- van Gelder, Commander John RAN (Rtd)
- Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Queenborough
- March 2003 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
With the ship standing offshore the seaboat was lowered at 1615 and proceeded inshore as planned. The patient was literally lifted from shore into the boat and by 1645 the boat had been rehoisted and our patient sent to the sick bay for examination by the doctor. The whole operation had proceeded so smoothly that it felt almost like an anticlimax.
On confirmation by the doctor that his patient was not in immediate need of surgery, which was a considerable relief, we shaped course for Hobart. It was at this time, when only about a mile or so from the Island, that we experienced a most extraordinary sight. The weather, which had been relatively kind to us for the past hour, quite literally changed within minutes and Macquarie Island disappeared into what can only be described as a tempest. High winds, driving rain and possibly snow was all that could be seen of the Island. Had we been an hour later on arrival our chances of taking the patient off the Island would have been nearly impossible, or extremely hazardous at best.
Once clear of the lee side of the Island we were back in familiar territory, winds of 50 to 60 knots and the unrelenting huge swell of the Southern Ocean. In providing some element of variation the ship was now rolling heavily to starboard, rather than to port to which we had become so accustomed. Our fortunes were again being favoured as the barometer was indicating a strong tendency to rise. There was no appreciable moderation in the swell or wind strength until about the afternoon of Monday 24th, by which time, I suspect, the ship’s motion had probably cured the kidney stone problem experienced by our ailing patient, to some extent at least!
As Monday evening approached the sight of the flashing light from Maatsuyker lighthouse on the windswept south eastern tip of Tasmania was very comforting indeed.
We berthed in Hobart at 0800 on the Tuesday with a ship covered in salt and a ship’s company physically weary, but inwardly confident that they and their ship had achieved all that had been asked of them, and done it well.
The Report of Proceedings for the month of October, 1966, noted, in part, ’Electrical machinery has functioned satisfactorily during the month, although upperdeck equipment, particularly ventilation fans and whip aerials, suffered severely from the high winds and seas experienced on the way to Macquarie Island.’ Ah, the propensity for naval understatement!
In reflecting upon that voyage in more recent years, and with a reasonable understanding of what may be expected from the weather in those southern latitudes, three thoughts keep recurring in my mind.
Firstly, my deepest admiration for the earlier navigators such as Captain James Cook RN, who in command of HM ship Resolution in 1773 made two voyages to the Antarctic, at one time spending three weeks below latitude 74 degrees south. Imagine the conditions in the ship; such fortitude and endurance. Wooden ships and iron men indeed.
Secondly, as a yachtsman, I would suggest to any person contemplating a single handed race around the world in the type of yacht which cannot be handled efficiently by one person, that they should initially undergo a psychiatric assessment. If the assessment reveals an IQ above single digits they should then retire to a country village. In this way it may possibly save their lives and obviate the necessity for other people to hazard their own lives in attempting to rescue them.