View Full Version : Lost Ships
12th October 2005, 23:09
About 1957/8 I was involved in radio traffic concerning two lost ships.
One was the "Nordic Star" which vanished as it was about to enter Biscay from the USA, she was a "London Greek" I think.
The other was an Indian ship the "Cowasjee Dinshaw" which was lost in a Cyclone in the Indian Ocean. I have never forgotten those ships, particularly the
Indian which I was in contact with as she neared her end.
I keep searching the web for information but nothing so far. Does anyone have knowledge of these losses?. Where would one locate the detail of any inquests into the disappearences?
12th October 2005, 23:38
harry all i could find is cowasjee is a shipping com. in karachi no men . of dinshaw bean all over the web sites sorry tell ps good luck
13th October 2005, 15:33
Thanks Terence. I've an idea that Cowasjee Dinshaw was a P****e merchant who developed trade interests from Aden to The Gulf and India. Thanks for your efforts.
13th October 2005, 15:35
Why has P****e been coded in asterisks? Should I have typed Parsi?
22nd October 2005, 16:28
Completed as Westmount Park for Canadian Govt(Park S.S.Co)
Mgd Furness Withy
To M.O.T on B/Boat charter 1946 (Mgd Andrew Crawford and Co) Sold 1950 to Fairview Overseas Freighters and allocated name Lilac Hill
R/N Nordicstar Reg London
Disappeared W of Ushant 27/12/56 bound Philadelphia/Le Harve
An inquiry found that after careful consideration the court was unable to state the actual cause of her loss and crew of 34 but in all probability the main factor was heavy weather although it was unable to state the exact circumstances in which the weather affected the vessel or the sequence of events leading to her loss. The last message sent was on the 27th to the agents in Piraeus, the charterers in Paris and the masters wife stating E.T.A Le Harve 3rd Jan. The weather was winds of hurricane force and heavy seas.Golfito made contact with a distressed ship but no reply, whether Nordicstar not known as she didnt request help. Seems she was overwhelmed by nature! Have nothing on Indian ship. Dave
28th October 2005, 23:46
Thanks Dave for all that information, how did you come by it?
I had an R/o friend who was in Philadelphia when the Nordic Star was in port. Before she sailed her Sparks came aboard the greek my friend was on and asked his advice about the Stars radio gear. My friend went aboard the Star to help how he could, (Brian was a top class radio man) he found the gear was not particularly good.
I recall the traffic on air about her disappearence and when we went through
Biscay we kept an eye out for her.
Thanks for your efforts. There will have been an inquiry about the Cowasjee Dinshaw, I wonder where it might be archived.
8th November 2005, 22:25
It looks as though we may not find much about that lost Indian ship (she was actually Pakistani...edited June 2006) so as a memorial to her here are some verses I wrote down when the memory came flooding back one day:
It was a long time ago but I still think about it. The Suez canal was blocked with scuttled ships in 1956 and so we had to go the long way round. In those lonely seas between Capetown and South Asia a Pakistani (edited) ship was overwhelmed close to us in a cyclone. A week later I met her British mate in a bar in Colombo; he was the only survivor because he had walked off the ship after his protest that she was badly laden was ignored.
(Now we have found her correct name I have edited the poem, June 2nd 2006)
Tramp Ship “Minocher Cowasjee”
Fate was stowed crudely
Profit driven, in your holds
At Vladivostok, and your Mate ignored
So that you wallowed in the troughs,
And in Jakarta he walked off.
Fifty years are gone
And still I hear your signals
Fill the ether through the howl
Of that terrible circulating storm.
“S.O.S. Minocher Cowasjee,
Bound for Capetown from Jakarta,
And my reply
Reverberating on polished mahogany,
Thumped out on a brass key,
Heavy, solid, reliable and honest.
Thumped out onto groaning masts:
Out of Capetown for Colombo-
Eighty miles from you-
Unable to alter course-
Will come when we can“.
That’s all I can do,
I am nineteen how old are you?
