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1967- Prime Minister Harold Holt of Australia vanishes while swimming

December 17, 2022

While swimming in an area near Portsea, Victoria, Prime Minister Harold Holt suddenly vanished without a trace. A massive search party was put together, and despite many hours spent looking for him, they never found his body.


Harold Holt was born on August 5, 1908 in Stanmore, Australia. He moved to Melbourne as a child and studied law at the University of Melbourne after high school. After spending some time as a lawyer and lobbyist, Holt entered the political scene and entered the House of Representatives at 27. He continued climbing up the political ladder until being dubbed a minister without portfolio in 1939 when Robert Menzies, his mentor, became Prime Minister.

Holt Becomes Prime Minister

Robert Menzies was Australia's longest-serving Prime Minister. However, at the age of 71, he announced his intention to retire. A day after telling his party cabinet, he resigned, and Holt took over the position with an unopposed election. While in office, Holt expanded Australia's participation in the Vietnam War and maintained a close relationship with US President Lyndon B. Johnson. Holt also spent his time continuing to dismantle the White Australia Policy, which prevented Asians and Pacific Islanders from immigrating to Australia.  

Hard Holt Vanishes

On December 17, 1967, Holt and some friends went to Portsea on vacation. Despite rough conditions, Holt convinced his friends to make a pit stop at Cheviot Beach for a swim. He had spent many summers spearfishing there and told the men that "he knew this beach like the back of my hand." Alan Stewart joined Holt in the water but stayed close to the shore. Holt swam out deeper and was reportedly caught up in a rip and disappeared. After his disappearance, the country issued one of the largest search & rescue operations in history. However, Holt's body was never found. While his death was deemed an accidental drowning, conspiracy theories have erupted. Some popular theories are that he committed suicide, faked his own death, was assassinated by the CIA or was picked up by a submarine staged to take him to China.  

Quick Facts:

  • Harold Holt wasn't the first Australian prime minister to die while serving in office. Before him, Joseph Lyons died from a heart attack on April 7, 1939. John Curtin came next, dying at The lodge from heart complications in 1945.
  • As with his predecessor, Harold Holt refused a security detail assigned to him. He deemed it unnecessary and a move that would alienate him from the general public.
  • Holt had a talent for spearfishing, a hobby that allowed him to learn endurance in the wild. His friends said he had exceptional talent in the water.
  • A memorial service for Harold Holt was held on December 22 at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne.





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