SAILING SHIP STORIES
Accounts of true events – shipwreck, dismasting,strandings and fire at sea
A Liberty Ship Apprentice
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EMPRESS OF JAPAN
(which then became the EMPRESS OF SCOTLAND and finally the HANSEATIC)
37 years afloat with 3 names and 2 owners
In 1930 on the windy shores of the Clyde at Govan, the Fairfield yard launced a hull that would become a beautiful ship admired by all, becoming world famous, hold several records, and work for both English and German owners. She was to be the EMPRESS OF JAPAN. Under each of her three names, EMPRESS OF JAPAN, EMPRESS OF SCOTLAND, and lastly, the HANSEATIC, she would excel, and have a 37 year career.
In 1930 the Canadian Pacific’s existing trans-pacific service reached its zenith with the introduction of this magnificent ship. Little did they know how spectacular and just how poular she would become. Sporting a classic steamship-look, she had three funnels painted in familiar Canadian Pacific yellow. Her promenade deck had not been enclosed, revealing that she was intended for the warmer Pacific run. Down in the engine room, the ship’s engineers were getting ready for the engine trials. Empress of Japan had been designed with geared turbines, capable of 34,000 shaft horsepower.
The engines performed very well, and the ship managed to reach a top speed of 23 knots with the engines running at maximum power. Thus, the ship’s sea trials had been carried out successfully, and she was officially delivered to Canadian Pacific on June 8th, 1930. It was only a short matter of time before she would enter service for her owners.
This handsome ship with magnificent interiors was the result of their planning and foresight, confirming the standard associated with the Empress liners of Canadian Pacific. She was delivered to Canadian Pacific in Liverpool and sailed on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Quebec on the 14th July 1930. From Quebec she sailed to Southampton. On the 12th July 1930 she sailed from Southampton bound for Hong Kong via the Suez Canal to begin her trans-pacific services. On the 7th August 1930 she set off on her first trans-pacific crossing from Hong Kong to Vancouver via Yokohama and Honolulu. Some of the notable guests on board included HM The King of Siam. During this maiden trans-pacific voyage, a new speed record was set for the route from Yokohama to Vancouver, and over the following years she made 58 round trips from Vancouver to Yokohama and Shanghai (via Honolulu), claiming to be the number 1 ship for speed and comfort, and becoming the flagship of the trans-pacific service, like the famous RMS Empress of Britain was for their transatlantic service. This established and highly successful service was suddenly shattered when the Second World War started in September 1939. At the time the EMPRESS OF JAPAN was in Shanghai. Due to suspicions about Japanese intentions, Canadian Pacific ordered her to sail straight back to Victoria in British Colombia via Honolulu. Her career then morphed into troop carrying like so many of the great liners. One of the features that made the ocean liners so attractive for trooping apart from the obvious size and capacity was the speed they could maintain. This made interception by U-boats extremely difficult, but sadly not impossible as events were to prove. A lucky strike was always a fear and another company vessel, the EMPRESS OF BRITAIN suffered this fate. She was torpedoed on 28 October 1940 by U-32 and sank. At 42,340 GRT she was the largest liner lost in the WW2 and the largest ship sunk by a U-boat.
In October 1942 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Winston Churchill (the British Prime Minister) personally ordered that the EMPRESS OF JAPAN should be renamed as EMPRESS OF SCOTLAND. It took a little more than ten months, but on October 16th 1942, the ship was renamed Empress of Scotland. She carried this name for the rest of her Canadian Pacific career.
WW2 impacted her career dramatically, not least with a name that offended Winston Churchill after Pearl Harbour was attacked by the Japanese forces. He insisted the name be changed to the Empress of Scotland, allegedly saying, “ This is a nonsense” before issuing the order. The new name was more in keeping with the allies war effort and image. She then spent a glorious 16 years endlessly circling the globe and playing a significant role in the evacuation of 1700 refugees from Singapore when the Japanese captured the island. The escape was carried out under enemy attack but the ship successfully landed her passengers at Colombo. Later, she worked ferrying a total of 30,000 troops from the USA to Europe. She sailed from Halifax, New York, and Newport News, and went to Liverpool and to Casablanca.
Sporting her new name, the Empress of Scotland continued her war duties. When peace was finally achieved in 1945, she was kept on for repatriation work, and it wasn’t until May 3rd 1948 that she was released from transport service. During the conflict, the Empress had steamed some 600,000 miles, and she was in desperate need of a refit before she could re-enter passenger service again.
Naturally, this was the case with nearly every passenger vessel that had survived the war. This, plus the shortage of funds and material, forced the Empress of Scotland to simply wait for her turn to go through a refit. Finally, in October of 1948, she was sent back to her builders for a much-earned refurbishment. The first intention was to put her back in her regular service in the Pacific, but it was soon decided to place her on the North Atlantic run instead. For this, her promenade deck was glass-enclosed to better suit the Atlantic weather. Also, her original passenger accommodation of First, Second, Third and Steerage classes were altered to just First and Tourist.
It took a while before the work was finished, but on May 5th 1950, the Empress of Scotland set out on her first post-war voyage, from Liverpool to Quebec. Outwardly, she was very much alike her pre-war self. The white hull was there, but the three funnels now sported the new CPR livery, adopted in 1946 – yellow, with the company flag superimposed.
The Empress of Scotland soon settled into her new service. She ran on the Liverpool-Greenock-Quebec service during the summers, and in the winters she was sent off cruising the West Indies out of New York. In April of 1952, the ship’s masts were shortened in order to allow her to pass under the Quebec Bridge and continue to Montreal, which had now been dredged to her draught. On May 13th she made her first sailing from Liverpool to Montreal.
The ship continued to serve Canadian Pacific through the 1950s, but circumstances would soon see her leave the company. In 1956, the brand new Empress of Britain entered service, followed by her sister Empress of England the next year. Suddenly, the Empress of Scotland was an old ship compared to her fleet-mates, and she was subsequently laid up at Liverpool on November 25th, 1957. She was later dry-docked at Belfast and put up for sale by the company.
