Recollections of the S.S. Australis, 27 years on.
On 12th August 1977, my family boarded the S.S. Australis in Melbourne for the long trip to England. I would not have known that the memories of that trip would stay with me, sometimes strong other times fleetingly, for the rest of my life. My father, mother, sisters Mary (21 years at the time), Noeleen (18), brother Jim (19) and myself (13) would all share a cramped 6 berth cabin, in what seemed to be the bowels of the ship, yet we had the greatest time.
Our ports of call were Sydney, Auckland, Tahiti, Balboa, Fort Lauderdale, Rotterdam and finally, docking in Southampton on 14th September 1977. Although travelling as a 13 year, I still have vivid fantastic memories of 5 weeks at sea. To have such a time cruising the world is stuff dreams are made of. Although I don't have great recollections of any staff, I do have fond memories of friendships made with other children.
My main recollections though do include our incredible waiter, he would take our order for dinner (all 6 of us), never write anything down and never to my memory make a mistake. The crossing of the Equator with King Neptune was a comic highlight, although the weather was lousy- being the Equator and all. I remember seeing the remake of "King Kong" in the ships cinema amongst other movies.
The crossing from Sydney to Auckland was also a highlight, although a poor one. The seas were so rough we had ropes suspended along the corridors for passengers to hang on to as they tried to walk from place to place.
Undoubtedly for me, the ultimate highlight must be the Panama Canal crossing, having never heard of the place before arriving, the whole process amazed me. I stood on that deck and watched the locks filling and emptying, raising and lowering that huge ship, in absolute wonder.
To find this website and see the history of this great ship has been a fantastic experience, one that I will revisit time and time again I'm sure. I hope I have been able to add just a little bit to maybe enhance others memories just as mine have been.
Although heartbreaking to see the demise of this once great ship, it is none the less fulfilling to be able to finalise a 27 year curiosity about "Gee, I wonder what happened to our boat"....
John McAleer, (once a 13 year old passenger.)
16th March 2004
View John's photos taken by his father in 1977: Here.
Many thanks to John McAleer for his contribution to the site.
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