The journey to our new life started on Saturday 13th September 1969. It was a damp day, and we had ordered a taxi for 8.50 am to take us to the Railway Station to catch the 9.26 train for Euston. The family consisted of myself, Keith, age 33, my wife Merle, also 33, our children Alan, age 10 and Carol age 8. Merle’s Mam, age 68, accompanied us. All our families were at the Station to see us off, it was quite a sad as well as exciting departure, not knowing when we would see our families again. Merle’s Mam was very excited at the prospect of the trip.
The train journey was uneventful, arriving at Euston at 1.00 pm. We then had to cross London with our suitcases and cabin trunk to Waterloo Station to catch the 1.47 train to Southampton, where we were to board the S S Australis for our voyage to New Zealand the next day. Later we decided to go and look for the Australis, and found that she had already berthed, and was in dry dock. After lunch we took a launch trip around the docks to look at all the ships. The Australis looked a really nice vessel. Mum and Dad arrived at 6.30, and we all went to the Albion Hotel Restaurant for dinner. Some steaks were returned to the kitchen, as they were tough! Also, we had taken our own wine, but as the charge to serve it was so exorbitant we decided not to drink it there, and we finished up taking it on the ship with us! We eventually settled to bed at midnight.
The following day, Monday 15th September, we took our luggage to the Docks and saw Australis in dry dock being painted. We all had lunch at the Compton Arms Hotel, after which we made our way to the Docks via the shops. After a long wait to embark, we eventually said our goodbyes to our family and boarded the Australis at 8.00 pm, having been notified of a change of cabin to 1069. Merle’s Mum was not in our cabin, she was sharing a 4-berth cabin with three other ladies. Our cabin had a toilet, hand basin and shower, also a basin in the cabin itself. There were two sets of upper and lower bunks, and a porthole, which was locked. Our cabin trunk fitted nicely under the lower bunk. Once on board, we were issued with a table number for meals, and allocated either first or second sitting. Unfortunately Alan & Carol did not eat with us, but went to the children’s sitting. The meal the first evening was a cold buffet. We eventually settled to bed at midnight, the cabin was very warm.
None of us spent a very comfortable night, and after a busy night of loading the ship departed at 6.30 am. We awoke to find the ship was sailing out of Southampton on its way past the Isle of Wight into the English Channel and on into the open sea. We were advised that Australis would now call at Las Palmas, in the Canary Isles, instead of Gibraltar, due to an outbreak of typhoid in Tangier. We all spent a day of agony, due to the effects of “mal de mer”.
Wednesday 17th September was much worse, the weather was very rough across the Bay of Biscay, so we all stayed in our bunks, and did not have any meals. At one stage due to the rolling of the ship, Alan rolled off his lower bunk and across the floor. Surprisingly, Carol and Mam did not seem to feel the effects of the weather. At one time during the day, I had to take our passports to the Purser’s Office. This was a major task as the ship was rolling, ropes had been installed as handrails across open spaces, and it took me quite a while to complete the task. Lifeboat drill was postponed due to the bad weather.
Fortunately, the weather was good on the Thursday, and we were all feeling much better, although Merle and Alan were still a little under the weather. That night was the Captain’s Cocktail party and Welcome Aboard Dinner, which were very good. Friday we were due to arrive in Las Palmas at approx 11.00 am.
Friday 19th September was a beautiful day, Alan went in the swimming pool for about half an hour. We arrived at the Las Palmas Pilot station at 11.00 am and eventually berthed at about noon. After an early lunch we went ashore at about 2.00 pm. There were lots of traders on the long wharf, goods were fairly cheap compared to U K. We bought a bottle of White Horse Whisky for 18 shillings, a one-litre bottle of Bacardi for 10 shillings and a nice leather hold all bag (Camel bag) for £4. We rode in a horse drawn taxi to the town, past lovely palms, orchids and cacti growing in the public gardens, and saw two black swans on a pond. The beach and surf were lovely, but the smell wasn’t too good! Back on the ship at 5.00 pm, and she sailed at 6.30. Several passengers were late and missed the ship, however they were ferried out to the ship in a tender. That night Merle, Alan and I had sore throats.
