Rare historic photo of Brisbane emerges
IT IS a moment frozen in history and an unknowing nod to the future. A rare black and white photograph has surfaced capturing the first cruise ship to depart Brisbane more than 85 years ago.
The photo, from the archives of the State Library, shows the RMS Strathaird, one of P&O's earliest cruise ships, pulling away from what is now Hamilton Wharf en route to Norfolk Island in 1932.
The same wharf has just played host to another first for the cruise ship company, with three vessels docking in Brisbane on three consecutive days over the weekend.
Pacific Dawn, Pacific Aria and Pacific Jewel all docked in Brisbane in a three-day bonanza worth more than $2 million to the local economy.
They are the latest visitors to our shores in a booming tourist industry now worth more than $1 billion a year.
The new mega-liner cruise-ship terminal planned for the Port of Brisbane already has 180 bookings from cruise companies - and it's not even due to open until midway through 2020.
Almost a dozen ports along the Queensland coast last year played host to more than 500 cruise-ship visits in a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent upgrading cruise-ship facilities at Townsville and Cairns, while the Gold Coast tourism industry continues to lobby for a terminal on the tourist strip.
Such thoughts were a pipe dream when the Strathaird pulled slowly out of Sydney on its maiden cruise. Built as a postal vessel, the Strathaird was later refitted to accommodate tourists, and visited Brisbane after setting sail from Sydney bound for Norfolk Island.
The six-night voyage to Norfolk was promoted as Australia's first-ever international tourist-cruise journey, and promptly sold out in 24 hours.
Completed in January 1932, the Strathaird embarked on its maiden voyage a month later, leaving the London port of Tilbury bound for Brisbane via the then modern marvel of the Suez Canal.
Ten months later, the ship set sail on the historic tourist cruise, with room for almost 1200 passengers.
In 1934, the Strathaird was embroiled in an ugly chapter of pre-World War II Australia. Prominent European journalist Egon Kisch, a fierce critic of Nazi Germany, journeyed Down Under to give a series of talks for the Movement Against War and Fascism.
The cause sounded noble enough, but the organisers were communists, a deeply divisive issue at the time. Several ports refused to let Kisch ashore before he broke his leg jumping overboard in Melbourne.
He was eventually allowed to enter the country.
At the outbreak of WWII, the Strathaird and sister-ship the Strathnaver were requisitioned for the war effort, and used as troop transport ships to ferry Aussie soldiers to the Middle East.
The Strathaird later played a role in the famous (or infamous) evacuation of the Western Front in 1940 as the German army marched relentlessly forward across Europe. It remained a troop ship until 1946.
Two years later, it was involved in another poignant moment in Australian history. In the days before commercial airline travel, our national cricket team would embark on Ashes tours to England by sea in journeys lasting months.
The Strathaird was the vessel booked with the illustrious 1948 touring team, who went on to become known as The Invincibles. The tour was also famous as the last of the legendary Sir Donald Bradman's.
The Strathaird served out its final years cruising between Australia and Europe before its final voyage in 1961, to Hong Kong where it was scrapped.
Pacific Dawn, which has just featured in a recreation of the 1932 shot, has used Brisbane as a home port since 2009, helping to cement the state's reputation as Australia's new cruising capital.
Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises president Sture Myrmell said Queensland was a major focus and a significant driver of the state's economy.
"We see Queensland as a heartland state, which this year will account for more than 220,000 P&O guests, a record 56 separate itineraries and the purchase of huge quantities of produce from Queensland suppliers.
"A relationship that began with Strathaird's first cruise call back in 1932 continues to go from strength to strength."