However, an inspection showed that the ship’s hull and machinery were in very good condition, and it did not take long before a buyer materialised. On January 13th 1958, the ship was sold for $2,500,000 to the newly formed Hamburg-Atlantic Line. Six days later the ship left Belfast, flying the German ensign and renamed Scotland for the voyage to Hamburg. Upon arrival, she was sent to the yards of Howaldtswerke, where she was scheduled for an extensive refit.
In July of 1958, the ship emerged from the yard. Renamed Hanseatic, her name was certainly not the only new thing about her. The original three funnels had been replaced by two larger ones, and her hull had been rebuilt to a more streamlined design. This, and the black, white and red colours of her new owners made it quite difficult to recognise her. The old vessel had been spectacularly transformed and given a new life.
On July 21st that year, the Hanseatic set out on her first voyage from Cuxhaven to New York, with calls at Le Havre, Southampton and Cobh along the way. Although owned by the Hamburg-Atlantic Line, she was managed by the more experienced Hamburg-America Line. Hanseatic had soon earned a loyal following as one of the finest West German liners, and she continued her North Atlantic service in the summers, while doing cruises during the off-season. This service was maintained well into the 1960s, but unfortunately the end was now drawing near.
On September 7th 1966, the ship caught fire in the engine room, while in New York. The fire caused serious damage, but efforts to extinguish it soon succeeded in doing so. Hanseatic’s machinery was severely damaged though, and the ship was forced to leave New York under tow of the Bugsier tugs Atlantic and Pacific on September 23rd. She was sent to the Howaldtswerke in Hamburg for repairs, but an inspection found her to be beyond economic repair. Instead, the Hanseatic was laid up at Hamburg, awaiting her fate. On December 2nd 1966, the inevitable decision was made. She was sold for breaking up to the firm of Eisen & Metall AG of Hamburg.
- 666 feet (203.5 m) long
- 83.7 feet (25.6 m) wide
- Originally 26,032 gross tons, 30,030 gross tons when rebuilt as the Hanseatic
- Geared turbines turning two propellers
- 21 knot service speed
- Passenger capacity of 1,173 people as originally built, reduced to 708 during 1948 refit
CLOVERBANK class – A cargo plan for New Guinea
The CARRONBANK loaded. One of the 17 successful ‘CLOVERBANK’ class ships built at Harlands, Belfast.
Remember these? 90% correct but 10% guesswork!
The lead ship CORABANK in a highly successful class of 6 vessels built at Swann Hunter in S.Shields in 1973
The FOYLEBANK in WW2
Built in 1930 at Harlands, Belfast, with twin screws and requisitioned by the Admiralty at the outbreak of war in 1939. Bombed and sunk in Portland Harbour in 1940.
On 4 July 1940, during an air raid on Portland, England, Leading Seaman Mantle of HMS Foylebank, who was manning the starboard 20mm pom-pom gun, had his left leg shattered by the blast from a bomb early in the action. Although wounded again many times, he remained at his gun, training and firing by hand when Foylebank’s electric power failed, until he collapsed and died. His citation in the London Gazette reads:
Leading Seaman Jack Mantle was in charge of the Starboard pom-pom when FOYLEBANK was attacked by enemy aircraft on the 4th of July, 1940. Early in the action his left leg was shattered by a bomb, but he stood fast at his gun and went on firing with hand-gear only; for the ship’s electric power had failed. Almost at once he was wounded again in many places. Between his bursts of fire he had time to reflect on the grievous injuries of which he was soon to die; but his great courage bore him up till the end of the fight, when he fell by the gun he had so valiantly served.
This was only the second occasion that the Victoria Cross has been awarded for action in the United Kingdom.
The SIBONGA (aka FIRBANK) arriving alongside in HONG KONG with 1000 Vietnamese refugees in 1979
See the full account elsewhere on this site, i.e. – search ‘SIBONGA’
See a video here…
Loading around the Pacific Islands 1965
( courtesy of Charlie Stitt)
The Story of the
During Christmas Week, 1951, there began an incredible sea story involving a WWII era cargo vessel named the Flying Enterprise and her captain, Kurt Carlsen. Captain Carlsen was a Danish-born seaman that began his sea career at the age of 14. He became master of his first ship at the age of 22 with the Danish-American company American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines which was a New York based US-flag shipping company from 1919 to 1977, offering both cargo and passenger ship services. In 1977 it declared bankruptcy and was acquired by Farrell Lines.
The SS Flying Enterprise was a 6,711 ton Type C1-B ship. She was built in 1944 as SS Cape Kumukaki for the United States Maritime Commission for use in World War II. The ship was sold in 1947 and then operated in scheduled service under the name Flying Enterprise.
On December 21, 1951, The Flying Enterprise departed Hamburg, Germany bound for New York with a cargo that included 1,300 tons of pig iron, 900 tons of coffee and 10 passengers. From the departure out of Hamburg through the English channel the vessel encountered heavy fog.
Late on the 23rd of December, as the Flying Enterprise was steaming southward in fog towards the English Channel, a weak surface low of 1016 mb was noted over Michigan.
As the vessel steamed though the English Channel on Christmas Eve, the Flying Enterprise first encountered heavy weather due to a strong low pressure area that was moving well northward of Ireland and Scotland. The heavy weather continued through Christmas Day and the day after Christmas as the vessel passed out of the Channel and into the North Atlantic as gale force winds increased to storm force 10. During the night of Dec. 26, Capt. Carlsen decided to heave the vessel to as winds continued to increase and approach force 12 (hurricane). At the same time the weak disturbance far to the west moved out over the western North Atlantic and began to deepen reaching 1006 mb by 12Z Christmas Day as it passed southward of Cape Race, Newfoundland. Twenty-four hours later, at 12Z on December 26th, the western low was rapidly deepening into a 974mb storm low and was racing east-northeastward near 50N 24W.
