The mysterious disappearance of SS Yongala on the 23rd.of March off the North Queensland coast in 1911

SS Yongala was a 363 foot long, 3663 ton vessel launched at Newcastle Upon Tyne on the 23rd. of April in 1903. She had been built for the Adelaide Steamship Company, named after a small township in South Australia.

SS Yongala

The ship plied her trade with both passengers and freight on the coast of Northern Queensland, she sailed out of Mackay on the 23rd. of March 1911, with a total crew and passengers of 122, and general cargo including a racehorse called Moonshine.

Yongala was making a simple overnight trip to Townsville, but a cyclone swept in from the Coral Sea that night, and the ship never made it to her destination port, she simply just disappeared, but what really happened on board can only be conjecture.

Captain William Knight aged 62, in command of SS Yongala at the time of her disappearance in 1911.
Captain William Knight aged 62, in command of SS Yongala
at the time of her disappearance in 1911.

Search for the wreck of Yongala.
A massive search seeking Yongala found nothing.

Report on the Marine Department for the years 1910-1911.
Here is a lovely quote from this report: Reporting the loss of the Steamer Yongala, it contained melancoly thoughts on the inability to locate the wreck of this particular ship.

" Although, several attempts have been made to locate the wreck, the ever hungry sea, with a painful tenacity, holds on to the dread secret of her fate and the true nature of the disaster."

No radio fitted in Yongala.
At the time Yongala went missing she was not carrying a radio, and so was not aware of any warnings going out on radio of the impending danger from the cyclone that caused her demise. Ironically at the end of her current voyage ( from which she did not arrive ) the ship was scheduled to go out of service for the time necessary to fit her with radio equipment, which if fitted earlier, may well have saved the lives of 122 crew and passengers who all perished.

No hint of the wherabouts of Yongala until 1947.
It took until 1947 for an RAN surveying ship, HMAS Lachlan to find even a hint of the lost ship.

She made contact using her ASDIC equipment with a wreck of similar size to that of the lost Yongala, it lay South East of Townsville off Cape Bowling Green. But no dive was made at that time on this find.

Onwards to 1958.
In 1958, two divers, George Konrat and Bill Kirkpatrick from Townsville dived on this site, the identity of this wreck was confirmed as that of the missing SS Yongala, the serial number of the ship's Chubb Safe being matched with company records.

Map showing the position of the wreck of SS Yongala, diaappeared in a cyclone in 1911, and found in 1958 by two Townsville divers
Map showing the position of the wreck of SS Yongala,
disappeared in a cyclone in 1911, and found in 1958 by two Townsville divers

Favourite dive for many recreational divers.
Yongala rests on her starboard side, the bow at 85 feet below the surface, whilst the upper part of her deck is but 50 feet down. This dive site has developed as a favourite for many recreational scuba divers, who report that the ship is covered with algae, sponges and corals. It has become the home of a multitude of fish, stingrays, giant groper, turtles and a host of sharks.

Marine life thrives within the wreck of Yongala
Marine life thrives within the wreck of Yongala

Check on some stunning photographs at this URL: 

Ship's bell from Yongala One of the deck lights recovered from the Yongala
Ship's bell and one of the deck lights recovered from the Yongala

Max Gleeson's Books.
Max Gleeson has dived on the wreck of Yongala some 60 times, and has written a book with Mae Elliot called "SS Yongala. Dive to the Past." A second book by Max is called "SS Yongala, Townsville's Titanic."

Here are the cover photographs of both of them.

Cover of Max Gleeson and Mae Elliot's book: SS Yongala. Dive to the Past    A second book about SS Yongala, also by Max Gleeson. SS Yongala. Townsville's Titanic
Max Gleeson and Mae Elliot's book: SS Yongala. Dive to the Past and a second book about SS Yongala, also by Max Gleeson. SS Yongala. Townsville's Titanic

The sea is a hard task master, claiming many ships and lives from foundering in a raging cyclone, to collisions, and running onto a hostile shore.

Having claimed a victim, the cruel sea does not easily yield to give up her prize, it often takes many many years before a specific wreck may be located, and then perhaps a long wait before some intrepid diver, or a group of divers will take up the challenge, and dive. Only then will the identity of a wreck become public knowledge.

Such was the case of SS Yongala, lost in 1911, and not positively identified until 1958, then 47 years on.

