Bass Strait Triangle

The Bass Strait Triangle is the waters that separate the states of Victoria and Tasmania, including Bass Strait, in south-eastern Australia. The term Bass Strait Triangle (inspired by the Bermuda Triangle) appears to have been first used[a] following the Valentich Disappearance in 1978 although the region had a bad reputation (never ascribed to supernatural forces, however) long before that.

Map of Australia with Bass Strait "triangle" marked in light blue

Geography of Bass StraitEdit

Bass Strait is a generally shallow (average depth of 50 m (160 ft)) stretch of water approximately 300 km (190 mi) wide and 200 km (120 mi) from north to south, encompassed by the entire northern coastline of Tasmania and Victoria's central to eastern coast. The prevailing winds and currents are westerly, the latter being divided by King Island, Tasmania at the western entrance to the strait, causing unpredictable sea conditions, especially when strong winds occur. For example, strong southerly winds can cause a strong northerly current reflecting from the Victorian coast. The combination of winds, currents, tidal flow and the shallow bottom often lead to tall waves, often of short length, with a confused short swell often conflicting in direction.

All shipping to the busy ports of Melbourne, Stanley, Burnie, Devonport, Bell Bay and Launceston and the Bass Strait islands such as King Island and Flinders Island must pass through Bass Strait, and it is also the route of choice for many ships passing from the Australian west to east coasts. Most air traffic between Tasmania and the Australian mainland flies at least in part over or adjacent to it.[1]

IncidentsEdit

Bass Strait was discovered following the wreck of the ship Sydney Cove on the Furneaux Group in 1797 and one of the vessels engaged in the salvage operation, the sloop Eliza, went missing on her return voyage to Sydney.[2] Hundreds of vessels from small yachts and fishing craft up to the size of bulk carriers have come to grief in Bass Strait since that time through hitting reefs, running aground on the coastline or on river bars while entering port, or foundering due to stress of weather, some dozens being lost without a trace.[3][page needed]

Actual north-south (and vice versa) crossing of Bass Strait seldom occurred until after Melbourne was established in 1835. From 1838-1840, at least seven vessels were lost with all hands on their way to or from the new settlement, wreckage from only three being identified. Rumours that some of these vessels had fallen victim to wreckers appear baseless, the main cause probably being bad weather and poor charts.

  • British warship HMS Sappho in 1858, in which well over one hundred lives were lost, and no positively identifiable wreckage located.[4] [5]
  • In 1901 the SS Federal disappeared carrying coal from New South Wales with 31 crew. Her wreck not located until 2019[6]
  • In 1906 the SS Ferdinand Fischer, a German cargo ship, disappeared.
  • The SS Amelia J, a schooner, disappeared on 10 September. HMAS Swordsman was commissioned to search for the ship, and while searching the Bass Strait, a second ship - the barquentine SS Southern Cross - disappeared. A military Airco DH.9A engaged in the search would also then disappear.[7] [8] Wreckage of the SS Southern Cross was found on King Island; the SS Amelia J was never discovered, and neither was the Airco DH.9.[9]
  • The De Havilland Express Miss Hobart, went missing soon after entering service in 1934, only a small amount of wreckage being found on the Victorian coast.
  • In 1935 Loina, a Holyman airliner, crashed into the sea near Flinders Island with three crew and two passengers lost.[10] No bodies were found.[11] The cause of both accidents was probably a combination of human error with the known poor design of the aircraft.[12]
  • During the Second World War, several aircraft — mostly RAAF Bristol Beaufort bombers — were lost during exercises in Bass Strait while on training flights out of air bases, mainly RAAF Base East Sale near Sale, Victoria. These accidents were probably caused by the inexperienced crew crashing into the sea while performing low-level bombing practice — similar accidents occurred over land.[13]
  • In 1972 a De Havilland Tiger Moth flown by Brenda Hean and Max Price disappeared on a flight from Tasmania to Canberra as part of protests against the flooding of Lake Pedder for a hydroelectricity scheme. [14] It was believed to have crashed at sea somewhere between the East Coast and Flinders Island.[citation needed] Sabotage by pro-development interests was alleged.[15][page needed]
  • In 1978 a Cessna flown by Frederick Valentich disappeared after reporting a UFO.
  • 1979 the yacht Charleston disappeared while sailing to Sydney to join the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race.[16]

