SS Canastota

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SS Canastota
SS Canastota.tif
SS Canastota
Completed: 1907
Out of service: 1921
Identification: 124242
Fate: Disappeared after leaving Sydney, Australia en route for Wellington, New Zealand
Status: Missing
General characteristics
Tonnage: 4,904 gross tons; 3,139 registered (net) tons
Length: 405.0 ft (123.45m)
Beam: 52.3 ft (15.95m)
Depth: 18.5 ft (5.64m)

The SS Canastota was a British flagged, coal-burning, two-masted, steel screw, cargo steamer of 4,904 gross tons and 3,139 registered (net) tons.

She was built in 1907 as the Falls of Orchy at Napier and Miller's Old Kirkpatrick Yard, Glasgow, Scotland, for the Falls Line.[1] She was sold in 1914[2] and briefly owned by the New Zealand Shipping Co.[3] She was renamed Canastota when purchased by the Canastota Steamship Co. Ltd in 1915.[1]

The Canastota was last seen on 13 June 1921, leaving Sydney bound for Wellington, New Zealand.

The SS Canastota is not to be confused with:

Earlier voyages[edit]

Voyages of the Falls of Orchy[edit]

The Falls of Orchy was launched on 9 October 1907.[1] In June 1908, she sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, for Auckland[4] and by August 1908 had been chartered to carry coal from Newcastle to the West Coast of the USA.[5]

In December 1908, the ship arrived from Manila at Newcastle to load coal destined for the Philippines and one of the crew was found to be infected with smallpox. The ship was sent to Sydney and the entire crew and the Newcastle harbour pilot were admitted to the North Head Quarantine Station, while a relief crew took the ship back to Newcastle to be loaded. The ship then returned to Sydney and the original crew took over.[6]

In February 1909, the ship arrived at Brisbane towing the steamer River Clyde, which had run out of coal and, after then using wood from its hold ceiling and bulkheads to fuel its boilers, had been adrift 120 miles east of Brisbane.[7]

In June 1909, the ship came off the Newcastle-Manila run and was to be sent to Vladivostok to load for UK ports.[8] From around July 1911, the Falls of Orchy carried ‘case oil’ from the USA to New Zealand ports for the Vacuum Oil Company.[9][10] In March 1912, she was loading wheat for the UK at Wallaroo, South Australia,[11] and in July 1912 was on the Tyne.[12]

It was reported in August 1914 that the Falls of Orchy had been sold to the New Zealand Shipping Company.[2][3] In 1915, she was sold again and renamed the Canastota.[1]

Voyages of the Canastota[edit]

From 1915 onwards the Canastota was on the run from the east coast of the USA to Australia and New Zealand, via the newly opened Panama Canal. During this time, she was chartered by the United States & Australia Line of New York.

On her first voyage to Australia as the Canastota in 1915, she carried transformers and components for power lines associated with the Waddamana Hydro-Electric Power Station in Tasmania.[13]

That first voyage did not begin well. Part of the Canastota's cargo caught fire, while the ship was still alongside the wharf in New York. Crucially, the fire did not reach the 10,000 gallons of 'benzine' that were already on-board. Even so, the holds had to be flooded to extinguish the fire, leaving the ship's bow resting on the mud. The vessel was damaged and needed significant structural repairs before being able to leave for Australia after a delay of some weeks. There was a further delay due to a landslide in the Culebra Cut, part of the Panama Canal.[14]

In early 1916, during World War 1, she was taken off the U.S.A to Australia run[15] and used to transport Canadian troops and also as a collier and food supply vessel.[16] One of her crew, Royal Naval Reserve seaman George Jamieson from Shetland,[17] drowned in Genoa Harbour on 24th April 1918, aged 26, and was buried in the Staglieno Cemetery.[18]

From 1919 to 1921 she ran a service from the ports of New York and Boston on the east coast of the USA to Australian ports—via the Panama Canal and Suva in Fiji—making the return journey, via New Zealand—Wellington or Auckland—and Suva, for the United States & Australia Line.

