My association with Chandris Lines, and in particular the "Australis"
came about when I was head-hunted whilst at Ansett Airlines in Adelaide, and
After two interviews, held at their 'temporary office' in Bourke Street
in Melbourne, I was offered the position of Senior Berthing Officer for
the Chandris Lines Flagship S. S. "Australis". When I joined the company,
a couple of months later, they had moved to their own building at 155
Collins Street, Melbourne, it was totally refurbished and decorated in blue and
white! very nice offices and fully air-conditioned, with 'muzac' -piped
music which played softly in the background. So began a very happy
period of my shipping career.
The job entailed the promotion of the ship, accommodation, fares and so
forth, now referred to as 'marketing' but then it was general and ship
specific publicity. It also entailed keeping detailed records of
passenger reservations and cabin and berth allocations. Each main office
in Australia had an allocation of berths, for each ship - viz Australis,
Ellinis, Queen Frederika, latterly Britanis when the QF was taken out of
service and Patris. My allocation for Australis totalled 837 berths from
which I also supplied a smaller allocation to sub-agents in Hobart,
Adelaide and Fremantle. Sydney shared their allocation with Brisbane,
Auckland and Wellington.
Some of the 'publicity events' included hosting an 'Agents Evening'
aboard one of the ships when they had an overnight stay, as sometimes
happened, with a sit down dinner and entertainment as a way of saying
'thank you' to the travel agents for their support during the year.
Australis got more than her share of such events, because she was the
Flagship. On these occasions members of Melbourne office staff, together
with their wives, girl/boy friends, fiances would be on duty to spread
around the agents and 'circulating' during the evening.
When Australis arrived in Melbourne I was always there to meet her,
irrespective of the time of day that she arrived. With me was the head
of Chandris Lines Australia, Captain John Arlaud RN (Retd), who was, in
his day in WW2, one of, if not THE, youngest Captain in the Royal Navy,
he was in charge of a flotilla of Motor Torpedo and Motor Gunboats
stationed around the coast of Burma. (He died of a massive heart attack
about 1974/5, after my wife and I had returned to England). Also present
was Tim Synefias, Melbourne Passenger Manager. Capt. Arlaud would go on
board to see the Captain, who during my time there was Capt. D.J.
Challioris. Tim and I would go to the Pursers Office to see the Chief
Purser, George Nikolopoulos. George and I would check the berthing book,
or in hotel language, the register of all the cabins/berths in my
allocation. I would send him a copy at Fremantle and upon arrival in
Melbourne my working book and his copy would be compared to make any
amendments, deletions, additions etc., so that the embarkation list
could be annotated ready for the embarkation later in the day/evening.
At embarkation the 'Australis team' would be in action with passengers
being ticked off as they went through our passenger control prior to
going aboard. The team consisted of Tim Synefias, myself - as Senior
Berthing Officer and with whom the buck stopped. Hugh McRae - my
Assistant Berthing Officer, and, originally Carol Rae my Secretary then,
after she left the office to get married, Leigh Dalrymple who became my new
Secretary. In addition there were usually two or three others from the office
to help out as necessary. There was the usual bustle as passengers and friends
were ushered towards the gangway and into the reception areas. Stewards
were on hand to help passengers with their cabin baggage and to direct
them to their cabins. For the two hours or so of embarkation, which
usually took place at about 5.00pm each time, everything was frenetic
but there was order in the seeming chaos. Eventually all were on board,
and accounted for.
The ships tannoy would shortly issue the 'would all visitors now proceed
ashore' announcements, there would then be the initial goodbyes at the
gangway head, then - in true Australian fashion - the passengers would
throw paper streamers, purchased on the quay before boarding, to their
friends on the dockside. There would be a virtual sea of different
coloured paper streamers linking the ship with the shore...a tenuous
link. The order to cast of for'ard and aft would be given, one or two
tugs in attendance would hook a hawser to their towing hooks and start
gently pulling the ships bow around. Ships moored at Station Pier were
moored bow to the shore so that they had to be turned around before they
could steam away. As the ship moved away from the dockside the streamers
tightened....then finally broke and the last land links, at that port
anyway, were broken and the ship was free to sail off into the night.
This was the scene everytime any passenger ship departed from an
Australian port and it was a spectacular sight.
In October 1970, on a Thursday... I cannot remember the actual date
now.... I was at home and was shortly to set off for the office when I
received a telephone call from Tim Synefias to go straight to Capt.
Arlaud's office upon arrival at work. This I did to find that Capt.
Arlaud was getting ready to leave for Suva, in Fiji. He explained that
he had received information some three hours before that there had been
a serious fire aboard Australis, in the Galley and probably in the area
of the deep fat fryers. The immediate section of the vessel had been
badly damaged by fire, smoke and, of course, water however the crew had
managed to contain the fire and were fast getting to the stage when the
fire would be out. Capt. Arlaud did not know the extent of damage to the
cabins at that time but had been told that it was in excess of twenty.
As he was leaving his office on the fourth floor, a phone call from the
Ship's Captain, Captain Challioris, informed him that the fire was now
out and that Australis was returning to Suva where a more detailed study
could be made of the damage and assessments made.
The result of that assessment being that all passengers would be flown
to their destinations or proceed by sea on another vessel, if required.
The ship would stay in Suva until the company's technicians could be
flown out from Greece and the United Kingdom to join Australis in Suva,
after which the ship would depart for England with the technicians on
board totally refurbishing the destroyed cabins and part of the galley.
