Title: The Antarctic Voyage of HMAS Wyatt Earp
Author: Law, Phillip
Condition: Near Mint
Edition: 1st Edition
Publication Date: 1995
Cover: Hard Cover with Dust Jacket – 152 pages
Comments: The detailed history of HMAS Wyatt Earp with a focus on it’s Antarctic voyage.
HMAS Wyatt Earp (formerly known as FV Fanefjord, MV Wyatt Earp, and HMAS Wongala) was a motor vessel commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) from 1939 to 1945 and again from 1947 to 1948.
In February 1939, Wyatt Earp she was purchased from Ellsworth by the Government of Australia and handed over to the RAN, which intended to use the ship as a Fleet Auxiliary (Ammunition and Store Carrier). In September 1939, it was decided to rename her Boomerang, but the name was already in use by another Australian vessel. Instead, the ship was commissioned on 25 October 1939 as Wongala, an Australian Aborigine word meaning boomerang.
Wongala made one trip as a Royal Australian Fleet Auxiliary, leaving Sydney on 14 November 1939 bound for Darwin with a cargo of stores. On return to Sydney in January 1940, she was laid up pending future employment, but was reactivated and moved to Port Adelaide in South Australia, where she served with the Examination Service until late 1943. From November 1943 to March 1944, Wongala served as Guard Ship at Whyalla, South Australia, whilst also patrolling off Port Pirie and Wallaroo. In late March 1944, Wongala arrived at Port Adelaide to await disposal, and was paid off on 19 July 1944.
In February 1947, the Scouts Association was notified by the Department of the Navy that the Federal Government was considering renewing Antarctic exploration. The Association was requested to return the vessel, which was inspected to determine her suitability for conversion to an Antarctic exploration vessel. The conversion was approved, and in June 1947, prior to her impending voyage to the Antarctic, it was decided to recommission the ship under the name she had used during her previous visits to the Antarctic with explorer Lincoln Ellsworth. The ship was recommissioned on 17 November 1947 at Port Adelaide as HMAS Wyatt Earp. Following a visit by Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson, Wyatt Earp sailed for Williamstown, Victoria in early December for preparation and loading.
After loading, including an OS2U Kingfisher amphibian of the Royal Australian Air Force, Wyatt Earp left from Nelson Pier, Williamstown on 19 December 1947 and proceeded to Hobart. Gales caused some problems en route. After several days in Hobart, the ship left for the Antarctic on 26 December 1947, but storm damage caused her to return to Melbourne for repairs, leaving again on 8 February 1948.
The weather was intense, particularly beyond 65 degrees South, and a landing at Adelie Land was impossible. She turned towards Macquarie Island and there met HMAS Labuan discharging a team of scientists. Wyatt Earp returned to Melbourne, and her voyaging for Navy ended.