SS Viking

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For the Isle of Man steam packet, see HMS Vindex (1915)
Builder: Nylands Shipyards, Oslo, Norway
Laid down: 1881
Launched: 1882
Fate: Exploded and sank off Horse Islands in 1931
General characteristics
Tonnage: 310 gross register tons
Propulsion: Sails, Masts, Diesel Engine

SS Viking was a ship used by the film producer Varick Frissell in the making of the 1931 film The Viking. During the shooting of extra footage for this film it exploded, taking the lives of Frissell and twenty-six other crew members.

Viking was a wooden-hulled whaling ship built by Nylands at Christiania, Norway in 1881, the same location where another famous Newfoundland vessel, Southern Cross, was constructed. Viking was a vessel of 310 gross tons and equipped with a 90 horsepower (67 kW) auxiliary engine. Viking was launched in 1882 from the Nylands Shipyard and for a while spent a number of years hunting the saddleback seal off the coast of Greenland. In 1882 Viking was used by Fridtjof Nansen for his first Arctic expedition.

In 1904, Viking was purchased by the Bowring Brothers of St. John’s[1] for the sealing industry. She was placed under the command of Captain William Bartlett, father of Captain Bob Bartlett, where William remained master of her until 1923. Viking was the smallest of the Bowring Brothers' fleet, and her loss was the first for the Bowring Brothers in fifty-two years. Viking was capable of carrying 276 men.

In 1930 and 1931, Viking was chartered by Varrick Frissell and Alexander Gustavus Penrod (previously cinematographer of Down to the Sea in Ships) to make a film of the annual seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland. Viking was mastered by Captain Bob Bartlett for the making of the film and was featured in the final production. The film was shown at the Nickel Theatre in St. John’s, to the chagrin of its producers who felt that it required more sensational footage. To obtain additional footage, both Frissell and Penrod returned to the front the following spring in Viking, this time with Captain Abram Kean.

On March 15, 1931, about eight miles (13 km) off Horse Islands, while stuck in the ice, Viking was rocked by an explosion that blew the stern off the vessel. Dynamite loaded on the vessel to add to the sensationalism of giant explosions of icebergs had somehow been set off, killing 27 of the 147 on board including Frissell and Penrod. Viking caught fire and sank.[2] Some of the survivors made the over-ice trek to the Horse Islands, while some were rescued by other vessels dispatched to the area.[3]


  1. ^ "Bowring Brothers". Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  2. ^ "Film and Video - Early Days". Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  3. ^ "Viking Survivors Estimated at 118". The Evening Telegram. March 18, 1931. Retrieved 2007-12-15. 

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