Tag Archives: Salvesen Archive

Cinema at the whaling-stations, South Georgia…: another brief look into the Salvesen Archive

‘…Each man takes a turn to keep the building in a proper state of cleanliness…’

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This look at cinema and film offered to the personnel of the whaling stations in South Georgia is another of our occasional forays into the Salvesen Archive.

Papers in the Christian Salvesen Archive show that cinema was an important leisure-time activity in the life of the personnel working at the whaling-stations of South Georgia. Films could be enjoyed at the ‘World’s Most Southerly Cinema…’.

Collection of season programmes for films at Grytviken Kino, South Georgia, 1960s. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

Collection of season programmes for films at Grytviken Kino, South Georgia, 1960s, a cinema claiming probably correctly to be the ‘World’s most southerly cinema beyond the cinema at Ushuaia’, Argentina. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

The earliest reference to ‘cinema’ in South Georgia so far found in the Salvesen Archive is a letter from the 1920s. A copy-letter (unsigned typescript) to Edward B. Binney, Magistrate, South Georgia, dated 28 November 1925 – and presumably from the Leith Harbour station – is in effect an application ‘for permission to give Cinematograph Exhibitions’. The letter states that the ‘Cinematograph is the property of all the employees’ of the station, and that a subscription of 15 kroner is ‘being made by each man to cover cost of Machine and Films’, and also the cost of ‘books for a Library’.

Proposed layout for the new Cinema, 1954. In the Salvesen Archive, C5. Box 2.

Proposed layout for the new Cinema, 1956. In the Salvesen Archive, C5. Box 2.

The letter goes on to state that the ‘Company provides the Buildings and electric Current free of charge and every precaution has been taken against the outbreak of fire’, not least through the locating of the building ‘away from the factory’. Finally, the letter tells us that: ‘Each man takes a turn to keep the building in a proper state of cleanliness’.

Proposed layout for the new Cinema, 1956. In the Salvesen Archive, C5. Box 2.

Proposed layout for the new Cinema, 1956. In the Salvesen Archive, C5. Box 2.

Indeed, at Leith Harbour, wrote Sir Gerald Elliot in his work A whaling enterprise (1998), the main recreations ‘came from the cinema, the library and the football ground’. The cinema, the library, and football field were ‘the normal amenities of civilisation’ agreed Wray Vamplew in his work Salvesen of Leith (1975). The cinema, Elliot went on, ‘got a new supply of films every season which were exchanged with the floating factories as opportunity arose’. By the mid-1950s: ‘There was a large new cinema about to be built’.

Proposed layout for the new Cinema, 1956. In the Salvesen Archive, C5. Box 2.

Proposed layout for the new Cinema, 1956. In the Salvesen Archive, C5. Box 2.

Examples of the variety of films acquired for the stations have been found in the Salvesen Archive. A copy-note [Norwegian] from Oslo dated 24 January 1955, and relating to 10 films sent to South Georgia in Winter 1955 via shipping agents Messrs. Ruys & Co., Netherlands, and the Fred Olsen Transport Co. A/S, lists the titles Asphalt Jungle (Asfaltjungelen, 1950), No No Nanette (Nei, Nei Nanette), Operation Pacific (1951), and Rocky Mountain (1950) among others. The films were destined for Grytviken Kino, South Georgia.

List of films sent south to South Georgia from Oslo in January 1955. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

List of films sent south to South Georgia from Oslo in January 1955. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

Another letter [Norwegian] from Europafilm A/S, Oslo, to L. Klaveness A/S, Sandefjord, dated 18 January 1957, refers to the delivery of 10 films for Grytviken, 1957 Winter Season. The films were to be sent south from Oslo on 29 January 1957 on the vessel Kronprins Olav.

Europafilm A/S, Oslo, supplied 10 films to Grytviken Kino in January 1957. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

Europafilm A/S, Oslo, supplied 10 films to Grytviken Kino in January 1957. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

The films sent south in 1957 included Bird of Paradise (hopefully the 1951 re-make rather than the much earlier 1932 one), Botany Bay (1952), David and Bathsheba (1951), Desert Fox: the story of Rommel (1951), Roman Holiday (Prinsesse paa vift, 1954), and Star of India (1954) among others.