Although I cannot see your face,
You live in a stream of intelligence
And wireless men can read emotion.
You do not see the grim set
Of our captain’s face.
“I have to keep her head into this
Or we’re over,
Tell him we’ll come when we can”.
We have dynamite below.
On deck two black locomotives strain
At their lashings like captive mastodons.
Our forward hatches are buried.
Astern the screw lifts free-
Then thuds into the sea again.
You call a few times more until-
In your holds,
Crates of Russian machinery smash
Into sacks of Javan rice.
A decorated Serang, steady,
Cropped grey beard, hajji,
Grapples with the davits.
In the hot oil mist of the engine room,
A clear eyed engineer
Is mobbed by frightened lascars
Crying out in Bengali-
And she goes over-
To be filled and begin
Her bone snapping,
Five mile journey down,
Into the Mid Indian Basin;
To lay crumpled in the silence
Of the floor of the abyssal plain,
And be gazed upon forever
By lamp headed fish.
Harry Nicholson 2003
9th November 2005, 00:06
Harry, that was very gripping poem,so emotional.
25th January 2006, 03:58
Damn, Harry! I felt every word of that. It seems you have indeed mastered "Theater of The Mind". Your words evoke very vivid images and emotions. Congratulations!!! My sincerest compliments.
25th January 2006, 08:27
Brilliant!!well done Harry
25th January 2006, 09:56
A moving and vivid epitaph. It clearly haunts you still. I hope you find out more about what happened but suspect you won't.
Must be terrible to know that someone is in such a dire situation and there is nothing you can do.
25th January 2006, 13:25
A very moving poem, congratulations, far better than some of the drivel written by the Poet laureate.
25th January 2006, 16:25
Thankyou chaps for the kind remarks about the poem, I do appreciate them.
Initially I had helpful posts from Terence, Gdynia and David Edge about this ship and we have made good progress and at the same time exposed my dodgy memory.
Gdynia suggested I contact the Pakistan newspaper "Dawn" which has a columnist by the name Cowasjee:
Dear Mr Cowasjee,
A search for details of the vessel "Cowasjee Dinshaw" on the web produced little result except for references to the business of that name which was founded in Aden. I see that you write for a newspaper and because of your name I wonder if you know anything about that old ship.
The "Cowasjee Dinshaw" was lost in a Cyclone in the Indian Ocean in 1956 or 57. I was radio officer on the British ship "Mahanada" at the time and was in communication with the lost ship from a distance of 80 miles until she foundered. That incident has stayed with me; I am now retired and have time to conduct a little research into the loss but so far have drawn a blank.
The "Cowasjee Dinshaw" was Indian flagged I think but it may have been from Pakistan.
Part of Mr Cowasjee's reply:
The ship you seem to be referring to was perhaps the ‘Minocher Cowasjee’ (ex Frakda ex Benrinous). She was lost at sea in 1956 with all hands on deck.
Dear Mr Cowasgee,......
Time has played tricks with memory, the lost ship will be the MC as you say, but it was lost in 57, not 56.
I have been looking for more info on the web; a German "On this Day" site has:
ZEITGESCHEHEN 24 January
1957 - English (sic) cargo ship "Minocher Cowasjee" disappears with its 51-koepfigen crew after a last position signal 1,500 nautical miles southeast from Madagascar.
I see from my seamans discharge book that I was 2nd radio officer on Thos & Jno Brocklebanks ss "Mahanada" at the time and have strong memories of that night and the storm and talking to the stricken ship by morse code. Her operator was sending out SOS; our bridge officers calculated that she was about 80 miles away. I remember when I gave our captain the distress message he said to "tell them we will come when we can, we cannot alter course at present, I have to keep her head into this or we will be over". It was a most savage cyclonic storm and the seas where huge, our course was adjusted so that we could ride out the storm more safely with the ships head into the weather. There were a couple of other ships in the vicinity and closer to the stricken ship than the Mahanada (traffic was heavier than normal on that route as the Suez Canal was blocked), none of us found anything in that area to the best of my memory.
