The scuttle on Christmas Eve 1987

Nella Dan’s last days

The events that took place from the shipwreck on 3 December until the scuttling on 24 December 1987 were covered by both the Danish and Australian media. Nella Dan was a very popular ship in Australia, so the debate was more intense ‘down under’ than it was in Denmark.

The media received status reports from Macquarie Island, and the incident sparked a heated debate in the newspapers.

The shipwrecked captain received countless sympathetic telex messages.

Dr Phil Law, the retired former director of ANARE, was very active in the debate, advocating that the ship be salvaged. Nella Dan had always been close to his heart. Not only was the ship named after his wife, Nel Law; throughout the 1960s and 70s, Nella Dan and the collaboration with Knud Lauritzen had played a crucial role in the development of modern Australian Antarctic research.

During her tenure, Nella Dan was the quintessential lifeline between Antarctica and Australia.

In the weeks leading up to the eventual scuttling, Phil Law was actively involved in raising the necessary funds to salvage the ship, and he was prepared to go to Macquarie Island with a large group of volunteers in order to save her.

The ship’s last position

During the final moments, Captain Arne J. Sørensen turns to Chief Mate Gustav B. Henriksen and asked, ‘What have you written in the ship’s log?’

‘She’s going under,’ replied the chief mate.

Nella Dan’s last position was recorded as 54° 37.5’ S, 159° 13.3’ E heading 109 some 10 nautical miles east of Macquarie Island off Brothers Point (in some charts named Tom Uglys Point).

Reflections

There is an element of truth in every story. Some accounts ultimately become the true story; others, we take with us as we move on. The controversy about whether or not Nella Dan could have been salvaged and towed back to Australia must be laid to rest with her, far under water.

The personal stories that are published by Friends of Nella Dan on this website do not reflect any judgment about the scuppering of Nella Dan. We publish them out of respect and appreciation of the comrades, for whom these events played such an important role.

Captain's last farewell to his beloved little red ship
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Nella Dan’s last position, hastily jotted down.
The longitude is inaccurate.
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Marking of adjusted position at 54° 38’ 04’’ S, 159° 11’ 45’’ E some 10 nautical miles east of Macquarie Island off Brothers Point.
Sourc: Google Map
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Sam Nitschke
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
Photo by Magnus Olafsson
A viking funeral, Macquarie Island on the 24th of December 1987
Photo by Magnus Olafsson

The scuttling of Nella Dan, Christmas 1987

By Vilhelm M. Pedersen – ‘Ice Peter’

Average adjuster for the insurance company Baltica 1987

Vilhelm M. Pedersen was familiar with both the ship and the location when he came out to assess the damage during Christmas 1987. As an average adjuster for Baltica his job was to inspect the ship, monitor the attempt at salvaging her and estimating the cost of repairs in the nearest port.

(Click to read the full report in Danish)

Nella Dan’s last days, December 1987

By Benny Strøm – Bos’

Bosun on Nella Dan in 1973–87

The Nella Dan had literally been Benny Strøm’s home for 15 years. After the shipwreck on 3 December he remains on board together with the captain, the chief mate, the first mate, the engineer and the cook. From the shipwreck until the scuttling three weeks later, the bosun never leaves the ship, staying on board to prepare her to be taken in tow to Australia.

(Click to read the story)

"Removal of oil pollutants and subsequent sinking, MV Nella Dan"

Report of Assignment to Macquarie Island to Attend stranding of MV Nella Dan. Condensed and Verbatim as per official report. Executive Summary. Officielt notat fra Transport and Communication. 

(Click to read the memo)

A true viking funeral!

Article in the Shipwreck Watch – A journal of Macquarie Island Shipwreck Stories, vol. 14, 1987–88 (by Anne Morgan)

Marine biologist Gerry Nash’s account of the grounding, which occurred in the middle of a cosy supper at the captain’s table in the saloon around 18.30, and the evacuation in LARCs from the station ashore.

(Click to read the article)

Farewell "Nella Dan"

Article about how Nella Dan was phased out of service for ANARE. By Stephen Berry.

(Click to read the article)

The Nella Dan Story

Article by Dr Stefan Czordas, president of the ANARE Club Inc.

Article about the events and decisions related to the scuttling.

(Click to read the article)