AS an Antarctic freeze gripped the seas off southern Australia, the crew of the 7,200 tonne vessel Stanfirth needed urgent help.
She was disabled, powerless and her radio had stopped working.
To top it all off, her fuel bunkers were empty and any hopes of raising the alert were pretty much defunct.
Ships aplenty tried to come to her aid. A mix of stormy seas, astonishingly poor visibility and freezing cold conditions were putting paid to every rescue attempt.
But it was a 7,174 tonne Hartlepool vessel the Heronspool which overcame the odds and carried out a hero’s job. It came by the Stanfirth and stayed there for four days.
It was in August 1951 that the drama happened and today we ask does anyone know of the Hartlepool crew which came to the rescue that day?
We know that the master of the ship was a Captain TW Cameron. We also know that the drama started when the freighter ship Trienza found her 200 miles off Melbourne and at a time when the Stanfirth being thrown about in mountainous waves.
But the Trienza herself had to leave the scene when she began to run short of fuel and so more help was needed.
This was no easy rescue mission. The Stanfirth was a big vessel.
She had a crew of 42 and was filled with a cargo of phosphates, bound for Australia. After the Trienza left her, the tug James Paterson went to her assistance.
But every ship in the area was struggling just to remain afloat. The crew of one called the Stratheden, which was a 23,000 tonne liner, got into port and succinctly described the weather that everyone was facing that day.
The Stratheden’s captain branded it as “one night of hell”.
Yet the Heronspool wasn’t abandoning her rescue mission. She twice tried to get a tow line on board the Stanfirth without much success and kept going back for more.
Later, Heronspool’s captain, Master Cameron, reported he had never known such bad conditions for a towing operation.
Time and again, she tried to tow the Stanfirth to safety. Time and again, the conditions made life difficult.
Yet eventually, the Heronspool succeeded. The line was attached and, with the world’s media awaiting, she towed the stricken ship to the safety of Melbourne, even though the Hartlepool vessel was left with a bad list as she took on water herself.
Its crew and captain were later praised by the Stanfirth’s captain J. Davies who said he had never seen seamanship than that shown by the men of the Heronspool.
We would love to find out more of what happened to the crew. Are there any relatives still in town?
What can you tell us of those fateful days in the early 1950s.
Get in touch by contacting Chris Cordner. Telephone him on (01429) 239377 or email email@example.com