Summer Reading: Man Overboard Part 2

The concluding part of Man Overboard by FRED McCULLOCH.

THE ship circled the area around the life buoy with every one of the several hundred people looking anxiously for a sign of the unfortunate crew member.

Two passengers told the captain that they had seen Mr Hansson washed along the side of the ship, he was not moving and may have been knocked unconscious as he went over the side.

To those of us who were watching during this tragic situation our sad feelings were increased when it became known by word of mouth that Mr Hansson’s son, Mr Synove (Gus) Hansson was on the ship and serving as an able seaman.

The ship continued to circle the area for two hours until Captain Gilbertson reluctantly ordered a return to our course; due west, towards Cape Leeuwin.

Over the next couple of days, the weather became progressively worse until we were battering into a series of severe gales which strengthened as we travelled further west.

The main engines had been increased to normal full power, however instead of the ship doing 16 knots, we were only moving forward between 10 and 11 knots.

A number of ships in the area were in trouble, one that I remember, a River Class cargo vessel, was forced into Albany with 20 feet of water in number two hold, caused by lengths of railway line (part of the cargo) breaking loose, and punching a hole in the side of the ship.

I can remember going out onto the boat deck on the Sunday evening when the ship was abreast of Albany.

The wind was so strong it was difficult to stand against it, at the same time I saw patches of paint being torn off the funnel by the almost hurricane force of the gale.     

We finally arrived at Gage Roads (outside anchorage for the port of Fremantle) on Tuesday 16 at 1.30 pm.

Almost a day and a half later than our normal schedule, however we were unable to berth inside the harbour until 4pm.

We were greeted on the wharf by 200 people wearing raincoats and carrying umbrellas in the wind and rain.

Before they left the ship, the passengers took up a collection for the widow of Mr Hansson, and gave the sum of 63 pounds to Mr Synove Hansson, to pass on to his mother.

When Captain Gibertson informed the Commonwealth Department of Shipping office about the lost crew member, an enquiry was arranged for Thursday 18 of August 1955.

The enquiry was held at the offices of the Dept. Of Shipping which were then situated at 16 High Street, Fremantle.

The enquiry was conducted under the requirements of section 176 of the Navigation Act, by the deputy director of navigation, Mr W. B. Nicholson.

Evidence was taken from the ship’s master, Captain John Gilbertson, the Third Mate, Mr Ronald Young, Able Seamen, Synove Hansson and Reginald Roberts, passenger Mr Daniel Elliott, and a written statement from another passenger, Mr John Kiely, was admitted as evidence.

After hearing all the evidence Mr Nicholson found that Gunnar Hansson was lost at sea as the result of an accident and that every possible endeavour was made to affect a rescue, and that further inquiry was unnecessary.

Gunnar Hansson was a Swedish national who was a long-time resident of Australia having taken up residence in an unusual way.

As a young man he joined the merchant navy and learnt his trade as a merchant seaman.

In 1922 he signed on the Finnish registered sailing ship, Port Stanley, for a voyage to Australia.

The Port Stanley was a four masted barque of 2276 gross registered tons and 2187 net tons, built by the famous Glasgow shipbuilders of Russell & Co, Greenock; who built scores of almost identical ships between 1880 and 1910.

She was built for the “Port Line”; Crawford & Rowat managers, and completed in December 1890.

The principle dimensions were; 278 feet overall length, 42feet beam and 24.2 feet moulded depth.   

Her port of registry was Glasgow and she was entered on the British register of ships.

After sailing as a Port Line ship for a number of years, she was sold to J.A. Zachariassen & Company of Nystad, and entered on the Finnish register.    

Port Stanley arrived and loaded bagged wheat at Port Lincoln, South Australia, for a voyage back to Europe, however Gunnar Hansson and three of his fellow seamen had decided they liked Australia and would desert the ship at the right time, so as not to be returned on board by the local police.   

