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Identity of ship sinking

Posted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 4:14 am
by astraltrader
I have an interesting photograph of a ship sinking but have been unable to find out her identity.

Just wondered if anybody had any thoughts on this??

Re: Photos of ships sinking

Posted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 10:56 am
by RF
astraltrader, I am not clear as to what is happening in this image. If the ship is sinking it would presumably be slowly, but note the close proximity of the small sailing vessel, almost alongside. If the ship was sinking quickly the sailing vessel would be well clear, would it not?

Re: Photos of ships sinking

Posted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 2:32 pm
by hammy
That is the aftermath of a fire in harbour , which is still burning in the forward boiler room , under the collapsed funnel and she is also still alight right forward in the bows , where the paint locker and lamp rooms are .

The ship type is a "cargo liner" ie one running on a particular schedule and route carrying both passengers and some freight ,
rather than a "tramp" which goes to whatever port(s) she can get a profitable cargo to , and as importantly , obtain another profitable cargo from , to go on somewhere else -- and because of this random progress , seldom carried passengers.

There are three sets of boat davits abaft the bridge in which two boats remain , and what appear to be "folding lifeboats" -- as per the Titanic -- on top of the chartroom/wirelessroom/captains sea cabin structure just aft of the bridge . That this equipment is still in place indicates that few or no passengers were aboard at the time , or that they were got off by harbour service vessels . Right aft there are three more sets of davits which are swung outboard and empty , indicating that these boats were got away , probably with the crew .
The ship has four cargo holds , one each fore and aft of her big masts , as evidenced by the sets of derricks ( cranes ) each side of each mast . These appear to all be in their stowed position , so she probably wasn't taking in or discharging cargo at the time .
The stump square tower at the aft end of the main superstructure with a thing sticking up on top is her standard magnetic compass , up there to seperate it as far as possible from the magnetic influence of the mass of the ship .
I think I can make out her ensign still hanging from the staff on the stern , which I think looks like a vertical dark stripe , then a central vertical pale stripe with a big complicated logo in the middle , and nearest the staff I cant see , but presume another vertical stripe of dark colour , which indicates to me she may be an Italian , which the general attractive lines , funnel proportions and elegant slight curve of the stem would bear out .

The sail boat looks like a Naval "Whaler" type -- a double ended seaboat used in variations by most navies . This one has a large four character identification number on the lug mainsail , the lower characters appear to be K or X and 1 or 7 .
There is a second boat of the same type coming towards the photographer around the stern of the wreck , so they may be racing .
The wreck apears to have been painted in a light hull colour , indicating a temperate or tropical location of ship use , borne out by framing for extensive awnings on the wreck and the White clothing of the sailboat crews , and those in the motor boat under the bows of the wreck .

Photos of ships sinking

Posted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 6:51 pm
by Bgile
Impressive amount of detail Hammy, but how many cargo ships have you seen with two funnels. I think that is a passenger ship all the way.

Re: Identity of ship sinking

Posted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 8:37 pm
by hammy
O K , we aren't dealing in absolutes here .
The giveaway are the Derricks ( cargo handling booms ) on each side of the big masts . All Passenger liners have some lifting gear , even if she only carries the Mail , and a motor car or two , or a souvenier grand piano some passenger wants to take home , because there are also always heavy bits of ship that need to come aboard and be landed again sometimes , and there is usually a hold , usually under a hatch on the foredeck , to put stuff in .
Here there are too many for the pure passenger ship's "ancillary" purposes , and the layout tells you she has four holds . There are portholes at the tween decks levels all along her sides , so the hatchways are probably narrow box structures going down through two accomodation decks before entering the hold itself at and below the waterline .
Also , she doesn't have the ranks of boats that the pure "people carrier" would need . I count six forward (If those are "folders" on the bridge-top) and six aft - times 50 persons each would be six hundred maximum , say two hundred in the crew , and four hundred passengers .
You progress through a series of stages down from the "Pure passenger liner" to a ship which carries some cargo as well as her passengers ( which I think you are looking at here ) ,
to a ship which has big holds fore and aft of a central passenger accomodation superstructure ,
to a ship which has some passenger space in addition to her primary job of cargo carrying ,
to a "Pure freighter" which is unlikely to carry anyone except an occasional Supercargo or a Company/Captain's guest .
All these are "Liners" if they run on a scheduled regular route , or for one , usually well-known , Company .
"Cargo Liners" is a catch-all shorthand description for those vessels which are optimised to carry more than a token amount of freight and more than a token number of passengers .
The particular "trade" or niche market the ship is optimised for also affects the design and you can generally tell roughly what any ship is ( was ) designed to do from the external appearance , fittings , etc , the harder ones being the mixed use , general purpose ships .