The next day our throats were better after gargling with Milton. It was a warm day, and we spent the day relaxing. Sunday it was very hot as we headed south down the coast of Africa, we stayed indoors but even there it was difficult to keep cool. Monday was a little cooler as there were heavy showers to cool the atmosphere. Merle and I went to the Cinema to see “Half a Sixpence” with Tommy Steele, while Mam went to play Bingo. I had not been sleeping too well, suffering from asthma symptoms.
On Tuesday 23rd September we crossed the Equator! The Equator crossing ceremony was very good, King Neptune and his Court initiated several “first timers”, and the ceremony was hilarious.
Position: 0º 6’ S, 9º 28’ W, 503 miles traveled, av speed 20.96knots, 142º, 2600 fathoms, 2573 miles to Capetown. Sea temp 80ºF
Wednesday 24th, and Merle woke with a head cold, so spent the day in her bunk. The day was much cooler.
Position: 6º 59’ S, 4º 35’ W, 496 miles, Av 20.67 knots, 142º, 2450 fathoms, 74ºF, 2070 miles from Capetown.
Thursday 25th, it was cooler again today and fairly rough. Merle was still not too well so visited the Doctor, who gave her penicillin lozenges and tablets. Alan was sick twice but otherwise O K. Mam was not too well in the evening so did not go to dinner. Fancy dress parade tonight.
Position: 13º 24’ S 0º 31’ E, 486 miles, Av 20.2 knots. 141º 2650 fathoms 72ºF, 1548 miles to Capetown.
Friday 26th, very cool today and Officers back in winter uniform. Merle was not too well again and stayed in bed. Mam wasn’t too well again but managed to go to lunch. Alan wasn’t too well but was up and about. I went to the Dr for medicine to relieve phlegm and help sleep.
Position: 19º 14’ S 5º 48’ E 489 miles 21.26 knots 141º 2780 fathoms 67ºF 1089 miles to Capetown.
Saturday 27th, it was cold today. Merle managed to get to breakfast, then to the Doctor. He gave her some different tablets and vitamin tablets. Today was the “Buffet Magnifique”, we took some photos of the buffet bit did not partake of the buffet lunch. Merle stayed up till 8.00 pm then went to bed. Mam & I went to Bingo.
Position: 26º 3’S 11º 16’ E 488 miles, 20.23 knots, 141º 2230 fathoms 65ºF 601 miles to Capetown.
Sunday 28th September we were due at the Capetown Pilot station by 7.30 pm. Merle was up and about today, Carol fell and hurt her hand again. After an ordinary day we sighted Capetown after the sun had set. The hills were iced with rolling mist and as it grew darker the lights of the harbour and town were a real sight to behold. Eventually we docked and Merle & I went ashore at 10.30 pm for a walk, returning at 11.30. It is a lovely clean spacious city. We shall go ashore again tomorrow with Mam, Alan & Carol.
Monday 29th September it was a lovely day and we went ashore for 3 hours, visiting the shops and walking the main street. Merle bought a ring, and a tablecloth. We were quite surprised to see notices in most shops & cafes saying “Blacks not allowed”, although all the cleaners etc were black. We returned to the ship by 12 noon, and afterwards we saw an elderly man collapse as he and his wife ran towards the ship, dodging the shunting engines. We learned afterwards that unfortunately he had died, and his wife disembarked at this stage. Carol had her finger X-rayed, fortunately it was not broken. The ship left harbour for Fremantle at 1.30 pm. At 3.30 we passed within 5 miles of the Cape of Good Hope, and altered course to 112º ESE. 4725 nautical miles to Fremantle, Australia.
Tuesday 30th. An ordinary day.
Wednesday 1st October: Another ordinary day. Nothing exciting.
Thursday 2nd October: We are finding it difficult to get out of bed, it’s very cold today. Rough seas starting. The Captain announced that as there was going to be a storm along our planned route to Fremantle, he would head further south so as to ago around it.
Position: 43º 2’ S, 46º 10’ E, 489 miles, 21.26 knots, 101º, 1670 fathoms 54ºF 3287 miles to Fremantle.
Friday 3rd October. Rough seas.
Saturday 4th October: Carol has to see the Doctor today. Quite a storm today, rough seas and wind. The steward came into our cabin to tighten the porthole fastening bolts and put towels around it. Carol and I were O K today, the others not so good, and stayed in bed.
