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Research Guides


Commonwealth Government Records about Tasmania


Local disasters

North Mount Lyell Mine disaster, 1912

On 12 October 1912, a fire broke out in the pump house, 700 feet below the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company mine. More than 40 men died. The findings of a state Royal Commission were inconclusive. Debate continued into, and beyond, its centenary year about conspiracies and the fire's various possible causes, with the latest research pointing to the high probability of an electrical fault rather than sabotage.

Selected items and series relating to the North Mt Lyell Mine disaster, 1912
National Archives, Canberra
Mt. Lyell Mining Accident 1912 A2, 1913/729
Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, Hobart
Royal Commission into the Mt Lyell Mine (TA717)
Correspondence, accounts, reports and associated papers, 1912–13 RC23/1
Photographs taken following the North Lyell fire in October 1912, 1912 NS3237
Reports, statements, evidence, correspondence and associated papers relating to the North Lyell fire/disaster, 1912–13 NS3236

Briseis Tin Mine flood, 1929

Image 3: Cataract Gorge in quieter times, a year after the flood, Launceston, c.1930

Image 3: Cataract Gorge in quieter times, a year after the flood, Launceston, c.1930
NAA: A1200, L4372
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As if the encroaching economic depression was not bad enough, Tasmania in 1929 must have seemed in need of Noah's Ark. The state experienced extremely heavy rains that were especially severe in the once prosperous tin mining centre of Derby, where the Cascade Dam burst on 5 April flooding the Briseis Tin Mine, causing 14 fatalities. In a Prime Minister's Department record of a 1936 deputation of Tasmanian politicians and businessmen, Senator Hayes noted that, 'In 1929 a disaster overtook the mine which flooded the mine. The Company spent, I understand, about £90,000 in rehabilitating it and they were just on the verge of full production when another disaster came. Twenty inches of rain fell in Derby in the month of August [1929] and filled the mine up again' (A461, L373/1/2).

Other especially badly affected sites were Launceston, Inveresk, Invermay, Duck Reach power station and Cataract Gorge. Hobart was isolated, and there was extensive flooding at Tunbridge and Ulverstone. The state-wide death toll of 22, which combined with widespread damage to property and farms, required a Flood Sufferers' Relief Act and interest-free loans.

Selected items relating to the 1929 floods, including at the Briseis tin mine
National Archives, Sydney
1929 Launceston Flood: sound recording FORMAT: audio tape C100, 76/7/660M
National Archives, Canberra
Tasmania Flood Relief Fund, 1929 A6266, G1929/2492
Mines and Mining Gold Mining Tasmania, Ringarooma, 1929 A786, H64/6
Scenic – Tasmania – Cataract Gorge, Launceston, Tasmania, circa 1930 A1200, L4372
Mining – Briseis Consolidated N.L., 1936 A461, L373/1/2

Miss Hobart plane crash, 1934

Image 4: Sir Ivan Holyman, 1957

Image 4: Sir Ivan Holyman, 1957
NAA: A1200, L23698
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On 19 October 1934, a de Havilland Express DH 86, VH-URN, also identified as Miss Hobart, operated by Launceston based William Holyman Airways Pty Ltd, was lost crossing Bass Strait. All 10 passengers and two crew died. The tragedy was all the more personal for owner Ivan Holyman because his older brother Victor was one of the pilots. Needless to say, the Commonwealth was closely involved in the search for the plane, including use of the navy, and in investigating the reasons for the loss.

Selected items relating to the loss of Miss Hobart
National Archives, Melbourne
VH–URN Miss Hobart – Bass Strait – 19 October 1934. Pilot – H Jenkins [Includes Wing Commander Harrison's copies of reports of proceedings], 1934 MP187/4, 134
Loss Miss Hobart 19.10.34 YH/URN, 1934–35 MP115/1, 1/101/175/PART1
Search for DH 86 VH/URN Miss Hobart overdue from Launceston 19.10.34, 1934–34 MP115/1, 1/101/175/PART2
Inquiry into loss of VH/URN Miss Hobart, 1934 MP115/1, 1/101/175 PART 3
Inquiry into loss of VH/URN Miss Hobart, 1934 MP115/1, 1/101/175 PART 4
Inquiry into loss of VH/URN Miss Hobart, 1934 MP115/1, 1/101/175 PART 5
[Loss of Miss Hobart – 1934 Lost Monospar Inquiry – 1936], 1934–36 MP1221/1, M1934/785/2786
Search for missing aeroplane Miss Hobart, 1934–35 MP124/6, 415/201/951

Hobart airport disaster, 1946

Image 5: Report on loss of Douglas C47-DCA 1900 aircraft VH-AET, Seven Mile Beach, near Cambridge, Tasmania, 10 March 1946

Image 5: Report on loss of Douglas C47-DCA 1900 aircraft VH-AET, Seven Mile Beach, near Cambridge, Tasmania, 10 March 1946
NAA: A8325, 10/3/1946 PART 1
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In March 1946, an ANA Douglas C-47-DL plane crashed shortly after take-off from Hobart's Cambridge Airport en route to Melbourne. Throughout the 20th century, it remained one of Australia's worst civil aviation accidents. All four crew and 22 passengers were killed. The Department of Civil Aviation was closely involved in identifying the causes of the accident and trying to ensure they were not repeated.