Persistence is needed to force the ocean to release her secrets, many of which may never be uncovered.

Post Script.
From the records of the Townsville Maritime Museum, I acknowledge this list of all Passengers and Crew, from SS Yongana who died when a cylone struck the ship on the 23rd. of March 1911. No one survived.

First class saloon for Townsville.

1. Mr Matthew Rooney
2. Mrs Katherine Rooney
3. Miss Lizzie Rooney
4. Miss Ethel Amy Uhr, Matron, Townsville hospital
5. Miss Jean Buxton, Nurse, Townsville hospital
6. Mr John James Elsdale
7. Mrs Annie Eileen Elsdale
8. Mr Rudolph August Stach
9. Mr Francis Fothergill Viney
10. Miss Mary Josephine Carroll
11. Miss Mona Kathleen Shannon
12. Mr Willie Lin
13. Ms Emily Ada Davis
14. Mr John Campbell
15. Mr Ernest Greenfield
16. Mr Clifford James Hardin O'Brien

For Cairns

17. Mrs Charlotte Louisa Davids
18. Mrs Alice Minna Murray
19. Master Ian Sheppard Murray
20. Miss Alister Sheppard Murray
21. Miss Jean Alexander Murray
22. Miss Ailsa Mary Murray (Infant)
23. Mrs Mary Ann Linedale (Maid)
24. Mr Stephen Symons Reath
25. Mrs Margaret Frances Reath
26. Mr William James Fulton
27. Mr Albert Sutherland Dette
28. Mr T Parton
29. Mr S Manwaring
30. Miss Mary Annie Woodward
31. Mrs Hanora Gertrude Magee

Second class for Townsville

32. Mr O F Thompson
33. Mr Charles Manbey
34. Mrs Mary Ann Manbey
35. Mr W Barklay
36. Mr Octagavina Carrasco
37. Mr Jose Sareras
38. Mr Walter Francis Breckenridge
39. Mr Ernst Schneider
40. Mr Richard Thomas Coade
41. Mr Walter George Coade
42. Mr James John Sutherland
43. Mr Fraser Sutherland
44. Mr William Smith

For Cairns

45. Mr James Dempsey Jolly
46. Mr David Davies
47. Mr Pianta, Antonia
48. Mr W H Griffiths
49. Mr E E Parkhurst


50. Mr William Knight
51. Mr Richard Williams
52. Mr Harry Harden
53. Mr D Cameron
54. Mr George H Jarvis
55. Mr A F Hamilton
56. Mr John Donaldson
57. Mr Claude Miller
58. Mr A Lawrance
59. Mr E Mawby
60. Mr G A Harris
61. Mr W D Millar
62. Mr E McKenzie
63. Mr J Roberts
64. Mr S W H Emerson
65. Ms A S English
66. Ms M Lambrick
67. Ms S Andrew
68. Ms A Rentoul
69. Mr J H Shipton
70. Mr G H Reid
71. Mr J Elliott
72. Mr V Cross
73. Mr D Morrison
74. Mr J W Sullivan
75. Mr J Ward
76. Mr J Craig
77. Mr J Finlay
78. Mr A O Armstrong
79. Mr J E Costello
80. Mr F J Wingrove
81. Mr R W Cooks
82. Mr A P W Gordon
83. Mr G H Fox
84. Mr J West
85. Mr R Robertson
86. Mr W H McPherson
87. Mr J Gemmell
88. Mr P McAdle
89. Mr P Rankin
90. Mr T Howard
91. Mr W Houston
92. Mr W D Murray
93. Mr F E Voight
94. Mr A Uggddahl
95. Mr H Todd
96. Mr F Medcalf
97. Mr J Diamond
98. Mr J Grumbledon
99. Mr J Narrie
100. Mr C A Davison
101. Mr A Lillico
102. Mr J F Gallagher
103. Mr E A Rickson
104. Mr J A Reich
105. Mr G Goldsmith
106. Mr J Calvin
107. Mr O V Nelson
108. Mr J McGinnis
109. Mr E O Jones
110. Mr W Boylan
111. Mr R Woods
112. Mr H C Gale
113. Mr E H Freeston
114. Mr P Walsh
115. Mr J Johnston
116. Mr J MacDonald
117. Mr V R McDougall
118. Mr W Paton
119. Mr J L McNamara
120. Mr C S Doyle
121 Mr H Lewis
122 Mr S Donachie


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