Flying Enterprise - Ships Nostalgia
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  #1  
Old 14th March 2017, 07:04
roscoe_the_1st roscoe_the_1st is offline
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Flying Enterprise

Hi I've just joined the forum.

Apart from my interest in anything to do with ships, one of my reasons for joining was a recent comment I heard from a lecture given by a well known historian (currently in the news) about the Flying Enterprise. The epic story was a major news story in 1952.

On 21 December 1951, under the command of Henrik Kurt Carlsen, she left Hamburg, Germany bound for the USA. Among her cargo was 1,270 long tons (1,290 t) of pig iron and 486 long tons (494 t) of coffee, 447 long tons (454 t) rags, 39 long tons (40 t) peat moss, twelve Volkswagen cars, antiques and antique musical instruments, typewriters, 447 long tons (454 t) of naphthalene as well as ten passengers. There is speculation that the cargo also included gold and zirconium.

That's the official story.

She was hit by a storm on Christmas night in the Western Approaches of the Atlantic. She was a Liberty Ship, built very quickly during WWII. She suffered structural damage and began listing. She sank on 10th January 1952.

Now you can get the story from Wikipedia Here

What caught my attention recently was the comment from the historian and he was talking about Fake News and how it is not new. As the news of Captain Carlson was shown all over the media at the time he remembered his mother's comment that 'The Government are hiding something here' .

I've been looking at the story of Captain Carlson and the Flying Enterprise and sure enough all is not what it seems.

Here are a few bullet points:
The Captain's reluctance to abandon ship.

The sudden appearance of US Navy warships surrounding the stricken ship. They sent nearby merchant ships that had answered the distress call away.

The fact that Falmouth was chosen as a port to try to tow her to when Cork was much closer. Half the distance.

The crew of the British Tug Turmoil was visited by the FBI when they reached harbour. Why did Kenneth Dancy (died in 2013) leap from the Turmoil onto the listing Flying Enterprise?

A statement from a diving company who had dived on the ship in 2002 saying that the wreck has been tampered with. Attempts to find out who has dived on the wreck has drawn a blank.

Questions about the ship's cargo is met with suspicion and silence even today.

The importance of the ships documents seemed to hold more importance than the safety of the crew.

Now the cover story is that she was carrying Zirconium which was to be used in the world's first Nuclear Submarine USS Nautilus.

But even this story does not stack up to close scrutiny. The main sources of Zirconium in order of quantity are Australia, Brazil, India, Ukraine, South Africa and the United States. Notice that Germany is not an exporter of Zirconium whereas the USA has its own supply. Plus I've never marked wartorn Germany as being an exporter (486 long tons apparently) of Coffee to the US.

She was coming from Hamburg to the US, this was just six years after WWII.

I suspect she was carrying something that the Powers That Be didn't want the world to see.

Last edited by roscoe_the_1st; 14th March 2017 at 08:08..
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  #2  
Old 14th March 2017, 08:52
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is online now  
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I was nine years old at the time; and riveted by every news report.

My father told me that Carlsen remained on board in order to resist, as far as possible, any salvage claim. He told me that in all probability any other shipmaster would have done the same in all the circumstances (i.e, for as long as there remained any possibility that the ship would stay afloat).

He also told me that Dancy got himself aboard the ship not only to assist Carlsen as far as possible in saving the ship (by handling the heavy towing-wire etc) but also in order to advance a salvage claim; thus raising the probability that Dancy's presence on board was not wholly welcome.

I remember that there was huge admiration for everything that Carlsen and Dancy did, but no real surprise.
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  #3  
Old 14th March 2017, 09:16
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You might find this of interest...loads more on Google.

geoff
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  #4  
Old 14th March 2017, 10:05
roscoe_the_1st roscoe_the_1st is offline
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Correction

I had always assumed that Flying Enterprise was a Liberty Ship - It wasn't. It was a Type C1-B ship. Built as SS Cape Kumukaki.

It was built for MARCOM United States Maritime Commission. It was a US Government ship.

Carlson was born a Dane but became a naturalized US citizen. He was an Amateur Radio operator as indeed I am.

He received a ticker tape welcome.



The Flying Enterprise story was featured on Deep Sea Detectives

Something is not right with this official story. Some items on the list of Antiques cargo was listed as 'Special' .

Last edited by roscoe_the_1st; 14th March 2017 at 10:27..
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  #5  
Old 14th March 2017, 10:44
tsell tsell is offline
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I have written a number of posts here about the Flying Enterprise.
On the night of Christmas Eve, 1951, I was aboard the 2,000 ton Sheaf Arrow in the same storm as the Enterprise when we narrowly avoided a collision with her. Our Aldis lamp showed that there was nobody on her bridge and as she was heavily lit below, we assumed there was a Christmas party, though many drinks would have been spilled that night. We believed that she was on Iron Mike.
We had to sheer off to port as she ran down our star'bd side, whereas she should have veered to star'bd and down our port side.