When we docked at Colombo I met a British mate in the Grand Oriental Hotel who told me that he had walked off the MC in Jakarta after his requests that the cargo be restowed were ignored. He said that the vessel had been incorrectly loaded in Vladivostok and behaved badly on her way to Jakarta.
I notice on your site at Dawn you have a piece where you record the passing of Lord Brandon and mention his visit to Pakistan in order to be council in a marine inquiry and wonder if that was the inquiry into the loss of the MC. Would the proceedings and result of that inquiry be available, or a newspaper report perhaps.?
It is a long time ago, but I do think about it still and am trying to write up the story into a poem which might leave the memory with some dignity......etc
Then from Dave Edge:
From 'Ben Line' by Graeme Somner:- Benrinnes, O.N. 145884, 5415 grt, 420 x 55 x 28 feet. 3 steam turbines, 3250 ihp, 12 knots. 1921 completed by Irvines Shipbuilding Co, West Hartlepool for Neptune Steam Navigation (Furness Withy) as 'Parisiana'. 1922 renamed "London Exchange", 1938 "Benrinnes", 1949 sold East & West SS Co, Pakistan and renamed "Fatakada", 1955 renamed "Minocher Cowasjee" (same owners). 21 - 12 - 1956 sailed from Dairen for Antwerp. 24 - 1 - 1957 reported in position 25.20S 68.00E, SE of Mauritius but thereafter disappeared.
Best wishes for Christmas & New Year,
So I had mixed up the name of Brocklebanks Agents in Aden with the name of the ship (both have Cowasjee in the name) and I got the flag wrong.
So I will need to tweak the poem just a bit.
But what made me get goose pimples was when I read Dave's post and realised that she had been built only a mile from where I was born 17 yrs later and that my Dad at the time she was built would have probably been hammering rivets into the side of a ship in the adjoining shipyard of Wm Gray.
15th July 2007, 21:45
She still breaks surface in my mind:
We saw nothing on the wind-glazed surface,
nothing floating in the spume as we steamed
across her last position on the chart;
no scrap of cargo, not a boiler suit,
nor a grain of last night’s rice.
In the dark we’d talked in bursts of dots
that other man and me.
We’d clung in chairs chained to the deck,
one hand on the tuning knob
chasing each other’s warbling signals
as masts swayed
and phosphor bronze aerials swung out
wild over the troughs;
the other hand thumping a big brass key,
in the cyclone.
It was fifty years ago, she flew the flag of Pakistan,
a new country. But the ‘Minocher Cowasjee’ was old
I now discover, launched as ‘Parisiana’
by Irvine’s yard in Hartlepool where my father,
back from his war with Kaiser Bill, might well
have hammered rivets into her, hard against
his own Dad’s hammer on the other side of the plate.
Three miles down they’re rusted now, those rivets;
strewn about, forgot, like Asian mother’s tears.
She's just another hull, after all,
the oceans’ floors are flung with ships...
Harry Nicholson, July 2007
15th July 2007, 22:55
you have a passion, Harry , which stirs heart, body and soul, and your words have brought tears to my eyes this evening. thankyou.
16th July 2007, 09:14
Thankyou Neil, it's reassuring to know that my writing sometimes works for some people. I wrote that last week in a writer's group (all ladies except for me) and it didn't get much response except that the tutor thought the last line was a bit sinister (I think that was a compliment...).
16th August 2007, 14:16
My grandfather's brother flung rivets there to, I recently learned, and at Gray's, and my father served his time and Richardson's. I'm not surprised that there was little response from your group really. I'm not belittling them, its just beyond their understanding.
17th September 2007, 12:52
Hi Harry, you have given our family closure as it was my Grandfather, Thomas Chadburn, who was the radio officer on the Minocher Cowasjee, who sent the distress call. Your poems have brought us to tears and yet a sense of peace overwhelms us. You have taken us through an emotional journey of the last moments of my grandfather's life. Thomas's children never really grieved his death and by our contact it has enabled them to do this after 50 years.