List of films sent south to South Georgia from Oslo in January 1957. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

List of films sent south to South Georgia from Oslo in January 1957. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

It wasn’t only the crews of the floating factories that enjoyed the exchange of films with the shore-based stations… films were exchanged between the various shore stations themselves. In the Archive there is a note [Norwegian] from Grytviken Kino to Husvik station cinema, dated 20 February 1960, indicating that a number of films were on the way to Husvik. The same note asks Husvik ‘to please send [back] remaining films of previous lists’.

Grytviken Cinema membership card. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

Grytviken Cinema membership card. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

Another note [Norwegian] from Grytviken Kino to Husvik, dated 7 November 1961, indicates that ‘more new movies will be sent tomorrow’, and that these should be sent on to Leith Harbour as well. The note also asks that films already watched be returned to Grytviken. In addition, the note states that the ‘film company in Oslo has asked us that care be taken of all the large coloured cinema posters inside the film cans and to make sure they don’t get lost, otherwise they will have to be paid for’.

Interior of a South Georgia cinema. In the Salvesen Archive, C1, Envelope 30.

Interior of a South Georgia cinema. In the Salvesen Archive, C1, Envelope 30.

With the ending of commercial whaling and the closure of the South Georgia stations, infrastructure there has been open to the elements. A 2011 report on the state of the whaling-stations shows that the cinema buildings have not faired well at all, succumbing like the other flimsy structures to the storms and weather conditions of the Southern Ocean.

Interior of a South Georgia cinema. In the Salvesen Archive, C1, Envelope 30.

Interior of a South Georgia cinema. In the Salvesen Archive, C1, Envelope 30.

The cinema venue at Grytviken (a whaling station of Compañia Argentina) has gone – or is at least not referred to in a list of surviving buildings – and at Husvik (established by the Tønsbergs Hvalfangeri) the cinema and library were ‘in a state of collapse either partial or complete’.

Interior of a South Georgia cinema. In the Salvesen Archive, C1, Envelope 30.

Interior of a South Georgia cinema. In the Salvesen Archive, C1, Envelope 30.

At Stromness (first established by the Sandefjord Whaling Company) the cinema is listed as one of the buildings that ‘have collapsed completely’ , and at Leith Harbour too (the Christian Salvesen station) the cinema is among those buildings ‘in a ruinous state’. At Prince Olav Harbour (Southern Whaling & Sealing Company) the cinema has ‘disappeared completely’.

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Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian Archives & Manuscripts, Centre for Research Collections (CRC)

The following were used in the construction of this blog-post:

Salvesen of Leith, Wray Vamplew, p.213, published by Scottish Academic Press, Edinburgh & London, 1975.

A whaling enterprise. Salvesen in the Antarctic, Sir Gerald Elliot, p.66, p112, published by Michael Russell, Norwich, 1998.

Inspection of the disused shore-based whaling-stations for the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands, by Purcell Miller Tritton, Norwich, July 2011.

If you have enjoyed this glimpse of the Salvesen Archive, have a look at these earlier ones too: June 2014 Whale hunting: new documentary for broadcast on BBC 4; July 1914 Pipe bombs, hurt sternframes, peas, penguins, stowaways and cookery books: the Salvesen Archive; March 2015 ‘Empire Kingsley’ – 70th anniversary of sinking on 22 March 1945; November 2015 Talk given to Members of the South Georgia Association – on the Salvesen Archive; May 2016 Exploring the explorer – Traces of Ernest Shackleton in our collections – 10 May 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the safe arrival of the small boat ‘James Caird’ on South Georgia

Exploring the explorer – Traces of Ernest Shackleton in our collections – 10 May 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the safe arrival of the small boat ‘James Caird’ on South Georgia

ERNEST SHACKLETON (1874-1922) – LEADER OF THE IMPERIAL TRANS-ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION 1914-1917 WHICH HAD LEFT SOUTH GEORGIA IN DECEMBER 1914

Signature of Ernest Shackleton on a letter to Charles Sarolea, 5 November 1912 (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.33)

Signature of Ernest Shackleton on a letter to Charles Sarolea, 5 November 1912 (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.33)

Shackleton’s Expedition and its fate has been much written about elsewhere, but in brief, and illustrated with some images from our William Speirs Bruce, Christian Salvesen & Co., and Charles Sarolea collections… read on…

…Some 17-months after his departure from South Georgia in October 1915, Ernest Shackleton suffered the loss of his Expedition ship Endurance which had been sunk by the pack ice of the Weddell Sea. The Expedition – 28 men – had been left adrift but surviving on the ice along with the small lifeboats and other equipment that could be rescued from the ship. By April 1916 however, the ice was beginning to break up and the Expedition took to these lifeboats and made for Elephant Island in the South Shetland Islands. They landed on the small island on 15 April 1916.