We followed the saga on our ship's radio and I recall almost every word of the reports to this day. I have also read most of what has been reported ever since the tragedy occurred.
Barrie's dad was correct in his opinions of the reasons for Carlson's and Dancy's actions.
Regardless of anything which has been said about the two men, Captain Kurt Carlsen and Turmoil's mate Kenneth Dancy were both extremely brave men. Few would have taken the risks that they did.

Taff

Last edited by tsell; 14th March 2017 at 11:02..
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  #6  
Old 14th March 2017, 11:03
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is online now  
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#5

Thank you, Taff!

As to why the tow made for Falmouth rather than Cork, the weather was plainly an important factor to be considered, in any event.

In westerly gales, veering north-westerly, as such things habitually do, it would be natural to choose Falmouth if at all feasible, in order to run before the weather rather than risk trying to punch into it all the way to Cork, with a far greater risk of parting the tow-line, whatever might have been the distance involved.

After that incident I grew up with the subconscious feeling that it would have been an act of cowardice on my part not to seek to make a career at sea. And so I did. It had at least as much influence on my thinking as anything my Dad said or did.

Carlsen was, in short, a man who did the right thing. And so was Dancy.

Last edited by Barrie Youde; 14th March 2017 at 11:49..
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  #7  
Old 14th March 2017, 13:09
tsell tsell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R651400 View Post
Taff.. Your reference to Christmas jollity? As far as I recall all US flag merchant ships were dry...
Don't know where they got the grog from then, on the US ships I got pissed on, maybe they made it in the lazarette like we did!!

Taff
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  #8  
Old 14th March 2017, 13:18
roscoe_the_1st roscoe_the_1st is offline
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I wonder if I may just give you a passage from Frank Delaney's book - Simple Courage: A True Story of Peril on the Sea.

Quote:
Other valuable cargo had already come aboard—consignments that have contributed substantially to the half century of questions hanging over Flying Enterprise. They included registered and unregistered packets containing international currencies, unspecified amounts in liquid stock certificates, and more than a thousand watches. These valuables arrived from Switzerland and Belgium, addressed for New York, and when the nature of this freight was later identified, conspiracy theorists seized upon this detail (among others) as a possible explanation of Kurt Carlsen’s “inexplicable” behavior.
Delaney mentions the arguments that went ahead between the Carlson and the Boatswain Arthur Janssen, as to the unusual way the cargo had been loaded. In the final stowage plan of Flying Enterprise, she can be perceived densest with heavy cargo, the Pig Iron, at the upper two levels, the “tween decks,” of Holds 2 and 4. Both holds also had open space, fore and aft, on their lower levels. There was room for loosely stowed cargo to move about.

Carlson overruled the Boatswain's protest, he had received orders from the ship owners Isbrandtsen Lines.

Last edited by roscoe_the_1st; 14th March 2017 at 13:24..
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  #9  
Old 14th March 2017, 15:56
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is online now  
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It might have been inexplicable if the bosun had over-ruled the Master, but that did not happen.
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  #10  
Old 14th March 2017, 16:03
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Rumors have been going around for years about the "Special Cargo"but no evidence has been found yet, it makes good reading and fodder for people that like a mistery. If there was any special cargo to be moved from point "A to point B" I'm sure there were plenty of US Warships in the area that would have picked it up.
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  #11  
Old 14th March 2017, 16:04
roscoe_the_1st roscoe_the_1st is offline
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You are in a Force 11 Westerly to N westerly - You have two cracks from deck level to below the waterline. Would you first elect to patch up the cracks with concrete and not raise the alarm then when that didn't work elect to go to Falmouth around Bishops Rock rather than an Irish port?
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  #12  
Old 14th March 2017, 16:13
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In that video I think I spotted up to four different types ships other than the real FE. The video is tape from other weather scenes,in other words a piece of BS.
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  #13  
Old 14th March 2017, 17:07
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is online now  
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#12

I would weigh up all matters that I could think of, including the weather and the relevant distances; and probably many other things also.

The last thing open to me would be to take advice from a journalist, ex-post -facto.
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  #14  
Old 14th March 2017, 20:08
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A very good account of the dive on the Flying Enterprise.

http://www.divernet.com/wrecks/p2983...nterprise.html
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  #15  
Old 14th March 2017, 20:21
onestar onestar is offline
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In post 1 it states "She was a Liberty Ship, built very quickly during WWII."
She was actually a C1-B steam turbine ship, war built, but quite different to the Liberty ships.
There was also a song written about the event "All hail to the skipper, with courage beyond compare, all hail to the skipper of the Flying Enterprise etc"!
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  #16  
Old 14th March 2017, 22:25
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Stephen J. Card Stephen J. Card is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roscoe_the_1st View Post


You are in a Force 11 Westerly to N westerly - You have two cracks from deck level to below the waterline. Would you first elect to patch up the cracks with concrete and not raise the alarm then when that didn't work elect to go to Falmouth around Bishops Rock rather than an Irish port?


