December 17, 2018

VANISHED: On this day in 1967, Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared while swimming at Cheviot Beach. He was presumed to have drowned.

Holt was apparently not the cautious type. Cheviot Beach was notoriously dangerous for swimmers.  And although he’d had near drowning experiences there before, he insisted that he should continue to go there. When his press secretary warned him that his swimming habits were too dangerous, Holt responded, “Look Tony, what are the odds of a prime minister being drowned or taken by a shark?”

On the day of his disappearance, most of his companions declined to join him in the water on the ground that the swells were too high and there were obvious cross currents and eddies. Interestingly, a newspaper had carried a headline that day of “PM Advised to Swim Less.” It’s not clear that he ever saw it.

There are, of course, conspiracy theories about his disappearance. According to one story, he was picked up by a submarine, so he could defect to China. The truth seems to be a bit more mundane: He was an over-confident swimmer–to the point of being a fool.  Note that over-confidence is a common failing among politicians.

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