I will share these poems with my children, my newborn, my only son, Christopher Thomas, born July 2007, carries his name. Thank you again Harry.
17th September 2007, 13:42
The last was, probably, the best thing I've read in this forum, and alone justifies its existence.
17th September 2007, 16:41
I must agree.
Great words, Harry, very emotional post and response.
17th September 2007, 22:04
Welcome Susan, it's great that you have found your way to this site. Your post is beautifully written and I'm moved by it. I'll write to you by email soon.
Thanks also to Peter and Kris for their comments. Also to Gdynia for it was he who suggested I contacted the Pakistan newspaper 'Dawn' about 18 months ago. It was a journalist at that paper who put Susan (in Brisbane) and me (in Whitby) in touch with each other.
I'm very content now that this process has unfolded. It is a sort of closure (in a small way) for me also. It must be three years ago that the memory came back and filled me with melancholy for a while, but out of that came the first poem.
So I'm beginning to really enjoy writing (I'm half way through a novel... I think...) and have signed up for an Open University creative writing course to give me a following wind. It feels good to be a student again, I'll use it as an excuse for some of my behavior.
10th December 2007, 19:32
Thank you, Harry. Very moving. Those people who give their life to the sea and are lost are so easily forgotten.
7th January 2008, 00:03
In case it may be of interest, I have uploaded a photo of the Nordic Star with a very young child on board, taken early 1950s whilst she was in drydock in London. The name of the ship can be read on the lifebelt if you are able to magnify the image.
The young child and his parents lived on the ship whilst it was in dock pending finding alternative accomodation.Regards, GA.
7th January 2008, 01:02
Thanks Gordon. I've just seen the picture and left a comment.
Thanks for remembering our previous communications on this vessel.
Have a good 2008
9th January 2008, 01:51
It is a very good thing that there are people like you that can put into meaningful and evocative words what many of us feel, in certain situations.
An excellent epitaph to lost sailors. Thank you, and for the follow-up stories.
9th January 2008, 02:04
just caught up with this thread,must agree with Chouan 100%
18th November 2009, 05:23
Searching for photos of SS RIO DORADO sunk by the Gneisenau on 15Th march 1941. My wife's uncle acting able seaman Norman Turney was a Royal naval gunner on board when sunk. Any help gratefully appreciated.
lest we forget
18th November 2009, 11:27
Greetings Mac and welcome to SN. Your email will soon be removed as site policy. Bon voyage.
19th March 2011, 21:36
I've spent a while looking for a place to post a poem - Finding nowhere I ended up here where I had posted a couple before.
This is not about a lost ship, but is about lost generations and lost times perhaps:
Passage Through Bab el Mandeb
(A memory of the Brocklebank steamer
SS Marwarri in 1960)
The steam turbine throbs down the Red
Sea road, through the oiled steel deck,
the rust-streaked hull, in the dreaded
dripping sweat of the Red Sea road.
You have never seen such colour,
it’s a molten sea of brass, splashed
across with mazarine, and Mocha
burns in orange low away to port.
The sky, blinding at the zenith,
fades into asses milk along the horizon,
across the ovens of Punt,
Eritrea and the Sudan.
Javelins in volleys -
flying fish pursued by nightmares -
break surface, trailing
necklaces of silver.
Then, like salamanders dancing
in a furnace, tortured islands
rise up twisted dead ahead -
shimmering anvils of the sun.
out of long-dead mahogany.
Decades of varnish soften
and creep down bulkheads.
The banded funnel exhales
black smoke in rippled pulses
that hover, then drift away astern.
The phosphor-bronze screw thuds out
the passage of time. But
the crew are ghosts in history now,
scraps of memory, as the old ship glides
through the Gates of Weeping.
Begun 2003, revised Oct 2010 for the Brocklebank Reunion.
Harry Nicholson, one-time chief radio officer, SS Marwarri.
(Bab el Mandeb translates: “Gates of Weeping” – these are the straits at the southern end of the Red Sea across which slaves were carried out of Africa to the markets of Arabia)
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