Tourists from South Molle Island arriving at Mackay on a cruise boat after Cyclone Ada hit. Picture: Bob Nicol
Tourists from South Molle Island arriving at Mackay on a cruise boat after Cyclone Ada hit. Picture: Bob Nicol

Cruise director a ‘hero’ after saving stranded guests

CYCLONE Ada might have left death and destruction in its wake, but the aftermath of the natural disaster was just as bad as the storm itself.

Hundreds of tourists and locals were stranded on islands throughout the Whitsundays, their holiday units flattened.

With almost every boat in the region destroyed on January 18, 1970, Roylen Cruises director Barry Dean stepped up to the plate.

Barry Dean lives in Mackay and volunteers at the Tiger Moth Museum. Picture: Tony Martin
Barry Dean lives in Mackay and volunteers at the Tiger Moth Museum. Picture: Tony Martin

His fleet of cruise boats, the only ones Ada did not damage, had been safely moored in Mackay Marina and in a sheltered bay at Newry Island during the cyclone.

For two days Mr Dean went back and forth between the islands and the mainland, transporting people to safety on his yacht.

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"We had a few of our boats pick people up from South Mole and Daydream islands and take them to Bowen," he said.

"We normally only took about 80 passengers on the yacht, but we squeezed on a lot more that day.

"All of the other boats at Shute Harbour had been destroyed so we had to get the people to safety somehow."

 

Tourists from South Molle Island arriving at Mackay on a cruise boat after Cyclone Ada. Picture: Bob Nicol
Tourists from South Molle Island arriving at Mackay on a cruise boat after Cyclone Ada. Picture: Bob Nicol

Mr Dean, who was 30 years old when Cyclone Ada struck, said he transported a Mackay medical officer to Lindeman and Hayman islands to treat injured guests.

Multiple trips were needed to get everyone back to the safety of the mainland.

"I think they were pretty pleased to get away from the battered islands," Mr Dean said.

"There was nothing left, the buildings were destroyed, the trees were stripped bare."

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Devastation on Daydream Island where the tourist resort was virtually wiped out by Cyclone Ada on January 18, 1970. This aerial image shows all guest accommodation smashed and only the main hall standing (bottom right). About 140 guests were evacuated after the cyclone, which hurled debris, smashed glass, tore down buildings, and stripped trees of their foliage. Picture: Barry Pascoe.
Devastation on Daydream Island where the tourist resort was virtually wiped out by Cyclone Ada on January 18, 1970. This aerial image shows all guest accommodation smashed and only the main hall standing (bottom right). About 140 guests were evacuated after the cyclone, which hurled debris, smashed glass, tore down buildings, and stripped trees of their foliage. Picture: Barry Pascoe.

Considering himself as "one of the lucky ones", Mr Dean said he only lost one boat to Ada.

The boat's ropes had broken and it had drifted into rocks at the harbour.

"It had a severely damaged hull and it ended up sinking underneath a tug boat," Mr Dean said.

"In comparison to what other people lost, I was extremely lucky."

Mr Dean, now 80, spends retirement as a volunteer at the Mackay Tiger Moth museum.

The quietly-spoken man does not consider himself a hero, he was simply "helping people in crisis".

"I didn't really think about it, I just knew what I had to do," he said.

Cyclone Ada claimed the lives of 14 people and caused millions of dollars of damage. It is considered one of Queensland's worst natural disasters.


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