This opportune moment decided upon and as the fully loaded ship sailed away from Port Lincoln across Boston Bay towards Spencer Gulf, and about five nautical miles into its journey as it passed close by Cape Donington, the four deserters jumped overboard, one of them clutching a hatch board as he couldn’t swim.

The other three swam with and assisted their non-swimming friend, and they all reached the beach safely.

The ship sailed on as it was too much trouble to turn a big sailing ship the size of the Port Stanley around and attempt to pick up the absconders.

Besides their desertion gave the captain of the Port Stanley a heaven-sent opportunity to “adjust” the slop chest accounts and put their outstanding wages in his pocket.   

Gunner Hansson stayed around Port Lincoln for a while and worked on a few small vessels in the area, he eventually moved to Melbourne around 1926 and returned to working on the larger coastal ships.   

Not long after returning to work in the interstate trade he moved to Sydney, married, and continued his seafaring career sailing from that port.

The deserters may have had a premonition, as the year after they deserted, the Port Stanley’s sister ship Port Caledonia, was wrecked on the French coast with the loss of all hands. Port Stanley and another sister ship Port Patrick were sold to ship breakers in 1924.     

Westralia continued in the east-west passenger trade for a few more years until rising costs and declining numbers of passengers saw her taken out of the trade when she returned to Sydney on the completion of her final voyage to Fremantle on March 16, 1959.

Laid up in Sydney the ship was eventually sold during 1960 to Asian & Pacific Shipping Co of Suva, Fiji Islands.

Renamed the Delfino the ship was converted for the livestock trade by having all her passenger fittings removed and replaced by sheep pens.

She left Sydney on the first of January 1961 for the west coast of the USA with a cargo of sheep and on return was laid up again.

During 1961 her name was changed to Woolambi and towards the end of the year she was sold to Japanese ship breakers.

Early in December 1961, her propellers were removed and she was towed away from Sydney by the tug Nissho Maru, to be cut up for scrap in Japan.

Australians, because of their laid-back nature and easy-going attitude, have the habit of giving people nick names, particularly those who are not of Anglo/Celtic origin, and whose names may be a little difficult to pronounce at first attempt.

Such was the case when Gunnar Hansson joined the Australian Mercantile Marine: he was Swedish and as Gustavus or Gus for short was considered (by Aussies) to be an acceptable Scandinavian name, he was named Gus Hansson.

When his son Synove Hansson grew up and joined his father as a merchant seaman he became Young Gus, and was known as such from then on.

Young Gus finished school and signed on his first ship as deck boy in August 1945 which was of course a few weeks before the end of World War II.

The ship he signed on at Sydney, was the pre-war Sydney/New Zealand passenger liner Wanganella, employed during the second world war as HMAHS (His Majesty’s Australian Hospital Ship) Wanganella.   

The starting rate of pay for deck boy at that time was nine pounds 10 shillings per month which included a war time added risk bonus of 25 per cent if serving south of Cairns, North Queensland, or 50 per cent risk bonus if serving north of Cairns.

The normal arrangement for young seamen in those days was to sign on as deck boy (with a minimum age of 14 years), serve one year in that position, then two years as ordinary seamen (11 pounds a month), then promotion to able seaman on a wage of 22 pounds a month.

HMAHS Wanganella was manned and operated by her normal merchant navy crew and a hospital staff of doctors, nurses, orderly’s etc, who were all Australian Army personnel.

After a short period of service on the Wanganella, Young Gus sailed out of his home port Sydney over the next few years as a crew member mainly on cargo ships engaged in trade around the Australian coast.

In 1954 he transferred his home port to Fremantle, then in 1955 he married Miss Peggy Stanley and established a home in Ellen Street.

He continued his seafaring career on interstate ships and was of course on board M.V. Westralia when Gunner Hansson was lost.

Over the next few years he continued in the interstate trade and also served on the West Australian State Shipping service vessels trading to the north west of Western Australia.

