Cyclone survivors reunite

SHAUN Mountney was researching his father's involvement as a skipper during Cyclone Ada when he stumbled across a host of personal stories he thought needed to be told.

"There was just so much information. I would ring people up and say, 'Do you know about this?' And they would say 'no'," he said.

"One island didn't know what happened on the other island. I thought I have to do something with this."

His book, titled Cyclone Ada Marine Crew, was launched at the Reef Gateway Hotel on Saturday, which also provided a chance for survivors to reunite, some for the first time since that fateful day in 1970.

REMEMBERING ADA: MC Mark Grosskreutz at the Marine Crew reunion.
REMEMBERING ADA: MC Mark Grosskreutz at the Marine Crew reunion.

About 27 people wrote first-hand accounts for the book and the reunion offered some of them - like Empress skipper Allen Southwood - a chance to face the fear that has haunted him since the night of January 17, 1970.

"I have had a lot of sleepless nights reliving it all and I was really a bit frightened showing up here today, but I did because all my old mates are here I have known for 50 years," he said.

Mr Southwood said after the cyclone and fixing his boat, he had to continue to make a living operating a boat in the Whitsundays.

"I was a bit frightened cruising around. I would see a cloud in the sky and go and hide behind an island," he said, adding he eventually came to accept bad weather and the risk of a cyclone as part of the job. "And with that I was right," he said. "It has only come back to haunt me the last six months or so."

TALES TO TELL: Cyclone Ada survivor Kaye Cronan at the reunion.
TALES TO TELL: Cyclone Ada survivor Kaye Cronan at the reunion.

Mr Mountney said rather than feeling sadness at the loss of lives and the destruction, there was joy in the room at the Reef Gateway Hotel.

Gloria DeMartini, who helped collate the survivors' stories for the book, also described it as a "very special day". The book costs $15 and can be ordered on the Cyclone Ada Marine Crew Facebook page.