The Sinking of the Union East

These images are provided by Barry King who was a Leading Writer at the time and finished up a LT.  The images are of the Union East which sunk in August 1974.  Thanks Barry K for the images.  Okay what ship was Barry on and do you have an actual date of the sinking?


Union East 2Union East 1Union East 3Union East 4Union East 5

This entry was posted in General Updates. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The Sinking of the Union East

  1. Harvie Graham says:

    It was Inverell – when we steamed to assist there was talk that we would get the salvage rights however a tug got there before us – they tried to tow it but eventually gave up and cut her loose to sink. It was quite sad to watch it sink beneath the waves – We spent a few days after the sinking shooting up containers that came to the surface as they were a hazzard to shipping. I remember we had a raffle of the flotsam and I scored a Union East branded lifejacket which of course I no longer have.

  2. Jim D says:

    Inverell off East Cape, February 1975

  3. Albie Cross says:

    Verrrrry interesting. Would this be the same ship that sank about 90 miles out off East Cape? I vaguely remember an incident about that time and there was a bit of controversy written up in the local rag regarding her next port of call which I understand was in South America on the Atlantic side. Can Harvie recall why she foundered as the photographs do not show any structural damage to the hull (well not visible on one side anyway), no smoke billowing from within plus a smooth sea. I understand that she sank in about 22,000 feet of water. That would rule out any inspection by scuba divers and if containers were bobbing up would indicate that she popped her hull with the pressure. Did the Inverell just happen by chance to be in the vicinity and did the tug have superior speed?. Harking back to the controversy in the local, from what I can recall and you can take it for what it is worth that this ship was carrying gun mountings or some such other ordinance to a foreign power and it originated from a country which was a signatory to sanctions imposed on said country.

  4. Jim D says:

    The Union East was a Taiwanese registered freighter – if that’s of any help.

  5. Chris Bond says:

    The Inverell was not just there by chance she was despatched from DNB with all speed to either assist or attempt to take in tow but Harvie says a tug boat had got there first. So we spent a day or so in the area shooting up containers etc

  6. P K Sullivan says:

    Lovely photos Barry. From the raffle/auction Harvey talks of I scored the “Survival at sea handbook” . A worthy memento which I still have Harvey. The salvage money would have been good as it was a tidy vessel. Not too old as I remember. Our shooting left a lot to be desired. One of mine missed by miles.
    Phil Sullivan aka Sully

  7. Interesting article. I was one of the parachutists who flew out to the ship. We were going to parachute on it to claim salvage rights. But a tug boat from Auckland (I think) had already beat us to it. There was another aircraft in the air at the time….. containing photographers I believe. Have a few colour pics if anyone is interested.
    James Coyle

    • Jens Petersen says:

      James, very interesting alright… I was on Inverrell at the time ( as a young Midshipman with a group of others on their first trip) I remember the day well as it was my 18th birthday which would put it on the 13th Feb 1975. As I recall the ship sank at 1102 that morning and we then proceeded to shoot up the containers with a Bofors 40/60. I hauled the ammunition . Iwas then “hands to bathe” and few of us jumped in.- an interesting experience in 13,000′ of water

      If you have pics I’d be very interested

      Thanks Jens Petersen

      • jamesfc123e says:

        Jens, I’ll dig out the polaroid pics and pop them on a website within a day or so. The whole experience was unnerving as the ship had been totally abandoned….. for no good reason that we could see. Our impression was that it was intentionally scuttled……. but I could be wrong with this line of thought. Other things happened as a lead up to this parachute jump that simply didn’t make sense also.

      • jamesfc123 says:

        Our jump plane was from Taupo Aero Club and was a push/pull Cessna. It was hastily outfitted overnight with military aviation equipment which we were told was from nearby Ohakea Air-Base. Our pilots (which I’d never seen before) flew us directly to the floundering ship. We were told that the ship contained illegal missiles and would not be permitted to proceed. We were also told that the salvage value was around 7 million NZ dollars. The whole exercise stank. On top of this my own personal Cherokee 235 which I’d flown in from Wanganui at dawn was refused take-off permission for the return flight from Tauranga. I took off anyway and when I got back to Wanganui late in the afternoon claimed radio problems. I was arrested by two senior members of the local police force who were instructed by the authorities in Wellington to hold me for questioning. Well, unfortunately for these Wellington wankers both these cops were close personal friends of mine so we spent the evening drinking booze. My overall impression was that there were two groups of people working in opposite ways….. one group wanted the ship sunk while the other wanted to salvage it. I still remain firmly convinced that it was deliberately scuttled and the crew lifted off. But the scuttling was a cock-up and didn’t work.

      • jamesfc123 says:

        I’ve popped 4 of the best polaroid pics on a temp web page…… copy them off if you wish.

      • Jens says:

        Terrific thanks James – very much appreciated

        cheers Jens

  8. Barry FitzGibbon says:

    In Melbourne before proceeding to NZ, the cargo of bagged grain was secured very well on the inboard side, but in the wings, there was no attempt to do so, a case of “out of sight, out of mind” I think. The cargo would have shifted significantly, knocking down the timber fencing on the inboard side, due to the job being half done. I’m confident that this would have contributed to the heavy list and subsequent sinking

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s