Rapid deepening continued through the 26th and by 06Z on Dec. 27th the now violent storm low had reached 944 mb near 55N 12W, just as it passed to the north of the Flying Enterprise position. Note: Between Dec 25/12z to Dec 27/06z the storm had deepened 62mb in just 42 hours!.
The Flying Enterprise Encounters the Storm
As the storm center passed north of the Flying Enterprise that morning, the vessel encountered what was described as “a very high sea” at position 50-41N 15-26W (about 400 miles west of Lands End). Several load bangs where heard (like the firing of a gun) throughout the ship and an examination determined that the vessel had suffered two main fractures. The first began at the after port corner of #3 hatch and ran across the deck and back to the accommodation ladder opening at the side and ran down the side to the longitudinal riveting at the base of the sheer strake.
On the starboard side the crack ran from the forward corner of the deck house straight across to the accommodation opening and from there down to the riveting on the opposite side. The cracks were estimated to be between 1/8 and 3/8 inches in width. A smaller crack ran from the after starboard corner of the #3 hatch toward the side of the ship and was estimated to be 18 inches long. At the time, Capt. Carlsen reported force 12 winds and 40ft seas. A measurement of the pressure gradient near the vessel suggests winds were at least 60kts which would be consistent with a violent storm BF 11 (56-63 kt wind and 30-45 ft waves) and could have easily reached force 12 at times.
Given the ship’s position it is apparent that the captain had set out on a minimum distance great circle route from Bishop Rock towards Nantucket. Had Carlsen chosen a more southerly wintertime track, perhaps the vessel would not have encountered conditions that severe.
In an effort to reduce the strain on the now damaged vessel, Capt. Carlsen turned the ship southwestward so that the wind and sea were broad on the bow and later more southerly bringing the wind almost abeam. During this time period, Carlsen had the crew fill the cracks with cement then run cable from the bitts at #3 hold to bitts aft in order to bind the deck together.
As the Flying Enterprise proceeded south keeping the seas on the starboard beam, Capt. Carlsen concluded that he must put in at either an English or French port or head to the Azores for repairs. During the night of the 27th into the morning of the 28th as yet another storm passed to the north, the vessel experienced rolling of up to 20 degrees. At about 1130 on the morning of the 28th the vessel was hit broadside by another high wave which rolled the vessel between 50-70 degrees to port shifting the cargo and causing the vessel to return to a permanent list of about 25 degrees. The list increased gradually and eventually the engine lost lubrication oil due to the list which resulted in the loss of both boilers forcing Capt. Carlsen to have his radio operator send out an SOS.
The Rescue Attempt
The SOS was answered by several ships and the passengers and crew were rescued in heavy seas by lifeboats from the US Navy troop ship USS General A W Greely and the steamerSouthland on Dec. 29th. Because of the heavy list, the lifeboats on board the Flying Enterprisecould not be launched and both passengers and crew were forced to jump into the cold North Atlantic before being recovered by the lifeboats. One middle-age passenger drowned during this operation, otherwise, all of the remaining passengers and crew were successfully rescued.
Captain Carlsen chose to remain with his ship in order to wait for the arrival of a salvage tug. The salvage tug Turmoil finally arrived on January 3rd some 5 days after the passengers and crew were rescued but it quickly became evident that it would be impossible for Capt. Carlsen, alone aboard a heavily listing vessel (now listing at 60 degrees), to secure a tow line himself.
After several unsuccessful attempts to secure the tow line, the 27-year-old chief mate on the Tug Turmoil, Kenneth Dancy, leaped from the deck of the tug onto the railing of the Flying Enterprise on one of the very close approaches made by Capt. Dan Parker of the Turmoilduring one of the failed attempts to secure the tow line. With Dancy’s help, however, a tow line was secured and the long tow back towards Falmouth England began.
While the tug and tow approached the English coast on January 8th the weather started to deteriorate. On January 9th, just 45 miles from Falmouth, heavy seas parted the towline. The Flying Enterprise drifted eastward while several attempts were made to re-secure another towline but all attempts were unsuccessful. At 1536 on the afternoon of January 10, 1952 as the Flying Enterprise, now listing at 90 degrees and taking water down the stack. Both Dancy and Carlsen jumped into the sea from off the stack and were taken aboard the Turmoil where they watched the Flying Enterprise sink under the waves, stern first at 1609.
By now this ongoing sea drama was being reported around the world and Capt. Carlsen had become world-famous for staying on his crippled freighter. Captain Carlsen received a hero’s welcome when he came ashore at Falmouth and later was awarded the Lloyd’s Silver Medal for meritorious service in recognition for his attempts to save his ship.
Carlsen received a ticker-tape parade in New York City on January 17th. A few months later he took command of the Flying Enterprise II, passing up several lucrative offers from Hollywood for his story. Carlsen, and his ordeal aboard the Flying Enterprise, is the subject of an excellent the book “Simple Courage: a True Story of Peril on the Sea” by Frank Delaney.
Coast Guard Report
The US Coast Guard inquiry found that the damage, abandonment and loss of the vessel were caused by circumstances beyond the control of the master and crew. The fracture sustained while hove to in head seas was not a direct cause of the vessel’s loss but merely an indirect contribution to the loss.