In February 1961 he swallowed the anchor and came ashore for the last time when he accepted employment with the Fremantle Harbour Trust working on their Pilot Vessels and other small craft, finally retiring in 1990.From page 20

was decided upon and as the fully loaded ship sailed away from Port Lincoln across Boston Bay towards Spencer Gulf, and about five nautical miles into its journey as it passed close by Cape Donington, the four deserters jumped overboard, one of them clutching a hatch board as he couldn’t swim.

The other three swam with and assisted their non-swimming friend, and they all reached the beach safely.

The ship sailed on as it was too much trouble to turn a big sailing ship the size of the Port Stanley around and attempt to pick up the absconders.

Besides their desertion gave the captain of the Port Stanley a heaven-sent opportunity to “adjust” the slop chest accounts and put their outstanding wages in his pocket.   

Gunner Hansson stayed around Port Lincoln for a while and worked on a few small vessels in the area, he eventually moved to Melbourne around 1926 and returned to working on the larger coastal ships.   

Not long after returning to work in the interstate trade he moved to Sydney, married, and continued his seafaring career sailing from that port.

The deserters may have had a premonition, as the year after they deserted, the Port Stanley’s sister ship Port Caledonia, was wrecked on the French coast with the loss of all hands. Port Stanley and another sister ship Port Patrick were sold to ship breakers in 1924.     

Westralia continued in the east-west passenger trade for a few more years until rising costs and declining numbers of passengers saw her taken out of the trade when she returned to Sydney on the completion of her final voyage to Fremantle on March 16, 1959.

Laid up in Sydney the ship was eventually sold during 1960 to Asian & Pacific Shipping Co of Suva, Fiji Islands.

Renamed the Delfino the ship was converted for the livestock trade by having all her passenger fittings removed and replaced by sheep pens.

She left Sydney on the first of January 1961 for the west coast of the USA with a cargo of sheep and on return was laid up again.

During 1961 her name was changed to Woolambi and towards the end of the year she was sold to Japanese ship breakers.

Early in December 1961, her propellers were removed and she was towed away from Sydney by the tug Nissho Maru, to be cut up for scrap in Japan.

Australians, because of their laid-back nature and easy-going attitude, have the habit of giving people nick names, particularly those who are not of Anglo/Celtic origin, and whose names may be a little difficult to pronounce at first attempt.

Such was the case when Gunnar Hansson joined the Australian Mercantile Marine: he was Swedish and as Gustavus or Gus for short was considered (by Aussies) to be an acceptable Scandinavian name, he was named Gus Hansson.

When his son Synove Hansson grew up and joined his father as a merchant seaman he became Young Gus, and was known as such from then on.

Young Gus finished school and signed on his first ship as deck boy in August 1945 which was of course a few weeks before the end of World War II.

The ship he signed on at Sydney, was the pre-war Sydney/New Zealand passenger liner Wanganella, employed during the second world war as HMAHS (His Majesty’s Australian Hospital Ship) Wanganella.   

The starting rate of pay for deck boy at that time was nine pounds 10 shillings per month which included a war time added risk bonus of 25 per cent if serving south of Cairns, North Queensland, or 50 per cent risk bonus if serving north of Cairns.

The normal arrangement for young seamen in those days was to sign on as deck boy (with a minimum age of 14 years), serve one year in that position, then two years as ordinary seamen (11 pounds a month), then promotion to able seaman on a wage of 22 pounds a month.

HMAHS Wanganella was manned and operated by her normal merchant navy crew and a hospital staff of doctors, nurses, orderly’s etc, who were all Australian Army personnel.

After a short period of service on the Wanganella, Young Gus sailed out of his home port Sydney over the next few years as a crew member mainly on cargo ships engaged in trade around the Australian coast.

In 1954 he transferred his home port to Fremantle, then in 1955 he married Miss Peggy Stanley and established a home in Ellen Street.

He continued his seafaring career on interstate ships and was of course on board M.V. Westralia when Gunner Hansson was lost.

Over the next few years he continued in the interstate trade and also served on the West Australian State Shipping service vessels trading to the north west of Western Australia.