Last voyage[edit]

The Canastota left New York on 6 March 1921, with a new master, Captain Andrew J. Lockie, who had taken over the command on 15 February 1921 while the ship was in New York.[16][19]

The ship passed through the Panama Canal, and called at Suva, Fiji, where she unloaded some 'case-oil' and transferred numerous birds, animals and reptiles to the A.U.S.N. Co. steamer Levuka (bound for Sydney) together with a passenger, the owner of the creatures, Mr Ellis Stanley Joseph, a wildlife importer and exporter.[20] On 18 April 1921, Mr. Joseph's menagerie reached Sydney safely, on the Levuka, and was divided between Taronga Park Zoo and Melbourne Zoo.[21]

The Canastota left Suva on 18 April 1921[22] and reached Australia on 24 April 1921, with Cairns being the first Australian port of call.[23] She subsequently called at Townsville, then Rockhampton (Port Alma), Brisbane (Bulimba)[24] and Newcastle, where she took on coal, before arriving at Sydney at 1:10 a.m. on 3 June 1921.[25][26] While in Sydney, she was berthed at Woolloomooloo Wharf No.7.[27]

The captain's wife boarded the Canastota at Port Alma and remained on board until the ship reached Sydney; permission had been refused for her to continue on the ship and accompany her husband to America.[28] The captain's father and mother came from Northcote in New Zealand to visit their son and his family while the Canastota was in Sydney.[29]

In the evening of Monday 13 June 1921,[29] the Canastota left Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), to cross the Tasman Sea bound for Wellington, New Zealand. The ship was never heard from again.

At the time of her disappearance, the Canastota had a crew of 49 men and was carrying mail destined for Wellington[30] and a highly flammable cargo.

Flotsam from the Canastota was washed up on Lord Howe Island during July 1921 but, otherwise, there was no trace of her. Some of the flotsam was charred.

The committee of Lloyd's, at their meeting on 17 August 1921, posted the Canastota as missing, with the presumption that the ship had burnt at sea.[16]

Initial fears[edit]

The Canastota should have reached Wellington after five days steaming from Sydney. When the Canastota had not arrived at Wellington by Saturday 18 June 1921, fears first began to be held for the overdue ship. These fears were compounded by the complete absence of radio contact with the ship, from the time it left Sydney. At a time when many ships had no radio equipment, the Canastota was equipped with a relatively modern and powerful radio transmitter, a two-kilowatt American Marconi quenched spark-gap transmitter.[31]

It was first thought possible that the Canastota may have experienced engine troubles and was adrift[32] but the absence of any radio contact was ominous.There was conjecture that the Canastota's wireless equipment was faulty[33] but that was denied by the ship's Sydney agent.[31] The father of the ship's captain said that his son had promised to send him a radio message, on either the evening of Tuesday 14 June or the morning of Wednesday 15 June 1921, but that message was never received. The captain's father's view was that the Canastota had met with a mishap serious enough to have rendered the ship's radio ineffective, within two days of leaving Sydney.[29]

In an article in The Newcastle Sun of 25 June 1921[34] a relative of one of the engineers of the Canastota was quoted as saying:

"My own opinion is that the she has become a total loss through an explosion of her benzine cargo. If that is so, the crew may be in the open boats in mid ocean".

By late June 1921, the quoted rate for the Canastota on the reinsurance market at Lloyd's rose to "60 guineas per cent" ('per cent' meaning 'per 100 pounds of cargo value').[16]

There was an increasing apprehension that the Canastota had been lost with all hands.

The search for the Canastota[edit]

On 24 June 1921, the New Zealand based cruiser HMS Chatham left Wellington in search of the Canastota. The Chatham "went as far to westward as her coal would permit, and a look-out was kept aloft all day, while searchlights were going continuously at night", returning on 30 June without seeing any sign of the overdue ship.[35]

George Arthur Parkes, shipping agent for SS Canastota, 1926

Aside from that search by the Chatham, there was little government involvement in the search, which was conducted largely by merchant vessels at the behest of the Canastota's shipping agent in Sydney, George Arthur Parkes.

