Ships in the Night ...

Voyage 23: "Southbound" with the

by Wolfram Dallwitz

Note by the editor 

Hello from Australia,

Firstly. I would like to compliment you on a fantastic web-site of the American Star/SS Australis. You have achieved what I have always wanted to do, go on board and once again, stand on her decks. I am a former Passenger, voyage 23 Southbound in 1970, from Southampton. There is a great photo of you sitting in the "Mezzanine Lounge" on one of the couches. Possibly the one I used to sit on.  

Capetown Wharf ...I will enjoy reading every page on the web-site. For me, its sad to see the wreck rusting away, being smashed by the sea. But ... I have to look!

On our website about the American Star we already met Fuertewolf, who travelled aboard of the SS AUSTRALIS in February/March 1970 during Voyage 23 "southbound". He presented us personal memories and also some relics of of the trip with this ship.

Other memories of the same voyage 23 aboard of this ship has Wolfram Dallwitz, who learned about Fuertewolf several decades later by reading our website and who wrote us the e-mail above.

For Wolfram it was a unique adventure to be aboard of this oceanliner as a 19 year old teen on his way to South Africa and Australia.

It was a trip of adventures and emotions which was associated with something very special: A love affair of this ship, which is lasting until these days.

Wolfram Dallwitz, who has retired in the meantime and lives in Australia since 1955 has never learned German at school. Nowadays he started to learn German by changing e-mails and chatting with his friends and relatives in Germany. Recently he started to write a novel in English language in which he will also digest his adventures aboard of the SS AUSTRALIS during voyage 23 ...

It was Monday the 16 February 1970 as I boarded the SS Australis but my adventure started long before that. I had sailed to Germany from Melbourne Australia on the sister ship the R.H.M.S Ellinis in November 1968. I was a 17-year-old teenager on that voyage and I had a fantastic adventure. So, when my parents decided to return to Australia I was ecstatic. This meant another adventure aboard a ship, nearly five weeks of it!

It was sad leaving my German friends behind that I had made, but once we got to the Port of Bremerhaven, I saw that lovely ship, my white lady with her 2 blue funnels, the sadness quickly dissipated. I couldn't even see the Australis in one glance, as she was a huge ship! She was beautiful. We walked up the gangway and were directed to our cabins. 

My cabin 514 was aft on the port side on Main deck, just past the duty free shop. I was pleased to find out that I was to share a cabin with someone other than my parents. I had hoped to share with someone my own age, as it turned out he was an English gentleman who boarded in Southampton England.

I quickly found my way back on deck and immediately started exploring. I eventually leant on the railing to watch the passengers boarding via the gangway. Almost immediately, a chap my own age befriended me; his name was Lars nicknamed Lars. 

We both watched the passengers boarding and then went off together exploring the ship.

When I noticed that the crew were casting the SS Australis adrift from the Bremerhaven wharf I returned to the railing on the aft part of the open Promenade deck. People threw streamers to and from the ship symbolizing that last link with loved ones. Slowly the tug-boats pulled us away from the terminus. Everybody cheered and screamed as the streamers broke. The wharf became ever smaller as the ship was towed away by the tugs; eventually land was out of sight ...

Forward looking back ... Above the Lido bar ...

When we were well on the way to Southampton, the second sitting dinner bell was chiming in rhythm with the growling of my tummy. It was 8:45 pm and I went downstairs to the Atlantic Restaurant and found my parents already sitting at the dinner table along with another family, this left one spare chair and I had all sorts of visions to whom may actually sit there. It was to be my lucky day! 

 A young woman about nineteen years old walked towards me, stopped and asked me if this was table E4 and I said yes. She sat down and introduced herself as Marion. We ate, we chatted and I invited her to join me at the Captains cocktail party, which was to be held in the ballroom that evening after dinner. Marion agreed to meet me there.

Later on after dinner Marion and myself met in the foyer by the ballroom where we were introduced to the Captain, we then proceeded to indulge in a few cocktails and dance to the live band. Well, the first few hours on board had already been very eventful.

The next morning I got out of bed early for breakfast; then I went up on deck. It was freezing cold having left Germany in winter and the ship was punching her way through some enormous waves. The sensation was awesome and one could feel the power of this ship displacing the ocean in front of her. I found a door that was meant only for the crew and being the curious teenager, I went in and down the stairs. It was another world down here, a maze of corridors and catwalks ... 

Freak Wave ... Our dinner table E4 ...

I found my way to the engine room and what a noisy environment that was! I could barely hear myself think. All of a sudden I had the living daylights scared out of me, a crew-member tapped me on the shoulder and with broken English told me that I shouldn't be down here. He took me to a quieter area and asked a few questions upon which led to us having a good chat, I discovered he used to work on the sister ship named, R.H.M.S Ellinis. This revelation created instant rapport between us. We somehow ended up in the galley where I saw the cooks preparing lunch. The galley staff gave me some fresh bread rolls and the crew-member took me aloft. I will call this crew-member Nick from now on, as I can't remember his name.