In February 1961 he swallowed the anchor and came ashore for the last time when he accepted employment with the Fremantle Harbour Trust working on their Pilot Vessels and other small craft, finally retiring in 1990.

The other three swam with and assisted their non-swimming friend, and they all reached the beach safely.

The ship sailed on as it was too much trouble to turn a big sailing ship the size of the Port Stanley around and attempt to pick up the absconders.

Besides their desertion gave the captain of the Port Stanley a heaven-sent opportunity to “adjust” the slop chest accounts and put their outstanding wages in his pocket.   

Gunner Hansson stayed around Port Lincoln for a while and worked on a few small vessels in the area, he eventually moved to Melbourne around 1926 and returned to working on the larger coastal ships.   

Not long after returning to work in the interstate trade he moved to Sydney, married, and continued his seafaring career sailing from that port.

The deserters may have had a premonition, as the year after they deserted, the Port Stanley’s sister ship Port Caledonia, was wrecked on the French coast with the loss of all hands. Port Stanley and another sister ship Port Patrick were sold to ship breakers in 1924.     

Westralia continued in the east-west passenger trade for a few more years until rising costs and declining numbers of passengers saw her taken out of the trade when she returned to Sydney on the completion of her final voyage to Fremantle on March 16, 1959.

Laid up in Sydney the ship was eventually sold during 1960 to Asian & Pacific Shipping Co of Suva, Fiji Islands.

Renamed the Delfino the ship was converted for the livestock trade by having all her passenger fittings removed and replaced by sheep pens.

She left Sydney on the first of January 1961 for the west coast of the USA with a cargo of sheep and on return was laid up again.

During 1961 her name was changed to Woolambi and towards the end of the year she was sold to Japanese ship breakers.

Early in December 1961, her propellers were removed and she was towed away from Sydney by the tug Nissho Maru, to be cut up for scrap in Japan.

Australians, because of their laid-back nature and easy-going attitude, have the habit of giving people nick names, particularly those who are not of Anglo/Celtic origin, and whose names may be a little difficult to pronounce at first attempt.

Such was the case when Gunnar Hansson joined the Australian Mercantile Marine: he was Swedish and as Gustavus or Gus for short was considered (by Aussies) to be an acceptable Scandinavian name, he was named Gus Hansson.

When his son Synove Hansson grew up and joined his father as a merchant seaman he became Young Gus, and was known as such from then on.

Young Gus finished school and signed on his first ship as deck boy in August 1945 which was of course a few weeks before the end of World War II.

The ship he signed on at Sydney, was the pre-war Sydney/New Zealand passenger liner Wanganella, employed during the second world war as HMAHS (His Majesty’s Australian Hospital Ship) Wanganella.   

The starting rate of pay for deck boy at that time was nine pounds 10 shillings per month which included a war time added risk bonus of 25 per cent if serving south of Cairns, North Queensland, or 50 per cent risk bonus if serving north of Cairns.

The normal arrangement for young seamen in those days was to sign on as deck boy (with a minimum age of 14 years), serve one year in that position, then two years as ordinary seamen (11 pounds a month), then promotion to able seaman on a wage of 22 pounds a month.

HMAHS Wanganella was manned and operated by her normal merchant navy crew and a hospital staff of doctors, nurses, orderly’s etc, who were all Australian Army personnel.

After a short period of service on the Wanganella, Young Gus sailed out of his home port Sydney over the next few years as a crew member mainly on cargo ships engaged in trade around the Australian coast.

In 1954 he transferred his home port to Fremantle, then in 1955 he married Miss Peggy Stanley and established a home in Ellen Street.

He continued his seafaring career on interstate ships and was of course on board M.V. Westralia when Gunner Hansson was lost.

Over the next few years he continued in the interstate trade and also served on the West Australian State Shipping service vessels trading to the north west of Western Australia.

In February 1961 he swallowed the anchor and came ashore for the last time when he accepted employment with the Fremantle Harbour Trust working on their Pilot Vessels and other small craft, finally retiring in 1990.

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