'Itinerary' of Shackleton's Expedition, in the William Speirs Bruce archive (Gen. 1647 42/7)

‘Itinerary’ of Shackleton’s Expedition, in the William Speirs Bruce archive (Gen. 1647 42/7)

Elephant Island was remote from anywhere that the original Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition had planned to go, and the likelihood of rescue from the bleak and inhospitable island was slight. Shackleton decided therefore that the most effective means of obtaining rescue would be to sail one of the lifeboats into the prevailing winds and make for the whaling stations of South Georgia some 1,500 kilometres away (800 nautical miles, or 620 miles).

Stamp of the Scottish Oceanographical Laboratory on the envelope containing an 'Itinerary' of Shackleton's Expedition, in the William Speirs Bruce archive (Gen. 1647 42/7)

Stamp of the Scottish Oceanographical Laboratory on the envelope containing an ‘Itinerary’ of Shackleton’s Expedition, in the William Speirs Bruce archive (Gen. 1647 42/7)

Choosing five companions for the journey and selecting the strongest of the lifeboats – James Caird, named after a major sponsor of the Expedition – the boat was launched on 24 April 1916. With Shackleton were Frank Worsley (the captain of Endurance) as navigator, Tom Crean (an Irish seaman), John Vincent (a trawlerman), Timothy McCarthy (an Irish seaman), and Harry McNish (carpenter) who had refitted the James Caird for the journey, masting and rigging it out as a ketch. The other 22 men would have to remain on Elephant Island and wait for the outcome of this vital journey. They had fresh water, and plenty of seals and penguins to provide food and fuel for their survival there.

A contemporary icture of Grytviken, South Georgia, in 1913 (Salvesen Archive, Photographs Envelope 31).

A contemporary picture of the whaling station at Grytviken, South Georgia, in 1913 (Salvesen Archive, 2nd tranche, Photographs Envelope 31)

On 10 May 1916, after over two weeks in the cold open ocean, Shackleton and his men landed their boat at Cave Cove, near the entrance to King Haakon Bay, South Georgia, albeit on the wrong side of the island from the manned stations at Prince Charles Harbour, Stomness, Leith harbour, Husvik, Grytviken, Godthul and Ocean Harbour. From Cave Cove James Caird was sailed a bit further and beached on shingle near the head of King Haakon Bay itself and then it was turned over to provide shelter and the makings of a ‘camp’.

A contemporary picture of Grytviken, South Georgia, in 1914 (Salvesen Archive, Photographs Envelope 31)

A contemporary picture of the whaling station at Grytviken, South Georgia, in 1914 (Salvesen Archive, 2nd tranche, Photographs Envelope 31)

After a period of rest Shackleton, Worsley and Crean set off on 18 May – without a map – on an overland trek across mountains and glaciers making for the whaling station at Stromness, leaving McCarthy, Vincent and McNish behind at the King Haakon Bay ‘camp’, the latter two far too unfit to walk. After 36-hours of trekking what would become the first confirmed land crossing of the South Georgia interior, the three reached Stromness.

The vessel 'Samson' which rescued 3 men from King Haakon Bay after Shackleton's trek to Stromness (Salvesen B4 Box 2)

The vessel ‘Samson’ which rescued 3 men from King Haakon Bay after Shackleton’s trek to Stromness (Salvesen, 2nd tranche, B4 Box 2)

On 19 May, the whaling vessel Samson with Worsley aboard was despatched to King Haakon Bay to pick up McCarthy, Vincent and McNish.

