06 February 2019

Three Men (and a Humpback) in a Boat: The Yeppoon Whale Tragedy of 1928

The whale-watching tourism industry springs into life off the coast of Queensland each year as Humpbacks migrate north to breeding and birthing grounds. The sight of breaching Humpbacks can be truly spectacular, but getting too close has its obvious dangers.

This was a lesson tragically learned back in 1928 by three men in a boat off Yeppoon, near the central coast city of Rockhampton. The following report appeared in the newspapers that week:

Quoin Island today. (ljhooker.com)
'After having been wrecked by a whale, a party comprising N. Barton, owner of the pleasure launch Nellie, Frank Glazebrook, one of the staff of the Commonwealth Bank at Rockhampton, and Jack Horton, an employee of the Railway Department, was landed at Yeppoon early this morning. 
The men left Yeppoon in the Nellie about 9.30 o'clock on Monday night for a pleasure cruise. That night they anchored at Stockyard Point and the next day continued leisurely under sail until about 1.30 o'clock in the afternoon, when a sensational incident occurred. At the time Barton and Glazebrook were in the front of the boat and Horton was about amidships. They were about a mile from Quoin Island, which is 33 miles from Rockhampton. 
A whale, 40 to 50 feet long, rose 30 feet out of the water and crashed across the launch. The craft was smashed to pieces and sank immediately, but a dinghy which was lashed aboard broke away and floated with one oar in it. 
Horton received severe injuries to a foot and Barton had a frightful gash on a shin, cut by a barnacle on the tail of the whale. Glazebrook escaped injury and he kept Horton afloat, while Barton swam for the dinghy. The sea was infested with sharks. 
Breaching Humpback. (Wikimedia Commons)
Retrieving the dinghy, Barton, under great difficulties, brought it to Glazebrook and Horton, who were in the water for hours. It was with the greatest difficulty that Horton was got into the small boat, which then had to be bailed from outside to keep it afloat. Eventually the other two got aboard. The dinghy, however, was swamped, and it was only by Barton's seamanship that it was righted again. 
Barton then made a rollock with his belt and started on the five miles journey for Port Clinton. Horton was lying in the bottom of the dinghy, in terrible pain and half-covered with water. While Barton rowed with the one oar, Glazebrook balled out the water. 
Within half a mile of Port Clinton the men caught sight of the launch Viking, with Messrs. Joseph Carpentier and Bert Cambridge aboard, making north. Glazebrook signalled by waving his shirt and Carpentier and Cambridge at once made for the dinghy. The three men were taken aboard the Viking, which made for Yeppoon. 
Horton was admitted to the Yeppoon Hospital, suffering from a compound fracture of the foot, and other injuries. Barton is confined to his bed. 
Tho Commissioner of Police (Mr. W.H. Ryan) has been advised by the Rockhampton police that Jack Horton (a railway employee), who received a compound fracture of the foot and other injuries when a whale fell across and wrecked a motor launch on Tuesday, died in the Yeppoon Hospital on August 2. There were three men in the boat at the time of the sensational incident, and two of them were injured.' (Week, 10 August 1928)