koombana type are safe. More we do not care to say until the fate of the vessel is definitely decided.

It is curious that the Yongala and Koombana disasters should have occurred on almost the same dates with 12 months between them, and it is also a coincidence that in each case the calamity took place on about the 22nd parallel of latitude. It is almost precisely on the same spot, only on opposite sides of the continent, which seems to be the centre of danger zone in the Australian tropics.

47c["Story of the Koombana", The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), Sunday 31 March 1912, page 12]



Assuming with the greatest sorrow that the Koombana and all on board have come to an untimely end, it will be a sad coincidence that Captains Knight and Allen, who commanded the Wollowra and Marloo, running together to Western Australia nearly 20 years ago, should have lost their lives and ships - the Yongala and Koombana - in exactly the same manner, one on the east coast and the other on the west coast of Australia, and almost on the same day of the same month.


47d["Wreck of the Koombana", Geraldton Express (WA), Friday 26 April 1912]

In a recent editorial in the Sydney "Daily Telegraph" the following appears:--"The last gleam of hope for the safety of the Koombana having been extinguished, the public have to reconcile themselves to the shock of what appears to have been an identical calamity with that which happened on the same day of last year when the Yongala went down in a hurricane off the North Queensland coast. Both were big, strong sea-going boats, fit to cope with any ordinary storm, but the March cyclone which infests a well-defined track over the neighbouring seas is in a class by itself. When at its worst it appears irresistible by anything afloat. For two consecutive years we have now had it at its worst, and on each occasion a big steamer which happened to be in its track met a sudden end, while numerous smaller craft met the same fate. As traffic in the region of the hurricane belt increases we must look for more and more of these disasters unless some special means of averting them can be devised. In the first place, might not something be done to ensure that during the hurricane season onlhy a class of boat with the miniumum of top hamper and maximum of buoyancy will be employed in the trade passing through the storm zone--a boat specially adapted to cyclonic seas. But whatever may be possible in this way the most effective precaution will be found in an efficient wireless telegram system. The cyclone the wrecked the Koombana blew down the telegraph lines, and thereby cut off communication by which warnings of the coming storm might have been sent all round the coast. A wireless system on shore would have averted this. And if every steamer had a similar installation they might all be advised of what was coming in time to make for some sort of shelter. Wireless would probably have saved the Yongala last year, and there is every reason to suppose that it would have rendered equal service to the Koombana this year. The ship herself was equipped, but there were no land stations that she could call to and, as it happened, no equipped ships near enough to reach. There is a grim object lesson in these disasters, therefore, which it would be criminal for the community to ignore. Could not the Federal Government order a special inquiry?