Detail of the vessel 'Samson' which rescued 3 men from King Haakon Bay after Shackleton's trek to Stromness (Salvesen B4 Box 2)

Detail of the vessel ‘Samson’ which rescued 3 men from King Haakon Bay after Shackleton’s trek to Stromness (Salvesen, 2nd tranche, B4 Box 2)

It would be another three months however before Shackleton was able to rescue the 22 men at Elephant Island. This was achieved with the assistance of the steam-tug Yelcho in the service of the Chilean Navy and under the command of Luis Pardo Villalón. All the men were saved and reached Punta Arenas, Chile, on 3 September 1916.

Shackleton was aboard the R.M.S 'Aquitania' in 1921 giving a talk on his Antarctic adventures (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.135)

Shackleton was aboard the R.M.S ‘Aquitania’ in 1921 giving a talk on his Antarctic adventures (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.135)

For Shackleton, army and diplomatic service followed – spending time in South America, northern Norway and in northern Russia – and he entered the lecture circuit too. Indeed in January 1921 he was aboard the R.M.S Aquitania giving a talk in the first class saloon. He was no stranger to this circuit of course and was already a public hero prior to the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, having headed the successful Nimrod Expedition, 1907-1909.

Reply from Shackleton to Charles Sarolea, November 1912 (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.33)

Reply from Shackleton to Charles Sarolea, November 1912 (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.33)

After that earlier 1907-1909 Expedition, Shackleton had received many official honours and he was greeted with great enthusiasm around the country. In 1912, Charles Sarolea – then head of French at Edinburgh University and whose second wife was Shackleton’s sister-in-law – had written to the explorer asking him to ‘do a review, however short, of Amundsen’s book on the South Pole’. Reflecting his strenuous schedule of public appearances, lectures, social engagements, and business ventures, Shackleton had to reply that he had ‘such a lot of worries and business that I could not write the article you mention’. He was however able to congratulate Sarolea on the success of his magazine Everyman.

Telegram, noted Ray, from Raymond Swinford Shackleton to Charles Sarolea thanking him for an appreciation of his father (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.135)

Telegram, noted Ray, from Raymond Swinford Shackleton to Charles Sarolea thanking him for an appreciation of his father (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.135)

In the years following his return from the interupted Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Shackleton soon tired of the lecture circuit and in September 1921 he left again for the Southern Ocean – the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition – and he arrived in South Georgia in January 1922. On the journey south he is believed to have suffered a heart attack – in Rio de Janeiro – and only a few hours after his arrival in Grytviken he died. His wife asked that her husband be buried in South Georgia and he was laid to rest in Grytviken cemetery.

Shackleton's grave at Grytviken prior to the raising of a granite stone there in 1928 (Salvesen Archive, Photographs Envelope 34)

Shackleton’s grave at Grytviken prior to the raising of a granite stone there in 1928 (Salvesen Archive, 2nd tranche, Photographs Envelope 34)

Afterword:

A memorial bust to the Chilean officer ‘Piloto Pardo’ (Luis Pardo Villalón) was later erected on Elephant Island and, today, visiting ships on the Antarctic cruise circuit frequently stop close to it.

The James Caird was shipped to Liverpool arriving in December 1919. Today it is preserved at Dulwich College, London (Shackleton was an ‘Old Alleynian’ of Dulwich College).

Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Centre for Research Collections, CRC, Edinburgh University Library

Talk given to Members of the South Georgia Association – on the Salvesen Archive

AT THE BUDONGO LECTURE THEATRE, EDINBURGH ZOO, SATURDAY 31 OCTOBER 2015

Plans for converting former naval vessels into whale-catchers.

Plans for converting former naval vessels into whale-catchers – an item in the Salvesen Archive.

This past weekend – Saturday 31 October – saw Dr. Graeme D. Eddie of the Centre for Research Collections (CRC) participate in the Penguin City Meeting of the South Georgia Association (SGA), held at the Budongo Lecture Theatre, Edinburgh Zoo. The SGA is a non-profit organisation formed to give voice to those who care for South Georgia, a remote mountainous island in the South Atlantic.

LogoThe SGA meeting had been organised and chaired by Dr. Bruce F. Mair, geologist. Also present among the geologists, glaciologists, botanists, ecologists, and former whalers, were Alexandra Shackleton, granddaughter of Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) and current President of the James Caird Society, descendants of Carl Anton Larsen (1860-1924) the Norwegian-British Antarctic explorer, and descendants of Sir James Mann Wordie (1889-1962) the Scottish Polar explorer and geologist.

