In responding to the Shipping News’ challenge to produce a ‘Top 20’ list of ships that have graced the port of Fremantle ver the years, Neil Stanbury, Corporate and Community Relations Manager at Fremantle Ports observes:
“There’s no such thing as the definitive list, so we considered a range of ships for their history, fame, notoriety or glamour factor, as well as those that represented a ‘first’ of some kind. ‘There are many others that could easily have got a mention instead, but perhaps another day,” he said.
Of course, one Ship-ee’s list won’t fully match another’s, but there are some wonderful entries below. Check them out and compare with your own.
• 1897 – It was a glorious day when Blue Funnel Line’s SS Sultan entered port to officiate at the opening of the Inner Harbour, created by CY O’Connor. This occurred on May 4th that year. She glided into South Quay around B Berth, adorned with bunting. At the helm was Lady Forrest, wife of the Premier Sir John Forrest, while hundreds of spectators looked on.The port never looked back!
• 1940s – Many can still recall the troopship Queen Mary, also known as the “Grey Ghost”. The 81,237–ton Cunard White Star liner was one of the greatest ships of all time. She visited Fremantle 19 times between May 1940 and March 1943. According to Sir Winston Churchill, Queen Mary’s great war record, together with other great liners converted to carry troops, possibly shortened the war by a year. Her younger sister Queen Elizabeth made 11 visits to Fremantle, however the old liner Aquitania made 22 visits during the war.
• 1945 – Fire! What a blood-chilling cry that must have been, when it was discovered that the cargo vessel Panamanian on North Quay was burning furiously. Not just that, but all around it were warships and submarines loaded with ammunition and explosives. Those vessels were quickly moved out of the harbour and a long fight commenced to put the fire out. One New Zealand sailor died, when he fell down a hatch during the battle. It transpired that oil on the water caught fire when a piece of burning sacking was thrown overboard by a stevedore and became a wick. The ship was extensively damaged and the 10,000-ton cargo of flour lost.
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• 1991 – There’s no mistaking the long, loping, bow of Iowa-class battleships and perhaps the most famous of them was the USS Missouri, which entered Fremantle Harbour late in its career, in 1991. The deck of the Missouri was the scene of theJapanese surrender in Tokyo Bay in 1945. For the populists, it was also the major prop of Cher’s hit video for her song, Turn Back Time, as well as the set of the Steven Seagal action movie, Under Siege. Missouri served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. It’s now a museum ship in Pearl Harbour (or Harbor, if you like!).