The 'map' given for this is quite out. Yes, the ship was 450 miles from Land's End... WEST from Land's End when she overwhelmed on the 26th. Yes, it was some less distance to Cork. HOWEVER, the ship drifted in a SE'ly direction for another EIGHT days before she was under tow with TURMOIL. At that point she was 288 miles SOUTH WEST from Falmouth. Their choice was Falmouth or even a French port. There was not even a chance of towing toward Ireland. It was too far. One report says the ship foundered some 40 miles from Plymouth. Plymouth? That was 43 miles from Falmouth. Another the hours or so and she would have been at anchor in Famouth Roads.

One reporter said it was not normal to go taking naval vessels to sea to save commercially vessel. What? They don't usually take commercial tows unless there is no chance of finding a tug. In the case with FE it was a rescue mission. That was achieved. The passengers and crew were saved. Quite normal that the master would make any attempt to try to keep the vessel. He was quite right too. The ship stayed afloat for almost two weeks. Not bad for a ship that was in a chance of splitting in two! Anyhow, Karlsen elected to remain with the vessel. No vessel would abandon the ship in that condition. The US Navy happened to be on the spot and they did their normal job. Chance loosing an American ship with an American skipper? The US Navy had no choice in this. Karlsen tried to make the connection with the tug. Dancy was sent over to help.

Best I can suggest is to read the formal investigation done by the US Coast Guard. See here:

https://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/cg545/do...enterprise.pdf


Especially read the stow plan. All normal that any ship would have done it.

Re: The cracks in the hull would have not helped the slightest of using concrete 'patches'.


Stephen
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  #17  
Old 14th March 2017, 23:28
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I happened to be on the quay at Falmouth when she sunk, matter of fact me and my shipmate were mistaken as part of the FE crew when we climb up the steps of the quay from a launch that brought us in from Falmouth Roads. Our own ship had been damaged in the same storm and we put in there for shelter. But thats another story I will have to tell one day.
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  #18  
Old 15th March 2017, 00:20
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is online now  
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#17

Many thanks, Stephen, for the Investigation Report.

Roscoe seems to question why Carlsen did not make for Cork after the cracks appeared and while he still had power? The report shows that the cracks appeared at 0630 on 27th December and that she became wholly disabled only at 1130 on 28th December; and that during the intervening period Carlsen kept the ship heading southerly with the intention of putting into "an English port or a French port or to the Azores, for repairs but at the time he believed that he could do no more than hold his own in the heavy seas."

As you point out, the ship stayed afloat for almost two weeks after the cracks appeared (assisted by longitudinal cable-lashings which Carlsen had put in place) and, until the total disablement occurred, the engineers were able to report that it took no more than 15 minutes of pumping to clear the hold. In those circumstances, given that Carlsen believed that he could make for a French port or even the Azores, it seems entirely reasonable that he should have chosen to keep heading south and out of the prevailing weather system, rather than head for Ireland and (potentially at least) its lee shores in such foul conditions. He almost certainly considered that, on balance, he was safer standing out to sea.

As you also point out, after disablement occurred on 28th December it took until 3rd January for any tug to arrive on the scene, by which time FE was so far to the south and east that any towage to Cork was out of the question.

Repeated thanks for the Report, which explains much.
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  #19  
Old 15th March 2017, 01:41
Fergie Fergie is offline  
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A year or so earlier another Isbrandsen (spelling) ship made headlines. The "Flying Arrow" disregarded US Govt warnings about travelling to Communist China and was fired upon by presumably Chiang Kai Check's Nationalist aircraft, or the other way around. From memory Hans Isbrandsen thumbed his nose at US and said nobody would tell him where his ships were allowed to go. It didn't make it easy for those of us as who went thru the Formosan Straits carrying munitions for Royal navy ships fighting in Korea.
Yes Flying Enterprise was epic. I remember pics or her lying on her side and sea water pouring down her funnel.
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  #20  
Old 15th March 2017, 07:15
roscoe_the_1st roscoe_the_1st is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onestar View Post
In post 1 it states "She was a Liberty Ship, built very quickly during WWII."
She was actually a C1-B steam turbine ship, war built, but quite different to the Liberty ships.
There was also a song written about the event "All hail to the skipper, with courage beyond compare, all hail to the skipper of the Flying Enterprise etc"!
Yes I corrected the mistake in post No 4, she was originally SS Cape Kumukaki
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  #21  
Old 15th March 2017, 07:22
roscoe_the_1st roscoe_the_1st is offline
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OK then Falmouth was the best option

Apparantly she lies 31Nm south of the Lizard.