Selected items relating to loss of ANA Douglas C–47–DL
National Archives, Canberra
Report on loss of Douglas C47–D.C.A. 1900 aircraft VH–AET – Seven Mile Beach, near Cambridge, Tasmania on 10 March 1946, 1946 A8325, 10/3/1946 PARTS 1–2
[Air Court of Inquiry report on loss of Douglas C47–D.C.A. 1900 aircraft VH–AET – Seven Mile Beach, near Cambridge, Tasmania on 10 March 1946], 1946 A8325, 10/3/1946 PART 3
National Archives, Melbourne
Tasmaid – Hobart – VH–AET, 1946 MP288/2, ACCIDENTS/16
Transcripts of evidence – Tasmaid – Hobart – VH–AET, 1946 MP288/2, ACCIDENTS/17

Loss of the Blythe Star, 1959

In May 1959, en route from Ulverstone to Melbourne with canned peas and timber, the engine room of the MV Blythe Star exploded. Attempts by other boats to save it failed. The second engineer was killed; the remaining crew reached Burnie in the ship's boat and were eventually rescued.

Selected items relating to the loss of the cargo ship Blythe Star, 1959
National Archives, Sydney
Court of Marine Inquiry 1959 Loss by fire of M V Blythe Star in Bass Strait 17 May 1959, 1959 C824, 3/0047
National Archives, Adelaide
M/V Blythe Star. Court of Marine Inquiry – Loss by fire, 1959 D935, 1959/154
Blythe Star crew accommodation, 1960 D935, 1960/138
National Archives, Perth
[Mercantile Marine Office/Shipping] Courts of marine inquiry – Blythe Star – transcript of proceedings, 1959 PP410/1,1959/140
National Archives, Melbourne
Blythe Star – Court of Marine Inquiry – 1959, 1959 MP1764/1, V1959/102 PART 1
Blythe Star – Court of Marine Inquiry 1959 – Registrars Papers, 1959 MP1764/1, V1959/102 PART 2
Blythe Star – Court of Marine Inquiry 1959 – Transcript of Evidence, 1959 MP1764/1, V1959/102 PART 3

The 1960 floods

Scenes reminiscent of 1929 were revisited in Tasmania in 1960. The Macquarie, Elizabeth, Lake and Liffey rivers, Macquarie Plains–New Norfolk area, Longford, Ross and Liffey were all especially affected by floods. Hobart sustained record losses, estimated at £3 million as the Hobart Rivulet flooded, necessitating assistance from the army.

Selected items relating to the 1960 floods
National Archives, Canberra
Flood relief appeal Tasmania, 1960–63 A703, 505/1/3 PART 1
Flood Relief – Tasmania, 1960 A4940, C3103
Flood relief – Tasmania – Without Submission, 1960 A4943, 752
Flood Relief – Tasmania Travelling Allowances – Jan 1973, 1960 A7750, SG10/4/4 PART 1

Loss of another Blythe Star, 1973

The successor to the 1959 Blythe Star, a small coastal freighter with the Tasmanian Transport Commission, sailed from Hobart for King Island on 12 October 1973, but failed to arrive. After the most extensive air and sea search conducted in Australia to that date failed to find any trace of the vessel, on 24 October the seven survivors were located at Deep Glen Bay on Forestier Peninsula. They had drifted for eight days and were found some time after the search had been suspended. Three died during the ordeal. There were inquiries and consequences, the incident ultimately giving rise to the AusREP Ship Reporting System.