Sunday 5th : The weather was still bad but calmer than yesterday, with a very cold wind. The Captains deviation to his route apparently took us into the storm instead of around it. The distance traveled and average speed were reduced by the weather conditions. Alan was up and about today but Merle still in bed. However, Merle got up and went for dinner and the Hellenic Night Concert.
Position: 43º 26’S, 77º 25’ E 432 miles 18.78 knots 78º 1900 fathoms, 1923 miles to Fremantle.
Monday 6th Another ordinary
day, still not good weather. Another storm was promised for tonight but
it did not materialise. We are now 7 hours ahead of B S T.
Tuesday 7th Mam was not too well today, the Doctor gave her medicine and tablets, possibly something like flu. Tonight is the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail Party & Dinner, and the Big Big Show.
Position: 38º 38’ S 97º 45’E 472 miles 20.52 knots 68º 2250 fathoms 54ºF 965 miles to Fremantle.
Wednesday 8th October: All passengers had a shipboard medical examination today.
Thursday 9th October: We arrived at the Fremantle Pilot Station at 9.00 am, and eventually got ashore at 11.30 am. We decided to take a train into Perth, and have a look around. Perth is a great city, very clean. We visited an interesting shopping arcade. The whole area was very nice, and we had an enjoyable day. Embarkation was 5.00 pm, and the Australis sailed for Melbourne at 6.30 pm.
Friday 10th October: There was a bit of a storm during the night, but not too bad. We are now looking forward to the much shorter voyages between stops, only about 3 days instead of 10!
Monday 13th October: The Melbourne Pilot boarded at 5.50 am, but because of a sea fog the ship was stationary until it cleared, at about 8.00 am. We finally disembarked at noon, needing to be back on board by 6.00 pm. We decided to take a look at Melbourne, and looked at some shops in the city. We also spent some time in a park near where there was a statue of Queen Victoria.
Wednesday 15th October: We were due at Sydney at 7.30 am to pick up the pilot. The journey into Sydney harbour was very spectacular, it being a beautiful harbour. We came under the Bridge and docked just alongside the bridge, on the inland side. Merle wasn’t feeling well enough to come on deck to experience the ship going under the bridge. We eventually got ashore by 10.00 am, and immediately headed to buy some fresh milk, which we hadn’t had for the whole voyage so far. It was then decided that we would go to the Taronga Zoo, which was across the other side of the harbour. We took a taxi, which went over the bridge to the Zoo. On our return, we traveled across the harbour by ferry from the Zoo to Circular Quay, and thence back to the Australis. The ship sailed for Auckland at 9.15 pm., with the notice that there was rough weather ahead.
Thursday 16 October: Merle wasn’t too good today, after taking a travel tablet which gave her a headache, so went back to bed.
Position: 33º 58’ S 156º 41’ E 286 miles, 19.49 knots, 92º, 2600 fathoms, 70ºF, 1006 miles to Auckland.
Saturday 18th October: We first sighted New Zealand as we rounded Cape Reinga and started down towards Auckland. It was a lovely trip, and we eventually arrived at 2.00 pm, disembarking at 3.00 pm. We collected our luggage, and cleared Customs, and then looked for our guide. Arthur Emms, an Engineer with my employer, MED Wellington, who lived in Auckland. He met us with an old ambulance for transport, and took us to our accommodation for the night, a Motor Inn. We were up on the third floor, and had two adjoining rooms, overlooking the swimming pool. It was nice to get onto solid land again.
Sunday 19th October: We were collected after breakfast and taken on a tour of the City, although we couldn’t see too much from the back of the Ambulance. We went up Mount Eden, from where we had a good overall view of the City, it was a beautiful day. We then took some of our luggage to the Airport where we caught a Boeing flight to Wellington at noon. The rest of our luggage was to follow by Carrier.
In Wellington, we were met by the the General manager of the M E D, who took us to his home for dinner, then to the Belltara Motel where we were to stay until our furniture arrived from the U K. The ship, the Imperial Star, was due in Wellington on 29th October, with our furniture and car.
Monday 20th October: Today I started work with the M E D, we had morning tea in Ian’s office, where I was introduced to the other Engineers and senior staff.
This was the first day of the rest of our lives, a new phase had begun!