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From the Dead


Strap in for season two of ABC’s Expanse podcast: From the Dead, which explores a wild story of endurance, resilience, mateship, and ultimately survival.

It’s the kind of tall tale that might be told in the bar over a beer – but this story is all true. In October 1973, back in the days when shipping was like the wild west, a freighter called the Blythe Star sank without a trace off Tasmania’s remote and rugged southwest. The crew of 10 escaped with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a life raft, at the mercy of the wind and currents.

What followed was a trial few could imagine, that would push the men to the limits of endurance.

Ask yourself, how would you survive if you were alone, left to the harsh southern elements, with nothing but your wits and will?

This season of Expanse is brought to you by host Piia Wirsu and is a story that will surprise you, make you laugh and tear your heart out; From the Dead is ultimately a very human story, about what happens when everything is stripped away. Who do you become? And how do you survive the un-survivable?

The sinking of the Blythe Star kicked off the largest sea and air search Australia had ever seen, a search that was plagued by misinformation, mistakes and muddling.

Ultimately the whole episode would lead to reforms of maritime safety.

You will hear never-before-heard details, and get to know the crewman, their families and loved ones, and those involved in the search and coverage.

Episode One is released on October 18th, 50 years on from the search for the Blythe Star, with weekly episode drops on the ABC listen app, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Some more background about Expanse: This podcast feed explores big stories from across Australia – a vast continent where anything can happen.

From the Dead follows the runaway success of Pink Diamond Heist in 2022, one of the ABC’s best-performing podcasts of that year.

Piia Wirsu on location. Photo: Helen Shield

About host Piia Wirsu: Piia Wirsu is based in Tasmania, and the state’s wild outdoors has been her playground for many years – giving her a unique insight into the brutal challenges faced by the men on the Blythe Star. She would often spend holidays and weekends bushwalking or adventuring into remote and rugged places, and wonder whether she would have it in her to survive out there if everything went wrong.

Working for the ABC for the past decade, Piia presented the Drive program into Tasmania for many years, before turning her audio storytelling skills to podcasting. She produced Dig: Saving the Franklin, was executive producer for the Make Me feel Good Podcast, and a producer for the ABC Story Stream.

“This story shows how people respond wildly differently when the chips are down, and poses the question to all of us – what would I do in that situation?”

“I was drawn to this story because when things go wrong and all the usual trappings of life are stripped away, you get a unique insight into human nature.”

“There is something incredibly heartwarming about hearing about how people stick together and pull each other through the most extreme test of endurance, when it might be so much easier to say ‘each to their own’.”

“I have huge respect for the crew of the Blythe Star, who through small and large acts of bravery collectively created their own luck when the rest of the world had given up on them.”

“I knew this was going to be a wild story of survival, what I did not expect was to also laugh, cry and be deeply touched by the people in this story. My heart has been broken and put back together again by the incredible people who’s lives have been touched and shaped by this marine accident 50 years ago.”

“This story has stayed with the people involved for half a century; people have carried it with them. I can understand why it has had such a lasting and profound impact, it really is a story that changed lives and shaped people and it has been a privilege to share it. - Piia Wirsu -

Production credits: From the Dead is produced by the ABC News Audio Innovation team, Piia Wirsu is the host and supervising producer, Grant Wolter (Schmeitgeist, Head Room, Let Us In)is sound engineer and producer, Blythe Moore (Innies and Outies, Schmeitgeist, Newcastlecast) is executive producer. Special thanks for additional production and research to Liz Gwynn and Helen Sheild.

Episode bios:

Episode One: The Blythe Star

As 18-year-old Mick Doleman farewelled young love to set sail on the Blythe Star, he could never have seen what was coming.

Just 14 hours into their journey, Mick’s life – along with his rag tag crew of shipmates – would change forever as they scrambled to save themselves from a sinking ship.

In this episode of From the Dead, host Piia Wirsu discovers the uneasy signs that all was not right when the Blythe Star set sail.

Episode 2: Lost at Sea

Alone in the Southern Ocean with nothing but a life raft, reality sinks in for Mick Doleman and the nine other survivors of the Blythe Star shipwreck as they digest the news no mayday was sent.

Exhausted, hungry and cold; in this episode the weather conspires against them and they’ll be faced with their biggest challenge yet.

Episode 3: The search

When the Blythe Star fails to turn up at port as scheduled, the authorities are left scratching their heads.

Meanwhile, the families of the crew reel at the news the ship is missing.

In this episode, bungles, bickering and birthday cards create mayhem on land.

Episode 4: Missing; Presumed Dead

The search is called off and the men are declared dead, leaving loved ones reeling.
But on the raft, the men have one final hope for salvation.

In this episode time runs out for the men, as they have a make-or-break opportunity.

Episode 5: Back from the Dead

Three of the remaining crewmen set off from Deep Glen Bay, where they have finally washed ashore, on a do-or-die mission to find help.

They are on a knife’s edge when fate steps in.

In this final episode of From the Dead, the impacts of the disaster are felt long after the event.

A link to the Podcast will be available on Marine Business News when launched on October 18th.

From ‘Tas’ Leary’s scrapbook

From ‘Tas’ Leary’s scrapbook

Cliff Langford in hospital after rescue

Media Coverage on the survivors in ‘Tas’ Leary’s scrapbook

Mick Doleman – the last remaining survivor of the Blythe Star. Photo: Tiger Webb

Deep Glen Bay, where the crew washed. Photo: Piia Wirsu

The remains of the life raft in the Maritime Museum of Tasmania. Photo: Helen Shield

Piia interviewing boat Captain Kane. Photo: Helen Shield

Rocks along the Tasmanian coastline. Credit Helen Shield

Deep Glen Bay, where crew washed up. Photo: Helen Shield