Voyage 53 Southbound February 1976
This is a day by day account of my trip on the Australis, it has been put together by my memories, the daily seascapes that I have of our trip and searching for photos that are appropriate to my story. “ships logs’ comments are taken directly from the seascape published daily onboard. As for my memories I was only 9 (going on 10) Now in my 50’s I think i have a pretty good recollection of my trip and thought I would capture it whilst I could.
Tuesday 25th February 1976
We were awoken early in the morning and my uncle arrived to pick us up. My nan and Grandad followed us in the car and we arrived at Birmingham station. Here we were met by lots of uncles and Aunties and family friends who came to bid us farewell.
I remember getting on the train, I was by the window and my mum was opposite me and as the whistle blew the train began to move slowly out of the station. In true movie format our family were running besides the train waving good bye, pressing hands onto the window pane as if to touch us one last time. As the train moved faster and the fitness levels dropped they slowly diminished until nothing could be seen other than the blur of houses I remember handing my mum a handkerchief that was in my pocket, I rarely saw mum cry, and I didn’t know what else to do.
The train trip was long and I have vague memories of arriving into London and then catching a train to Southampton docks. I do remember arriving into Southampton and seeing the Australis at the dock. My first glimpse of her was the rusty stern and I remember my dad saying “are we going on that rust bucket”
We got off the train and were ushered to the boarding point / immigration ques. I have no idea of the time it took or what time we actually boarded, my next memory is walking the gangplank and entering the pursers area. Mum and Dad expected to head down to the bilges, in the normal accommodation that we were advised we would be in. Pleasant surprise to my parents when we were ushered upstairs and to cabin U129c. I always wondered what the c was, now I know it was the lifeboat station we were assigned. Opening the door to our cabin and wow, large cabin with en suite and two port holes, far cry from the underwater cabin we thought we were going to have – we had been lucky
I don’t remember much more about the boarding, I do remember we were tired and my parents tucked us in prior to leaving as my sisters were only 7 (twins) I couldn’t sleep but remember the feeling of the ship moving. Three faces appeared at the 2 port holes and we watched Southampton slip away
Ships log – Air temp 11 deg, Sea temp 11 deg departed Southampton 21.50 hours
26th February 1976
Waking up in the morning I remember looking out of the port holes at the ocean so blue, the ship had a slight pitching and rolling effect. Mum and Dad received a message across the ships Public Address system to report to the Pursers office. Had they realised we were immigrants and we were in the wrong cabin? That’s the initial thought as we all headed down to the office. We are taken up to the radio room of the ship, yes I am in the radio room and we were told to wait. My nan had called the ship and wanted to talk to us and a prearranged time was then organised for her to call back. Call back she did and we enjoyed a minute or two having a ship to shore telephone call.As the afternoon progressed so did the ships gentle pitching and rolling. This did not worry me however my mum and my sisters began to feel seasick. We took my mum and my sisters down to the ships hospital so that the on-board Dr could give them all some medication. The que was long to get into the hospital as many people were feeling seasick. I think this is where mum and dad felt I was ok by myself as mum and my sisters were bed ridden with sea sickness. I began to explore the ship, this new home of mine for 3 weeks, I remember walking the decks and having a good look around. As I walked the decks and ventured into the Promenade deck I remember seeing the tea trolley on the promenade deck and biscuits…I hooked into a few bikkies and continued on my way J I basically remained in the open areas on my first day, I was amazed at the ocean, I could not see land and been on this huge machine ploughing the ocean was going to be an adventure with a capital A
Ships log – Air temp 11 deg, Sea temp 11 deg, cloudy, life jacket demonstration
27th February 1976
Today we are at sea and I have no idea what the Rock of Gibraltar was I just knew it was something special as everyone was up on deck to have a look. I remember seeing it, today I can say I saw it, but it had no relevance then other than a big rock. As we moved into the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea we were called for the lifeboat drill. (after been on several cruises in the last 5 years I am amazed we sailed 2 nights and 1 day without any drill, given they are normally done prior to leaving port, however according to the log this is the day we had the drill) I remember been bored out of my brain, I had so much to explore and see yet we queued up for what seemed like hours. I am not sure why, but it seemed to be so disorganized. We were not even at the lifeboat stations we were somewhere else I am positive it was the ball room but we queued up to see the person at the front. I remember dad commenting that it was a joke and if the ship was on fire or sinking he would throw us over the railing instead of queuing up like this. By this time I had met Brian another 10 yr old who was on our sitting at the same table – we both formed a friendship and began our explorations of the ship daily.
