Shipping & Shipbuilding News -  26 January 2009- The Brightest Maritime Daily
 



Top photo is the one provided by Sub Sea and the one below clearly shows the photo is that of PORT NICHOLSON - the mystery remains!

Murky treasure ship find raises doubts
Identity of vessel less than clear...


Yesterday's Sunday Telegraph carries a report that a US salvage company has found a torpedoed cargo ship, which they claim contains the greatest ever maritime treasure from a wreck.

The photo that accompanies the article is a blurred fascimile that is supposed to be the wreck. They have, according to the Telegraph, codenamed the vessel 'BLUE BARON" as they do not want the identity of the vessel made known, not her exact whereabouts.

A member of staff at the Sunday Telegraph linked the photo to a vessel called the PORT NICHOLSON and Shipping Times has located a photo that is the original of this fascimile which clearly shows that the Telegraph was correct. The photo IS that of the PORT NICHOLSON. She was lost off Cape Cod, sunk by U87 on 16 June, 1942.

This rather casts a doubt on the company's insistence that U87 sunk their wreck in June '42. From available records it is quite clear U87 was never off Guyana in that year, never mind that month. In fact in all her (short) career she spent her time exclusively patroling either the Iberian coast or on the North Atlantic.

On 19th May 1942 she left St. Nazaire to start a 51 day patrol of the North Atlantic. From data obtained at Uboat.net it is evident each day was plotted faithfully until she retuned to St. Nazaire on the 8th July. At no time could she, or did she, deviate from this patrol.

This then rules out this particular U-boat but leaves us with the questions on the wreck the company say they have found and, if she was a war loss, who sent her to the bottom.

The company claims their wreck lies 40 miles off Guyana and was on a voyage from Europe to New York with 'land-lease materials' - including gold bullion, gems and ingots of copper and other metals.

Shipping Times has looked at the records of every ship sunk by U-boats in June of 1942 and none of the sinkings match, not even closely.

In the Telegraph the company insists U87 sank their vessel in the location they have found her:

"...Sub Sea Research claims to have located the submarine's log book which prove it did sink the "Blue Baron", as well as documents from the port of origin, the US Treasury and the Lend-Lease programme giving clues as to what was on board."

It is beyond credibility that U87 was in that area at the time and even more incredulous that her movements should be covered up. Also, crew on the sunken vessel would have known what was in her hold.


Here is a list of vessels known to have sunk in the region of Guyana (we presume this refers to what was known as British Guiana ). We think we may have located the nearest wreck if we accept the US salvage company's location. However, not all facts fit for any one vessel as described by them

Nearly all of the vessels look similar or could be construed as similar to the photo provided by the company.




ss WEST CHETAC



Built 1919 South Western SB Co San Pedro
5637 tons
24 September 1942
U-175

Reportedly with general war supplies on a voyage from Norfolk VA to Basra. Ship was built for US Maritime Commission and at time of sinking was operated by Seas Shipping Inc, New York

31 dead and 19 survivors. Survivors questioned by the Germans. Sunk 100 miles north of Georgetown, BG



ss TAMBOUR (ex FIDRA)
Built 1917 Fredriksstad
1827 tons
26 September 1942
U-175

Sunk west of Georgetown. She was on a voyage from Paramaribo to Trinidad with 2500 tons of bauxite. She was operated by Alcoa for the US War Shipping Administration.

8 dead. 24 survived.




ss ANEROID
Built 1917 at Belfast
5974 tons
2nd October 1942
U-175
130 miles off Georgetown, British Guiana

Under contract with American War Shipping Administration. Chartered to Alcoa SS Co.

Voyage: Paramaribo to Trinidad

Reported cargo: 3348 tons of bauxite.

On board 40 merchant crew, nine US Naval Armed Guard. 6 dead. 43 survivors including her master



ss CARIBSTAR



2592 tons
1919 American SB Co Lorain OH
4th October 1942
U-175

Reportedly with ballast on a voyage from Trinidad to Georgetown.
Sunk west of Georgetown with the loss of 5 lives. 29 survived. Sank after two torpedoes struck.




ss WILLIAM A. MCKENNEY



Built 1916 Newport News, Virginia
6256 tons
5th October 1942
U-175

Cargo consisted of some 3000 tons of bauxite ore and general cargo.

Sunk between British Guiana and Corocoro Island

1 dead, 34 survived. Sunk by Uboat shelling after initial torpedo attack.




ss PREDSEDNIK KOPAJTIC
1928 - Clyde SB & Eng Ltd, Port Glasgow
1798 tons
21 September 1942
U-175

Sunk off BG with the loss of three crew. 25 survived.

On a voyage from Trinidad to Demerara with ballast. She caught fire and sank after a second torpedo hit her, the first attempt missed.




CITY OF RIPON (ex LEPANDO)



Built 1915 by Russell & Co, Port Glasgow
6368 tons
11 November 1942
U-160
90 miles northwest of Georgetown, British Guiana

On a voyage from Port Said to Capetown then Trinidad and New York

Reported with 2000 tons of sand as ballast. 56 died and 22 survived. She was hit with one torpedo which disabled her and then finished off with two further torpedoes. Her master survived along with 18 crew and three gunners.





ss CITY OF BATH
Built 1926 W Gray & Co, West Hartlepool
5079 tons
2 December 1942
U-508

6800 tons of general cargo which included 2000 tons of copper ingots, 500 t of magnesite and 500 tons of chrome ore. On a voyage from Mombasa to Pernambuco and Trinidad then UK

3 dead, master and 37 others survived. Sunk northwest of Georgetown, BG.





ss SOLON II
Built 1925 W Gray Sunderland
4561 tons
3 December 1942
U-508

Cargo: manganese ore and 2000 tons of copper.

Voyage: Turkey to Capetown then Pernambuco and Trinidad and Baltimore

Sunk some 150 miles N.E. of Georgetown. At the time she was operated by the Ministry of War Transport. 75 died including her master Capt John Robinson. Seven survivors.




CLOSEST TO LOCATION?

ss MAE
Built 1918 Skinner & Eddy, Seattle.
5607 tons
17 Sept 1942
U-515

Reported to have water ballast.

On a voyage from Trinidad to Georgetown. Vessel operated by A.H. Bull & Co Inc

Sank 41 miles off the Georgetown Beacon (08.03N, 58.13W) . 1 dead the rest of the 40 aboard survived. Survivors questioned.




SUMMARY
Whilst we cannot be sure of the vessel in question, one thing is certain, she cannot have been sunk on the date that the salvage company thinks, nor by the U-boat claimed. Any of the above could be the ship and we'd be delighted to hear from Sub Sea Research if our efforts have helped ID their wreck.

With thanks to www.uboat.net and www.wrecksite.eu from which most data has been obtained

Copyright B. Biddulph 2009. Reproduction strictly prohibited without permission

 



 


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