The Coast Guard did remark about the stowage of the pig iron cargo in #2 hold and noted that it was not leveled out as was the pig iron in #4 hold but was stacked in a pyrimid shape. The report stated that this did constitute a certain hazard as to shifting, however, this type of stowage was a common practice at the time and had been sanctioned by the shipper, underwriter, owner and the master. It was also believed that the empty condition of the double bottoms aft and the deep tanks in #4 hold had an appreciable effect on the great degree of list which the vessel took. ~ Fred Pickhardt Source
courtesy of the Autumn edition of
Journal of The Warsash Association
which featured the Bank Line
Posters advertising French services from a by-gone era! (My collection)
Purchased in 1995 for the Pacific Island Services. ( Russian Built)
These are screenshots from one of the videos kindly posted by Rob Wright on YouTube for the world to see. Here are the links…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tld98YJuEoY. (The Bridge)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWwHL32eaI0. (Ship’s tour)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQBg9wKg8_s. (The engine room)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndyBOlF89UE (Christmas Day)
Thanks to https://junglecat.de for the nudge!
Nostalgic Icons of the Dutch East Indies
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Thanks to Captain Geoffrey Walker of Melbourne, Australia for this interesting article. His own maritime site can be reached here: https://oceanjoss.com
The 1966 built SHIRRABANK
Polly Woodside MELBOURNE
Written and compiled by Captain Geoffrey Walker whose site is at https://oceanjoss.com. Many thanks to him.
See the full article…
Sailing vessel – Isle of Arran
This handsome vessel was built by Russell and Company in 1892 for a Glasgow company called, ” The Isle of Arran Shipping Co ltd”, and bought by Andrew Weir 3 years later. She was on passage from Buenos Aires to Le Havre in 1914 with a full cargo of Maize when caught by a German U-Boat and sunk.
BANK LINE Passages…
The Straits of Magellan
For many years from the sailing era to modern times, Bank Line ships passed through the challenging Straits of Magellan en route to the discharge ports of Chile and Peru, and occasionally sailed back from West to East. (Maritime History shows that few sailng ships used the passage due to the need for expensive tugs throughout)
In 1958 the MORAYBANK had a narrow escape as described below.
Pearling Luggers in the Torres Strait
Bank Line navigators and others will remember the passage often used when leaving the Australian east coast and bound to the North. The Torres strait pilotage was a special event in many long voyages.
Click below to read the full article
Many thanks to Captain Geoffrey Walker who penned this interesting account
See https://oceanjoss.com for more maritime articles and pictures
NORTH SHIPPING COMPANY LTD
Another fine article from Captain Geoffrey Walker. Please click the download button to read the full text.
F.T.EVERARD & Sons
Here is an interesting article by Captain Geoffrey Walker about F.T.Everards, familiar to all mariners who have visited UK home waters.
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Many thanks to Geoff Walker. His site may be viewed here: https://oceanjoss.com
An Apprentice’s memory
A great view of the ‘old’ WEYBANK
This is an account by Captain Geoffrey Walker who had a typical Bank Line apprenticeship, and who later went on to command many other company vessels in a highly interesting and varied career. He is now a successful author and contributor to shipping magazines, with his many articles much sought after.
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Forgotten Scandinavians by Geoff Walker
See the full article by clicking on the download button.
Many thanks to Captain Geoffrey Walker – another fine article about the maritime world.
To see his site, please visit: https://oceanjoss.com
BANK LINE Ports…
An aerial view of New Plymouth with Mount Egmont in the distance
New Plymouth, on the north island of New Zealand, was a regular port for Bank Line vessels, either discharging the last of the import cargo from the USA Gulf Ports, or more often as a discharge port for Phosphate.
The Liberty, MAPLEBANK after discharging a full cargo of Phosphate Rock from Ocean Island
BANK LINE Ports…
Sydney Harbour, always a magnificent site and a welcome port call for all the Bank Line ships. All the delights of a major city, with the added prospect of easily arranged on -board parties.
Bank Line stalwarts from the Copra run will no doubt remember seeing the Burns Philp vessels that served the area, and the crews that were S. Pacific regulars. The unique atmosphere in the islands, the sights, sounds, and aroma were unique.
Captain Geoffrey Walker who was a long term Master on other vessels in the area has penned this excellent article and fleet history. An extract is below, and the full article is available by clicking on the download button.
Many thanks to Geoff. His site is here:- https://oceanjoss.com
A nice view of her loaded.
This ship, built 1977 in Sunderland, was only in the fleet for 4 years before being sold on. She became the Greek ALKAIOS for 13 years and ended as the GEORGE for a further 6 years – a total life span of 23 years.
BANK LINE Ports…
The magnificent city of Buenos Aires – a regular stop for lucky Bank Line mariners!
The TWEEDBANK en route to B. Aires, perhaps
The attractions of B.A. could hardly be overstated. There was something for everyone, and the nightlife excelled. Leave a comment if you have happy memories!
Stephen, Sutton and company.
written and edited by Captain Geoffrey Walker
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This, and many more articles, photos, paintings and maritime ephemera may be seen on Geoff’s site which is https://oceanjoss.com
LIGHTVESSELS AROUND THE BRITISH ISLES
An interesting article by Captain Geoffrey Walker
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Many more maritime items from paintings to articles may be seen on Geoff’s own site which is https://oceanjoss.com
Another interesting article from Captain Geoffrey Walker
A picture of “Graigfelen.”from the article….
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Readers interested in the author should see his book titled, ” A Tramp For All The Oceans” and visit the website full of maritime items – https://oceanjoss.com
HOBBIES AT SEA
The LEVERNBANK 1961-73
Stranded on the West coast of S. America
Not BANK LINE material, but the beginning of original and informative articles written by an ex Bank Line Apprentice who went on to command a variety of ships for many years. His published works include ” A Tramp For All The Oceans” and his numerous articles are in demand by the shipping magazines.
Please click on the button below to download the full article
A special thanks to Captain Geoffrey Walker.
See the interesting maritime site at https://oceanjoss.com
BANK LINE Ports…..
Mombasa in Kenya was a regular and popular port for Bank Line ships. It was on the round trip itinerary of the INCHANGA and the ISIPINGO between Durban and Calcutta. The harbour of Kilindini and the creeks beyond were ideal for sailing or motoring around in the ship’s lifeboats for pleasure.
