Discovering the magnificent King George River
This morning was the first cool, overcast day aboard Silversea’s Silver Discoverersince we set sail from Broome on Monday evening. Of course, ‘cool’ is a relative term by which I mean ‘something below 30°C.’
Today, we’re exploring the majestic King George River, home to the spectacular King George Falls that tower nearly 300 feet in height and cascade thousands of tonnes of water down into the bay below.
The bay where Silversea’s adventurous Silver Discoverer is anchored this morning is named after the S.S. Koolama, a Western Australia State Shipping passenger vessel that was bombed by the Japanese on 20 February 1942 and was beached here in what used to be known as Ruthiers Bay.
Commanded by Captain Jack Eggleston, the Koolama was roughly the same size as our Silver Discoverer. But in wartime Australia, her activities as a troop transport had put her in the sights of the Japanese Air Force, which attempted to bomb the ship as she sailed off the Kimberley Coast on 20 February 1942.
These mid-morning air raids failed to inflict any damage to the Koolama thanks to Eggleston’s zig-zag maneuvering. Just two hours later, at 13:30, the Japanese returned. Three Kawanishi’s – led by Commander Tsunaki Yonehara – bombarded the Koolama mercilessly, disabling her steering and communications systems, and wounding Raymond “Bluey” Plummer, who had his skull sliced open by an incoming bomb but miraculously survived.
With his ship mortally wounded, Eggleston decided to beach the Koolama at the mouth of the King George River. But he and his First Officer, Ken Reynolds, did not see eye-to-eye on the situation: Eggleston felt the ship should be evacuated until necessary repairs could be completed; while Reynolds was in favor of abandoning the vessel altogether.
This disagreement between two of the Koolama’s most senior officers would later inspire accusations of mutiny that, to this day, aren’t entirely without merit. Reynolds did convince the vast majority of crew to join him and Koolama’s passengers at what would be known as Calamity Cove. Local Aborigines would later lead most of the crew and surviving passengers on an arduous overland journey that would take them 150 kilometres through the Kimberley to the Drysdale River Mission, now known as Kulumburu.
Eggleston, with a skeleton crew at his disposal, would succeed in patching up the Koolama over a week later, sailing her on to Wyndham, where Silver Discoverer will be berthed tomorrow. But Wyndham was no kinder to the Koolama. She was nearly sinking by the time she berthed alongside on 2 March, and the Japanese returned to finish her off on 3 March. To this day, she lies four metres under the surface of the water at the far end of the Wyndham wharf, covered in a thick tomb of silt courtesy of the fast-moving currents.
Our Live Voyage Report from Silversea’s adventurous Silver Discoverer continues tomorrow from Wyndham, Australia where we’ll embark on an inclusive flight over the famous Bungle Bungle mountain range! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.