Tag Archive | school ship copenhagen

Update to København mystery ship, new photos

Last July I covered the mystery of the Danish school ship København, one of the largest sailing ships ever built at a staggering 430-feet long and 4,000-tons. She is also one of the most enduring mysteries of the sea, having vanished in the South Atlantic in late 1928, with not a soul of her 17 officers and 62 naval cadet crew ever seen again.

Well LSOZI reader Sue Trewartha from South Australia sent in a stack of old Kobenhavn photos for us to enjoy. You see the “Big Dane” was a regular in Australian waters on the wheat run– and in fact was making her way around the tip of South American headed Down Under when she vanished.

Sue tells me, “I have been collecting local and family history here at Ceduna since 1986 and have gathered these photos and chased up a little of the history of Kobenhavn as well.”

Many of these photos are from the collection of the Ceduna National Trust Museum and have rarely been seen. They are all large images so “click to big-up!”

This first one is the Kobenhavn at the Thevenard jetty. The jetty was only opened in 1920 and could handle large sailing ships http://www.ceduna.sa.gov.au/page.aspx?u=498#jetty . Ceduna National Trust Museum

This first one is the Kobenhavn at the Thevenard jetty. The jetty was only opened in 1920 and could handle large sailing ships. Ceduna National Trust Museum

Image by David Harding

Amidships image by David Harding

Painting signed by the captain of the Kobenhavn.  (Christensen?) for Mr Vin Irwin. His daughter Helene Bourne shared this photo with us and is happy we use it. Vin Irwin was the provisioner to the ships in Cedena as he was the local market owner from 1912-1953. As such he built up a close relationship with the various captains.

Painting signed by the captain of the Kobenhavn (Christensen?) for Mr Vin Irwin. His daughter Helene Bourne shared this photo with us and is happy we use it. Vin Irwin was the provisioner to the ships in Cedena as he was the local market owner from 1912-1953. As such he built up a close relationship with the various captains.

At the jetty, group of locals on jetty.  From the Ceduna National Trust.

At the jetty, group of locals on jetty. She truly was an impressive ship.
From the Ceduna National Trust.

Kobenhavn Captain. Image courtesy of Helene Bourne

Captain of the sailing ship Mexico, who was part of the search for the Kobenhavn. Image courtesy of Helene Bourne

Photo labeled sailors and locals on board.  This photo is shared by the family of Percy Lange, Ceduna.

Photo labeled sailors and locals on board Kobenhavn. This photo is shared by the family of Percy Lange, Ceduna.

Train along docks with Kobenhavn in distance. Photo courtesy of Helene Bourne

Train along docks with Kobenhavn in distance. Photo courtesy of Helene Bourne

This photo shows Kobenhavn on the right, and possibly steam ship VARDULIA on the other side. the smaller boat may be one that has lightered bagged wheat from smaller ports in the area, into THEVENARD

This photo shows Kobenhavn on the right, and possibly steam ship VARDULIA on the other side. the smaller boat may be one that has lightered bagged wheat from smaller ports in the area, into THEVENARD

Kobenhavn  being loaded with bagged wheat. Photo courtesy of  Geoff Lowe of Ceduna

Kobenhavn being loaded with bagged wheat. Photo courtesy of Geoff Lowe of Ceduna

Kobenhavn tied to jetty no 2, Ceduna National Trust Museum.

Kobenhavn tied to jetty no 2, Ceduna National Trust Museum.

Thanks again Sue, and be sure to check out her group’s FB page for more great old photos.

Warship Wednesday, July 3 The Kobenhavn Mystery

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday,  July 3

malerkbh
Here we see one of the Danish school ship København, one of the largest sailing ships ever built. She is also one of the most enduring mysteries of the sea. While not a naval vessel per-sae, she was a training vessel (Skoleskibet) for the EAC, the Danish East Asiatic Company, and as such many of her crew were on the Royal Danish Navy’s reserve list, her students often went into naval service, and the ship itself was liable to be taken up from trade for war service.

København_(ship,_1921)_-_SLV_H99.220-3948Thats over 40-sails…

The East Asiatic Company (EAC) (Danish: Det Østasiatiske Kompagni or ØK) was in Copenhagen in 1897, and the København was the crown jewel of their fleet when she was built. The company’s bread and butter was both passenger and freight lines between the Danish capital, Bangkok and the far east.