Apprentices and an engineer on a lifeboat trip to Port Reitz hotel 1952
Kilindini Berths in the 1950’s
Here is an interesting article about a HK shipping company written by Captain Geoffrey Walker who was a Bank Line apprentice in the 1960’s.
“Shun Wah” ex Bradford City
To read the full interesting article, please click on the download button or text below.
Many thanks to Geoff Walker. His maritime site, full of interesting material, articles, pictures, and reflections can be found at https://oceanjoss.com
BANK LINE Ports……
One of the prettiest ports visited regularly on the south island of N.Z. Formed from an extinct volcano in past times. Bank Line ships discharged U.S. Gulf cargo, and phosphate from Ocean Island. and Nauru.
The Maplebank apprentices climbed the peak overlooking the port in 1956. A view looking down.
The Liverpool AB’s of the MAPLEBANK in port in Lyttleton.
‘Classes’ of vessels post WW2
One of the smartest looking profiles – the TWEEDBANK (Taybank class)
BEAVERBANK and NESSBANK
The BEAVERBANK, and the NESSBANK, two of the 6 post war sisters that were at the heart of the Pacific Island Copra trade.
They both went to Greek owners, the BEAVERBANK after 17 years service, and the NESSBANK after 20 years.
BANK LINE Ports…
BRISBANE in Queensland was often the first welcome port of discharge and taste of civilisation for Bank Line ships after a month long crossing of the Pacific.
The long approach and pilotge past Moreton Island.
The CEDARBANK fire
The beautiful Barque Cedarbank was built for Andrew Weir by Mackie and Thompson, Glasgow, in 1892. She was a steel 4 masted Barque, and was a sistership of the famous Olivebank, built at the same yard. Her tonnage was 2825 gross, and 2649 net. After 21 years service, she was sold out of the fleet in 1913 to a Norwegian owner.
On her maiden voyage, in June 1892, she loaded coal at Newcastle for San Francisco. Her cargo was 4,400 tons. She sailed at the beginning of March, but shortly after sailing she ran into severe weather and lost part of her masts off of the Australian coast after being caught in a cyclone. The cyclone caused much damage all along the Australian coast, and the Cedarbank had to return to Sydney for 2 months repairs, sailing again at the end of April.
Outside of the harbour again, the winds were mainly SE’ly, and it was decided to take advantage and sail the northerly route across the Pacific. All went well on the long passage until, after 45 days at sea, strong fumes were detected coming out of the ventilators. Some hatches had been taken off to allow painting of the coatings, and then smoke was seen trickling up through the coal cargo. The temperature was taken by lowering thermometer down the inside of the masts, and as a result, it was decided to fight the fire at number 2 hatch first. The coal was stowed right up into the hatch square, and the crew set to, dumping some 250 tons overboard. This was to make a space, and to get near the seat of the fire. After three or four days, the men were all overcome by fumes, preventing further efforts, so the pumps were started and water played over the coal. 30 inches of water ws sounded in the bilges when it was then pumped out and recycled back onto the cargo. This was kept going for several days, until just after 12 midnight one night, and ten days after the fire was first noticed there was a sudden explosion. This was in the fore end of number 2 hatch, and occurred whilst a man was down below spraying water around. The flames burst up through the coal and blue flames danced over the visible surface.
The man who had been below scurried out of the hold, yelling and shaking, and with good cause.
At this stage, the nearest land was approximately 1000 miles away, and the situation looked serious. The Cedarbank at this point was situated in the North Pacific Ocean, above the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii).
All the hatches were put then back on, and the hoses were redeployed down the ventilators. The excessive heat turned the water to steam, and after a further period it appeared to put the flames out.
At daylight, the Master ordered all the boats to be swung out and fully provisioned in readiness for a long journey, and before dark on that day were put over the side and towed astern. Charts, chronometers, and all equipment was loaded together with two men for steering. After eight or nine days, after the fire appeared to subside, the boats were again hoisted up on davits, and where they stayed until the ship arrived in San Francisco.
The night before making the Farallones, outside of San Francisco, there were several heavy new explosions. This was put down to the fresh breeze which had sprung up giving new life to the fire. Hatches were blown off, and a bizarre game ensued as the crew replaced them time after time, attempting to contain the fire and starve it of oxygen. However, they were repeatedly blown off by the exploding fire! This happened despite the firm wedging to keep the boards in place. Despite this, they were nearing port, and the crew began to feel confident that they could make port this way.
Every outlet was covered up to smother the fire as much as possible, and after 35 days in total fighting the fire, to the great joy of those onboard, a tug was sighted looking for a tow. As the breeze was fresh and favourable, the tug’s first offer was refused, but eventually a price of 70 dollars was agreed which was a cheap tow. Some 3 years later the same service cost the vessel 200 dollars. The tug captain did not suspect that anything was amiss, although with the boats swung out it was an unusual sight, except when carrying passengers. He then saw smoke coming out of the focs’le and asked the Mate what was going on. The Mate replied that it was probably the crew burning paint pots, and the tug only heard of the fire later from sources ashore. On the way in it was usual for shipping reporters to come on board for details of the passage, but when they learned of the ongoing fire, they quickly returned to the boats alongside and conducted interviews from there!
Once in port, the Cedarbank was towed to mudflats by the same company, and two tugs with pumps provided, all at the normal rates. The exercise to pump water in and out took about 36 hours, after which she berthed alongside and discharged her cargo. It was then seen the fire had started in several places, and it was seen that coal and coke had fused together in the heat, standing up like a wall in number 2 hold. Beams and stringers were buckled, and the wooden deck in that area all burned away.
The American Australian and British papers all made fun of how the British ship had scored off of the American tug company, but as any shipmaster will attest, it was simply a matter of protecting the owner’s interests.
The Captain was later awarded a gold watch by the underwriters for his actions.
This is an extract from the ebook: “ Man The Braces! “ available on AMAZON.
