Zealandia was a single-funnelled, twin-propeller steamship built in 1909 by John Brown’s Clydebank yard. She was completed in 1910 for the trans-Tasman service of Huddart Parker, Melbourne, and was 410 feet long, 6,683grt. Initially she was chartered to Union Steam Ship Co. for their service to Tasmania and Vancouver, after which she was based at Fremantle.
Requisitioned in the Great War, she transported Australian troops to the European battlefields, and later American troops from New York to France. In December 1919 she was returned to commercial service, operating between Sydney and Western Australia, and later on the Sydney to Hobart route.
On the outbreak of World War II she was again taken up for trooping duties, this time staying in Australian waters. In June 1940 Zealandia transported part of the Australian 8th Division from Sydney to Darwin, to support the defence against the expected Japanese invasion. She then took more troops to Raboul, before taking Australian troops and their equipment to Singapore. After several more trooping voyages, she was anchored in Darwin harbour on 19th February 1942 when Japanese aircraft made a devastating attack.
One bomb fell through a hatch and exploded in the ship’s hold, and she quickly caught fire. Other planes then attacked with machine guns. The ammunition aboard started to explode: the fire was impossible to contain and the captain gave the order to abandon ship. Zealandia quickly settled on the bottom of the harbour: two crewmen later died of their wounds.