ReferencesEdit

Notes
  1. ^ The term appears on the back cover of "The Devil's Meridian" by Kevin Killey & Gary Lester, published in 1980, and makes up part of the title of Jack Loney's book on the region published in the same year.
  1. ^ Australian Pilot Volume II: : South, South- East and East Coasts of Australia from Green Cape to Port Jackson Including Bass Strait and Tasmania. Somerset: Hydrographic Department. 1982.
  2. ^ Broxam, Graeme; Nash, Michael (2013). Tasmanian Shipwrecks, Volume 1 - 1797-1899. Canberra: Navarine Publishing. ISBN 0975133187.
  3. ^ Broxam, Graeme; Nash, Michael (2013). Tasmanian Shipwrecks, Volume 1 - 1797-1899. Canberra: Navarine Publishing. ISBN 0975133187.
  4. ^ Killey & Lester 1980, pp. 23 & 24
  5. ^ Broxam, Graeme; Nash, Michael (2013). Tasmanian Shipwrecks, Volume 1 - 1797-1899. Canberra: Navarine Publishing. ISBN 0975133187.
  6. ^ "Bass Strait shipwreck studied in bid to solve century-old mystery". www.abc.net.au. 27 June 2019.
  7. ^ Killey & Lester 1980, pp. 26-31
  8. ^ Broxam, Graeme; Nash, Michael (2013). Tasmanian Shipwrecks, Volume 2 - 1900-2012. Canberra: Navarine Publishing. ISBN 0992366003.
  9. ^ Navy, corporateName=Royal Australian. "HMAS Swordsman". www.navy.gov.au. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  10. ^ Killey & Lester 1980, pp. 33-43
  11. ^ "GRIM EVIDENCE OF THE LOINA DISASTER". Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 - 1954). 4 October 1935. p. 7.
  12. ^ Job, Macarthur (1991). Air Crash. 1. Canberra: Aerospace Publications. ISBN 1-875671-11-0.
  13. ^ Wilson, Stewart (1990). Beaufort, Beaufighter and Mosquito in Australian service. Recounting the exciting exploits and achievements of Australia's three light bombers of World War II. Canberra: Aerospace Publications. ISBN 0-958797-84-6.
  14. ^ Killey & Lester 1980, pp. 49 & 50
  15. ^ Millwood 2008
  16. ^ "Lost yacht mystery continues 30 years on". www.abc.net.au. 21 December 2009.
Sources
  • Brown, Malcolm (2002). Australia's Worst Disasters. Melbourne: Lothian Books. ISBN 0-7344-0338-0.
  • Broxam, Graeme; Nash, Michael (2013). Tasmanian Shipwrecks, Volume 1 - 1797-1899. Canberra: Navarine Publishing. ISBN 0975133187.
  • Broxam, Graeme; Nash, Michael (2013). Tasmanian Shipwrecks, Volume 2 - 1900-2012. Canberra: Navarine Publishing. ISBN 0992366003.
  • Killey, Kevin; Lester, Gary (1980). The Devil's Meridian. Sydney: Lester-Townsend. ISBN 0-949853-01-1.
  • Job, Macarthur (1991). Air Crash. 1. Canberra: Aerospace Publications. ISBN 1-875671-11-0.
  • Loney, Jack (1980). Mysteries of the Bass Strait Triangle (1st ed.). Neptune Press. ISBN 0-9091315-3-8.
  • Millwood, Scott (2008). Whatever happened to Brenda Hean?. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen and Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74175-611-1.
  • Whitmore, Debbie (1999). An Extreme Event:The compelling, true story of the tragic 1998 Sydney-Hobart Race. Sydney: Random House Australia. ISBN 0-0918-4057-0.

External linksEdit