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The Ship That Shouldn’t Have (1984)


The story of an astonishing real-life adventure, when a scientific expedition went wrong. Mountaineers, adventurers and scientists set out in Cheynes 2, a former whaling vessel, on a voyage from Hobart to Heard Island, south-west of Perth, near Antarctica. Bad weather forced them to dock at Albany and they made another stop at the French island of Kerguelen for fuel and water. By the time Captain Laurie McEwan sailed the final two days to Heard Island, a six-week voyage had taken 12 weeks. The ship was declared a wreck and the extended time at sea had left them with just two days worth of fuel.

However, having made it there, the expedition spent two weeks on Heard Island, where the mountaineers attempted to climb the 2,700 metre high Big Ben and the scientists recorded penguin and seal numbers. Their bad luck worsened when their dingy sank in high seas, the yacht Anaconda had to ferry the mountaineers to Cheynes 2. Once aboard, with depleted fuel supplies, the crew had to make improvised sails from old tattered tarpaulins and crossbars from salvaged materials on Heard Island. They took the ship 850 miles back to Albany under the home-made sail. Their bad fortune continued when Captain Mac had heart trouble, and was rushed to hospital on arrival. Cheynes 2 was stripped and sold in her original port of Albany.

Curator’s notes

Shooting and recording film is always difficult under harsh conditions like those of Antarctica, but this is an excellent, atmospheric record of the events. The coverage is at times a little unframed but this adds to the sense of the adventure.