UNITED BALTIC CORPORATION
UBC as it was commonly known had an interesting history, being founded at the request of King George V. to serve Poland and the Baltic countries. Shares were equally held by Andrew Weir in the UK, and the East Asiatic Company in Copenhagen. It commenced trading in 1919.
The 1924 built BATAVIA purchased in 1937. Passengers and cargo.
Some vessels of the UBC fleet. For the Bank Line mariners, hooked on world-wide sailing, UBC and the subsidiary company, MacAndrews serving the Mediteranean were sometimes regarded as a bit ‘down market’ – but hindsight suggests that they were a ‘best kept secret,’ offering the most interesting short voyages!
BANK LINE Ports……..
The Spencer Gulf ports of Port Lincoln and Port Pirie were regular ports for Bank Line vessels loading grain or discharging phosphate. Remembered fondly for the friendly welcome ashore.
The MAPLEBANK alongside in Port Lincoln
The MINCHBANK in Port Lincoln in 1959
A typical view of the jetty in earlier years
BANK LINE Ports…
The TEAKBANK in Colombo Harbour.
Colombo photos, before and after. Development has been spectacular, led by the need for container berths and cranes, and imaginative expansion has made the port almost unrecognizable from earlier days.
BANK LINE Ports……
Geelong, in the shadow of her big sister Melbourne in Victoria was a very regular port for Bank Line vessels throughout. Mostly, but not exclusively to load bulk grain.
The COMLIEBANK with La HACIENDA for company on the Geelong jetty in the 1930’s.
Sailing ships loading in Geelong
SAILING VESSEL THORNLIEBANK
The above account is taken from a 1937 Sea Breezes letter, describing how a would- be apprentice missed sailing on an ill fated maiden voyage of the 1886 built THORNLIEBANK, the first vessel built for Andrew Weir.
If it is the same vessel, the account varies from what actually happened.
BANK LINE Ports…………
A regular and popular port call for Bank Line vessels with friendly and fun loving locals!
A fairly recent view, but before the container era, a berth near the beach meant access for swimming , especially on layup, as when the IRISBANK had several weeks waiting for a replacement lifeboat to arrive in 1956.
The ‘old’ NAIRNBANK loading flour in Fremantle
The approaches past Rottnest Island.
BANK LINE Ports….
One of the least popular calls for Bank Line ships was the island of NAURU where phosphate rock was loaded under the cantilevers.
Readers might recall the ships that ran from the various phosphate islands to Australia/New Zealand. Names beginning with ‘TRI’ and the service often augmented by Bank Line vessels.
An interesting article follows by Michael Smith, who commenced his sea going life on the TEAKBANK and who later served as an engineer on the TRI ELLIS
Please click on the link below for the account of life onboard.
Many thanks to Michael Smith in New Zealand who is a regular contributor.
PILOTING THE ANDAMANS
Below is a link to an article by a regular contributor, Captain Geoffrey Walker. After Bank Line, Geoffrey rose to command of vessels sailing throughout the Pacific and Far East waters and his knowledge and love of the area shines through in his many fascinating articles. A huge thanks Geoffrey for sharing these with Bank Line readers…..
The ill fated LEVERNBANK in which Geoffrey served as an apprentice on an earlier voyage.
Click below to download the full illustrated article
BANK LINE Ports….
Older readers will remember Harmony St. wharf, the regular loading berth on the river, complete with ship’s wooden plaques, see below.
A heavy lift placed on the deck of the MAPLEBANK in New Orleans
The Swann Hunter vessels built 1962 and 63, the SPEYBANK and the MARABANK. No 1 hatch raised.
Michael Smith, who commenced his seagoing career on the M.V. TEAKBANK continues his account of serving on other vessels…
Triple Expansion Steam Engine with Exhaust Turbine
The S.S. Triadic was built in 1945 as a service vessel and originally named the HMS Dungeness. I am led to believe that the ‘Dungeness’ was used to patrol the waters around Darwin. She was later converted to a Phosphate bulk carrier and named S.S. Triadic. To the best of my knowledge the ‘Triadic’ was owned and run by The British Phosphate Commissioners (BPC) who managed extraction of phosphate from Christmas Island, Nauru and Banaba (Ocean Island) from 1979 until 1981. British Phosphate owned and ran 2 other vessels, the ‘Triellis’ and ‘Triaster’. During my time with BPC I served on the ‘Triellis’ and the ‘Triadic’.
I joined the Triadic in Fremantle, Western Australia after a 4 hour plane ride from Melbourne, Australia in the early 70’s. This was to be my second (and last) steam powered vessel. At that stage the Triadic was on a semi-permanent run carting Phosphate from Christmas Island to Albany and Geraldton in Western Australia. As some of you might remember, Albany operated as a whaling station in the days of yore. If memory serves me right it took around 9 days to get to Christmas Island and around 12 days on the return trip to Albany. I cannot remember whether we carried passengers on the Triadic, but we certainly took up to 12 passengers back and forth on the same run on the M.V. Triellis.
Taking a look around the engine room for the first time, I discovered that there were two oil fired 500lb per square inch boilers, which made steam for the two 300kw generators and the triple expansion Main Engine. The Steering Gear aft consisted of three steam driven pumps, these operated a somewhat large screw mechanism, which in turn meshed with a large quadrant which when moved, turned the rudder in the required direction. When testing the steering gear prior to leaving port, clouds of steam with the mandatory hissing sound filled the steering gear flat, the three pistons whizzed up and down at a great rate of knots when the wheel on the bridge was turned, and then stopped abruptly when the desired position was reached. I often wondered whether this sudden starting and stopping had any effect on the sleeping habits of the crew.
The main engine itself, was an ‘open crankcase’ design, in other words, there was no outer casing on the engine, and everything that went up and down and round and round were in full view. When under way all three connecting rods and big end bearings spun around at 90rpm for all to see. The 2 nd Engineer suggested that I should look at learning to check the big end bearing temperature by touching the 4 ton big end as it spun around! Needless to say I was never really open to acquiring this legendary skill!
