CAN YOU HEAR THEM?
Stark and eerie in the moonlight,
Can you hear the sea breeze moving,
Can you hear the breeze increasing,
Can you hear the sea wind howling,
Can you hear the sea wind roaring,
Mighty graceful "Kobenhavn,"
From Germany and Denmark,
Many loving hearts were broken,
Can you hear the great gales screaming,
Noel Smith (shown below, centre) was a 13 year old ship's cabin boy when he first visited Port Germein in 1940.
The rising tide conceals her grief,
Proud once she clove the timeless sea,
Where lie the bones of those she bore?
The tide recedes and her bones emerge
To rest the raucus birds arrive,
Which rang to the beat of stamping feet
Sometimes in the black of a moonless night
The sou'west breeze begins to move,
They cry and they sing as the breeze grows strong,
Of the bright young lives and sailors old,
With the wind's increase those lost souls shriek,
With the morning sun the tide makes high,
They'll come again when the breeze is right,
Poor lonely 'York' in the island mud
The 'York' was an iron vessel built about 1860 in Scotland. She finished her working life as a coal hulk and lighter in Port Pirie in about 1922. She was beached on the southern side of Weeroona Island (Port Flinders) where she was used as a wharf or loading platform for barges carting stone to Port Pirie.
A dear and very old lady lived in a shack very close to the 'York' remains. She told me of listening to the voices of
the 'York' and that the spirits of her crews often visited her on stormy nights. She learned this poem and could often
be heard standing on her little verandah reciting it to the spirits of the 'York'.
THE GRAND OLD LADY
You've seen so many changes that make our world today
Here we have the longest jetty, built in eighteen eighty one,
Part of a song written by NORMA BAKER, Port Germein.
THE SAILING SHIPS
Many street names in Port Germein were changed from ordinal numbers to the names of famous ships of the wheat trade, in October 2012.
Tall masts of the Erikson line of Scandinavian ships are silhouetted against the sky-line, their elegant figureheads presenting an air of grace and dignity.
The 'Olivebank' is waiting at the jetty to take on a load of bagged wheat. Captain Matsen is proud of his ship, and the crew will be kept busy during the two or three weeks in port while the cargo is being loaded. Sails will be mended and all the general maintenance attended to-the whole ship will be made spick and span.
Down in High Street, the labourers have been wheeling bags up planks and onto rail trucks since around 7 am. Huge grain stacks line the street around Farmers Union, Darlings and Drapers grain stores.
Arnold Miller understands the procedure very well-he has been a grain agent for many years, and now, in 1940, he has watched the loading process a countless number of times. Sixty five bags are loaded onto each of the seven trucks which will be pushed by the small engine, working in the rear, out to the waiting ship. Twenty one trucks and two engines keep up a continuous haul. Empty trucks are pulled back with the engine in front.
First stop on the way out to the ship is at the coal bunker near the goods shed. The engine is fired up-then off out along the jetty. The tide is out this morning so the ship is down. This means that the bags can chute straight down into the ship from the trucks. When the tide is in and the ship is riding high, slings are placed around the bags and a winch on board the ship pulls them up to the chute.
When loading has been completed-about thirty to forty thousand bags, the 'Olivebank' will be ready to leave on the long journey home- several months will be spent at sea.
If an east wind is blowing when the 'Olivebank' is ready to depart she will move off under her own sail, otherwise a tug from Port Pirie will pull her out into the channel.
L'AVENIR/ ADMIRAL KARPFANGER
This chilling story comes from "Time" magazine in 1943.
The long swells of the South Atlantic break angrily against lonely Tristan da Cunha. In the volcanic rock of this island group, halfway between Cape Town and Montevideo, they have scoured deep, dark caverns.
Far back in the recesses of one such cavern on Tristan Island, Arthur Repetto, brother of the island's headman, found a ship's figurehead. Its ghostlike glimmer "skeered" him at first. When he went in he found a beautifully modeled maiden, nine feet high. Her hair was done up in a bun behind her head; a long cloak, which her left hand grasped, covered her dress. Her right hand held a lily to her bosom. Around her neck was carved a necklace of disks; a tasseled cord girdled her waist. On each arm was a bracelet hung with draperies. The wood was well preserved, with few barnacles or seaweed, and traces of white, blue, green, gold and red paint glowed faintly. Rusty iron bolts showed where the figure had been fastened to a ship's bow. With the help of other islanders, Repetto brought the figurehead by boat to Tristan's settlement. There it was repainted, mounted at the base of the flagstaff.
Four years after Repetto found the maiden, a ship touched at Tristan, took back photographs to Cape Town. There a mechanic of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm identified it as the figurehead of the 'Admiral Karpfanger', which had once been laid up in his Liverpool shipyard.
The 'Admiral Karpfanger', a four-masted bark of 2,853 tons, put out from Port Germein, South Australia, on Feb. 8, 1938. Aboard were 44 cadets and 16 officers and men of the Hamburg-America Line. Five weeks later she radioed her position from somewhere south of New Zealand and said she would round Cape Horn. That was the last ever heard of her until the lily maiden was found.