StateLibQld_1_143507_Kobenhavn_(ship)

The København was a five masted barque-rigged sailing ship. At 430-feet long and 4,000-tons, the size of an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate of today, she was the world’s largest sailing ship at the time. She was laid down at Ramage & Fergusson, Leith, Scotland in 1913 as hull 242, but due to World War One, she was not finished until 1921. Between her five masts she carried 56,000 sq feet of canvas and had the figurehead of Danish Archbishop Absalon (Axel) gracing her bow.

Kobenhaven03

She was an exemplary vessel, with her modern diesel 640 horsepower auxiliary engine conferring a distinct advantage over other barques that were purely sail-powered vessels. In the København’s eight-year history, it sailed nine voyages without incident, covering five continents. These voyages could last anything from 150 to 400 days each. She had sailed as much as 305 nautical miles under canvas in a single day– a speed under sail of over 12-knots. Her auxiliary diesel could plug the giant ship along at six knots.

sailors from Skoleskibet KØBENHAVN

sailors from Skoleskibet KØBENHAVN

While she could, and did carry cargo, her primary mission was to train merchant and naval cadets in a seagoing academy. As such youths from all walks of life walked her decks in nine successful long-term training cruises between 1921 and 1928, twice circling the globe.

Kobenhavn

Her final voyage carried 17 officers and 62 naval cadets. Its course was to be Denmark to Argentina to Australia and back. The first leg was successful, the ship leaving Buenos Ares on December 14, 1928. Eight days later, a final wireless message from her was received, stating that all was well.

On January 21, 1929 a British missionary school teacher, Philip Lindsay, assigned to the remote South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha saw a wrecked sailing ship. He described it as a ghostly ship, five-masted, a white band around painted around the black hull, and apparently unmanned. She was  under single jib. foresail and lower topsails, her foremast broken.The vessel was three miles out past the breakers and adrift, heading for the reefs of Cave Point with her stern awash. He saw her grow within 400-yards offshore, then lost sight of her as she drifted to the east. A few days  later the locals observed wreckage scattered on the reef including miscellaneous boxes and a 30-foot flat-bottomed boat that they were unable to salvage before it was carried back out to sea.  No bodies were found. The island is the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, lying 2,816 kilometers (1,750 mi) from the nearest land, South Africa, and 3,360 kilometers (2,088 mi) from South America.

Skolfartyget_Köbenhavn_1921-29
For two years, at least two expeditions funded by the government and the EAC searched for the Kobenhavn across both the Southern Pacific and Southern Atlantic oceans, finding nothing. A smaller expedition, privately chartered by the families of the lost cadets aboard the Norwegian yacht Ho Ho continued the search until at least 1932– with the same results. It was theorized that the Tristan da Cunha sighting was incorrect, attributing it to a similar ship (the Fench four master Ponape) that passed the area that day. Popular speculation was that the big Dane had been victim of a fire at sea, rouge wave, or iceberg.

Sightings of darkened five-masted sailing ships were reported off Chile, Polynesia, and other Pacific islands for years.

In 1934 a Finnish ship captain stated firmly that he found wreckage of the Kobenhavn along the Blight of Australia,  a story that, if proved, would have put the ship towards the end of her 9700 mile trip from Buenos Aires to Australia. The wreckage included a piece of stern bearing the name “København“.

The same year, a passing Norwegian fishing vessel stopped at Bouvet Island, an uninhabited glacier covered no-mans-land populated by penguins and found a diary, allegedly written by a trainee aboard the Kobenhavn, stating that  the ship had been destroyed by icebergs.

In September 1935, a smashed lifeboat with seven bleached skeletons was found on a desolate beach about 400 miles north of Swakopmund South Africa.  While it wasn’t definitive that the survivors were from the Kobenhaven, the skulls were ‘nordic’ and uniforms and boat wreckage were described as being of Scandinavian origin.  As the marooned sailors who reached shore landed in an area with no source of clean water, they are presumed  to have died of dehydration.

This, taken with the diary found on Bouvet, and the stern found in Australia, gave the Danish school ship the dubious distinction of having her wreckage ‘found’ on three different continents over 10,000 miles.

In 2012, the wreck of a large sailing ship was found by divers off Cave Point  in of Tristan da Cunha, near where the Kobenhaven was reportedly seen in January 1929. While it hasn’t been proven  to be the mysterious Danish school ship, there is hope her fate will be found, closing the book on one of the most captivating tales of the sea.

kbh-bov

(Note we have updated this post with more pictures at this link)

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