When Captain Arlaud returned to Melbourne he brought with him a set of
photographs which starkly showed the damage the fire had caused. It is
to the great credit of all the crew and technicians that the work was
virtually completed by the time the ship arrived in Southampton. There
were a few cabins that still had to be completed during the journey back
out to Australia, however the schedule was only a few days late...a
remarkable feat. Upon her arrival back in Melbourne George Nikolopoulos
showed me photos of the original destruction and damage, then the same
places after refurbishment....a before and after scenario. I would have
liked copies of them, but unfortunately the photographs were filed away
somewhere in Melbourne office and I saw them no more.
During this time a young English girl came to work in the Berthing
Section as the Secretary of the Queen Frederika, but she was only with
that team for one voyage when the QF was taken out of service. Anne then
was transferred to the Ellinis as Secretary to Dutchman Jacobus (Jack)
Breet, he being the Senior Berthing Officer of Ellinis. Anne and I started seeing
each other outside of work hours. She became a staunch follower of the
Chandris Lines Table Tennis Team 'Bergden' with whom I used to play and
in due course we became engaged and were married on 5th August 1972 at
Scotts Church, Collins Street, Melbourne....immediately opposite
Chandris's Melbourne Office. The Table Tennis team had a fair amount of
success and consisted of the following: Captain, David Martin....Senior
Berthing Officer of Britanis, Ian Byard (myself), Tim Synefias and a
friend of mine, soon to be my Best Man, Mirek Stuart. At the end of December,
1972, I resigned from Chandris Lines to return to England with my Wife, Anne.
As an appreciation of my service to the company Anne and I were given free
tickets to England, arranging to sail aboard Australis to Fort Lauderdale,
then after about five weeks there with American members of my family, to
fly to New York and pick up the Ellinis there for the final trip to Southampton.
On Friday 5th January 1973, with the temperature during the day having
reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, we departed aboard Australis Voyage
37 Northbound from Station Pier, Port Melbourne at 22.15 dropping the
pilot outside Port Philip Heads at 01.35 on the 6th January. As the ship
had sailed from Sydney to Melbourne we headed straight for Suva, Fiji, arriving
alongside the wharf at 17.00 on Wednesday 10th January. We sailed at midnight
for Acapulco and on the way sailed through the narrow strait between the Samoan
Islands of Upola and Tutuila. Anne had started taking Greek Dancing lessons
from an excellent dancer Michael Charalambous, and was learning Zorba's Dance.
On the 12th January Anne celebrated her birthday and I and the friends we had
made, had a private dinner party for her, followed by another party in one
of the suites...Cabin 441, which was the Cabin of Mrs. Edna Edgely, who owned
a string of big theatres in Australia. She was very nice, but had done
Anne and I out of Cabin 441, because that had been earmarked for us,
however Edna came along as a last minute booking, paying full fare for
sole use of the suite...so that was that!
Ten days from Suva we should have been approaching Acapulco but this
call had been cancelled, according to Seascape, the ship's newspaper
supposedly due to 'adverse seas'. In fact two boilers had broken down so
we had altered course for Balboa arriving there at 2200 on Tuesday 23rd
January. We disembarked and went to have a look at the casino in La
Panama, the Hilton Hotel. At 0300 we arrived back on board. At 0630 on
Wednesday 24th January we started the transit of the Panama Canal by
entering the first three locks. We left the 'cut' and entered the lake
which is 23 miles in length, passing four ships and a Canadian
yawl-rigged yacht. At 1100 we entered the first lock on the Atlantic
side proceeding down the staircase of locks and finally out past the
breakwater and into the Caribbean at 1320. As we were due to disembark
at Fort Lauderdale in two days, we started to pack, also having our
passports stamped by USA Immigration Officials, who had boarded at
Panama. At 2300 on Friday 26th January we approached the Port Everglades
Pilot Station and at midnight came alongside the wharf at Fort
The following morning Anne and I disembarked and were met by my Aunt and
cousins, none of whom I had met before, although my Aunt and my Mother
had been corresponding with each other for over 40 years. We stayed
there, travelling around and being taken all over the place and
generally being made very welcome, until Wednesday 21st February 1973
when we went to the airport for our flight to New York. We took off at
0935 arriving at Kennedy Airport at 1205 and, after collecting our
baggage and taking a $13.90 taxi ride to the docks where we were to
board Ellinis. Because of the delay in the flight we were given $12.00
towards a taxi fare, so it only cost us an extra $1.90.We arrived alongside
Ellinis at 1345 and immediately went aboard, sailing for Southampton at
1730 on a cold and ice covered Manhattan River.
Friday 23rd February saw us in mid-Atlantic in a Force 9, with many
people staying in their cabins... we were not affected by the wind and
sea and ate heartily at all meals. The journey was pretty uneventful and
at noon on Tuesday, 27th February, we had 674 miles remaining to
Southampton. Cases were to be packed and put outside the cabin door by
1000 the next morning which was accordingly done. We sighted the Needles
at about 19.00 and picked up the Needles Pilot at 2030 for the journey
into the Solent and down Southampton Water to go alongside adjacent to
the Ocean Terminal, arriving alongside at 2300.
We finally disembarked at
12.30, clearing most of our baggage by 1400 on Thursday 1st March, 1973.
So ended Anne and my association with Chandris Lines, a happy and
memorable 4 years for me and a period upon which I look with very fond
The sad end to such a fine ship is a great shame, it would have
better had she gone to the bottom of the Atlantic in the
bosom of the
sea for which she was built..... Vale Australis.
Former Chandris Lines Melbourne Office,
Senior Berthing Officer,
Chandris Lines Flagship, S.S."Australis"
1969 to 1973.
Many thanks to Ian Byard for his contribution to the site
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.
You can send an e-mail to me on the link below:
A HUGE THANK YOU
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