The second victim of the Wolf’s Australasian minefield’s was claimed several months after the sinking of the Cumberland and occurred in the second field to be laid – off Cape Farewell, New Zealand.

“…the Port Kembla, a 4700-ton vessel, owned by the Commonwealth and Dominion Line, which was lost off Cape Farewell, on the New Zealand coast, on September 18 last [1917]. The Port Kembla was bound from Melbourne to London, with a full cargo, and intended to call at Wellington to bunker. When about 15 miles off Cape Farewell a loud explosion rent the side of the vessel, which sank in half an hour. Members of the crew noticed pungent fumes after the explosion, and Captain Jack reported that it was supposed to have been internal, occurring in No. 1 hatch. An inquiry held by the Nautical Court at Wellington found that the explosion was due to a high explosive deliberately placed in the after-part of No. 1 lower forehold. The evidence was too indefinite to enable the Court to determine the nature of the explosive used…”

The Daily Telegraph 29 June 1918: 11.

Officers of the Port Kembla
Officers of the Port Kembla.
Detail from Postcard. Author’s Collection.

Despite the inquiry into her loss declaring that an internal explosion was the likely cause it was soon apparent that the cause of her loss was other than that as mines were soon begun to be discovered.

Send off to the survivors of the Port Kembla Nelson N.Z.  20.9.17.
‘Send off to the survivors of the Port Kembla Nelson N.Z.  20.9.17.’
Postcard. Author’s Collection.

The officers and crew of the Port Kembla were brought to Wellington from Nelson aboard the Pateena. Accompanying the men was Captain J. B. Rainey, marine superintendent of the Cunard Branch Line who ‘went to Nelson to look after the crew.’ Rainey was previously employed by Huddart Parker and was a former master of the S.S. Wimmera.

The wreck of the Port Kembla was recently discovered off Farewell Spit. A report of her discovery was broadcast on New Zealand Television. The report can be viewed on Youtube:

© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021

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