Sink, or swim?
December 17, 2004 4:52 AM   Subscribe

Happy Harold Holt Day! On this day in 1967, Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared whilst swimming at Cheviot Beach near Melbourne. Conspiracy theories abound. Today, his memory is honoured by a memorial swimming pool.
posted by Pinback (7 comments total)
The prime minister drowns, so they honor his memory with...a swimming pool. Wow.

Thanks for the story; I'd never heard it before.
posted by AgentRocket at 5:35 AM on December 17, 2004

As a kid I was living in Australia when this happened. I got the same kind of feelings that must surround Ukrainian Dioxins. The whole country went quiet - not an easy thing to achieve.
posted by Cancergiggles at 6:01 AM on December 17, 2004

In related news....
Elvis Presley memorialized with public bathroom and
John F. Kennedy memorialized with shooting range.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:53 AM on December 17, 2004

Do Aussies still say "I'm gonna Harold Holt" when they're going to bolt? That was a good Aussie-ism.

The prime minister drowns...

Well, he was well-known as a good swimmer/diver, no?
posted by Shane at 9:24 AM on December 17, 2004

I first read about Harold Holt in Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country. Fascinating story.

I find Australian politics in general fascinating. To give an example why, here's a story about the Australian prime minister Bob Hawke (from

[T]his country’s most famous drinking record was set by the legendary Australian Prime Minister Robert (Bob) Hawke in 1955. He drank 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds at University College, Oxford. Hawke recalls the incident as follows in The Hawke Memoirs (1994):

In more down-to-earth fashion I inadvertently achieved notoriety as a result of one the quaint and ancient customs of my college. A system operated at dinner in the Great Hall under which if an offence was committed - in my case coming to dinner without a gown (some bastard had borrowed mine) - on was 'sconced'. This meant having to drink two and a half pints of ale out of an antique pewter pot in less than twenty-five seconds. Failure to do so involved paying for the first drink, plus another two and a half pints. My chance of avoiding payment lay in downing the ale within the limit and hoping that the Sconcemaster - the President of the Junior Common Room - could not beat my time. I was too broke for the fine and necessity became the mother of ingestion. I downed the contents of the pot in eleven seconds, left the Sconcemaster floundering, and entered the Guniness Book of Records with the fastest time ever recorded. This feat was to endear me to some of my fellow Australians more than anything else I ever achieved.

Eventually he was awarded an Oxford PhD for his drinking efforts:

"Qui si memoret sponsione provocatum lagenam ampliorem cervisiae plenam breviori temporis spatio quam quivis alius exhausisse," Professor Jasper Griffin intoned at the ceremony in the historic Sheldonian Theatre. Literally, that means: "He records that on a challenge he once drank off a sconce pot of beer in unbeaten record time" _ one of Hawke's proudest boasts in a career that began 50 years ago as a Rhodes scholar from Western Australia. Hawke entered the Guinness Book of Records for his feat and said he was not surprised it was brought up at such a formal occasion. "In a political sense, it was one of the big advantages I got out of my time at Oxford," Mr Hawke said. "It endeared me to a large section of the Australian voting population that I had a world beer drinking record."

posted by Kattullus at 11:33 AM on December 17, 2004

I get all my Oz political news from
posted by joelf at 11:26 PM on December 17, 2004

Early next year, the Victorian coroner will decide whether to hold an inquest into his death (and many other people who are suspected of drowning or other disappearance). Also, it seems that on the day he drowned, there was an article in the newspaper headlined "PM advised to swim less". There was a newspaper story about Holt in The Australian this week (not just about his disappearance).
posted by AnnaRat at 9:58 PM on December 18, 2004

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