The trip to Christmas Island was relatively uneventful. I do not believe that ‘blowing the tubes’ was an operation that was carried out on the Triadic. This just might have been because the boilers were fire , rather than water tube boilers? Cannot remember.
We anchored off Christmas Island some days later as another vessel was being loaded with Phosphate. We were told that we needed to be at anchor for about 3 days. In the early 70’s the whole area around the island was teeming with fish, and fishing with hand held lines when not on watch, was a favorite pastime for most of us. A line dropped into the water almost always resulted in a tug on the line within a minute or two. Most of the fish were Snapper with the occasional Barracuda from time to time. The R/O on board at that time was a very keen fisherman, and would have up to 4 lines ‘going’ at the same time. He would drop the lines in, tie his lines to the handrail and ask the others to give him a call if any of the lines caught a fish. He would then disappear to his cabin. This of course attracted some of the guys with not much to do, to play tricks on the Sparky. They often would haul his lines up and tie a couple of cans of Tuna on to the hook and then give him a call. On one occasion someone managed to ‘obtain’ a frozen fish from the freezer and tied it to the end of his line and then gave him a call. It was all done in fun and no one was ever terribly upset at all this carry on.
At some stage 3 of the lads got a tad more adventurous, and decided to make a large hook in the engine room with the view to snagging a shark. A lump of meat was stuck on the hook and with the help of a rather stout rope line lowered into the water. Its end was tied securely to the handrail. Due to the abundance of fish in the area quiet a few sharks could sometimes be seen cruising around. Some time later the rope went as taut as a bow string, and with a cry of joy three of them rushed to pull whatever had taken a bite of the hook up to the surface. As luck would have it, a large 4 or 5 meter Bronze Whaler had taken the bait. It took a great deal of cursing, swearing and grunting to haul this shark, who had possibly decided that it would not go quietly! to the surface. Due to the fact that we were ‘light ship’, meant that there was quite a way to go before we got the shark on the deck. So, there was a big shark + gravity pulling one way and 3 aspiring ‘shark hunters’ pulling the other. Gravity played a huge part in this endeavor, and no sooner had the shark been lifted a few feet out of the water when it’s weight overcame the muscles and sinews of the 3 lads, and it flopped back into the water. Some of the others, who were witnessing this unequal duel of wills shouted many expletives, encouragements and many and varied instructions as to how they should go about landing/pulling this large shark up on to the deck. Some even lent a hand with the pulling all to no avail. At one stage there would have been at least half dozen brawny lads tugging on the rope. By this time the rope was starting to chaff the palms of the gallant three. Meanwhile it was up 2 or 3 meters…the shark would give an enormous wiggle and it was down into the water again. Finally, after some time, it dawned on the 3 guys and the others assisting in this capture, that it was a lost cause and that basically they had a ‘tiger by the tail’. With some reluctance they cut the rope and allowed the shark to swim free. A lot of discussion took place as many availed themselves of a couple of cleansing ales after all the huffing and puffing, seeking a way to improve their technique and do better next time.
Thanks to Alan Rawlinson for giving me this opportunity to share my stories with you good people.
May you be well.
SS Triadic 7461 tons Built 10/1945 by West Coast Ship builders, Vancouver, BC. 426.8 x 57.2 x 34.9. 3 cylinder up & downer built by Canadian Allis Chalmers. 2 WT boilers. DF, ESD,GyC, radar, 2 decks, cruiser stern, O/No;181713.
Owned by British Phosphate Commisionaires. A H Gaze MBE as managers.
Registered London British flag.
15 YEARS IN THE COMPANY (64 to 79) BEFORE BECOMING THE ‘NIKITAS F ‘ under GREEK OWNERS
Bank Line Ports…
DURBAN, South Africa
The beautiful port-city of Durban, a regular call for Bank Line ships. It was the terminal port for the so called ” white ships” , Inchanga and Isipingo running a regular service to Calcutta and ports in-between.
BANK LINE Ports…
Newcastle N.S.W. Australia
Newcastle in NSW has been a regular port of call for Bank Line ships, and the friendly and welcoming shoreside has remained in the memory of many of the visiting crews.
This was Newcastle around 1910 when coal to S America was a huge export. The Bank Line fleet were regular callers, and some paid the price for being nominated for this sometimes deadly cargo and routing.
The CASTLEBANK lost after loading coal in Newcastle. Another purchased ship, the ELLISLAND also was lost after loading coal here in 1910.
BANK LINE Ports…
An aerial view of the river Hooghly
Of all the world ports, Calcutta was visited most by Bank Line ships, loading cargoes for Africa and S. America among other destinations. A feature of a visit was the long haul, sometimes 2 days, up the river Hooghly.
Bank Line ships in the docks and on the river moorings
BANK LINE ports………
Looking sad on lay-up in the River Blackwater in 1982. Became the Toana Nuiguini in 1986 but sold to the German Company Joseph Roth a year later.
Here she is in happier times (1980) on her Pacific round trip with passengers and cargo. See the interesting account of life onboard by searching on the ‘Q’ button for Meadowbank.
NEWCASTLE NSW. in 1896
CASTLEBANK and LAURELBANK crews take part in a ship’s regatta
An account of a regatta between the ship’s crews in 1896 in Newcastle NSW. Taken from a Sea Breezes issue of 1937.
The Castlebank crew won the last race – for copper punts. See the last paragraph. She then loaded coal for Valpairiso in August and disappeared with it at sea in September.
It was quite common that ships loading coal out of Newcastle would go missing. Sometimes due to weather, but often fire or capsize, coal being a risky cargo.
The Laurelbank also disappeared at sea 2 years after this event.
William Petch commented…
Sailed on TROUTBANK in 1982 as 3 eng ,had a great stay in Sydney for over 6 weeks !!!! Best time I every had in port ,my fellow shipmates were a great sociable bunch .