On 24 June a radio message was sent from Sydney, "To all ships: Keep a sharp lookout for Canastota. and report immediately first tidings." This was sent as was a general call, the signal of which would immediately stop all other communication between ship and land stations. The message would reach all ships and stations west of Suva, and would cover the route over which the overdue vessel would travel. This message was sent after a request to the Navigation Department in Sydney was made by Parkes on 22 June 1921.[26]

Steamers leaving New Zealand ports were instructed to deviate from their course to search for the Canastota. The SS Marama, from Sydney en route to San Francisco, via Auckland, had instructions to deviate from the usual track and keep a sharp lookout for the Canastota. Three of the Union cargo ships — the Waipori, Kurow, and Kererangu — which left Newcastle for N.Z. ports, also joined in the search. The Union Company's cargo steamer Waihora coming from Wellington to Newcastle saw no sign of the Canastota.[36]

In Sydney, a representative of Parkes interviewed the skippers of two steamers bound for N.Z.—the Riverina for Auckland and the Ulimaroa, for Wellington—prior to their sailing on 23 June. Both ships' captains promised to keep a particularly strict lookout.[37] Parkes also made arrangements with the Union Steamship Co. of N.Z. for its steamers Maheno and Manuka—both leaving Sydney on 1 July 1921 bound for NZ ports—to join the search.[38]

The Maheno had arrived in Sydney on 27 June 1921, after sighting a ship's hatch cover floating about 200 miles east of Sydney on 26 June 1921. This was reported in some newspapers as being a sighting of possible wreckage from the Canastota.[39] Most newspaper articles on the subject did not connect the hatch cover to the Canastota.[40] The Maheno's crew was not able to recover the hatch cover on account of being at full speed. It was an ominous sign but proved to be a false one. Captain Brown of the Maheno also reported to his employers, the Union Steamship Co. of N.Z., that the hatch was of a type found only on a sailing vessel and so could not be from the Canastota. Unfortunately, this fact was not advised to the authorities by the shipping line until 10 August 1921.[26]

There was another false sign, when some barrels and an oil drum were washed ashore at Freshwater Beach near Sydney, on Sunday 26 June.[41] The ship's agent stated that the items were not of a kind matching the Canastota's cargo.[42] Officers of the Navigation Department concluded that the flotsam was from the deck cargo of a coastal ship, probably the Burringbar.[41]

If wreckage were to be found washed up on land, a likely place to find it would be Lord Howe Island, based on the prevailing current in the Tasman Sea. East of Sydney, the warm part of the East Australian Current changes direction, and then separates into two streams that flow on either side of Lord Howe Island.

The steamer Drafn, which left Thio for Sydney on 8 July 1921, deviated from its usual course to search the vicinity of Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island,[43] without success.

The French steamer Saint Joseph, en route to Newcastle from Nouméa with a cargo of manganese ore,[44] called at Norfolk Island on Saturday 10 July 1921. While there, her captain received orders from the Administrator to search for the Canastota in the neighborhood of Lord Howe Island, instead of proceeding directly to its destination. Ball's Pyramid was passed at 9 p.m. on 11 July, and the vessel cruised about until daylight. On the following morning, Ball's Pyramid and the adjacent rocks, the west coast of Lord Howe Island, and the north islets were visited. Nothing was discovered.[45]

When the Saint Joseph arrived at the east coast of Lord Howe Island, the inhabitants were seen to have made a fire and the ship's anchor was dropped. Some of the islanders came on board but they did not have any news of the Canastota. The residents said that there was no derelict or wrecked ship on the easterly reefs but, until the visit of the Saint Joseph, the small island community had been unaware that the Canastota was missing.[44][45]

The Saint Joseph was not equipped with a radio and so Captain G. Chariot could not report that he had no news of the Canastota, until the Saint Joseph arrived at Newcastle on the morning of Thursday 14 July 1921. It was reported by The Newcastle Sun that, when asked for his opinion of the Canastota's fate, Captain Chariot pointed downward and said, "New steamer, not much wood, all would go down", before adding that his opinion was that the Canastota had blown up suddenly.[45]

The West Wind—another steamer of the U.S. & A Line—searched for the Canastota during her eight-day passage from Wellington to Brisbane and reported upon arrival on 18 July 1921 that it had seen nothing.[46]

Nothing else was heard concerning the Canastota, during the last weeks of July 1921.

