Robert Toet's story “Drill or No Drill”
Robert Toet gave the following speech, a true story of his experience aboard the ‘S.S. Australis’, as an assignment at his Toastmasters Club. Robert follows their program in a club environment, as it improves ones’ own communication skills, ultimately making you comfortable with speaking in front of an audience (I could do with being more comfortable with speaking to just one person! - Ken), which is considered the number one fear of most people.

Toastmasters is found in 90 countries, and is made up of about 10,500 clubs, with about 211,000 members in total. The program consists of, amongst other things, working through numerous manuals. These manuals have projects, and the projects challenge you more and more as you work through them. The purpose of the “Drill or No Drill” story was to meet certain objectives with one of the projects in the Storytelling manual. Robert gave the same speech twice, only 1 week apart. He spoke to about 20 people the first time, and about 15 the second time.
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Storytelling Manual - Let's Get Personal

Title: "Drill or No Drill"

By Robert Toet

Date: Tuesday, November 28 2006 & Wednesday, December 13 2006

Location: Greenville (at Fluor Power Toastmasters Club #981611, later at Fluor Toastmasters Club #7785)

If you were asked "what would you do if you suddenly inherited a lot of money" the answer would often be; to travel! I have traveled since I was 6 years old. Not because my family were rich, but because my Dad wanted a better life for his family, by emigrating from the old world to the new world, his homeland Holland, and the country he emigrated to Australia.

The reason was because of the dismal economy and unemployment Holland was experiencing, the aftermath of the second world war. So my Dad convinced my Mum to move to a place that was half the way across the globe, and get on a ship, along with my brother and sister, that were both only knee high at the time.

Later my Dad also became torn between the two countries. So my family moved back and forth between the two countries 3 times, each time traveling by Greek ocean-liners.

I was just 11 years old when we made another journey at sea. We had another one of those drills.

As we all know with travel comes risk. One wouldn’t think that traveling by sea would be very risky… at least, unless you were on the Titanic and you were surrounded by icebergs!

To cope with emergency situations a ship will put on drills. These drills were frequent over the one month journey between Australasia to Europe (Sydney, Australia to Southampton, England).

The drill meant that you had to put on a life-vest and proceed to the promenade deck, as soon as you could.

This time it was 3:00 o’clock in the morning! We were right between NZ and the islands of Fiji. We had just left Auckland, New Zealand the day before and were on our way to the next harbor; Suva, Fiji. The night sky was dark and clear with bright stars. And this time there was lots of smoke being expelled from the ships funnels!

It was announced that a fire had broken out in the ships kitchen, a few floors below deck, and that all passengers had to remain above deck and by no means return again to their cabins until the fire was considered under control. That left us a little anxious, as you can imagine.

The waiting lasted 2 days and 3 nights, with the ship simply going in circles. We were told that we all might have to get into the life boats if the crew were not successful at stopping the fire from spreading.

The fire had spread to the floor above the kitchen, and many cabins were incinerated, turning them into black holes of soot, but fortunately no one was hurt seriously. A few crew members suffered from inhaling the fumes.

What added to the damage was the fact that they had to flood many areas to stop the fire. Repairs had to be made which postponed our trip somewhat, so at the expense of the ship company we stayed on the closest island, the island of Fiji, for 2 weeks! Passengers were given the choice to fly back to Sydney or to wait and continue the journey after repairs were complete. We chose to wait in Fiji.

Local newspapers in Fiji announced their problems of coping suddenly with 1000 more in population, i.e., the increase of food eating visitors! They had a chore importing more food to accommodate the extra people on the island.

During the remainder of the voyage the smell of burnt materials, such as mattresses and personal belongings, lingered around me for the longest time. I also remember the taste of lukewarm soda, as there was hardly much to chose from when it came to refreshments.

Today, whenever a fire alarm goes off, I am very wary of it being the real deal. The next time a fire alarm goes off I will be wondering: 'Drill or no drill', that is the question...

Many thanks to Robert Toet 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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You can send an e-mail to me on the link below:

Please feel free to e-mail me on this link

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Warm Regards


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