Today’s sea memory: I used to head up every now and then to see my sisters in the children’s nursery; I can remember the rear kids pool full of soot from the funnel. The belching black smoke from the funnel used to swirl around and linger finally dropping onto the deck and the kids pool
Ships log – Air temp 14 deg, Sea temp 14 deg, partly cloudy, moderate seas, general emergency drill for passengers and crew, welcome aboard cocktail party
28th February 1976
Today we are at sea and Brian and I we were the same age and I think he was a little naughtier than me and I was easily swayed, either way we enjoyed each other’s company. We never went to school on the ship. Actually I remember going one day only and that was all where as my sisters were put into the children’s nursery area up by the aft funnel. We were allowed to go where we wanted, the dinner bells been our only signal to regroup in the dining room. I believe I was at the right age for exploring, old enough to remember and explore, young enough to get away with entering “crew only” areas. After all a few yells from crew and we ran, after all we were only kids.
Today’s sea memory: looking over the railings and watching the dolphins, I honestly could not believe the amount of dolphin’s huge pods of them not only looking at the dolphins but the amazement of the amount of flying fish I could see darting away from the ship. I had never seen dolphins or flying fish before.
Ships log – Air temp 15 deg, Sea temp 14 deg, cloudy, moderate seas, Bingo, Discotheque, Cinema – Great waldo Pepper
29th February 1976
Still at sea and I witnessed something amazing, I was at the right place at the right time as a submarine surfaced within view of us probably a mile away. People on deck were saying the sub was using us as target practice (just war games and practice) how they knew this maybe an announcement from staff or the bridge. I can’t remember, but I did see the submarine surface off our port side guessing now about a mile off. It remained on the surface for a short while and then submerged again, its periscope visible for a minute or two afterwards and then it disappeared totally.
Today’s sea memory: Brian and I used to head up to the forward funnel at noon every day and just sit and wait. The ship used to blow her horns at 12.00 to announce mid-day. This was the signal so everyone knew it was midday to adjust their watches. We used to watch the time head there for 12.00 and cover our ears. What a great sound – one long blast on her horn two excited half deaf kids with smiles on their faces. How I long to hear her again, I have searched high and low and yet cannot find an audio of her horns anywhere.
Ships log – Air temp 16 deg, Sea temp 15 deg, Clear, slight seas, Holy communion with Rev Geddes, Navigation announcements from the bridge
1st March 1976
We are still at sea and the seas have become calm. A visit to the bridge for a tour and a photo at the helm and more exploring of the ship. We became aware of the map within one of the public spaces which showed our position. The line where we started and where we were headed and a simple marker showing where we were and our average speed etc, we still have a long way to go.
Today’s sea memory: Walking to the bow area – on one of the days that the weather was nice and the seas calm the bow was open (crew only said the sign) I assume it was open for maintenance or something. Either way the bulk head door was ajar and Brain and I sneaked into the area. We walked up to the railing that was on the very tip of the bow and clambered up the few steps to the platform and stood there for a short time. Looking over the railing and watching her bow cut through the ocean. I remember a guy standing up, he must have been painting a bollard or something and he yelled at us and motioned with his paint brush to get down and leave the area. As we left we also noticed some crew from the bridge on the bridge wing, maybe ready to yell at us?
