Steamboat Ken's Great Yarns of Boats and Maritime History!
By Steamboat Ken. SS Marietta DalSHIPMATES, you may remember a yarn I told you about the Liberty Ship Rufus King coming to grief on the South Passage Bar during the war? Well, another one went aground six or so years later a bit further north.The Marietta Dal hit Smiths Rock two miles north of Cape Moreton in 1950.Originally built in 1944 in Baltimore as the Liberty Ship Sam Gallion, she was 134 metres by 17.4 metres on the beam, with a steam engine of 339 nominal Horsepower driving her at 11 knots. In wartime she had a 4-inch gun mounted on the stern as a bit of a ‘sting in the tail’ for surfaced submarines and other unfriendly vessels. 2710 Liberty boats were built in American yards during the war, with parts prefabricated in factories across the country then assembled in shipyards on the coast. Some were finished within 24 days of laying the keel! Hitler’s U Boats just couldn’t sink ‘em quicker than the Americans could build ‘em, thank goodnessAnyways, back to our Marietta Dal – she was bought after the war by Dalhousie Steam and Motor Ship Co, London. With a cargo that included 6000 tons of sulphur, 3180 tons of carbon black and tractors – including a consignment of International TD9 (40HP) and TD14 (60HP) crawler tractors – the 7326-ton British freighter left Panama for Brisbane on 30 April 1950.She got very close to her destination, but grounded on Smith Rock off Cape Moreton as she attempted to enter the Brisbane port via the northeast channel.Smith Rock is under three metres of water at low tide, but for a vessel drawing 9 metres, that’s not much help, eh? The rock did have a marker buoy at one time, but it appeared to have been ‘shifted’ the night the Marietta Dal went aground. At 8.30pm the crew of 50 took to the lifeboats and were taken on board the pilot boat Captain Heath, with the master and a couple of key crew ‘standing by’ aboard.The steam tug Carlock proceeded to the wreck but she had already started breaking up – although the dynamos were still running and the aft section lights still burning, according to the Cape Moreton lighthouse keeper. However, the keeper predicted that ‘if she keeps rolling like she is on the easterly swell, it’ll saw the bottom out of her’, and sure enough she broke at the No.3 bulkhead and could not be saved. Even though the bow section was on Smith Rock, there were 10 fathoms under the stern, so she slid down into Davy Jones’ Locker.Quite a few of these Liberty ships broke in half – thought to be due to the use of brittle steel and new welding techniques. Prior vessels had been riveted and were stronger but slower.So on the bottom the Marietta Dal sits to this day.Some of her cargo was recovered – mainly the tractors and large machinery. There were said to be 26 crawler and 45 wheeled tractors on the seabed, plus a motor vehicle milling machine worth £15,000 even in 1950.My old mate Bart Bulwinkel from Lamb Island told me he worked for Industrial Sales and Service at Geebung – the agents for International at the time.He told me that as they got the tractors ashore they were pulled apart, checked, oiled, repainted, new decals added and sold ‘as new’. I suppose they were ‘sorta new’, eh!The area around Smith Rock and the Marietta Dal wreck is a dive site nowadays.And you know what? I bet some of those recovered International crawlers are still working out on the Darling Downs and elsewhere.CheersSteamboat Kensteamboatken1@gmail.com