HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

28 September 2015

Trouble - Jervis Bay - 1924

 She appeared a pitiful picture,  suggestive of a ship whose heart had been broken.
vessel Ref : State Library of NSW.



The large 1750 ton Japanese steamer Honolulu Maru,  in command of Captain Kamataka, with 63 men and officers were bound from Melbourne to Sydney  carrying a cargo of 1400 tons of zinc plates, stowed in four holds was caught in a fearful storm south east  of Jervis Bay. 



April 4th 1924  - The gale hit so fast and with such force it caused the zinc plates to shift,  the ship developed a list of 40 degrees.  Examination of the cargo determined there was no chance of shifting the cargo in the horrendous conditions.

Deluged by overwhelming seas, she found herself in a perilous state.

The crew worked frantically to secure the ship,  the wireless operator put out a distress SOS call which was eventually picked up by the British Cruisers Dauntless. The Warship H.M.S Dragon on her way from Hobart was dispatched immediately to relieve the Dauntless.

The Dauntless battling huge seas was the first ship on the scene,  she stood by the Honolulu Maru and was prepared to render assistance if things turned for the worse.
She was badly beaten herself during the ordeal and was put into dry dock for repairs once she was back in Sydney.

HMS Dauntless in dry-dock at Cockatoo Island Sydney.

 File:HMS DAUNTLESS (7600690914).jpgHMS Dauntless -Ref: https://www.flickr.com/photos/anmm_thecommons/7600690914/

HMS Dragon SLV AllanGreen.jpgH.M.S.Dragon Ref: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HMS_Dragon_SLV_AllanGreen.jpg#/media/File:HMS_Dragon_SLV_AllanGreen.jpg

The Dragon was nearly fully extended,  she has a top speed of 29 knots,  and was furrowing some of the worst seas the squadron had ever experienced at 24 knots, she covered 120 miles in 6 hours to get to the scene.  

The Dragon had it’s own problems during the journey, mountainous seas washed right over her,  appearing to almost swallow her,  5 men were nearly washed overboard and it was only a miracle that they were saved.
One seaman A.b. Brown fell over the side,  but was able to clutch at the sounding boom,  and saved himself,  receiving a crushed finger.  He was eventually pulled in by the legs by another sailor.

The steamers captain Kamataka lay on the floor for two hours after being knocked unconscious when a mountainous sea hit the vessel and he was thrown against the bridge box.
Other sailors aboard the Honolulu Maru were also injured during it’s struggle.
Sailors aboard the war ships also suffered injuries.

H.M.S Dragon arrives at the scene.

Attempts were made to get a hawser between the vessels, one attempt saw the line get caught under the propeller of the Honolulu Maru. Another line became enmeshed in the bows of the Japanese steamer,  and the men on the Dragon speak with pride of the spectacle of one of the Japanese seamen crawling over the side of the ship with a rope around his waist and freeing the line.
The Dragon sent eight rockets to the steamer, with lines attached,  but the wind was in the wrong direction,  and they could not reach the vessel.

The Captain and the crew of the Honolulu Maru had expectations their ship would turn turtle at any time.
Trying to walk on the vessel was almost impossible, she was on such a steep list and moving so much in the sea,  the men  moved about in fear of sliding off,  they had to hold onto anything they could with one hand while trying to negotiate the ship and work with the other.

Both vessels were shipping mountainous seas,  with each roll the men were nearly up to their knees in water

The Dragon  kept vigil all Friday night over the steamer which was wallowing like some broken thing in treacherous seas. The Dragon swept the steamer continually with it's great searchlights and stood by prepared for any emergency.

As soon as the situation was relayed to the authorities the Sydney tugs Champion and Heroic  left port in the full force of the gale,  even old sailors didn't think they had a dog's chance of getting through the monstrous seas with blinding squalls. 

One skipper of many years of life at sea said he never saw such seas and weather. But he expressed his faith as such.

"Good boats those tugs,  long since proven staunch and true,  and their skippers and crew are splendid seamen"

April 5th. The Champion picked up the Dragon and the Honolulu Maru off Jervis Bay.  To add to the already dangerous situation,  it was found with such a list the Honolulu Maru would not steer

The decision was made to attempt to get a hawser to the strained vessel to initiate a tow,  to attempt this in the horrendous condition was a daunting task, with great risk and difficulty they managed to secure the hawser.  At midnight on Saturday the Champion  managed to tow her battered charge to a safe anchorage inside Jervis Bay.

She appeared a pitiful picture,  suggestive of a ship whose heart had been broken. She had a terrible list and a long, ugly roll.

Although  she was now inside Jervis Bay she was still in a venerable position. Concerned about the sea coming more into the bay, the vessel was moved to a more protected area.

The war ship Dragon stood close by.

A gang of stevedoring hands was dispatched from Sydney to re-stow the cargo of the Honolulu Maru, she would then be taken to a safer anchorage.

Despite the ordeal, on inspection no damage was found to have occurred.
April 11thThe Honolulu Maru sailed safely into Sydney Harbour.


" Thus two proud ships battled with seas which know no fidelity to those who sail them,  and which in their bitterness and caprice and giant strength will betray a proud cruiser as readily as a hardy old carrier furrowing the trade routes."


An officer
'we never thought the Honolulu Maru would get into port'  "Everything was, of course in readiness to save the crew.  We were tossing about in the roughest seas we have ever struck on the cruise"

 a637724h Ref : State Library of NSW.

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