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  MV MacDhui
Burns Philp

4,561 Tons
341.9' x 51.2' x 22.1'

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Parer June 18, 1942

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5th AF Dec 5, 1942

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8th PRS 1943

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Frances Lasker 1947

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Andrew Wright 1994

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Justin Taylan 2000

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Justin Taylan 2005

Ship History
Built by Clydeside shipbuilders Barclay Curle & Company in Glasgow, Scotland. During construction, assigned yard number 644. Launched December 23, 1930. Purchased by Burns Philp Company, Ltd. During March 1931 departed on her maiden voyage with a load of coal leaving Glasgow and steaming via the Azores and Jamaica before transiting the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean via Suva before arriving in Sydney Harbor.

MacDhui provided Burns Philp Company passenger and cargo service between Sydney Harbor and New Guinea. The vessel had 167 first class passenger accommodations.

On June 20, 1931 between Madang and Lae a fire broke out, and the passengers were safely taken ashore in lifeboats. MacDhui was safely towed to Salamaua by MV Neptuna. After temporary repairs at Salamaua, MacDhui returned to Sydney Harbor for six weeks of repairs.

Wartime History
Commandeered by the Australian Navy, MV MacDhui was placed under the command of Captain J. Campbell. MacDhui steamed to Manila to evacuate civilians to Port Moresby. Also, to evacuate woman and children from Rabaul and outlying areas to Port Moresby and then to Townsville. Those evacuated included four hundred survivors of RMS Rangitane left stranded on Emirau after their ship was sunk by German Raiders.

MacDhui operated regularly between Sydney Harbor and Port Moresby transporting supplies and troops. On April 12, 1942 evacuees from New Britain transported aboard the MV Laurabada to Port Moresby boarded the MacDhui and were transported to Townsville.

During May 31 - June 1, 1942 delayed at Sydney Harbor due to the Japanese Midget submarines attack. On June 6, 1942 joined a convoy on June 6, 1942 to Townsville with cargo of aviation fuel. At Townsville, 154 Australian soldiers were taken aboard, then she departed for Port Moresby, arriving on June 15th at 5:00pm at Fairfax Harbor.

On June 17, 1942 MacDhui was docked in Fairfax Harbor off Port Moresby unloading her cargo of 44 gallon drums of aviation fuel when Japanese bombers arrived. The ship maneuvered inside the confines of Fairfax Harbor to avoid the bombs but sustained damage and ten crew members were killed and wounded. That night, the vessel docked again at Port Moresby.

Sinking History
On June 18, 1942 twenty-seven G4M1 Betty bombers from the 4th Kokutai led by Lt Renpei Egawa took off from Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul on a bombing mission against Port Moresby. Over Fairfax Harbor the Bettys targeted MacDhui. Aboard, Captain Campbell again tried to avoid their bombs by maneuvering but was hit directly amidships and lost rudder control and hit a coral reef in the center of Fairfax Harbor and rolled on her port side and sank off Hanubada. From a nearby hilltop, Australian correspondent Damien Parer recorded 16mm cine film and photographs of the bombing raid and sinking.

Fates of the Crew
The crew took to lifeboats and made it to shore safely.

The shipwreck of the MV MacDhui remains in Fairfax Harbor with her port side submerged with the starboard side above the surface at the edge of a coral reef.

During the war, the ship's bell was salvaged and used by RAAF Air Sea Rescue marine section. After the war, it was donated to St. John's Church at Ela Beach.

For years into the colonial era, there was the false rumor that the ship had been carrying the Christmas beer for the Australian troops in the town.

In 1950, most of the ship's bunker oil was removed from the shipwreck. In the 1960s, the main mast was salvaged and in 1971 installed as a flag pole outside the Royal Papuan Yacht Club (Port Moresby Yacht Club).

In 1970, Dave May and Barry May acquired the salvage rights to the shipwreck and attempted to blast off the propeller, causing an oil leak.

Today, the shipwreck is a well known landmark clearly visible from the coastal road between Hanubada and Tatana Island. In the late 2010s, another small barge grounded near the bow and sank.

This vessel is also sometimes spelled "Macdhui".
Wings Official Magazine of the RAAF "RAAF 'Fleet' Rescues" by P/O C. A. Burley page 10-11
"All calls to action are sounded at the Marine section on the bell of the SS [MV] Macdhui, whose flame-seared, rusted hull in Moresby Harbor is a grim reminder of the big 'DO.' "
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui - Year of build 1930 Gross Tonnage 4,480 (1931)
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui - Year of build 1931 Gross Tonnage 4,561 (1930–1944)
MV Macdhui Killed In Action & Wounded In Action June 17, 1942 research by Daniel Leahy
New Guinea Salvage Pirate page 94
Shipping Times - MV Macdhui
Passengers In History - Macdhui

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Last Updated
August 4, 2020


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