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1960s / Australian PM Vanishes - 1967
Harold Holt, the 58-year-old prime minister of Australia, who had been in office only 22 months, vanished while swimmiming in the ocean late in 1967. On the morning of Sunday, December 17, Holt together with friends Christopher Anderson, Jan Lee and George Illson and his two bodyguards, drove down from Melbourne to see the British yachtsman Alec Rose sail through Port Phillip Heads in his boat Lively Lady to complete a leg of his solo circumnavigation of the globe, which started and ended in England. Around noon, the party drove to one of Holt's favorite swimming and snorkelling spots, Cheviot Beach on Point Nepean near Portsea, on the eastern arm of Port Phillip Bay. Holt decided to go swimming, although the surf was heavy and Cheviot Beach was notorious for its strong currents and dangerous rip tides. Ignoring his friends' pleas not to go in, Holt began swimming, but soon disappeared from view. Fearing the worst, his friends raised the alarm. Within a short time, the beach and the water off shore were being searched by a large contingent of police, Royal Australian Navy divers, Royal Australian Air Force helicopters, Army personnel from nearby Point Nepean and local volunteers. This quickly escalated into one of the largest search operations in Australian history, but no trace of Holt was ever found. Two days later, the government made an official announcement that Holt was presumed dead. Deputy Prime Minister John McEwen was sworn in as caretaker Prime Minister until such time as the governing Liberal party could elect a new leader. There were many rumors surrounding Holt's strange death, including claims that he had committed suicide or faked his own death in order to run away with his mistress. The mystery became the subject of numerous urban myths in Australia, including persistent claims that he was kidnapped (or rescued) by a Chinese submarine, or the far-fetched claim that he had been abducted by a UFO.