Blythe Star

In 1973, a freighter named Blythe Star sank suddenly off the south coast of Tasmania. Ten crew members scrambled to get to the ship’s life raft, facing freezing water and treacherous weather. A search mission began after the freighter failed to arrive to port. Days went by, and with no sign of the missing ship, it was assumed all hands had perished at sea and the search was called off. The raft drifted for eight days. The crew members’ hopes of rescue faded, and when one of their number died, they buried him at sea. Land grew distant as they drifted up the east coast. Tasman Island came into view and one man held back his impulse to swim the narrowing stretch between the raft and the island’s bluff, knowing he was too weak to make the journey. On the ninth day they drifted into Deep Glen Bay and dragged the raft ashore. A small group, weathered and weary, attempted to climb the cove’s towering cliffs and fight their way through the dense bush to raise the alarm. Two more men died on the beach before they succeeded. This painting is of Tasman Island, tantalisingly close yet unreachable. The raft drifts endlessly.

Robyn Harman


Acrylic and oil on canvas