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Stowing Away for Success

Stowing Away for Success

Launch of the TSS Islander, Grangemouth Dockyard, 1929
Launch of the TSS Islander, Grangemouth Dockyard, 1929

If you're going to stow away on a ship, make sure it's one with modern facilities and a minimum of rats.

Maria in Ocean's Trial didn't have time to check the facilities or the rat population when she sneaked aboard the TSS Islander in Fremantle, but perhaps she should have. Perhaps she would have tried a bit harder to pay her passage instead.

TSS Islander

Build in Grangemouth Dockyard in Scotland, the Turbine Steam Ship (TSS) Islander was commissioned by the Christmas Island Phosphate Company as the supply vessel for their Christmas Island operations. She was built to carry both cargo and passengers, to the tune of 1598 tons, and withstand tropical climates.

The TSS Islander was actually the Islander III – the Islander II was renamed Moni when the TSS Islander came into service in 1929. I have no idea what happened to the Islander I.

SS Moni (Formerly SS Islander II) in Flying Fish Cove, 1929
SS Moni (Formerly SS Islander II) in Flying Fish Cove, 1929
TSS Islander in Flying Fish Cove, 1930
TSS Islander in Flying Fish Cove, 1930

In Flying Fish Cove, the only safe anchorage at Christmas Island, there was a triangular pier known variously as the Islander Jetty, the Triangular Jetty or the Japanese Pier, as the Japanese guano vessels used this jetty, too.

Flying Fish Cove in 1929 from the clifftop
Flying Fish Cove in 1929 from the clifftop

This pier was damaged when a Japanese guano vessel, Nissei Maru, moored there in 1943 exploded and sank under mysterious circumstances. The island was occupied by Japanese forces at the time, so the ship is reputed to have been sunk by either an Allied submarine or saboteurs among the mining personnel, who were loading the vessel at the time of the incident. A storm in 1951 did even more damage to the jetty and it was demolished soon after.

Flying Fish Cove, Christmas Island, 1945
Flying Fish Cove, Christmas Island, 1945
Damaged Pier in Flying Fish Cove, 1945
Damaged Pier in Flying Fish Cove, 1945

Despite having a dedicated pier for the Islander, sometimes cargo and passengers had to be winched up the cliffs at Waterfall, when weather and wave conditions in Flying Fish Cove were unfavourable.

Luckily for Maria, when she arrived at Christmas Island, the ship was unloaded at the Triangular Jetty in Flying Fish Cove…though I don't think she ever had any intention of taking the winch cage up the cliffs.

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About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Demelza Carlton has always loved the ocean, but on her first snorkelling trip she found she was afraid of fish. She has since swum with sea lions, sharks and sea cucumbers and stood on spray-drenched cliffs over a seething sea as a seven-metre cyclonic swell surged in, shattering a shipwreck below. Sensationalist spin? No - Demelza tends to take a camera with her so she can capture and share the moment later; shipwrecks, sharks and all. Demelza now lives in Perth, Western Australia, the shark attack capital of the world.

Demelza Carlton

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