The Disappearance of Harold Holt

26 Mar

Harold Holt was the Prime Minister of Australia for nearly two years from January of 1966, up until his disappearance in December of 1967.

The strange thing about Holt’s disappearance is that his body was never recovered, and this has led to different theories surrounding what actually happened.

Harold Holt, the 17th Prime Minister of Australia. Photo taken during the 1966 elections.

Harold Holt, the 17th Prime Minister of Australia. Photo taken during the 1966 elections.

First of all, what do we know?

On Sunday the 17th of December, 1967, Holt and a group of friends, along with two bodyguards, made a trip from Melbourne to Port Phillip Heads to watch part of a solo circumnavigation of the globe, by Alec Rose in his yacht the ‘Lively Lady’. Around midday, the party made their way to Cheviot Beach, which lies on the eastern arm of Port Phillip Bay. This was one of Holt’s favorite swimming and snorkeling locations despite its reputation for strong rips and currents. Holt was described by his biographer Tom Frame as having “incredible powers of endurance underwater”, most likely due to Holt’s experience as a scuba diver. Despite pleas from the rest of the party, Holt made his way into the water. Not long after entering the water, the party lost sight of Holt. His friends raised the alarm, and a search began with a large group of police, Royal Australian Navy divers, helicopters from the Royal Australian Airforce, army personnel and local volunteers.

Two days later, on the 19th of December, the Australian Government made an announcement that Harold Holt was presumed dead. From here on in is where the theories start.

For the most part, it is generally accepted that Holt fell victim to the strong currents and rips in the area and his body was dragged out to sea before anyone could notice. There are no real ‘loose ends’ with this theory. Holt had recently suffered a flare up of a recurring shoulder injury that caused him a lot of pain. It is quite likely that he was not up to his usual levels of fitness and grew tired fighting the currents or rips. The main issue people have with this idea is that with such a large scale search, it is surprising that his body was not recovered.

Other theories start to speculate on the idea that he committed suicide. This theory has been rejected by  Holt’s own son Sam, his biographer Tom Frame (mentioned before), and  Malcolm Fraser, Holt’s Cabinet Minister at the time. This theory arose after reports that Holt was suffering from depression prior to his disappearance.

Some theories started bordering on conspiracy. There is the idea that he faked his own death to run away with a mistress,  was abducted by a UFO, or kidnapped/rescued by a Chinese submarine, depending on whether or not you think he was a Chinese spy.

Although it seems most likely that the strong rips and currents were  to blame for Holt’s disappearance, the idea that this was an Australian Prime Minister who may have been involved with something more sinister has piqued the curiosity of imaginative minds for many years. Unfortunately, it is doubtful that we will ever know exactly what happened in this tragic case.

2 Responses to “The Disappearance of Harold Holt”

  1. TBM March 26, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    That is interesting and I’ve never heard of it. Thanks for sharing. I love stories like these. I wonder if he is living with Hoffa.

    • 02keilj March 26, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

      Thanks very much for reading. Glad to know people are learning from what we post. If you have any suggestions for other topics to cover please feel free to email us using the contact page.

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