Had they sailed more than 20,000km from Amsterdam only to drown on the shore of their new home? On the afternoon of September 16, 1952, many of the Dutch migrants aboard the liner Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt must have had this thought in mind.
The ship had moored safely at Station Pier about noon but four hours later was struck by wind in excess of 110km/h. A sudden change of wind direction, with violent gusts, caused one mooring line to part and a mooring bollard to be torn from the pier. When more lines snapped and two more bollards were ripped from the pier, the ship was at the mercy of the wind. Her two bow anchors were quickly dropped, saving her from immediately going ashore. The fierce wind, however, caused her anchors to drag.
Fortunately, three tugs were assisting the mooring of another liner on the other side of the pier. One of these, the Swiftness, left the task to the other two and rushed to the aid of the Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt. With the Swiftness at full power and straining at the end of a towing cable, the liner was held against the wind for half an hour. After three more tugs came to help, the Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt was moored safely at Station Pier by 6pm.
When the Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt was launched in 1929, she was the largest diesel-powered ship to be built in the Netherlands. At almost 20,000 tons she was designed to carry 770 passengers with a crew of 360. Her public rooms were luxurious and beautifully decorated. Cabins were bright and airy, and wide promenade decks were a feature. The ship was renowned for the high level of service and fine cuisine. She operated on the route between Holland and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) until World War II, in which she served as a troopship until 1945.
Chartered by the Australian Government from 1950 to 1958, she made 44 voyages to Australia with migrants. In 1958 she brought the 100,000th Dutch migrant to Melbourne. As a migrant ship her accommodation was altered to carry more than 1400 passengers.
BY MAURIE HUTCHINSON
President, Peninsula Ship Society
T: Maurie Hutchinson 9787 5780
The Peninsula Ship Society will not be meeting until further notice.