BBC Home
Explore the BBC
31 December  
Search ON THIS DAY by date
Go back one day Go forward one day  
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
About This Site | Text Only

1964: Campbell speeds to double record
Donald Campbell has broken the world water speed record, becoming the first man to break the world land and water speed records in the same year.

He reached an average speed of 276.33mph (444.71km/h) in his speedboat, Bluebird, this afternoon on Lake Dumbleyung in Perth, Western Australia.

The feat shatters his previous world record of 260.35mph (418.99km/h) at Lake Coniston, Cumbria, in 1959.

I never thought we had the chance of a snowball on the desert of cracking it today.
Donald Campbell, record breaker
Mr Campbell has been trying to realise his record-breaking attempt for months at various locations in Australia.

Each time he has been frustrated. The weather at his first choice of location, Lake Bonney in South Australia, proved too unpredictable.

Then, he moved to Lake Dumbleyung, near Perth, on 16 December, only to be delayed by wild ducks which could not fly away because they were moulting.

The weather was the next setback, as persistent easterly winds raised waves up to 2ft (61cm) high, making any attempt impossible.

With time running out for him to achieve his goal of breaking both speed records in the same year, he began considering a move to a third lake just south of Perth.

'Let's go, skipper!'

Then suddenly, on the last possible day, the winds eased and the lake became flat calm.

Conditions were rated 95% suitable, and the chief mechanic, Leo Villa, radioed to Mr Campbell, "I think it's worth a try - let's go, skipper!"

Several hundred people gathered on the shores of the lake to watch, among them Mr Campbell's wife, Tonia Bern.

When she heard that he had done it, she dived into the lake and swam out to embrace him as he brought Bluebird in.

As he stepped ashore, Mr Campbell told his supporters, "It's amazing that we clinched it. I never thought we had the chance of a snowball on the desert of cracking it today."

Mr Campbell broke the land speed record in July on Lake Eyre salt flat in central Australia, with a speed of 403.1mph (648.72km/h).

However, the record was short-lived: on 27 October an American, Art Arfon, drove his jet car across Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah at an average speed of 536.71mph (863.75km/h).

 E-mail this story to a friend

Bluebird during the record-breaking attempt
Donald Campbell drove his boat Bluebird to speeds of 276.33mph (444.71km/h)

BBC footage of Campbell's record-breaking run in Australia (mute)

In Context
Donald Campbell attempted to break his own speed record a little over two years later, on 4 January 1967.

A split second before his jet-powered boat, the Bluebird K7, broke the record, travelling at more than 300mph (483km/h) on Coniston Water, the boat's nose lifted and it was catapulted 50ft (15m) into the air.

Mr Campbell was killed instantly as the boat hit the water and disintegrated. He was 46 years old.

His body was not recovered for another 34 years, until 2001. His remains were buried near Coniston Water.

Donald Campbell is still the only person to break both land and water speed records in the same year.

He remains the last British man to break the world water speed record. In 1978, it passed to Australia, when Ken Warby reached a speed of 317.6mph (511.1km/h).

Stories From 31 Dec

0 Remains of Bluebird being recovered8 March 2001
Speed racer's wreck raised

BBC News >>
0 Campbell's Bluebird K710 August 2001
Body in lake is Campbell

0 12 September 2001
Final tribute to water speed king

0 10 December 2002
Last words from Bluebird preserved

0 10 August 2001
Campbell was born into speed dynasty

Search ON THIS DAY by date
Go back one day Go forward one day  

^^ back to top
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
©MMVIII | News Sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy