On 20th July 1939 the Dutch freighter ALGENIB arrived in Sydney.
On board were about 300 tons of onions originally shipped from Egypt. Delays at Bombay meant the voyage took longer than expected and bad weather had limited the opportunity of opening the hatch covers for ventilation. Some of onions being in unfit condition were off-loaded in Freemantle.
By the time ALGENIB arrived in Sydney and berthed at Darling Harbour, the remaining onions had become so rotten the ship smelt like a “fermenting pickle factory”. The authorities were adamant. Get rid of the cargo and quick. But where?
By good luck a salvage company had a couple of decommissioned navy destroyers, one of which, ex HMAS STALWART was being prepared to tow out to sea and scuttle. In short time STALWART was loaded with nearly 8,000 bags of the rotten onions. Where ever there was room the bags were stacked, in the cabins, the wardrooms, on deck and around the funnels.
Two days later on 22nd July 1939 in the early morning, STALWART was towed out of Sydney through The Heads to the scuttling grounds. For good measure she was sunk not 15 miles as was usual, but 20 miles off shore, to be sure none of the onions would be washed back to the coast.
Two weeks later, Sydney’s rotten onion problem was a thing of the past. Well almost. On 3rd August, residents of Maroubra, woke to find onions on their beach – thousands of them
Source: Ash Moore/Australian Maritime History