In fact, this is just the sad end of a ship which had a fascinating history. Built in 1908, and named 'L'Avenir', to be used as a training ship, in 1932 it was sold to Gustaf Erikson for the Australian wheat trade, could take 60 passengers and often made summer cruises in the Baltic.
"L'Avenir" apparently visited Port Germein in 1911 and a list of deserters in the Spencer Gulf ports, compiled by Frank Hall, 1987, shows that 8 sailors left the ship there, three on 8/11/1911, one on the 10th, and two each on 11/11/1911 and 12/11/1911.
One well known passenger was Australian born composer Percy Grainger, (Country Gardens) who sailed to Australia on 'L'Avenir' with his wife on its 110 day voyage in 1933-1934. He took numerous photos and painted life aboard the ship, disembarking at Port Germein from the long voyage.
Picture at left (courtesy Robert Shaw) shows L'Avenir and Moonta at the Port Germein jetty.The ship is featured on the stamp at right
Owen Broadbear (in his book A Life's Memories) tells a story about 'L'Avenir' being in port. (The French ship is actually 'L'Avenir')
At one time two Swedish ships were taking in wheat, both at each side of the jetty, when a French ship pulled up at anchorage. Of course, they had to get provisions, so either first or second mate would come to shore in a small boat with a few sailors. Naturally they finished up at the hotel, where the Swedish sailors were drinking. The French and Swedes don't agree and it wasn't long before the bar walls were getting splattered with blood. Local chap Constable Pearce couldn't quell the fight so got out of it and ran home to ring the Pirie police. Anyway, before they got out, Pearce went back with cuffs in pocket and tried to handcuff the Swedes as he had learnt from the barman or proprietor who were causing the most trouble. Away went the Swedes around the pub with Pearce after them, about four times around. The Swedes caught up with Pearce, picked him up and took him to the clink. They took the keys out of his pocket and put him in a cell and locked the door. Mrs Pearce then rang the Pirie police and another bloke came out with a duplicate key to let Constable Pearce out of his own cell. By the time the first two police had arrived all sailors were up the jetty and on the ship and by the time the police got to the boats, no talk, nobody did anything-what could two policemen do among forty or so sailors? The keys were never found. (p 43)
Another story associated with the visit of 'L'Avenir' to Pt Germein in 1934 is the marriage of passenger Miss Barbara Strachey, 21, (born 17th July, 1912 died 15th October, 1999), a rebellious English girl and Oxford graduate who acquired a liking for smoking cigars on the trip, to Mr Olav Hultin, 23, (born 1910, died 1958?) a Finnish passenger who had previously been to South Australia as a member of a sailing ship crew. Newspaper articles said he was the son of the Professor of Classics at the University of Helsinki but recent information reveals that Mr Hultin senior was a librarian at the University of Helsinki and a published literary historian. The 'windjammer lovers' appear to have caught the imagination of newspapers around Australia and the event was widely reported, even earning a two page article in the 'Australian Women's Weekly.' Unfortunately, Percy Grainger and his wife, fellow passengers on 'L'Avenir,' were unable to attend the wedding.
On January 17th Barbara and Olav were married at the tiny St Clemens Church of England next to the school in Port Germein. It was 104 degrees, the people of Port Germein turned out in droves and the church was beautifully decorated with flowers. The bride dressed at the Port Germein Hotel in an old gold crepe ensemble decorated in brown while the groom wore his white dress sailing suit. A Fox Movietone News reel cameraman, Mr W. Simmons of Adelaide, was apparently in attendance. After the wedding the party drove to the Royal Exchange Hotel in Port Pirie for the reception.
The two pictures of the couple were sent by Allen Payze, the then secretary of the Port Lincoln Yachting Club, to the Åland Maritime Museum at Mariehamn, Finland and from there to me (with thanks) Allen Payze is shown on the top deck with the couple on the coastal steamer 'Moonta' (see 'Gulf Trip' below) which took them from Pt Lincoln to Port Pirie before the wedding. Allen Payze gave the bride away on the day. Payze had met Olav Hultin when he came to Australia 2 years previously aboard the 'Ponape.'
Some details of the romance are contained in the newspaper articles. The couple were divorced only 3 years later so the mother's warning seems to have been well founded. They had one son, Roger.
Barbara Strachey was the niece of the writer, Lytton Strachey, and mixed with many other well known literary figures of her day including Virginia Woolf and Bertrand Russell. She wrote an atlas to Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' called "The Journeys of Frodo" and worked in BBC radio for many years.
On board 'L'Avenir' also was a Canadian female cadet, Annette Brock (commonly known as Jacky), who wrote her story in My Year Before the Mast. When one of the other passengers, Miss Kronig, had to be rushed to Port Pirie Hospital because of injury to her leg, Annette Brock took her place as bridesmaid at the wedding. She wore a wide sleeved tangerine top with brass buttons, a black skirt and black beret.