Selected items relating to the loss of the cargo ship Blythe Star, 1973
National Archives, Sydney
Court of Marine Inquiry, 3 December 1973 in the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania. (Pages 1–57), 1973 to (pages 853–938) [12 items] C824, 6/0002–01.1
Court of Marine Inquiry, 3 December 1973 in the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania. (Pages 1–57), 1973 to (pages 853–938) [12 items] C824, 6/0002–01.2
Court of Marine Inquiry, 3 December 1973 in the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania. (Pages 1–57), 1973 to (pages 853–938) [12 items] C824, 6/0002–01.3
Court of Marine Inquiry, 3 December 1973 in the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania. (Pages 1–57), 1973 to (pages 853–938) [12 items] C824, 6/0002–01.4
Court of Marine Inquiry, 3 December 1973 in the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania. (Pages 1–57), 1973 to (pages 853–938) [12 items] C824, 6/0002–01.5
Court of Marine Inquiry, 3 December 1973 in the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania. (Pages 1–57), 1973 to (pages 853–938) [12 items] C824, 6/0002–01.6
Court of Marine Inquiry, 3 December 1973 in the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania. (Pages 1–57), 1973 to (pages 853–938) [12 items] C824, 6/0002–01.7
Court of Marine Inquiry, 3 December 1973 in the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania. (Pages 1–57), 1973 to (pages 853–938) [12 items] C824, 6/0002–01.8
Court of Marine Inquiry, 3 December 1973 in the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania. (Pages 1–57), 1973 to (pages 853–938) [12 items] C824, 6/0002–01.9
Court of Marine Inquiry, 3 December 1973 in the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania. (Pages 1–57), 1973 to (pages 853–938) [12 items] C824, 6/0002–01.10
Court of Marine Inquiry, 3 December 1973 in the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania. (Pages 1–57), 1973 to (pages 853–938) [12 items] C824, 6/0002–01.11
Court of Marine Inquiry, 3 December 1973 in the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania. (Pages 1–57), 1973 to (pages 853–938) [12 items] C824, 6/0002–01.12
Court of Marine Inquiry 22 January 1974 into the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania October 1973. (Pages 939–1023), 1974 to (pages 1812–1853) [13 items] C824, 6/0002–02.01
Court of Marine Inquiry 22 January 1974 into the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania October 1973. (Pages 939–1023), 1974 to (pages 1812–1853) [13 items] C824, 6/0002–02.02
Court of Marine Inquiry 22 January 1974 into the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania October 1973. (Pages 939–1023), 1974 to (pages 1812–1853) [13 items] C824, 6/0002–02.03
Court of Marine Inquiry 22 January 1974 into the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania October 1973. (Pages 939–1023), 1974 to (pages 1812–1853) [13 items] C824, 6/0002–02.04
Court of Marine Inquiry 22 January 1974 into the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania October 1973. (Pages 939–1023), 1974 to (pages 1812–1853) [13 items] C824, 6/0002–02.05
Court of Marine Inquiry 22 January 1974 into the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania October 1973. (Pages 939–1023), 1974 to (pages 1812–1853) [13 items] C824, 6/0002–02.06
Court of Marine Inquiry 22 January 1974 into the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania October 1973. (Pages 939–1023), 1974 to (pages 1812–1853) [13 items] C824, 6/0002–02.07
Court of Marine Inquiry 22 January 1974 into the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania October 1973. (Pages 939–1023), 1974 to (pages 1812–1853) [13 items] C824, 6/0002–02.08
Court of Marine Inquiry 22 January 1974 into the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania October 1973. (Pages 939–1023), 1974 to (pages 1812–1853) [13 items] C824, 6/0002–02.09
Court of Marine Inquiry 22 January 1974 into the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania October 1973. (Pages 939–1023), 1974 to (pages 1812–1853) [13 items] C824, 6/0002–02.10
Court of Marine Inquiry 22 January 1974 into the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania October 1973. (Pages 939–1023), 1974 to (pages 1812–1853) [13 items] C824, 6/0002–02.11
Court of Marine Inquiry 22 January 1974 into the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania October 1973. (Pages 939–1023), 1974 to (pages 1812–1853) [13 items] C824, 6/0002–02.12
Court of Marine Inquiry 22 January 1974 into the Foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania October 1973. (Pages 939–1023), 1974 to (pages 1812–1853) [13 items] C824, 6/0002–02.13
Court of Marine Inquiry 12 February 1973 into the foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania (Pages 1854–29) to (pages 2101–2162) [4 items] C824, 6/0002–03.01
Court of Marine Inquiry 12 February 1973 into the foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania (Pages 1854–29) to (pages 2101–2162) [4 items] C824, 6/0002–03.02
Court of Marine Inquiry 12 February 1973 into the foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania (Pages 1854–29) to (pages 2101–2162) [4 items] C824, 6/0002–03.03
Court of Marine Inquiry 12 February 1973 into the foundering of the Motor Vessel Blythe Star off South West Cape, Tasmania (Pages 1854–29) to (pages 2101–2162) [4 items] C824, 6/0002–03.04
National Archives, Melbourne
Blythe Star – Court of Marine Enquiry 1973 – transcripts of proceedings, pages 1–300 [Bound Volume], 1973 to pages 2101–2162 [Bound Volume] [8 items] MP1764/1, V1959/102 PART 4 to MP1764/1, V1959/102 PART 11

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Chapter 3
Disasters