 I was back on deck now and met my friend Lars; we spent some time talking and exploring the ship. I was desperately waiting for our lunch bell at 1:45 pm, as I knew Marion would be there. We did meet and spent the rest of the day together. Well, that was to be my routine of sorts, breakfast at 9:30 am, then exploring the ship, lunch and spending the rest of the day with Marion, every evening we would go dancing in the ballroom and burn the midnight oil.

On the 18th of February we docked at Southampton in England, Lars and myself went wandering around the city. I purchased a camera for 20 English Pounds then we found ourselves in a pub somewhere. 

We met a local chap and had a few too many to drink, somehow we managed to get to the ship before it sailed that evening; a third party put us in a cab and took us to the wharf. After establishing to the authorities that we were passengers they had to push the gangway back up to the ship so we could get aboard. Yes! It was that close. We nearly missed the boat!!

If looks could kill ... Marion in Mezzanine ...

Marion was waiting for us as we got on board, Lars was given a scolding by Marion, she then suggested that I accompany her up to the mezzanine in the main lounge where I could relax, have a coffee or two and sober up. The sofas were really comfortable up there. We both fell asleep in each other arms on the sofa. When we woke, we found that a night fairy (one of the crew I guess) had put a blanket over us. Well we had breakfast together then I took Marion into the bowels of the ship on one of my adventures.

The Australis sailed onwards to Las Palmas, an island in the Canary Islands group. I finally met my cabin mate when I went down to change for dinner. He was an older gentleman, a retired army Major around 45 to 50 years old. He had put his things on the top bunk so I offered to swap which he eagerly agreed to. He was a nice guy and we got on quite well throughout the voyage. The Major always went off very early to breakfast whereas I left it to the last moment. At night the Major would already be in bed by 24:00 so when I eventually got in I climbed up the bunk ladder and quickly fell asleep.

The weather was getting noticeably warmer on approaching Las Palmas, on went the bathing costumes and we milled about aft by the swimming pool. Marion, Lars, a few others and myself had formed a little group and we were often together. The ship slowly approached the port of Las Palmas around noon one day. It was only to be a short layover and we had to return to the ship by 22:00. Marion and myself decided to go ashore and check out the markets around the terminus. Lars decided to invite himself along as well, humph!! He seemed to be hanging around a bit too close lately.

We explored the shops where I purchased a large black sombrero with colourful embroidery that I still have to this day. The atmosphere ashore in Las Palmas was great, live music was being played; the stalls and shops were really colourful. Dusk soon came along and after a moonlit stroll along the beach, we headed back to the Australis, all her lights were on, she was lit up like a Christmas tree, a sight to behold.

The next morning after breakfast I met the crewman Nick whom I had befriended. Nick told me that while the ship was docked at Las Palmas, one of the crew who went on shore leave was slain!! That gave me a bit of a shock and later on it was confirmed to me by the Master at Arms whom I had got to know quite well.

The Black Sombrero ... King & Queen Neptune ...

We were heading to Capetown in South Africa, which was to be a ten-day journey. The weather was warm and many passengers were really taking advantage of the sunshine. Some people rushed forward to view an oncoming ship that was allegedly on a collision course with us. Sure enough, we appeared to be heading straight for it. The approaching ships beam was facing us and the vessel appeared to be stationary. The Australis slowed right down, corrected course and we eventually came to a stop. From what I could find out the apparently stranded Greek cargo vessel transferred an injured crewman via small boat to the Australis.

A few days on when I was down below in the bowels of the ship I got nabbed by a senior crewmember who insisted that I accompany him. We ended up in some sort of control room and he told me in broken English to sit down and wait. I thought, oh oh, I'm in trouble now. Another crewmember came along and the two men went out of the room to speak, I used this opportunity to abscond through another door. What a relief that was to get away.

We celebrated the passing of the equator with all sorts of on deck party's and functions. Many passengers went absolutely luney (in a friendly way) which was perfectly acceptable on this day. During the evening there was a costume party with the crowning of King and Queen Neptune.

The days and long nights went by, Marion and myself wined, dined and danced the time away. There was much to do on the ship and we often spent time in the disco and by the jukebox, watched films in the picture theatre, played all sorts of deck games and frequented the fabulous indoor swimming pool on C deck. Quite often we would just cuddle up for hours on end. Marion and myself were young adults, I had found a partner for life and we were inseparable, this love at first sight was destined to last forever, well so I thought ..!  

The Ballroom ... Marion & Wolfram ...

2007 Wolfram Dallwitz