The Douro and its Piratical Captain

In the 19th Century ship captains were often considered undisputed masters of their domain, especially while they were at sea.   Most, to varying degrees, kept a rein on their power, others ruled their vessels with an iron fist, and a few, like Neil Peter Sorensen, went completely rogue. In August 1885 a portion of theContinue reading “The Douro and its Piratical Captain”

Australia’s First “Ship on Ship” Naval Action

In late 1914 HMAS Sydney was accompanying the first convoy of AIF troops leaving Australia to fight in the First World War. However, a few days after the convoy left Albany WA, the Sydney was ordered to investigate the presence of a suspicious vessel near the Cocos Islands.  The ship turned out to be theContinue reading “Australia’s First “Ship on Ship” Naval Action”

The Loss of the Maria: A Cautionary Tale

If ever there was a cautionary tale warning of the perils of going to sea ill-prepared, it is that of the tragic loss of the Maria in 1872. The Marine Board inquiry blamed the captain’s poor navigation and equally poor character for the loss of the ship and so many lives.   But, the underlying causesContinue reading “The Loss of the Maria: A Cautionary Tale”

No Charts, No Worries

When Captain George Browning sailed the small schooner Caledonia from Sydney in December 1831, he intended to follow the coast north as far as the Tropic of Capricorn.   There he was to collect salvage from a ship that had been wrecked in the Bunker Islands and return it to Sydney to be sold.   But onContinue reading “No Charts, No Worries”

The Orete’s Robinson Crusoe-like Castaway

In January 1918, Donald Mackenzie found himself marooned on a tiny uninhabited island after his schooner sank during one of the most powerful cyclones to hit Central Queensland.   The tough 56-year-old Scott was a seaman on the Orete which had sailed from Maryborough bound for Mackay with a cargo of sawn timber.    They had noContinue reading “The Orete’s Robinson Crusoe-like Castaway”