Glenn Martin's Northbound Adventure in 1974
I was a young 20 years old when 4 friends and I booked passage on the Australis, March 6th 1974. We travelled from Sydney to Southampton. The ports of call were Auckland, Fiji, Acapulco, Panama Canal (docking at Cristobal Colon), then onto Fort Lauderdale, Florida (for Miami) and finally Southampton.
Our fare was $340.00 sharing a 6 bed room in one of the very low decks. I remember the excitement of boarding at Circular Quay, and all our families coming on board to wish us farewell. The champagne corks popped, it was my first big trip and certainly the biggest thing I had ever done.
I always had a burning desire to travel abroad to see the world, and now it was about to happen. As the ship left the dock I remember throwing stockings that we had tied together to our family on shore and was amazed how long they stretched for. Finally we passed the heads and out to sea. The party started.
The average age of the passengers on that voyage was below 40, so it was party time for the next 5 weeks. I have vivid memories of all the stops, but in particular Acapulco, Mexico and the Panama Canal. The days were always spent on deck or by the outside pool. The weather was great in the Pacific, and we all would meet for drinks around 5pm every day.
It was amazing how everyone formed into groups and that became the group you would stay with. The nightlife on the ship was great, and it was always a lot of fun. We always finished up in the Ballroom. They had records and a player so we spent lots of nights just dancing. I can still remember Neil Young's "Harvest" album being played over
and over again.
In Acapulco we raced around experiencing as much as possible. We went to an amazing hotel shaped like a pyramid and you had to get in a boat to go through it! I remember the locals trying to sell us Acapulco Gold at the docks. Looking back now it was a fascinating place. When we docked we threw coins into the
sea and Mexican kids would dive down for them. Funny thing was that we were only there for 12 hours, but looking back it seemed like a week. The Panama Canal was an incredible experience. It was very hot but we weren't allowed to use the pools for some reason. The ship docked in Cristobal at the Caribbean end of the Canal. The Captain advised
us that Cristobal was very dangerous, and you went ashore at your own risk. So we formed a big group and set off on our adventure ashore. The city was full of poverty. Most of the houses were made of wooden boxes on stilts, also we found the locals were far from friendly. We finally finished up at a small casino and had a great lunch there. On
the way back we heard some amazing music coming from a bar, so we decided to go in. As we opened the doors we were confronted by about 100 locals. The music stopped (it was like something out of a movie). A huge local guy came over and asked us where we were from. This was a big moment, the wrong answer and we were in trouble. I said "we are all Kangaroos and
We're from Australia". He said something to them in French (at least I think it was!) and the place erupted into cheers. The music started back up again, and we all began dancing. We stayed there for several hours buying drinks for everyone. By now we were running late and it was dark outside. They would not let us go by ourselves, so a few of the local guys escorted us
back to the ship. They told us that we would have certainly get robbed, or even worse.
The entertainment on the ship was very good. I remember the Officer who organised all of these activities. There were some great comedians on the ship, and I also enjoyed the shows. I teamed up with one of the girls who was a great singer, and I'm also a handy guitar player. We won the first talent show, and from then on performed
now and again in some of the evening shows. The ship itself was kept clean, and the food was of good dtandard, although I never made one breakfast sitting during the entire trip. The Captain was a friendly guy and all his officers were quite young. There was a Captain's dinner held once a week, and they all arrived in white uniforms, needless to say they
were a big hit with the girls! There was a Master of Arms, a big burly English guy who didn't take to kindly to our Ozzie sense of humour. We had a few strong verbal warnings from him but nothing ever went past that, although he did show us the Brig. We toned down our behaviour a bit after that. He turned out to be a pretty good bloke in the end and
we met him in London for drinks. He took us to his local and met some of his friends who looked quite scary, It became very clear that he was pretty good at the fistycuffs, and his friends spoke about him like he was a legend. They told us a few unsavoury stories so we decided it was best to move on. He gave us his home address and insisted that we
come and stay with him, we never accepted the offer.
Anyone who has ever travelled by ship will know it's a perfect meeting place for both sexes. When we left Fiji two stunning blondes had boarded. Both were gorgeous, but one who was named Helen was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. It took a few nights before I drummed up the courage to say hello
to her, but early one morning about 1a.m. she was at a table on her own, I sat down and mumbled a few things and realised I was probably out of my league. She then laughed and asked me to dance. We stayed up all night exchanging stories, laughing and we soon realised that we were hitting it off big time. She was from Newcastle about 2 hours north of
Sydney and was on a 2 year adventure holiday. She was 21 and seriously drop dead gorgeous. We spent the whole voyage together, and I was besotted with her. I knew it couldn't last, but I felt like I was the luckiest man on the ship.
Our next port of call was Port Everglades, in Fort Lauderdale (Also for Miami), and then it was on across the Atlantic to Southampton. About a day out from Miami we hit a hurricane. It was a really bad storm, and as I laid in bed that night, the ship was hit by a few massive waves which made the ship feel like it
was on its side. Lots of people were sick and we couldn't go outside for about 2 days. Looking back now the whole experience was incredible. The great nights I spent listening to all the music of the seventies. The shows, the awesome days around the pool. When we docked at Southampton we all started to say our good byes. All of a sudden I realised that all of these people had become great friends of mine, and now I wouldn't see them again. It was a really sad moment. Finally
I remember travelling to London on the train feeling a little lost and unsure. I had experienced the best time of my life, yet the trip was just beginning really. We travelled and worked in Europe for about a year, but that's another story.......
Well roll on 40 years! and here I am reliving the S.S. Australis voyage and all the incredible events that took place whilst I was on the ship. I'm still in contact with a few of my Australian friends who were on that voyage. We still talk about it like it was something very special. A gifted experience.
Many thanks to Glenn Martin for his contribution to the site
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