SS Alkimos (1943)

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Alkimos as viewed from the shore, August 2012
Alkimos as viewed from the shore, August 2012
History
Norway
Name: Viggo Hansteen
Namesake: Viggo Hansteen
Owner: U.S. War Shipping Administration
Operator: Nortraship
Builder: Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards Inc., Baltimore[1]
Laid down: 18 September 1943[1]
Launched: 11 October 1943[1]
Acquired: 18 October 1943[1]
In service: 21 October 1943
Fate: Sold, 1947
Name: Alkimos
Owner: Alkimos Shipping Company
Acquired: 1947
Fate: Wrecked, May 1964
General characteristics (as built[2])
Type: Type EC2-S-C1 liberty ship[1]
Tonnage:
Displacement: 14,245 long tons (14,474 t)
Length: 441 ft 6 in (134.57 m)
Beam: 57 ft (17 m)
Draft: 27 ft 8 in (8.43 m) (full)
Propulsion:
  • 2 oil-fired boilers
  • Three cylinder triple expansion steam engine
  • 2,500 hp (1,864 kW)
  • 1 screw
Speed: 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph)
Range: 17,000 nmi (31,000 km) at 11 kn (20 km/h; 13 mph)
Crew: 41

Alkimos was a Greek-owned merchant ship which was wrecked on the coast north of Perth, Western Australia in 1963. A nearby locality was later named after the vessel. The wreck is a popular diving venue.

History[edit]

The ship was built during World War II by Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards in Baltimore as part of the United States' Liberty ship program and was originally scheduled to be named George M. Shriver. It was launched on October 11, 1943.[3] However, on October 20, the vessel was reassigned to the Norwegian Shipping & Trade Mission, was re-christened Viggo Hansteen.[3] and saw war service for about 18 months, primarily in the Mediterranean and was crewed by mariners of various nationalities. It served as a troopship and transported cargo, in convoys that were sometimes attacked by German aircraft and U-boats.

A murder-suicide took place on board Viggo Hansteen in August 1944, while the ship was at Naples (some sources say Piombino);[3] Canadian radio operator Maude Steane is reported to have been shot by another crew member, who then killed himself.

After the war it was sold to a Greek shipping company and renamed Alkimos, after a word meaning "strong" and a Greek god, Álkimos.

As Alkimos, the ship plied the world's oceans for some two decades. In March 1963, the vessel was on a voyage from Jakarta to Bunbury when it struck a reef on the 19 March 1963 near Beagle Island off the Western Australian coast. It was salvaged and towed to Fremantle, the port city for Perth, Western Australia, where it underwent repairs for two months. After settlement of a dispute concerning payment for the repairs, the Alkimos left Fremantle under tow by an ocean-going tug, the Pacific Reserve from Hong Kong.

Only a few hours out of port, on 31 May 1963, the tow line gave way and the Alkimos was driven onto the shore. Although the ship remained intact, it could not be floated off at that time, and so it was filled with water to secure it in place and left in the charge of an on-board caretaker. Another tug, the Pacific Star, under command of Captain E.R. Francisco, returned in January 1964 and the ship was refloated on 14 February 1964, but the planned journey to Manila had hardly begun when the tug was seized on 21 February 1964 at sea by authorities and the Alkimos was left anchored. On 2nd May 1964, the vessel broke anchor and was driven onto the Eglinton Rocks near present-day Yanchep, Western Australia. On this occasion it was more severely damaged, and all thought of salvaging it intact was abandoned.

It was later sold by the owners for scrap. However, in 1969, salvage workers were driven off the wreck by a fire. After that time, the partly dismantled remains of the ship sat in several metres of water, visible to visitors, before gradually disintegrating.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Colton, Tim (2012). "Bethlehem Fairfield". shipbuildinghistory.com. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  2. ^ "MaritimeQuest - Liberty Ship (EC2-S-C1) Class Overview". maritimequest.com. 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "D/S Viggo Hansteen - Norwegian Merchant Fleet 1939-1945". warsailors.com. 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 

References[edit]

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Coordinates: 31°36′38″S 115°39′13″E / 31.61056°S 115.65361°E / -31.61056; 115.65361