Port Elizabeth (now Gqeberha)
Loved Port Elizabeth, visited on Beaverbank and Ruddbank and remember spending a lot of time in a bar/hotel owned by a couple from Maghull near Liverpool where I lived – can’t remember name of it though
Did my first trip to sea on Cloverbank, renamed Siena, On a E A C charter in 1977 ,6 month trip ,joined her in Hong Kong , paid off in Bangkok .sailed to Busan,Pusan in Korea, Yokohama & Kobe in Japan across to Vancouver, Seattle,Portland & Astoria in Canada, then down to L A & San francisco ,then Manilla, Singapore,Bangkok then back to Hong Kong . Did 3 round trips on that run . WOw what a trip that was !!!
Many thanks to William Petch for this great recall..
CLOVERBANK Did my first trip to sea on Cloverbank, renamed Siena, On a E A C charter in 1977 ,6 month trip ,joined her …
I was 2nd engineer on that trip, BJ Peterson was the old man, Eric Nixen 3rg eng, Garry Russel 4th eng, Fridel was the Chief. What a trip that was, when we left in Bangkok the Samson derrick was lying on the wharf after being dropped and smashed through one of the winches. What position were you onboard? Do you have any photos?
APIA – Western Samoa
A regular Copra loading port for the Bank Line ships calling around the Pacific islands.
Comment by William Petch…
Whilst standing by in Sunderland at Crestbank new build, the funniest thing I ever saw was when I gave Captain C B Davies a lift on a Friday lunchtime to the train station as he was going home to Wales for the weekend he was standing on the platform waiting for his train , with 4 prize winning leeks under his arm.The previous night 4 of the shipyard workers had taken him out to the local Southwick working mens club leek show.& he was wined &dined there & presented with the 4 leeks. Talk about coals to Newcastle.!!!!
William Petch commented…
Sailed on maiden voyage of RUDDBANK in 1979 , had an eventfull trip up to China with Steel cargo from Spain, picked up 134 Vietnamese refugees off the coast of Borneo had them on board for over a month , finally landed them ashore in first loading port on next charter in Japan where we loaded for the Persian gulf. Captain C B Davies being our leader , best captain I ever sailed with .!!!! Very sad end for vessel in Venezuela.!!!!
NB: She was later called, ” Global Mariner” owned as a seafarers training ship, and sank on the river Orinoco in 2000 after a collision.
BANKLINE devotees, stop here!
You have reached a sheltered anchorage full of good things. Ships passing in the night, and casual visitors alike – you are all WELCOME!
See thousands of entries – ship pictures, stories, records, and memories old and new. Wartime accounts and fascinating history from 1885 onwards. Explore the surroundings, and for the lucky ones who spent time in the company, wallow if you like in nostalgia, recalling the heady days that will never, ever, be repeated. Best viewed with rose tinted glasses and your favourite tipple to hand! Now scroll on…..
Joseph Stenhouse served his apprenticeship in the Bank Line, spending 4 years on the sailing vessel SPRINGBANK. The book called ” Cracker Hash” tells the most interesting story
A short extract describes Melbourne in around 1900
Commander J.R. Stenhouse went on to become famous as Master of Shackleton’s ship AURORA , and later, the DISCOVERY. He was killed in the Red Sea in WW2.
WARTIME CAMOURFLAGE AT SEA
Bank Line’s ALYNBANK after conversion to HMS ALYNBANK
A comprehensive article by Captain Geoffrey Walker follows, and an extract reads:-
Click on the Download button for the full article. Many thanks to Geoff for permitting this posting on the Bank Line site. Interested readers should also see his site at https://oceanjoss.com
William Petch. commented….
The Fish class vessels were in my opinion the best bankline ships built .Their Doxford 4 CYLINDER 670 J type engineswere a joy to sail with, once you got used to the starting & manouvering technique. Also working on the engine units for unit overhauls was quite labòur intensive. BUt boy did you enjoy a few beers afterwards!!!!
William Petch commented…
I remember in Sydney in 1982 on TROUTBANK, ashore with some shoreside friends went to a late night Jazz club down some dark stairs in the city some place ,went to visit the gents urinals standing there and suddenly the band started playing and I could watch them perform from where I was standing. The toilet was right next to the stage with no side wall to it , talk about blowing your own trumpet.!!!!
Where are we heading?
A micrometer sextant in daily use before the GPS arrived.. Now where are we going? A thought provoking article by Captain Geoffrey Walker examines AIS and more…
Click the download button for the interesting article. Also, see https://oceanjoss.com for Geoff’s site.
A 1939 article in Sea Breezes
William Petch recalls the FORTHBANK.
I joined the Forthbank in Hull in March 1981 as 3eng afte obtaining my 2nd eng ticket at South Shields marine college . She had just carried out a quadrennial survey at Boness in Holland where unfortunatly after leaving the drydock on a cold foggy winters day she collided with a bridge on her way out to sea.!! ( See the report on this site). So she was turned around & back up to a layby berth for foremasts replacement & some deck repairs .The master was Harry Barber, but the collision was totally the pilots fault as they were talking in Dutch only to the tug & a misunderstanding caused the pilot to try &take the vessel through an unopen section of the bridge.Sutch is life’s surprises.!! This was my first Sopac copra run, down through the Panama canal & back up through the Suez canal a round trip of 4 months back to Rotterdam & payoff. My shortest trip after 4 voyages with the company. On our return from the south Pacific to Europe we carried a dug out canoe with outrigger attached which was a gift to Prince Charles on his visit there from the king of Tonga. The boat was located on top of containers down the aft end of vessel on the poopdeck , we took great pleasure in throwing our empty beer cans into the canoe on our voyage homewards. Needless to say it was full on arrive back in Europe!!!! Good job they were only cans & not bottled sp beers.!!!!