The quoted rate for the Canastota on the reinsurance market at Lloyd's had risen to "95 guineas per cent" ('per cent' meaning 'per 100 pounds of cargo value') by 20 July 1921, when her risk was withdrawn as being uninsurable.[16]

Flotsam found at Lord Howe Island[edit]

On 1 August 1921, the steamer Makambo called at Lord Howe Island and reported by radio to Sydney that flotsam and wreckage had been found there. Articles based on this report first appeared in Sydney newspapers on 2 August 1921.[47]

All remaining doubt that the flotsam was from the Canastota was removed upon arrival of the Makambo in Sydney. A report appeared in The Sun (Sydney) on 9 August 1921,[48] quoting Captain Weatherill:

"To my mind there is no doubt that the charred debris washed up at Lord Howe Island is from the missing steamer Canastota", said Captain Weatherall [sic], of the steamer Makambo, when she berthed this morning.

"Only one tallow cask had been washed ashore when we were there, and it was marked 'ToT'— the 'o' being a smaller letter than the other two. Another marking was 'Brisbane Freezing Works.'

"There was any amount of charred debris at the island and I have no doubt that it was from benzine cases. There was also, as I stated in my report to the Navigation Department, a number of planks."

It later emerged that Captain Weatherill had seen neither the cask nor the charred debris himself but was relaying a report from a leading citizen of the island, Mr Thompson[26] (William Osborne Spurling Thompson (b.1868, d.1953), Chairman of the Local Advisory Committee of the Lord Howe Island Board of Control (1913-1953)).

The official report[26] from Lord Howe Island revealed that the first flotsam had been found by an island resident, Mr H. T. Wilson (Herbert Thomas Wilson), on 14 July, just two days after the island community was first made aware that the Canastota was missing during the visit of the Saint Joseph. Mr. Wilson found a case of 'benzine' that had just floated ashore. The drums were intact but the case itself was sightly charred. At the same time, he also found small portions of a boat. On 27 July, he found a barrel of tallow with the distinctive markings later reported by Captain Weatherill and, finally, on the evening of 29 July, pieces of charred timber from benzine cases were found on the western beaches.

The "planks" reported by Captain Weatherill were in fact just one redwood plank found on the evening of 30 July. The size of the barnacles encrusted on the plank indicated that it had been in the sea for too long a time to be from the Canastota.[26] In all other respects, the flotsam was undoubtedly from the Canastota.

Isolated Lord Howe Island was totally reliant upon passing ships for any communication and the news of the Canastota's fate remained unknown to the outside world, from 14 July when the first flotsam was found until the radio report was made by Captain Weatherill on 1 August 1921.


A Preliminary Inquiry into the presumed loss of Canastota was conducted by Captain Fergus Cumming, Superintendent of Navigation, at Sydney and Newcastle, commencing on 14 August 1921. He reported his findings in September 1921.[26]

There being no survivors and scant physical evidence of the Canastota's fate, the evidence considered in the Preliminary Inquiry consisted of records of interviews—conducted by the Superintendent or a Deputy Superintendent—and written reports from shipping, oil and stevedoring company representatives, port officials, experts, and others involved in the cargo loading and re-coaling of the Canastota at Australian ports, together with the crucial evidence of the official report from Lord Howe Island.[26]

The finding of the Preliminary Inquiry was that, "in some manner the s.s. 'Canastota' was destroyed by fire or explosion, shortly after leaving Sydney, and as all the crew are considered to have perished with the vessel, no direct evidence in regard to same can possibly be furnished."[26]

The opinion provided by the NSW Crown Solicitor, John Varnell Tillet was that, taking into account the findings of the Preliminary Inquiry, nothing was to be gained by convening a Court of Marine Inquiry. That opinion together with a copy of the report of the Preliminary Inquiry was forwarded to the Board of Trade in London, which agreed with the opinion that no Court of Marine Inquiry would be convened.[26]


Naval involvement in the search[edit]

The New Zealand-based cruiser HMS Chatham had been involved in the search for the Canastota but returned to Wellington on 30 June 1921, without seeing any sign of her.

