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On December 17, 1967, Harold Holt – then Prime Minister of Australia – decided to go swimming. He and his fellow travelers drove by near Cheviot Beach, one of Prime Minister Holt’s long-time favorite spots for swimming and snorkeling. The water was a little rough that day, but Holt was a strong swimmer and he dived into the ocean with confidence. As he swam away from the beach, his companions on land watched as a current pulled him “like a leaf” out to sea. They called him, but he didn’t answer and showed no distress. However, he soon slipped under the waves and out of sight. His friends have sounded the alarm.
The people of Australia carried out one of the largest searches in their country’s history – comprised of police officers, divers from the Royal Australian Navy, helicopters from the Royal Australian Air Force, military personnel and local volunteers. Even so, neither the Prime Minister nor any clue about his fate was found. Australia was the only country in history that permanently relocated its head of government. At the time of his disappearance, he had been Prime Minister for almost two years.
There have been many conspiracy theories surrounding the disappearance, including the CIA’s assassination, submarine transfer to China, and suicide, but evidence has never been found to support these speculations.
Today a plaque marks the approximate point of his disappearance, attached to a reef under 50 feet of water. The Harold Holt Swim Center in Melbourne was named in his honor.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this curiosity incorrectly stated that the Australian Prime Minister is the “head of state” rather than the “head of government”.