Ashore on Washington Island MID PACIFIC
Life on the island as told by one of the survivors from the SOUTHBANK wreck
Remains of the SOUTHBANK 2 years later
This is a a first hand account as told by the 2nd Electrician, Bill Kennedy. He later attended the enquiry which was held in Edinburgh.
I don’t know if you know much about Washington Island, you never mentioned if you had been ashore there. As I mentioned before we spent 13 days there. Did you know that the island
has a man made canal system hand dug by the women in the early days, and a natural fresh water lake in the middle of the island.The workers are on a 2 year contract. I think
they were recruited from Tarrawa. If you got ashore you may have noticed outside some of the houses a perch with frigate birds perched on them with a ribbon laced through their wings.
I will explain later the reason for the birds. As you can imagine we got to know some of the girls of our own age and they would make headdresses for us in the morning out of flowers.
I got to know a girl named Naomi, who would make me a special one. When we were leaving to head out to the Winnebago she ran down to the beach and presented me with her lap lap,
but I have to back up a bit and get things in a bit of order. They found Billy MacIntosh a day or two later and bought him ashore and we proceeded to bury him. For the next few days, we
went swimming and walking around the village. The villagers (the men) when not loading copra would go out fishing for sail fish. They would tie coloured feathers around the hook and
throw it over the side If they hooked one they would tie the line to the bowsprit of the canoe, sit back and let the fish tire itself out. To see it you would have thought the canoe had an
outboard motor on the ass end of the canoe it was pulled that quickly along. When the fish tired itself out they would it in whack it over the head with a club lay it on the outrigger
and paddle back to shore.
The second week they took us to the other side of the island for a look see, and gave us a demonstration on how to catch gannets. Now back to the frigate birds. There was a huge rock
about 4 foot high, and dotted here and there were perches where they sat the frigate birds. One of the islanders would stand on the rock and wave his lap lap back and forth over his
head to attract the gannets. Meanwhile another islander would hide behind the rock with a pole and a fist size rock tied to the end of a line. Just like if you were going fishing.
the gannets being curious would swoop down to see what was going on. As they flew over the man on the rock, the man who was behind the rock would whip out the line and would
ensnare the bird grab it and crack its head on the rock killing it instantly. They caught about 30 of them and we bought them back to our side of the island and that night we had a bit
of a Luau. we had rice,gannet and corned beef on a palm leaf. As you would have noticed round the islands , to the natives corned beef is a rare delicacy, all in all we had a great day and night.
except that gannet is definitely an acquired taste. Our time on the Washington island was a great experience, but it was always overshadowed by the tragic death of the second mate
This is a list of the crew as I can remember them :
Carl Jacobs Captain and his wife
Black Angus Chief Officer ( I cannot recall his real name)
Billy MacIntosh Second Officer
Brian Cox Third Officer
I cannot remember the names of the radio Officer
or the 3 deck apprentices
Jim Harkiss Chief Engineer and his wife
Jim Castle Second Engineer
John Lun Third Engineer
Colin Carmichael Fourth Engineer
Neville Robinson Fifth Engineer
Harpic Sixth Engineer ( cannot remember his name)
Mike McNair Chief Electrician
Myself Bill Kennedy Second Electrician
There was also 1 passenger but I cannot recall his name at all
Hope I am not boring you to much with all of this