Ships log – Air temp 17 deg, Sea temp 17 deg, Clear, calm seas, Zorba Lessons, Show time ‘Go west show”
2nd March 1976
Today is our first Port of call, after travelling 2,632 miles we arrive at Heraklion Greece on the island of Crete. This is the first time the flag ship of Chandris had returned to Crete since the Suez Canal was closed in 1967. What a celebration of our arrival, I remember those powerful steam whistles of the Australis blasting across the sound / harbour as we entered the port. The accompanying tug boats and water craft answering with their toots and whistles. We arrive port side and head off on a bus tour. Our tour took us to some temple ruins or a town ruin (minoan ruins). I remember seeing these ruins and walking with the guide. I have vague memories of heading to a hill or lookout with a huge statue overlooking the harbour. From our tour we drive through the streets and head back to the ship. Walking along the dockside I see the stores been lifted by the front derricks in cargo nets and been lowered into the front hold, safety been none existent I walked under the cranes load to have a look, Dad quickly yelled at me and told me to get out of the way in case something fell. The attached photo is of the Australis in Heraklion Greece you can see how the front derrick cranes were used to lift stores.
Today’s sea memory: I remember some evenings I would be on deck, looking over the stern watching the water churning from the propellers. On some nights I would hear a commotion from the crew deck underneath the stern area and watch as metal garbage cans were tipped upside down over the railing into the chutes which can be clearly seen in this photo courtesy of Phil Galagher.
Ships log – Air temp 16 deg, Sea temp 15 deg, Arrival at Heraklion 12.20 depart 20.30 hours, Bingo, Dancing, Disco, Cinema – Eiger Sanction
3rd March 1976
We have been at sea for a day and are now headed for Port Said. We are warned whilst at the Port not to venture down lane ways, or off the beaten path. Arriving rather late after a trip of 451 miles we anchor in the harbour amongst cargo ships. Arriving at 21.15 we are ushered in the dark down gangplank that had been lowered down the side of the hull of the ship and basically stood on a floating raft and transferred into the tenders. It was nothing fancy, completely open like a large row boat and we were taken ashore.
I remember walking around the town sticking to the main streets and going into markets and shops. One guy kept opening his jacket showing dad watches and no matter how much dad said no he would hassle my parents. Dad had enough shouted “police! I want the Police?” the man disappeared into the shadows and we never saw him again.
Some passengers left us here to complete a tour and caught the ship up later we headed back to the ship and left Port Said in the early hours of the morning.
Today’s sea memory: Travelling between Heraklion and Port Said and the swims in the pool. We also found the indoor pool on C deck and used to go down there a lot. We used to wait on the concrete sloping floor of the pool until Ken Ironside would begin filling the pool. We waited like crocodiles on a river bank waiting for the water to rise – silly things to keep us amused
Ships log – Air temp 18 deg, Sea temp 17 deg, Arrival at Port Said 21.15, Classical music hour, dancing disco
4th March 1976
Today I awaken and head out onto the deck, we have picked up some traders and they have small stalls set up on the ship. As we head through the Suez Canal we had a mine sweeper or another ship some miles ahead. We had to wait for this ship prior to entering the canal as the war had just finished and the canal had been cleared of mines but just in case as we were the first passenger ship through they wanted to take precautions and have another ship ahead of us. Once that ship arrived we weighed anchor and followed.
Looking across both sides of the canal I saw tanks and army jeeps all burnt out, remains of buildings and outposts. I had never seen a war zone, only in movies and comics I read. This was really exciting I am looking at real war zone and watched us sail past the damaged buildings and saw people with guns on the canal banks.
Todays sea memory : Some days into the cruise I happened to go under the bunk beds for some reason, maybe to hide from my sisters but I came across 20c pieces, heaps of them as if someone’s bag had burst. How long had they been there? how many crossings had they done ? They were right In the far corner so had been missed by the cleaners. I started to bring out handfuls of them. My mum and dad were amazed, and sent me under the bed to get more. As a child I remember several handfuls, maybe around $5 worth. Either way it was a good haul from under the bed.
Ships log – Air temp 19 deg, Sea temp 17 deg Transit Suez Canal, Depart Suez 21.15, Bingo, Quiz time, Cinema – Day of the dolphin
5th March 1976
So today we are at sea, lounging around on the decks and swimming in the pool. The weather is starting to warm up and by looking at the updated map in the foyer we are about half way.
