Diving into History: Unraveling the Tale of the “Darwin Princess” and “Booya”

October 25, 2023Blog2 Comments »

Darwin Princess

The “Darwin Princess” and “Booya” Shipwrecks of Darwin Harbor

The ocean depths hold secrets of the past, enigmas buried beneath the waves for generations. The stories of shipwrecks, with their tales of adventure, tragedy, and the enduring human spirit, have always captivated explorers and historians. Among the many maritime mysteries, the “Darwin Princess” and “Booya” have laid undisturbed in the depths of Darwin Harbor for decades, silent witnesses to a fateful night in 1974 when Cyclone Tracy wreaked havoc.

These two vessels, the “Darwin Princess” and the “Booya,” have long been the subjects of intrigue for explorers, historians, and adventurers. Recent dives by underwater explorer, Mark Tozer and his mate Grant Treloar have illuminated these maritime enigmas, unveiling a narrative of courage, tragedy, and the relentless forces of nature that forever changed the lives of those on board.

Darwin Princess

Mark and Grant heading out to dive the Darwin Princess

Chapter 1: Prelude to Calamity

The “Darwin Princess” was not just a ship; it was a vital link between Darwin city and Mandorah. Licensed to carry up to 200 people, it provided a crucial transportation service for Telecom employees traveling to the Radio Australia site. However, the annals of history reserve a somber entry for the “Darwin Princess.”

On a fateful Christmas Eve in 1974, Cyclone Tracy, one of Australia’s most devastating natural disasters, descended upon Darwin. The “Darwin Princess,” with only Captain Ray Curtain aboard, faced a dire decision. It either set out to sea in a desperate attempt to escape the tempest or broke free from its moorings. In either case, Captain Curtain and the “Darwin Princess” vanished into the abyss, leaving behind a haunting silence that has endured for almost half a century.

Similarly, the “Booya” found itself at the mercy of Cyclone Tracy on that ominous night. Under the command of Captain Terence Westwood, a seasoned 63-year-old mariner, and with three crewmen and a passenger named Ruth Vincent on board, the “Booya” braved the storm. But, in the end, it met the same fate as the “Darwin Princess,” and its crew and passenger joined the long list of those who disappeared without a trace.

Chapter 2: A Dive into History

In recent times, Mark and Grant sought to unravel the mysteries that lay dormant beneath the tranquil waters of Darwin Harbor. TheirĀ  journey into the depths of the harbor aimed to uncover the truths concealed for decades and to illuminate the lives and tragedies of those who faced the wrath of Cyclone Tracy.

The “Darwin Princess”: A Closer Look

The “Darwin Princess,” now resting at a depth of 26 meters, greeted Mark Tozer and Grant TreloarĀ  in an eerie manner. Submerged upside down, the vessel presented a scene that spoke of chaos, upheaval, and the relentless forces of nature. The discoveries within its rusted hull painted a harrowing picture.

  • Torn Rudders and Entangled Propellers: Evident signs of the catastrophe included a rudder torn away and propellers ensnared in heavy-gauge rope. These bore witness to the relentless struggle against the raging tempest.
  • The Massive Dent: The presence of a massive dent on the vessel’s side spoke volumes about the forces that acted upon it. This mark of Cyclone Tracy’s wrath revealed itself in a silent yet poignant manner.
  • Inside the Hull: An eerie peek inside the hull unveiled remnants that bore testimony to the lives that once occupied the vessel. Plastic chairs, once used as seating for passengers, remained in place, a haunting reminder of the people who had traveled aboard the “Darwin Princess.” Stowed under these chairs were what appeared to be life jackets, silent witnesses to a fateful night.
  • The Debris Field: The wreckage was encircled by a sprawling debris field, one that hinted at the chaotic and tempestuous nature of the night Cyclone Tracy struck.
Darwin Princess

Darwin Princess propeller: Photo by Mark Tozer

The Mysterious Artifacts: A Link to “Booya”?

