CHAPTER 7. The Bight, or should I say “Bite”

After breakfast on Friday, the 1st April, we entered the great Australian Bight and we now know something about it. We were nearly 14 hours late leaving Adelaide and, of course, this time had to be made up somewhere. The extra speed required plus a very rough sea made the whole of the passengers seasick. For the first time since leaving Wellington I missed a meal as I could not go down to get lunch. There were only the usual few regular sailors who reached the diningroom.

Next day was very little better and although I was up and went down to breakfast I was not at all happy about it. I went in to see Lois and Elizabeth, who were both in bed. Elizabeth was also feeling the effects of her vaccination which her father had done just before she left Melbourne. Lo was sick of everything and was disgusted that she should have been told that when she got on board the Orcades she would never be sick, as it was just a floating palace. As soon as I went in she mumbled incoherently and with absolute disgust, “When do we get there?” Even she had to laugh when she saw the humour as well as the pathos of her question.

There were few people about and those on deck were helping one another to walk. One old lady wanted to go down in the lift and as she could not find the call bell she was knocking on the door to call the lift boy. When she got inside she said “ground floor, please!” When Lo heard this she said she would give something to be on the ground just then.

I had previously seen the picture of a boat crossing the Bight and her bow was picking up the water as she went down in the trough to the waves. I rather enjoyed seeing this when sitting in a comfortable and firmly fixed seat of a picture show. What a difference to be on board and hold your breath and internal organs as the bow went down 40 feet and seemed as though it was never coming up again! Crockery and other things were broken. A vase in which I was keeping my briars from Hobart fell from the dressing table and was smashed to small pieces. Then she developed what is called a corkscrew motion and she pitched and tossed as well as rolled. I was not sick, but I had a rotten head and felt fit for the undertaker.

World Tour 1938
The rough water put all the ladies to bed

I made another call on the girls. I found they had been talking over the situation between spasms. Elizabeth, lying on a bed made most untidy from tossing and turning and the movement of the boat said to herself, but sufficiently aloud for Lois to hear – “And this is what I paid £300 for!” Either to give Elizabeth some sympathy or to show her real feelings Lois replied, “I wish I was back home!” However, a little later in the day, when I paid my next call they were both sitting up with their beds freshly made and drinking some beef tea.

Sunday, April 3rd, was just as bad. At 11 o’clock in the morning we overtook the S.S. Kanimbla on her way to Albany. This gave those passengers who were about quite a lot of excitement as she was suffering more from the rough seas than we were. We watched her tossing about and many times saw the spray go right over the boat. I made my way to the boat deck and hesitated before I went on the bridge, knowing that this part of the boat was positively forbidden to passengers. However, I went up and the officer on watch quickly came to me. I told him there were quite a lot of passengers with cameras who wanted to get a photograph of the boat and could he go any closer. He apparently said, “I’m sorry, sir, but I cannot take the ship off her course” and then he quickly added, “And the Captain does not like passengers on the bridge!” With this rebuke, which was quite expected, I went below.

World Tour 1938
rough water in the Bight

4 p.m. We have just passed Albany and the lighthouse on the point was a wonderful sight. We were about 10 miles from the coast and yet we could see the waves smashing with terrific force on the cliffs, the spray like a huge white wall 100 feet or more high. What would I give to be on those cliffs with the camera. As those who were not seasick were watching the spectacle one man remarked to me, “And I suppose the lighthousekeeper never bothers to look at it!”

This was one of the places where I appreciated my field glasses, for although the breakers could be seen quite well with the naked eye they were a most impressive sight seen through the binoculars. We are now turning and the boat is getting broadside on, so that she is rolling much worse.

Life is a game of contraries. Rozie was up on deck, but could not stand the rolling so she struggled down to her room and left her rug, etc. on deck, and Elizabeth could not stand the movement in her room and tried to get on deck. She got partly dressed but could not finish and at the moment is lying on her bed, too ill to get dressed and too ill to get back into bed. I will be the only one of our party down to dinner tonight – if I am lucky!

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