Gallant effort by all but I still think an Irish port was the best option..

Still playing the Devil's advocate here.

Now perhaps someone could address this.

Quote:
Now the cover story is that she was carrying Zirconium which was to be used in the world's first Nuclear Submarine USS Nautilus.

But even this story does not stack up to close scrutiny. The main sources of Zirconium in order of quantity are Australia, Brazil, India, Ukraine, South Africa and the United States. Notice that Germany is not an exporter of Zirconium whereas the USA has its own supply. Plus I've never marked wartorn Germany as being an exporter (486 long tons apparently) of Coffee to the US.
Why was she carrying Zirconium from a country that has none to a country that has tons of it?


Quote:
In the interview, Carlsen tells him that yes the ship had a zirconium cargo and that it came from the German nuclear energy project. While there seems to be no reason to doubt the first statement, the origin of the zirconium is questionable as the German nuclear energy program was not very advanced. It has been speculated that the zirconium instead came from Philips in Eindhoven, the company that had the first patent on a process to obtain high purity zirconium, and that the buyer was one of the companies intending to bid for a contract with the US Atomic Energy Commission
In case it goes unnoticed Eindhoven is in Holland. FE had been to Rotterdam prior to sailing to Hamburg.

486 long tons of German (Dutch) coffee?


Quote:
In 1960, some $210,000 of the $800,000-worth of cargo was salvaged from Flying Enterprise by the Italian company Sorima. Under a confidentiality clause in the salvage contract, further details of the recovered cargo were not released
The cargo lists some Louis XIV furniture and "some old masters" -

Quote:
and some rare Belgian porcelain, were being shipped, port by port, to New York antiques dealers on Third Avenue and East Forty-seventh Street. Not detailed item by item, they came aboard under catchall terms such as “general” or “special” cargo.
Nazi Loot perhaps? Shortly to become US loot.

But then they could have belonged to the passengers. Former Nazis.

And according to the Diving team that dived onto the wreck in 2001-2002 the crew of the Turmoil were visited by the FBI.

Given the condition of the ship it is perhaps a good idea to take her into the shallow English Channel and let her sink where the cargo can be recovered.

Last edited by roscoe_the_1st; 15th March 2017 at 09:06..
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  #22  
Old 15th March 2017, 09:01
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is online now  
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#22

It's my guess that instances of such cargoes were quite possibly commonplace in the political climate of the day. By the very nature of such cargoes they would have been shrouded in secrecy, diplomacy and deceit.

The world is full of trickery; and very little has changed.

On the other hand, the cargo might just have been precisely as described in the manifest.

Further as to the significance or insignificance of the cracks which occurred at 0630 on 27th December, the pumps became disabled at 0100 on 29th December yet the vessel remained afloat, without pumping, for a further twelve days until 1600 on 10th January. The Report makes it clear that the cracks were not a direct cause of the loss. "After the vessel was hove to with the sea about four points on the starboard bow, it apparently did not labor to an extent which would aggravate or increase the fractures." A heading with the sea about four points on the starboard bow suggests a heading somewhere south of west, at low speed. Thus, standing out to sea remained a realistic option, particularly if better weather could be found to the south, with the passage continued in a south-westerly direction. After 0100 on 29th December (and probably before then), however, all options of proceeding to Cork or anywhere else under her own steam were lost through further stress of weather.

Last edited by Barrie Youde; 15th March 2017 at 10:01..
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  #23  
Old 15th March 2017, 11:00
roscoe_the_1st roscoe_the_1st is offline
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I took this position from the US Coastguard position given as

50 41N

15 26W
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  #24  
Old 15th March 2017, 11:50
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Stephen J. Card Stephen J. Card is offline  
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Did you plot the position where the ship was actually started towing? She was way south east and the options were Falmouth or even Brest. Ireland was not an option.
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  #25  
Old 15th March 2017, 12:35
roscoe_the_1st roscoe_the_1st is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen J. Card View Post
Did you plot the position where the ship was actually started towing? She was way south east and the options were Falmouth or even Brest. Ireland was not an option.
According to information I have the US Coastguard concluded that she was at 5041'N 1526'W and that she had suffered a complete fracture of the weather deck. This was on 27th December 1951.

She sank on the 10th January 1952 and lays 31nm south of The Lizard.

About 260 feet.

Last edited by roscoe_the_1st; 15th March 2017 at 12:48..
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