Today’s sea memory: This is a strange memory and I guess I am a little embarrassed by this but it took me a few days to work this out and why this was happening. Now remember I had never been on a ship and I was only 9, so here goes. I would stand looking out of the Port promenade windows and the wake from the ship would be going from my right to my left. I would then pass through the foyer past the writing room and library area and out to the Starboard promenade deck and the strangest thing happened the wake was now travelling from my left to my right. Well after a few days of doing this I was very proud of myself when I figured it out.
Ships log – Air temp 24 deg, Sea temp 22 deg Clear moderate seas, “ buffet magnifique” Disco
6th March 1976
Yes its 29 degrees and enjoying the sun. we make our last port of call tomorrow that been Djibouti
Today’s sea memory: I used to love been almost blown over board, hanging on for dear life when running around the Sun deck I would approach the curved section in front of the smoking room under the bridge area. Remembering we were doing 20 or so knots there would be a strong wind that would blow around the curvature. Well been a small kid and suddenly having a strong wind slam into your back as you were running through me against the railings at times.
Ships log – Air temp 29 deg, Sea temp 22 deg partly cloudy, calm seas, Bingo, show – Bow bells
7th March 1976
The Australis has steamed 1,279 miles from Port Said through the Suez Canal and today we have arrived in Djibouti at 14.20 on the east coast of Africa. Arriving into port we are picked up by buses and taken to the town for a look around I can remember us walking through the city area. The poverty and dirty conditions are not something I am used to. When in Port Said it was dark so I never really saw the third world conditions but here it is different. Markets with food hanging up, people lying in the streets and gutters and the bus driver trying to rip my parents off who along with all the other passengers are telling them we will not give them any more money for the return trip as it was all included. Getting back to the ship safely the bow was actually open to the public and people were going in for a look. We had already had our look before but this time we could explore without fear of been yelled at. Climbing over the winches and anchor chains and wowing at how big the spare anchor was now that we could climb on it. Standing again on the bow rail we peered over into the dirty water of the harbour. We were told that the ship had refused to take on drinking water here as the water was not up to the standards required.
Ships log – Air temp 29 deg, Sea temp 27 deg Arrival in Djibouti 14.20 hours, Cinema – Deliverance, Disco time, Roy Jefferson duo, Holy Communion with Rev L F Geddes
8th March 1976
When I went to sleep we were still in Djibouti, now I awaken to the gentle rolling of the Australis making headway and entering the last leg of our travels. This will be our longest leg of around 9 days at sea. Looking at the map, this was a long stretch of ocean to conquer. The weather is warm and between the indoor pool on C deck and the lido deck pool we spent many days swimming and exploring.
Today’s sea memory: One day we started following a stairwell and opened a door. We had planned looking at the engine room one day. It was on our things to do, we had tried a couple of times to find it getting lost in the hallways and stairwells however one day we did find it. Either by chance (a locked door was left open) or we just found our way but we opened the door and I remember the noise to this day was really loud. We sort of ended up on a platform overlooking the engines or maybe the turbines looking down it was huge machinery that we could see. Lots of wheels and valves and piping. There was a shout in a foreign language followed by a few other yells and we took off running as fast as we could. The below photos are of the Australis engine room and represents what I remember seeing.
Ships log – Air temp 27 deg, Sea temp 27 deg departure Djibouti 03.20 hours, adults fancy dress parade, classical music hour, trapshooting.
9th March 1976
Beautiful sunny day today, nice and warm so a lot of swimming and exploring to do. Visiting our favourite areas of the ship including the forward funnel for the deafening blast of her horn at midday as we did every day.
Today’s sea memory: I used to love been almost blown over board, hanging on for dear life when running around the Sun deck I would approach the curved section in front of the smoking room under the bridge area. Remembering we were doing 20 or so knots there would be a strong wind that would blow around the curvature. Well been a small kid and suddenly having a strong wind slam into your back as you were running threw me against the railings at times.
