IN DISTRESS: The SS Maheno just after it went aground on Fraser Island on July 8, 1935.
IN DISTRESS: The SS Maheno just after it went aground on Fraser Island on July 8, 1935.

Old photos recall the day the Maheno went aground

JULY 8 marks 83 years since the SS Maheno met her stormy end on Fraser Island.

Washed ashore by a cyclone on July 8, 1935, the 4536-tonne steel-hulled ship is now little more than a rusting hull that draws curious tourists to its resting place 10km north of Happy Valley.

When the cyclone of 1935 abated and news of the shipwreck reached the mainland, Goomboorian's Malcolm Buchanan wasted no time heading to the island to see the beached ocean liner.


Bomber pilot Malcolm Buchanan
Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Buchanan

Now yellow with age, the photos he took that day show the mighty Maheno listing in the sand on 75 Mile Beach where Malcolm befriended one of eight Japanese crewmen on board when disaster struck.

Malcolm's sister Margaret Goodall, of Gympie, says the pictures, along with all of the others in her late brother's album, hold a special place in the heart of the family.

"Malcolm died in World War II - he was a bomber pilot who flew raids over Germany," Mrs Goodall said. "He died on November 21, 1944.

"His album includes photos of our home farm Rosslyn at Ross Creek, which is now owned and run by our brother Lex."


The Maheno
The Maheno

Mrs Goodall said she remembers the grounding of the Maheno, even though she was very young at the time.

"But I remember Malcolm going over there as soon as he heard it had run aground.


Malcolm Buchanan with a Japanese crewman from the Maheno.
Malcolm Buchanan with a Japanese crewman from the Maheno.

"What's strange, is that the Cherry Venture ran aground 38 years almost to the day after the Maheno."

The 1451-tonne Singaporean cargo ship Cherry Venture was bound for Brisbane from Auckland when it was blown ashore at Teewah Beach during a severe storm on July 6, 1973.

Unlike the Maheno, the rusting hulk of the Cherry Venture was removed in early 2007.



MAHENO: Daniel Green snapped this photo of the Maheno wreck on Fraser Island during a bout of sunny weather.
MAHENO: The wreck of the Maheno on Fraser Island. Daniel Green

OWNED by the Union Company of New Zealand, SS Maheno was an ocean liner that operated in the Tasman Sea between New Zealand and Australia from 1905 until 1935.

She also made regular voyages between Sydney and Vancouver and was used as a hospital ship by the New Zealand Naval Forces during World War I.

She could carry up to 420 passengers - 240 in first class, 120 in second and 60 in third, and also had a refrigerated cargo hold.

Accommodation for first class passengers included a dining room, smoking room and music room.

Lit by electricity and fitted with all the latest safety equipment, the Maheno was at the end of her commercial life when she went aground on Fraser Island.

After leaving Sydney on July 3, 1935, she was under tow by the 1758-tonne ship Oonah, a former Bass Strait ferry which, along with the Maheno, had been sold to a shipbreaker's yard in Osaka, Japan.

The two ships were linked by a 270m wire rope which parted when the cyclone hit about 80km from the Queensland coast on the afternoon of July 7.

Attempts to re-attach the towline failed in the heavy seas, and the Maheno, with a skeleton crew of eight men aboard, drifted off and disappeared.

The Oonah, with her steering gear temporarily disabled, broadcast a radio message requesting assistance for Maheno, whose propellers had been removed.

An aircraft seach found the Maheno on Fraser Island on July 10, the crew having set up camp onshore, waiting for the Oonah to arrive, which it did on July 12.

Maheno was subsequently stripped of her fittings, but attempts to refloat her failed. The wreck was eventually offered for sale. No buyers could be found for her.

Now little more than a rustic skeleton, the once-mighty Maheno is one of Fraser Island's most visited destinations, drawing more than 200,000 tourists each year to her resting place on 75 Mile Beach.