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SHIPS IN PERIL
ADRIFT OFF EAST COAST.
Towline Parts in High Seas.
MELBOURNE, July 8.-Two steamers are adrift off the coast of Queensland, at the mercy of heavy seas. They are the liners Oonah (1,758 tons) and Maheno (5,323 tons), which were sold recently to Japanese shipbreakers. The Oonah was towing the Maheno from Sydney to Osaka (Japan) when the steering gear became disabled and the towline parted. The Maheno is helpless, as it is understood that the propellers were taken off before she left Sydney and she is not carrying any fuel. A cyclonic storm is raging in the vicinity. A tug will leave Brisbane early tomorrow morning on a rescue voyage.
According to a wireless message received in Melbourne today by the Director of Navigation (Captain J. K. Davis), the Oonah is unable to render assistance until the damage to her steering gear has been repaired. Meanwhile the two ships are drifting helplessly off Sandy Cape. Queensland.
As soon as the message was received by the Navigation Department, Captain Davis communicated with Mr. R. H. Wil- kinson, manager of the outward agents of the Oonah, R. H. Wilkinson Pty., Ltd., and advised him of the plight of the two steamers. Mr. Wilkinson immediately sent a message to Brisbane asking for the dispatch of a tug to the assistance of the vessels. The master of the Oonah (Cap- tain Y. Hashimoto) said that the position of the Oonah was lat. 25.15 south, long. 154.10 east.
The ship's company of the Oonah con- sists of 30 men, in addition to the cap- tain. On the Maheno is a skeleton crew of eight men.
Tug Prepares to Sail.
BRISBANE, July 8.-The first news in Brisbane that anything untoward had happened was received by Captain M. G. Roskrurg, Deputy Director of Navigation and Lighthouses, this afternoon, when the Pinkenba radio station advised him it had picked up a message broadcast to all ship- ping stations by the Oonah at 2 p.m. that the Maheno's towline had carried away and the vessel was drifting towards the shore. Her position was then 50 miles off the coast.
The Pinkenba station got in touch with the Oonah, later, and as previously no official request had been made, the Oonah on this occasion was asked whether as- sistance was required. A reply came back: "Send assistance for the Maheno."
The unfortunate vessels throughout were being buffeted by a cyclone which in the morning was centred between St. Lawrence and Rockhampton and moving south. A special storm warning issued at 8 o'clock tonight told an even worse story of bad weather. The centre of the cyclone was then in Hervey Bay, appar- ently moving south, with heavy east to south-east gales. This meant the Ma- heno would strike the full fury of the storm. It is generally believed that any vessel not under steam would not be able to remain afloat in the heavy seas outside Hervey Bay.
The lighthouse keeper at Inskip Point reported tonight that visibility was par- ticularly bad throughout the day. It was impossible to see more than a couple of miles out to sea. The wind was blowing with a force between 30 and 40 miles an hour and heavy seas were running on the bar. The Sandy Cape lighthouse keeper also reported he had not seen anything of the vessels, but was not surprised the towline had broken, in view of the heavy seas running and the gale force of the wind.
No time was lost by MacDonald, Hamil- ton and Co. in equipping the tug Car lock to proceed to the assistance of the Maheno. This tug, which already has a fine record of'successful towing opera- tions, was coaled and subsequently equip- ped with the necessary towing gear. A crew of 16 will be signed on early in the morping, including a wireless operator, Mr. J. L. Grey, well known in aviation circles.
Both ships have a long history of use- ful service oh the Australian coast. Built at Glasgow in 1888, the Oonah is a steel vessel of 1,758 tons gross. For nearly 50 years she was engaged in the passenger trade between Tasmanian ports and Mel- bourne and became known as the Old Lady of Bass Strait. When the new liner Taroona entered the service, the Oonah was withdrawn and was offered for sale. In June she was purchased by a ship breaking firm of Osaka. The same firm purchased the Maheno, a steel steamer of 5,323 tons gross, which for many years was engaged in carrying passengers be- tween New Zealand and Australia. The Maheno was built at Dumbarton (Scot- land) in 1905 and at one time held the record for the fastest passage across the Tasman Sea. During the war the Maheno was taken over as a hospital ship and while in service in the Mediterranean and in the English Channel the vessel carried more than 25,000 sick and wounded sol- diers. For some time before she was sold to the shipbreakers, the Maheno was laid up in Sydney.