Ships log – Air temp 27 deg, Sea temp 28 deg Clear, slight seas “ Australis scavenger hunt” Mid voyage cocktail parties’ Show “Midway mixture”
10th March 1976
Today was the only day I can remember actually going to the cinema to see the Towering inferno. We headed down to the cinema and Brian and I grabbed a chocolate bar each and sat down in the small cinema and watched the movie. I remember the movie cinema was full and people wanting to get in but there was no chairs left and they were been turned away
Ships log – Air temp 30 deg, Sea temp 29 deg Partly cloudy, moderate seas, junior table tennis tournament, Adult Aquakhana, tea dance, bumper bingo, Cinema “ Towering inferno”
11th March 1976
It’s a lovely warm day and I am excited as today they have the kids junior Aquanna . The idea is to dive to the bottom of the pool and retrieve spoons. This I could easily do as I was a good swimmer and often went to the bottom just in general swims. The person who retrieved the most spoons would win. Prior to the completion I did something the pool attendant wasn’t happy about. I always remember this pool attendant, short chubby man, and he wasn’t happy I jumped into the pool. I didn’t get a warning just a “ Oi you out, your banned for the day” Dad told me to go and change my swimming gear for my spare ones as they were a different colour and he won’t recognise me. A short time later the completion started and he called my name out, I was worried he would recognise me and I sort of plopped into the pool and didn’t really take a good breath trying to get underwater as quick as I could so he wouldn’t berate me in front of the crowds. I ran out of air quick and surfaced without even one spoon in my hand – very disappointing.
Ships log – Air temp 29 deg, Sea temp 29 deg Partly cloudy, calm seas, Junior Aquakana, Olde tyme dancing with Mo, Horse racing Cinema – Dr Zhivago
12th March 1976 – crossing the Equator
It’s going to be an exciting day today – party time. Today we cross the equator and the deck is beginning to get dressed up for the celebrations. As a child I wasn’t really involved to much in this event as it was more of an adult thing. Watching flour bombs and eggs been thrown around and King Neptune appearing and sitting in his chair was all fun. It broke the monotony of the last few days. I do remember a few flour bombs headed my way and we picked them up and threw them back
Later that day early evening we had the children’s fancy dress party. A sheet dragged from my bed had me as Julias Ceaser, my sister was dressed up as “ the morning after the night before” and my other sister as little Bo peep. We all paraded on the ballroom stage and were taken out the back to receive a prize. I won a wind up robot.
Today’s sea memory: Dad explained to me once that the ship was in the war, anyone else remember seeing holes in the deck with brass type fittings near the railings. These were where the guns were bolted to the deck or slid down into the hole. I remember looking at them, standing over them and like a typical kid pretending to fire an anti-aircraft gun at make believe planes. There were remnants of her war days still visible on deck thinking back I wonder how many soldiers stood at battle stations in the spot I stood doing exactly what I did but with a real gun ?
Ships log – Air temp 27 deg, Sea temp 27 deg departure Djibouti 03.20 hours, adults fancy dress parade, classical music hour, trapshooting
13th March 1976
More lazy days at sea, however we hadn’t seen a ship since leaving Djibouti and we were told over the public address that a ship was going to be passing us. The announcement had passengers lining the starboard decks. It was only a cargo ship going the opposite way but it was nice to see another ship just to reinforce we were not alone. The Australis and the cargo ship past quite close, close enough for us all to wave and the crew of the cargo ship to wave back. The exciting part was the ships horns. I remember the cargo ship sounded average compared to the Australis’s twin steam whistles. The competition had started, hoots and whistles from the cargo ship, deep throated roars from the Australis filled the air for a few minutes until we had passed each other and we were again alone .
Ships log – Air temp 30 deg, Sea temp 29 deg Partly cloudy, slight swell, Junior Aquakhana (not sure if this is a typo, I only remember one Aquakhana) Standards in concert, Bingo, lets have a nightcap with Mo
14th March 1976
Another glorious day at sea, knowing our trip was ending soon we were off just doing what we did best. Raiding the tea trolley at morning and afternoon tea of biscuits and revisiting the cre only areas. That was the thrill going where we shouldn’t go. It was around this time that my 7 year old sisters wanted to see the ship. They had heard of mine and Brians adventures and we took them on a tour. They had been in the ships childrens centre most of the trip apart from the times on deck and we decided to show them around. We didn’t take them to major off limit areas but we got them around the ship.
Today’s sea memory: More than once Brian and I would lay on the rear of the main deck down by the flag pole and put our ears to the deck. Listening to and feeling the beat and shuddering of her propellers biting the water.