Disturbingly, following the return of the Chatham, unnamed—presumably naval—sources were reported as holding the view that even if the Canastota had launched her lifeboats, those boats would not have survived the seas encountered during the search.[35]

The seas had been benign during the time that the Canastota should have completed her crossing of the Tasman Sea (13 to 18 June)[26] but the weather conditions in the Tasman Sea had worsened after that time. In the early morning of Sunday 26 June 1921, violent storms claimed two coastal steamers—the Our Jack and the Fitzroy—on the NSW mid-north coast.[49]

The bad weather raised fears for the men; a relative of one of the engineers of the Canastota was quoted, in The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) of 25 June 1921, as saying, "I think it is up to the Admiralty to despatch at least two of the cruisers to make a search, as every day will make the position worse, and it will be a terrible ordeal for men in open boats in weather like we are experiencing."[50]

The Chatham had a limited cruising range and one of the concerns raised was that the Canastota may be in trouble closer to the coast of Australia than New Zealand.[51]

There was an expectation that the Australian Navy would send a destroyer in search of the missing ship but, controversially, the Navy refused to do so. That decision led to some unfavourable press reports[51] and representations from citizens arguing that a ship should be sent.[33]

The Australian Navy did not relent and no Australian naval ship was sent out in search of the Canastota.

Canastota's cargo[edit]

In the early years of the twentieth century 'benzine' was a commonly used name for petrol or gasoline. It was also known at that time as 'motor spirit'. Whether the name 'petrol', 'benzine' or 'motor spirit' was used was a matter of branding.

The Canastota's cargo included 50,950 cases of 'benzine' and 'motor spirit' when she left Sydney.[26] Unusually, the 'benzine' cargo was loaded at Australian ports and destined for the U.S.A. It had been imported previously but had been found to be defective due to its high sulphur content[26] and was being re-exported to be reprocessed.

By 1921, with the rapid rise in numbers of petrol-powered motor cars, there was significant demand for this fuel in Australian and New Zealand. There was no refinery operating in Australia prior to 1924 and all such fuel was, of necessity, imported by sea.

The petroleum industry at first followed the same practices for the new highly volatile petroleum product 'benzine' as it had long done for less volatile kerosene. The flammable liquid was stored in thin-walled tinned-steel drums—of a rectangular prism shape with a square base—and the drums packed inside wooden cases. Each case contained two drums of five U.S. gallons or four Imperial gallons each. Such a cargo was referred to 'case oil'.[52]

Vapour from leaking drums in cargoes of 'case oil' was the cause of many ship fires during the first quarter of the twentieth century.[53] Once an explosive concentration of vapour existed, any source of ignition could result in an explosion. Coal-fired steamers carrying 'case oil' were particularly at risk. Very rarely, there might be an explosion but no fire or a small fire that could be extinguished; more typically, an explosion would initiate a catastrophic fire.[53]

There had been previous disasters such as the fire and loss of the Haversham Grange in October 1906 and the explosion and fire on the ss Carroo (later HMAS Carroo) in March 1920, as two examples of many similar incidents.[53][54]

The remainder of the Canastota's cargo loaded at Australian ports comprised casks of tallow, hides and some general cargo. The ship's holds were not full and it was planned to load another 50,000 cases of defective 'benzine' at Wellington and a consignment of copra—a material subject to spontaneous combustion—at Suva.[26]

'Floating bomb'[edit]

On 20 August 1921 a sensational article appeared in the Smith's Weekly with the headline 'Canastota, A Floating Bomb'.[55]

It began, "If ever a proper inquiry be set on foot as to the cause of the disappearance of the steamer 'Canastota,' which sailed from Port Jackson for America, via New Zealand on 13 June 1921, several startling facts will come to light. The evidence will show that, on at least two occasions, the intensely dangerous condition of the interior of the vessel was brought under notice, and that in spite of these serious warnings, the 'Canastota' was allowed to proceed to sea."

The Smith's Weekly article went on to report that in the port of Brisbane, where the most 'benzine' was loaded, two or three wharf labourers had collapsed while attempting to unload a quantity of steel pipes from the hold adjacent to—but not separated from—the hold containing the 'benzine'. The article stated that some men were overcome by fumes from the 'benzine' and all labourers then left the hold. They then contacted the secretary of their union, a Mr Dawson, who in turn contacted the ship's agents and two others as representatives of the Shipowner's Association. These men then joined Mr Dawson at the wharf.The article stated that the wharf was also attended by Mr Archibald, the Brisbane manager of the Vacuum Oil Co. All these men, except one, then inspected the hold and according to the article,"The condition in which they found it was as described by Mr. Dawson.". According to the article, the wharf labourers were offered higher pay to unload the pipes but refused. The ship left Brisbane with the pipes on board.

