Historical information

Bass Strait passenger ship Nairana. Built for Bass Strait ferry operator Huddart Parker & Co. Ltd. of Melbourne during World War One, the Nairana was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and completed as a seaplane carrier, HMS Nairana. Serving from 1917 to 1920 participating in the capture of Archangel during the Bolshevik Revolution. After 1920 she was decommissioned as a seaplane carrier and returned to her Australian owners crossing Bass Strait until she was laid up in 1948.

Just off Port Phillip Heads on April 12 1936, a strong wave struck the Nairana, tipping her over for two minutes before she righted herself again. During the horrifying two minutes, four people were drowned, and eight people were injured. The ship was reportedly carrying roughly one tonne of concrete in the hull when she tipped. Reports from the local papers said that it was a tidal wave meanwhile others were saying it was either an earthquake or a total lie. A later paper said that the ship had been caught in a rip at the mouth of the bay, causing the tragedy.
The S.S Nairana, was sold for £4,000 (over $170,200 in today’s money!) in 1951 after two years of being stranded on the beach at Port Melbourne, when the moorings broke one night during a storm and drifted ashore, causing her to wreck.


Items associated with the TSS/HMS Nairana in its military and civilian roles and items relating to Capt. JF Spence, navigation Officer and possibly later the captain who sailed with the Nairana out of Plymouth after WWI.

Physical description

Barometer and Clock from Dining Saloon with commemorative plaque describing the HMS Nairana's WWI service
Timber mount for plaque with information sheet attached
Clock Key
2 Log books owned by Capt. Spence containing the navigation calculations for the journey from Plymouth to Melbourne
Huddart Parker hat badge [Capt. JF Spence]

Inscriptions & markings

Barometer and Clock from dining saloon, TSS Nairana 1917 - 1951
Clock Key - 4 50-No9
Hat badge - HP