Ships log – Air temp 26 deg, Sea temp 28 deg partly cloudy, slight seas, International service with Rev LF Geddes, Vice Versa evening, late night music with Peter
15th March 1976
Today’s different the weather has turned and we are heading into rough waters. We have been warned by the captain and crew and its time to batten down the hatches. I don’t have the exact sea conditions for the day or the swell heights however we were starting to see the bad side of an ocean. The waves were getting bigger the skys greyer and the ships motion was really bad. Going down for dinner that night we braced ourselves at the table. Crockery and plates were falling off tables, waiters carrying food were dropping more than they served at the tables. That night for the first time the cabin steward had put a railing on the side of my bunk to prevent me been thrown out whilst sleeping.
Ships log – Air temp 28 deg, Sea temp 28 deg Cloudy, rough seas, Trapshooting competition, Childrens sports day, Masonic reception, Cinema – Gone with the wind
16th March 1976
We awaken to a serious storm, the ship is pitching a diving we are been thrown around and again breakfast was pretty impossible. Although the waiters tried, food was all over the floor. The decks were closed and I remember the rope holding the promenade deck doors closed with a “closed by order of the captain” sign. I wasn’t scared I was amazed at how big the waves were they seemed to be as high as the promenade windows that I was peering out of. From the smoking room the bow was burying deep into the oncoming swells and I remember the ocean spray hitting the windows .
So as you know by one of my memories we used to venture down to B deck in the hope we could see under water from the port hole. Brian and I headed down there on this day as we were confined inside. Well we got down to the toilet and sure enough the port hole was getting a serious splashing. To this day I do not know why we did this or what we expected to achieve but we opened the port hole. Water by the bucket loads jetting through the open port hole started to pour in as the ship pitched and dived. We realised we had done wrong and could only run, yes we left the port hole open and water sloshing in. I feel sorry for the poor crew member that had to mop it all up, i am surprised it was not hard covered with a plate. Mum to this day jokes about the time I tried to sink the Australis.
Ships log – Air temp 28 deg, Sea temp 27 deg Cloudy, rough seas,Farewell cocktail party, Farewell dinner, Helligenic night,
17th March 1976
I remember the seas had subsided and we were again allowed out on deck. The trip was nearing an end. The map with the moving “ ships position “ pointer had over the last 3 weeks moved slowly towards our new home “ Fremantle” and we were almost there.
Today’s sea memory: Used to love when we coming into port, the ship would be dressed up and flags would be strung from bow to stern. The large Chandris Pennant would be up on her main mast for everyone to see. Little did I know that the pennant I would see as a 9 year old would one day be in my possession, it today sits safely in my collection?
Ships log – Air temp (not recorded) , Sea temp (not recorded) Junior showtime, helpers party
18th March 1976
Finally after leaving Djibouti and travelling 5,039 miles we were scheduled to dock in the morning at my new home, Fremantle Australia. This morning along with the crowds of people lining the decks, we all peered forward waiting for the glimpse of Australia. I was excited and disappointed at the same time I had enjoyed my time aboard the Australis. The seas were calm the sun shining what a great end to a fantastic trip. Finally a white line appeared on the horizon “ I see Australia”, “ There it is” I remember people saying. The ship slowly moved near Rottnest Island and I remember seeing oil drilling rigs. The ship slowed and anchored in what’s called Gage Roads off Fremantle whilst customs came aboard and checked passports, then immigration told us where we were staying (we got Graylands hostel) I can honestly say that I spent 6 months at Graylands (Perth joke).)
Upon arriving into Fremantle we managed to see my uncle in the crowd and dad wrapped up a coin in a note to weigh it and threw it to the dockside for him
A total distance from Southampton to Fremantle of 9,401 miles at an average speed of 21.5 knots.
Breakdown Southampton to Heraklion 2632 miles, Heraklion to Port Said 451 Miles, Suez to Djibouti 1279 miles and finally Djibouti to Fremantle 5039 miles
Ships log – Air temp (not recorded) , Sea temp (not recorded) SS Australis expected to arrive Fremantle AM