The next port of call of the Canastota was Newcastle. While there, another 5,372 cases of defective 'benzine' and 'motor spirit' were to be loaded. According to the article, some of these cases were damaged and some leaking. The article also stated that at Newcastle another attempt to unload the pipes was also unsuccessful because the wharf labourers refused to do the work, as the fumes had "lodged in the piping". The ship left Newcastle for Sydney with the pipes still on board.

The 'Floating bomb' article does not describe what happened at Sydney but the steel pipes finally were unloaded there. While at Sydney, some of the 'benzine' on board was shifted to another hold—this was to make room for the cargo to be loaded at Suva—and another 8,962 cases of 'benzine' and 'motor spirit' were loaded.[26]

No permit to load petroleum at Brisbane[edit]

On 24 September 1921, the Smith's Weekly published an allegation that the petroleum cargo had been loaded at Brisbane in contravention of a regulation under the Navigation Act that required a permit to load such a cargo.[56]

"Mr. C. Dawson, Secretary of the Brisbane Branch of the Waterside Workers' Federation has written to several members [of the Queensland state parliament], saying: — I am authoritatively informed that no permit was applied for or granted by the Harbour authorities for the shipment. Had a permit been applied for an inspector would have been sent to inspect the condition, of the cases, and I feel sure that the strength of the fumes would have convinced him immediately that the cases were leaky and therefore unsafe to ship."[56]

On 22 September 1921, this allegation was raised in the Queensland Legislative Assembly as a question to the Treasurer, John Fihelly, by Mick Kirwan, M.L.A (Labor, Brisbane). In reply, Fihelly confirmed that there had been no application for a permit nor an inspection of the cargo and stated that he had approved a recommendation of the Marine Board of Queensland to initiate legal proceedings.[57]


The only party punished as a result of events during Canastota's last voyage was Dalgety & Company, the shipping agent for the Canastota in Brisbane. On 18 November 1921, it was fined for loading a petroleum cargo "without a special permit from a shipping inspector or other person authorised by the Marine Board". The company submitted evidence that this was by oversight rather than intentional. The fine was ₤2, with ₤3 15s 6d in costs.[58]

In August 1921, another steamer of the U.S. & A Line, the West Wind, loaded a cargo of 30,000 cases of 'benzine' in Melbourne, and would go on to load another 30,000 in Sydney; all part of the same batch of defective 'benzine' as carried on the Canastota.[55]

The United States & Australia Line was renamed the 'Atlantic-Australasian Line' in November 1924[59] but seems to have been better known as the 'Atlantic-Australia Line' around the time that its operations were taken over by the Roosevelt Steamship Co. in 1926.[60] The name seems to disappear altogether after 1929, well before the merger of the Roosevelt Steamship Co with International Mercantile Marine Co. in 1931.

The Canastota's disappearance and the controversy surrounding it were soon forgotten but the disaster was to be one of the last of its kind.

At the time of the loss of the Canastota, the shipment by sea of volatile flammable liquids as 'case oil' in ships designed for general cargo was already a dangerous anachronism.

The technology had long existed to ship inflammable petroleum liquids safely, as a bulk cargo. Shell had a bulk oil discharge, storage and distribution facility at Gore Bay in Sydney Harbour from 1901. In 1908, the oil tanker Salahadji had safely carried a bulk cargo of 'benzine' to Sydney, and discharged it at Gore Bay.[61] The following year the Trocas carried a record cargo of half a million gallons of Shell 'motor spirit'.[62]

In 1924 Vacuum Oil opened its bulk petroleum products terminal at Pulpit Point, a small peninsula at Hunter's Hill on Sydney Harbour.[63] In October of that year, the company-owned oil tanker H.T Harper—built in 1921—arrived at this new facility with a 1.8 million gallon bulk cargo of 'gasoline'. About the H.T.Harper, it was noted that, "Every precaution is taken to prevent fire."[64]

The amount of 'case oil' shipped to Australia declined after 1924 and from that year some petroleum was refined locally. Thereafter, 'case oil' shipped by sea was more commonly kerosene, or other low volatility petroleum, rather than more volatile and dangerous 'benzine'. In 1939, there were still new purpose-built case-oil carriers, with aft-mounted diesel engines, entering the trade.[65] The 'case oil' trade revived a little during the Second World War[66] but virtually ceased, in Australia at least, soon after the war's end.

