The weather was unseasonally and auspiciously stormy in the Gulf on 7th of April 1961 when DARA arrived from Bahrain to begin disembarkation and embarkation of passengers and cargo at Dubai. From her anchorage, a mile and a quarter north west of Dubai, locally run motor boats tendered cargo, mail and passengers to and from the shore. As was the custom, shore staff from B.I. agents, Gray Mackenzie, customs officials, hawkers and even a few visitors accompanied the embarking passengers. All were intending to be on board briefly and to disembark before the ship sailed. 25 saloon and 151 unberthed passengers joined the ship at Dubai including one family who filmed their arrival on board.
It remains the last known footage of DARA before the disaster.
The wind had increased to 35 knots, gusting to 43 knots, and in the poor holding ground and growing swell a Panamanian freighter, ZEUS, broke anchor and drifted into DARA. With time only to put out fenders, DARA was hit twice sustaining slight damage to her port bow and No. 2 lifeboat on the port side. The incident was reported by telegram at 5pm and shortly afterwards, DARA’s master, Captain Elson, gave an immediate order to put to sea to ride out the storm in deeper water. There was no time to land the estimated additional 74 day visitors as DARA set sail with a complement of 819 on board.
Within a few hours the storm reached force 8 and the Captain reported hail so ferocious that he feared it might “knock in the windows at the far end of the bridge”. Closer to Dubai, at the RAF Meteorological Office in Sharjah winds gusting to 63 mph were recorded.
By 4.25am the storm had abated enough for the Master to give the order to return to Dubai with the main engine on slow ahead.