Public Talks

The museum hosts a regular series of FREE public lunchtime talks. The talks are held on the FIRST Tuesday of each month EXCEPT January from 12.00 midday until 1.00pm in the Royal Society Rooms at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

Our most recent talk, on Tuesday 1 October 2019 was entitled Whatever happened to the Blythe Star? Michael Stoddart examined the event and its aftermath

The coastal freighter Blythe Star sank on Saturday, 12 October 1973, six miles west off South West Cape, on a routine run from Prince of Wales Bay to Grassy on King Island.  At about 0800 she rolled a few degrees to starboard before righting herself.  Ten minutes later she rolled again, but this time failed to right herself.  She started a slow roll and by 0825 her mast lay on the sea surface.  By 0830 she had vanished.  Her crew of ten safely got away on a life raft in which they would drift around southern Tasmania for eight days at the mercy of wind and current before being washed ashore at Deep Glen Bay on the Tasman Peninsula. 

Blythe Star in Hobart. Photo: K Barr

One crewman died after three days at sea.  Two more would die of hypothermia and exhaustion within 12 hours of reaching land.  Seven would be left to tell the tale of one of Australia’s most extraordinary shipwrecks.  The heroic story of the survival of the crew is a remarkable one framed by strong leadership by the First Officer and ineffectiveness of the Captain. The Captain’s failure to send out a May Day message, or to grab the lifeboat portable radio before abandoning ship, was one of many events contested in Court.  The Court’s decision found widespread failures on the parts of all parties, including the Tasmanian Transport Commission under whose charter Blythe Star operated, the newly established Marine Operations Centre, the Commonwealth Department of Transport, the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service, and even the 1955 French builders of the ship.  Only the actions of the crew in saving themselves received the Court’s commendation. 

The remains of the Blythe Star's life raft, with sea anchor & life belt 

This presentation reviews what is known about Blythe Star’s capsize and how the biggest and most costly air sea rescue in Australia’s history failed to find any trace of the survivors.  It considers the formal decision of the Court in the light of all the evidence presented during the Inquiry’s 27 sitting days in Melbourne and Hobart.  Michael Stoddart is a researcher at the Maritime Museum of Tasmania and the author of Tassie’s Whale Boys, published by 40 South Publishing. He was previously former Chief Scientist of Australia’s Antarctic program and was the first Director of the UTAS Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. 

Time: 12.00 – 1.00pm Tuesday 1 October 2019.

Place: ROYAL SOCIETY ROOMS, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, (19 Davey Street entrance).
Phone the Maritime Museum on 6234 1427 or email john.wadsley@maritimetas.org

Future Scheduled talks (subject to change):

5 November: Port Davey - Pieter van de Woude

3 December TBA

January 2020 NO TALK

4 February 2020