Re: Identity of ship sinking

Posted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 8:55 pm
by hammy
Astraltrader , can you tell us please anything about where/who you got this photo from , that may help us pinpoint it better .

Re: Identity of ship sinking

Posted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 9:06 pm
by Bgile
In which case I suppose SS United States was a cargo liner, as was SS Lusintania

Re: Identity of ship sinking

Posted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:25 pm
by hammy
No , they are the pure passenger types , minimal hold space accessed through a foredeck hatch .
Built for the North Atlantic Run ie Europe to US , they are specialised ships keeping to very tight schedules , and
cargo handling ( except at their minimal levels ) would be a time consuming nuisance AND not particularly profitable , given the free availability of specialised cargo carriers of all types on that route .
Typical freight would be passengers own "excess baggage" , Mail (including parcels) , and small consignments of high value -- gold bullion going from bank to bank for one example , where the banks want it there as fast as possible , and not mixed up with a mass of other stuff in a cargo warehouse somewhere .
Lusitania's small packet of ammunition was a case of Wartime emergency , where you are putting freight into any shipping space that is available .I think that was smallarms ammunition in cases , which is pretty stable stuff , compared to , say , dynamite , for which you would have to build a wooden magazine chamber in the hold , all fastened with copper nails .

Normally you wouldn't dream of putting anything classed as Dangerous Cargo into a passenger ship .
As with the Mail , the ship flies a single International code flag to tell everyone seeing her that (In the case of Mails ) "Give me priority" , and for the other " I have dangerous cargo aboard . Keep well clear of me "
The ship in the photo is designed for a run where there is sufficient steady passenger traffic , but not the mass movements of people you see going Europe to the U S and back , and the requirement to ship a fair quantity of ( in this case light weight - because the gear is small ) cargo as well .
If she IS an Italian , then one possibility MIGHT be Italy to the river Plate , many Italians emigrated to South America , as did many Germans , and there were regular runs to and fro ; but the extent of the awning frames make me think Far East .

She is laying well out in a roadstead , which might indicate there is no deepwater quay , or more likely , that these are busy .
There is the bows of another anchored merchantman showing beyond her bows , with what might be a big shore or dockyard crane in the distance , and behind her stern is a third , distant merchant ship , empty of cargo .

I'm not certain , but there MAY be a big warship there . If you magnify the area of the very stern of the wreck , you can make out another of the sailing "whalers" , a third one , on the same tack as the first - the sails that is , beyond the wreck .
move your vision slightly forward on the wreck to the skeleton frame of the after "bridge" sticking up . Between and slightly above are two very distant masts sticking up , each having a big platform halfway up . There also appears to be a square flag at the top of the slightly taller mast .
That MIGHT be a pre-dreadnought battleship , dreadnought or armoured cruiser , nearly bows on to you , with an admiral's flag at the foremasthead .
These ships lingered in many ports as guardships after their seagoing days were over , so it doesn't help much with location or year , but it tells us this isnt some out-of-the-way place . ---- If I'm not imagining it .

The seaborne freighting system all still goes on today , except we dont see it anymore because the humans are going by (faster and cheaper) aeroplanes now , and a lot of the cargo is going in anonymous Container ships , Bulk carriers , Tankers , and the rest usually in a general purpose , pure cargo handling "tramp" .
There are still a few specialists ; - Liquified petroleum gas carriers , motor-car transporters , heavy lift ships and so on , but like the others nearly all of them are Flagged in Panama or Liberia , assembled in some factory dockyard from pre-fabricated units , and sail under charter rather than for a traditional Line .

Progress , but in a way its a shame because there was a time when you could look round a harbour and pick out where a ship had been built , what Company she was working for , what trade she was in , etc , just by looking at the ships .

Re: Identity of ship sinking

Posted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 6:57 pm
by astraltrader
hammy wrote:Astraltrader , can you tell us please anything about where/who you got this photo from , that may help us pinpoint it better .
Sorry guys - I collect postcards and photos of warships and other ships and it appeared in a box of ephemera that I purchased.

There are no details written on the back.

I consider myself reasonably knowledgeable about warships and I guessed this was probably a liner of some sort. I just thought one of you might recognise it.

Re: Identity of ship sinking

Posted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 8:21 pm
by lwd
There are some very good photo interp people over on the IJN board you might try posting it there unless you are sure it's not Japanese.