The Canastota's Sydney agent, George Arthur Parkes, who had done so much to initiate and organise the search of 1921, served as Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney in 1936 and died in 1943 as a well-respected citizen.[67] Captain Fergus Cumming, who had conducted the Preliminary Inquiry, retired in 1922[68] and died in 1932.[69]

The wreck of the Canastota has never been found and she remains 'missing', nearly a century after her disappearance.

Officers and crew[edit]

The officers of the Canastota at the time of her disappearance were:[70]

  • Captain Andrew J. Lockie, master, a New Zealander born in 1883,[16] with his family residing at Willoughby in Sydney;[33] Up to July 1918, Captain Lockie briefly had been the master of the four-masted barquentine Lyman D. Foster – a ship with a colourful history – that disappeared in March 1919, between Nukuʻalofa in Tonga and San Francisco, carrying a cargo of copra .[71] Before that he had been an officer on Union Company ships.[19]
  • Mr A. T. Sang, first officer, 35-years old, born in Scotland;
  • Mr K. Wardrobe, second officer, 21-years old, born in Hull, England; said to have served in North Sea and Mediterranean during WW1 and survived a sinking by submarine.[72]
  • Mr G. Crichton, third officer, 20-years old, born in Glasgow, Scotland; he was said to have enlisted underage, served throughout WW1, and survived a sinking by submarine.[72]
  • Mr William Peel, first engineer, 45-years old, born in Gateshead, England;
  • Mr D. Syrsmas, second engineer, 33-years old, a native of the Greek island of Andros;
  • Mr Alan J. Reid, third engineer, 26-years old, born in Kilbirnie, Scotland; (*)
  • Mr W. L. Halberd, fourth engineer, 22-years old, born in Charters Towers, Queensland, Australia; (*)
  • Mr W. Reed, fifth engineer, 20-years old, born in Liverpool, England;
  • Mr David Trimmer, deck engineer, 25-years old, an Australian from Sydney,[73] born in Palmerston North, New Zealand;[74]
  • Mr J. Nicholson, wireless operator, 20-years old, born in Scotswood, England; known as 'Jack' Nicholson, he was said to have served in the Air Force in WW1.[72]

(*) These two officers joined the crew, while the Canastota was in Sydney immediately prior to her disappearance.[32]

The remaining crew of 37 Chinese and one Peruvian seamen[70] were:

  • Bosons: Wong Sing, first bosun, 32-y.o., Kwok Cheung, second bosun, 35-y.o.;
  • Quartermasters: Sie Ah Kon 28-y.o, Young Dang Sing 35-y.o., Wong Hing 36-y.o., Chang Chen Trang, 25-y.o.
  • Stewards: Fook Sing, Chief Steward, 33-y.o., Kan Sin, Mess Room Steward, 26-y.o., Chang You, Assistant Steward, 29-y.o. ;
  • Chief Cook: Chen Youi 27-y.o.;
  • Pantryman: Lan Sing 30-y.o.;
  • Greasers: Tai Sing 39-y.o. ; Dun Bing Shee 39-y.o., Na Ah Deng 31-y.o. ;
  • Fireman: Dun Kook, 40-y.o. ;
  • Firemen & Trimmers: Ching King 22-y.o., Lee Shing 28-y.o. Chan Yok 40-y.o., Wong King 31-y.o., Man On 33-y.o., Cheug Tai 27-y.o. ,Yim Fat 25-y.o., Chang Yong 42-y.o., Leung Ngai 33-y.o., Wong Hing 34-y.o. ,Yen Swing 23-y.o., Lam Ling 27-y.o. ,Men Ken Sing 32-y.o., Ho Hing 26-y.o., Woo Yon 32-y.o., Pang Fook 35-y.o., Ah Sang 30-y.o. :
  • Sailors: Wong King 27-y.o., Ah Hung 32-y.o., Yip Wgow 31-y.o, Ah Kum 32-y.o, A. Cordillo 24-y.o, Lam Cheung 36-y.o.

There was also a ship's cat called "Dig".[75]


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External links[edit]

Media related to SS Canastota at Wikimedia Commons