The steamship SS Koombana sunk off Port Hedland during a cyclone with the loss of all 150 people aboard.
SS Koombana was a passenger steamship that was built in Scotland in 1908 for the Adelaide Steamship Company, for coastal liner services between Fremantle and the northwest coast of Western Australia. She sank in a tropical cyclone somewhere off Port Hedland in 1912.
Koombana left Port Hedland for Broome on the morning of Wednesday, 20 March 1912 with a fresh north easterly blowing, followed by Bullarra, which had recently returned to the northwest passenger and cargo trade. Before leaving, her Master, Captain Allen, had reported a falling barometer and suggested that the voyage may take longer than normal. However, he and Captain Upjohn, Master of Bullarra, had decided in conversation prior to departure that there was nothing in it, and neither man expected to encounter such a storm as was later recorded in Bullarra's log book as "A Howling Hurricane".
Several hours after leaving, the two ships changed course as a heavy northeasterly gale set in, and they became separated. The storm increased and Bullarra suffered damage but was able to reach Cossack. She later returned to Port Hedland missing her funnel, reporting that the eye of the cyclone had passed directly over. But Koombana was not seen again.
A sailing ship, Crown of England, was wrecked on Depuch Island. Another ship, Concordia, was beached nearby. Several lighter vessels and pearling luggers were also sunk or wrecked.
The cyclone crossed the coast two days later on 22 March just west of Balla Balla, a minor port for the Whim Creek copper mines. Damage was reported for more than 200 kilometres (120 mi) along the coast.
After Koombana became overdue in Broome several days later, public concern was raised and a search organised. On 2 April one of the search ships steamed through a quantity of wreckage about 25 nautical miles (46 km) north of Bedout Island and 100 kilometres (62 mi) offshore. But the only wreckage recovered from Koombana was part of a starboard bow planking of a motor launch, a state-room door, and panel from the promenade deck, two planks for covering tanks of lifeboats, and some air tanks. The air tanks were found on the mainland. The other wreckage was found at sea.
Source: Australian Maritime History