A Cable & Wireless engineers cruise Story.

I was just looking up ships I travelled on, in the early days of my career in Cable and Wireless. We used to travel everywhere by ship, as planes were few, and too expensive. We were usually carrying crates and crates of possessions. We were paid whilst travelling, in both directions, and our leave did not start until the day after we got to the UK. That was the life back then!

Our first trip on the Australis was in February 1966, from Fiji to UK via the Panama Canal (I think she was about the biggest ship to go through - there wasn't much room either side). At that time our daughter was just two, and we spent hours walking her round the promenade deck in a pushchair. She kept trying to climb through the rails! The ship skirted round the end of Cuba and went to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. At first the Americans wouldn't let anyone off, then they said we couldn't take anything ashore..... cameras, food, and finally oranges! I think that was her first voyage as the S. S. Australis? It was about a 3 week voyage or so, a long trip with very few ports of call.

Our next trip (her last I think?), was in October 1977, departing from Sydney. The route included Auckland, across the Southern Ocean, the Straits of Magellan, Puerto Madryn in Argentina and Rio Grande. The ship couldn't get into Buenos Aires as the Plate was silted up. In Rio about 200 of the 2000 passengers were mugged or beaten up. Cruising on to Tenerife, then Cherbourg, because the Southampton dockers were on strike, and finally to Southampton - over 5 weeks, and were we glad to get off!! I got the impression the voyage wasn't exactly as planned on route? In Tenerife or Cherbourg I believe the prospective new buyers came aboard to inspect her. I still have the press photo of her in Southampton for the last time.

In Puerto Madryn we tied up at the aluminium smelter long dock and at that time they had arrested a complete Russian fishing fleet. Some of the ships were on the other side of the dock and some in the harbour. The Fleet Captain and some others were in the local lock up. The dock was guarded by soldiers with guns, which frightened the life out of most of our passengers. We had just spent 2 years in the Philippines where guns were the norm, so we weren't bothered! The Russian sailors were desperate for food or money, and the sight of scantily clad women walking down the dock was too much for them!

The biggest problem on that trip was the heating/cooling system. We went from hot to cold, then from cold to hot climates, and it seemed to take about 3 days to change the ships system !! That was our last working trip by sea, it was all flights after that. Nowadays we have to pay for our cruises like everyone else!

We are retired and live 8 months of the year in the Virgin Islands and 3 months in the UK.

Roger Harris

Many thanks to Roger Harris for his contribution to the site

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Welcome all visitors to the S.S. Australis Website, which has now been online since 1998!

I will continue to update the site if I receive a new story, or if you have interesting photos taken on the ship during your voyage on either the southbound, northbound, or on one of the South Pacific cruises. We used to do those trips several times a year from Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland (New Zealand).

I am deeply moved by the interest and wonderful contributions from the numerous passengers and crew over many years.

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Please feel free to e-mail me on this link

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Warm Regards


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