What made this dive even more intriguing was the discovery of a large piece of a mast and an abundance of rigging within the debris field. These elements seemed out of place, considering they couldn’t have come from the “Darwin Princess.” Instead, their origins raised the possibility of a connection with the nearby “Booya.”

The “Booya” Connection

Perhaps the most riveting revelation in this exploration was the close proximity of the “Darwin Princess” and the “Booya” in their final resting places. The “Booya” lay on her side, bearing the scars of Cyclone Tracy’s relentless power.

This proximity raises an array of questions. Did the “Darwin Princess” and “Booya” attempt to tether together as the tempest raged, desperately hoping to save each other from capsizing? The idea that these two vessels could have come together amidst the chaos is both haunting and intriguing.

Chapter 3: The Unending Mystery

As the mysteries of the “Darwin Princess” and “Booya” are slowly unearthed, the narrative remains incomplete. We may never fully understand the events of that harrowing night. Still, with each dive and every exploration, we draw closer to unraveling the stories that have remained hidden beneath the waves for almost five decades.

The fate of Captain Ray Curtain of the “Darwin Princess” and Captain Terence Westwood of the “Booya,” along with their dedicated crewmen and passenger, Ruth Vincent, remains shrouded in history’s enigmatic depths. The waters of Darwin Harbor continue to guard their secrets, and modern-day explorers like Mark Tozer are committed to bringing these stories to the surface.

These shipwrecks, the “Darwin Princess” and the “Booya,” remind us of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of nature’s most relentless forces. Their tales continue to captivate and haunt, inspiring us to keep diving into the depths and uncovering the hidden narratives beneath the waves.

Booya shipwreck


Chapter 4: The Silent Guardians of Darwin Harbor

The shipwrecks of the “Darwin Princess” and “Booya” have become more than just submerged relics; they are the silent guardians of Darwin Harbor. As they lie silently beneath the waves, their stories are not forgotten. These vessels serve as a testament to the enduring human spirit and the unpredictability of nature.

Despite the passing of decades, these wrecks continue to captivate and inspire those who dare to venture into the depths. Their stories are a reminder of the bravery of those who faced the fury of Cyclone Tracy, of the courageous captains who navigated treacherous waters, and of the passengers and crew who became entwined in a tragedy beyond their control.

Chapter 5: The Quest for Answers Continues

The exploration of the “Darwin Princess” and “Booya” is far from over. As modern technology and a renewed interest in history drive further expeditions, the hope for answers burns brighter than ever. The mysteries that have gripped our collective imagination for decades may soon yield their secrets.

In a world where history is often recorded in documents and books, the story of the “Darwin Princess” and “Booya” unfolds in a different manner. These shipwrecks are the living relics of a tragic and mysterious chapter of Australia’s history. As we continue to probe the depths of Darwin Harbor, we inch closer to revealing the truth, giving voice to the past, and honoring the memory of those who vanished into the tempest.

The ocean remains a vast and enigmatic realm, and it is in this undersea world that these shipwrecks have found their final resting place. However, their tales live on, compelling us to explore, to uncover, and to remember. The story of the “Darwin Princess” and “Booya” is not just a maritime mystery; it is a reminder of the indomitable spirit of exploration and the enduring quest for answers in the face of history’s enigmas.

Darwin princess shipwreck

Darwin Princess at night


2 Responses to “Diving into History: Unraveling the Tale of the “Darwin Princess” and “Booya””
  1. Darren Cubitt says:

    This is intriguing. I am writing a history of Darwin Princess, and this is the first I have seen mentioned of masts (possibly from Booya) being found in the debris field of Darwin Princess. Is there evidence of these masts missing from Booya? Do you have any photographic evidence you could share? Also, what is the exact nature of the dent in Darwin Princess? Where is it located?

    • Mark Tozer says:

      Hi Darren, I have spent many hours diving the Princess and Booya, next dry season i will get back to finish my investigations an both wrecks.i have hundreds of videos and photos of both wrecks

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