Monday, January 28, 2008

A SEA MYSTERY

This is a painting, by marine artist Jack Woods, of the "Patanela" sailing past Heard Island.

The Patanela was a 19 metre steel schooner, famous for her Antarctic voyages and circumnavigations of the globe. She was constructed of steel with four watertight bulkheads and carried the latest safety and navigational equipment, sailing for 30 years on the roughest of seas.

She disappeared on a calm November night in 1988 within sight of Botany Bay with no mayday call, no distress flares, no debris and no bodies. The only trace of her was a barnacle-encrusted lifebuoy found floating off Terrigal seven months later. That is until now. A bottle was found on a beach near Eucla on the southern coast of Western Australia on New Year's Eve.

Inside was a note written by John Blissett, 23, ofTaree, NSW. He was one of the three men and one woman sailing the Patanela from Fremantle across the great Australian Bight on October 26, 1988.
The note, in faded blue handwriting inside a Bacardi bottle, offered the finder a free holiday in the WhitSunday Islands, giving phone numbers to call to claim the prize. It also gave the schooner's position as 34 degrees, 26minutes, 20 seconds south, 129 degrees, 18 minutes, 54 seconds east in the Great Australian Bight.

An inquest in 1992 concluded that Patanela foundered in the early hours of November 8, 1988 some time after a final radio contact with Sydney Harbour. The coroner concluded the most likely explanation for such a sudden disappearance was that Patanela was run over by a large commercial vessel but there was a complete absence of any floating wreckage.

There were numerous conspiracy theories from piracy to drug running. Paul Whittaker and Robert Reid spent three years investigating Patanela's disappearance and wrote a book "The Patanela is Missing". I haven't read the book so I can't comment on their conclusions. If anyone has read it, please leave a comment.

15 comments:

Brian Hughes said...

The fact that the note was found inside an empty Bacardi bottle might go some considerable distance towards explaining why the boat mysteriously disappeared/sank. What I find even more mysterious is the fact that marine artist, Jack Woods, just happened to be drifting past at exactly the right moment to paint his picture.

Jayne said...

Haven't read the book but now you've intrigued me enough to hunt it down...the book not the boat.

R.H. said...

I'm very fascinated with this kind of mystery.

R.H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JahTeh said...

Big country out here Fleetwood. Bottle found on Western Australian beach, ship sank off Eastern Australia. I was trying to think what I was doing in 1988 that I missed this.

Jayne, anything you hunt down, please share. I think you have better googling skills than me.

Rh, something to sharpen that brain of yours on.

R.H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R.H. said...

Thanking you Miss J.

Your intelligence, your humour, your rollicking good sense, unbettered in the whole wide world.

Sincerely.
-Robert.

JahTeh said...

Rh, had dealings with social workers some time ago regarding an uncle but the magistrate got a handle on things pretty smartly. I trust KG will have the same outcome.

R.H. said...

This is more serious: Supreme Court.
We might be hiring Miss Orange Juice.

JahTeh said...

Rh, Supreme Court! How much is the increase to warrant that? Let him spend it on wine, women and song I say.

R.H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JahTeh said...

Now I see where your contempt for social workers comes from and why don't the doctors see him for themselves instead of relying on second hand reports? Once you're in the system, that's it. The only reason I could see for this level of interference would be greedy opportunistic relatives out for money.

Middle Child said...

Was it a Japanese Whaler's revenge perchance...? Arrogant bastards

RhysA said...

Drugs were not involved. I am closely related to Micheal. He would never have gotten involved in drugs and frankly, it angers and offends me to think that people can go accusing him of stealing the boat or getting involved in drug running.

seafarer said...

I sailed on the Patanela for many years, my best guess is run over by ship.
They did take out a lot of ballast that had been in the boat for 15 years or more before leaving Freo, but this shouldn't have made any difference as seas were reported as mild on the night of the disappearance, but this defiantly would have changed the stability characteristics of the vessel.
Also she only had 3 watertight bulkheads, not 4 (as often reported), but that did equate theoretically to 4 watertight compartments, I say theoretically because there were numerous hatches, vents, (portholes not in the hull but superstructure), hors pipes,and 2 doors to the main deck, one forward and one aft. There were no emergency batteries for radio, and the boat was not under survey, although she was in pretty good nick. I would describe as a very safe boat but no more unsinkable than the Titanic. If it was hit by a ship there would not have been a lot that debris that would have floated off that anyone finding would have linked to the Patanela other than the Life rings (one of which was recovered.
My heart goes out to the families of the crew as I fell they may never find out the real story of there love ones.