In her book she has a whole chapter about Port Germein including a story about an evening spent at the palais,
which she describes as:
In 1937 'L'Avenir' was sold to Norddeutscher Lloyd as a training ship and renamed 'Admiral Karpfanger'.
It disappeared near Cape Horn in 1938. The following information comes from the
On the 2nd February, 1937, the Barque 'Penang' lay at anchor approximately one ship's length from the Port Germein jetty. The crew had been invited ashore to what Captain K.V. Karlsson described as some kind of festivities. They had been given permission to use the ship's rowing boat. The captain discovered that eleven men had gone ashore in that boat, too many for a boat of that size. He instructed the first mate to go ashore in the motor boat with specific, strict orders to see to it that when returning to the ship, the crew should be divided into two loads. Those are the captain's words taken from his report. He would have known too that the sea breeze which usually comes into Port Germein in mid to late afternoon could become quite strong during the night and that a nasty short, steep sea would get up when it did.
Sadly, the revellers, returning from the party full of good cheer and indiscretion either forgot or chose to ignore their captain's proper and very wise instructions. The sea had become quite rough but their ship was only a short distance away. They were young; they were strong; they were of races bred to the sea. They too, were very foolish. Twelve men boarded that small boat. It capsized just beneath the ship's stern. Carpenter Harry Axel Lindquist, born 17 July, 1915, of Lenland, Finland, and apprentice Lars Rasmussen, born 27 February, 1915, of Bjerby, Borup, Denmark, were lost. One other was picked up unconscious and very nearly lost his life.
After the funerals at Port Germein, Mrs Huchison had two wooden crosses placed on the graves of the young sailors. These were eventually destroyed by weather and termites but in 1986 it was decided that as part of the Jubilee Commemorations the graves would be put in good order and plaques placed upon them. The project was the joint effort of the people of Port Germein and the town council. A half brother of Harry Lindquist visited the graves in 1986. Captain Gote Sundberg from Mariehamn visited them in 1988.
'Penang' sailed from Port Lincoln and was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland on December 8th, 1940. There were no survivors. So many lives lost and so many beautiful ships destroyed.
OTHER BIG SHIPS VISITING PT GERMEIN DURING THE GRAIN RACES
This 3 masted ship made her last voyage on the wheat trade and was scrapped in 1934
C B PEDERSEN
Sank when rammed by the Elders & Fyffes steamer 'Chagres' of Glasgow SW of the Azores at position 35 degrees 36 N and 35 degrees 41 W on April 25th, 1937. The master of the 'Chagres' died of a heart attack at the accident.
Struck a mine and sank in 1939, 7 crew surviving
In 1932 the 'Pommern' was apparently the fastest boat on the Europe to Australia leg. She was laid up in Mariehamn in 1939 and is now on full display having over 50.000 visitors a year (from Ships Nostalgia)
'Winterhude' survived until being broken up in 1949
4 masted steel barque, sold to a British company and broken up, 1949
4 masted vessel scrapped in September, 1935 at Dalmuir (See Clydebuilt link below)
Arrival and sailing information obtained from a list compiled at Pt Germein Village Museum.
FRENCH SAILING SHIPS AT PORT GERMEIN
Pierre Antonine Feb 1904 to 01-03-1904
Frank and Elaine Hall have very kindly supplied me with their full lists of deserters at South Australian ports, but at present those from 1891 to 1910 are not available. I have begun compiling that list from the National Archives of Australia, however, and will add them as I complete each batch of cards, which are in alphabetic order.
PORT GERMEIN SHIPPING REGISTER
Some of the register entries are thorough and others involve a series of ditto or iteration marks. When this occurs I have written the words in. Though neat, the cursive was often difficult to read but I have looked up the names of many ships in the Shipping News of old newspapers. There are probably still many mistakes so please email corrections. It has been a long process typing up all this information but interesting. Now I would like to get a picture and details of ships in the list, and the captains also seem worthy of note! Words like ketch, steamer, barque, cutter are exerting their siren songs too.
THE GULF TRIP
One of the best known ships on the Gulf trip was the Moonta built in Copenhagen by Burmeister and Wain in 1931 to replace the Paringa
and arriving in Australia in November 1931. It was a one class ship of 2,693 tons, 3000 tons gross, and traded between Ports Adelaide, Lincoln, Germein,
Pirie, Augusta, and Hughes until 1955. There was accommodation for 140 passengers. The ship departed Port Adelaide on Saturday afternoons. It was driven by
diesel engines and had four decks including a special deck for sports and dancing. She was equipped with modern wireless equipment made by
Amalgamated Wireless in Australia, allowing gramophone music to be relayed all over the ship. (Information from newspaper articles via TROVE)
Page created 10-7-2009. Added shipping register 11-4-2011, French ships 19-01-2015, Pt Germein ship deserters 1-4-2015,
ship deserter lists 15-4-2015. Adding deserters 12-10-2017. Links checked 13-9-2017.