- Hicks, George
- Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Tarakan I
- September 2007 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
In the early afternoon the still smoking Tarakan was taken in tow by a tug and moved into dock for an inspection of the hull. The ship was flooded to prevent a second explosion.
The death toll rose to five within 24 hours; by the end of the week it was eight. Seven of the victims were sailors and one a dockyard worker. A mass funeral for five of the dead was held in Sydney and the cortege passed through silent streets lined with thousands of bare-headed mourners.
Eight days after the catastrophe a Navy board of inquiry reported: ‘Apparently the explosion occurred when an electric fan which had been circulating fresh air into the men’s mess was turned off. Petrol fumes had been noticed previously, and when the fan stopped, the circuit was broken, throwing an arc. This ignited the petrol vapour in a 2,000 gallon fuel tank adjacent to the ill fated mess deck’.
Tarakan was not decommissioned by the Navy although a survey showed the hull to be sound. She was sold for scrapping.
The heroes of the Tarakan disaster, Geddes and McComas, departed from Garden Island soon after, only their scarred hands being permanent mementos of their bravery, but they left behind them a tradition of courage which will remain while ever there is a Boilershop on Garden Island.