Signature of William Lamond Allardyce, Governor and Commander of the Falkland Islands, together with Seal, on the Lease agreed with the South Georgia Co., a firm raised by Christian Salvesen & Co.

Signature of William Lamond Allardyce, Governor and Commander in Chief of the Falkland Islands, together with Seal, on the Lease agreed with the South Georgia Co., a firm raised by Christian Salvesen & Co. in 1909… an item in the Salvesen Archive.

Presentations on the day covered ‘Accessible Archives and the Industrial Past’, ‘Science and Field Work’ and ‘South Georgia 2015 and Beyond’ and, represented as an accessible archive, the CRC presentation was given in the first section of the Meeting.

The Lease indicated that 'five hundred acres, more or less, in the harbour marked Leith Harbour', South Georgia.

The Lease indicated that ‘five hundred acres, more or less, in the harbour marked Leith Harbour’, South Georgia, was to be allocated to the firm. The Lease permitted the firm to operate two whale-catcher vessels in addition to two associated with a Lease over Allardyce Harbour. Four vessels in the region made the whaling operation viable.

Profiling the Salvesen Archive, it offered a brief history of the firm of Christian Salvesen & Co. Ltd., and a look at the transfer in three stages of the archive of the company’s whaling business to Edinburgh University Library starting in 1969.

Cover of the 'Whaling Log' of the Salvesen & Co. whale factory-ship, 'Southern Harvester', season 1952-1953.

Cover of the ‘Whaling Log’ of the Salvesen & Co. whale factory-ship, ‘Southern Harvester’, season 1952-1953… an item in the Salvesen Archive.

The content of the Salvesen Archive was described with illustrations showing its variety. The talk looked at some of the conservation needs of the material, the use of the collection by researchers, and offered glimpses of the lives of personnel at the South Georgia stations.

While the 'Whaling log' has provided data of whales caught and processed to researchers of the past, it also provides climatological information to weather scientists and researchers today, giving information about ice, wind, and temperatures.

While the ‘Whaling log’ has provided data of whales caught and processed to researchers of the past, it also provides climatological information to weather scientists and researchers today, giving information about ice, wind, and temperatures.

The transport of live penguins by the company to Europe – not least to Edinburgh Zoo – was also briefly explored through images from the Salvesen Archive.

A slide from the presentation at the SGA Meeting

A slide from the presentation at the SGA Meeting.

The SGA meeting also saw presentations from the National Library of Scotland with the title ‘South Georgia on the Shelf’ and looking at the Map and Wordie collections, and from the South Georgia Heritage Trust & the National Museums of Scotland about a project to highlight the location of South Georgia related objects around the world. John Alexander who had spent winter seasons in the whaling industry gave a talk on ‘Sailing in the Antarctic with Salvesen’.

A slide from the prsentation given at the SGA meeting.

A slide from the presentation given at the SGA Meeting.

There were also presentations on tussock grass on South Georgia, the geology of the island, sustainable South Georgia fisheries management, and the rat eradication programme. The day was concluded with a visit to the penguin enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.

'Membership card' for the Grytviken Kino... the cinema at the Grytviken whaling station, South Georgia.

‘Membership card’ for the Grytviken Kino… the cinema at the Grytviken whaling station, South Georgia. At the time – up to the early 1960s – it was the most southerly cinema in the world after the cinema in Ushaia, Tierra del Fuego.

The host for SGA Meeting, Dr. Bruce F. Mair had been a geologist with the British Antarctic Survey and had carried out extensive mapping in an area of South Georgia around Brandt Cove, Larsen Harbour and Drygalski Fjord in the 1974-75 and 1976-77 field seasons. The region’s Mt. Mair is named after him!

Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Library, 2 November 2015

 

 

 

‘Empire Kingsley’ – 70th anniversary of sinking on 22 March 1945

LAST LOSSES OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR, 1939-1945 – Christian Salvesen & Co.

22 March 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the steam cargo vessel Empire Kingsley. Its sinking during the closing phase of the Second World War was the last maritime loss suffered by the general shipping and whaling firm Christian Salvesen & Co. of Leith during the War. Families couldn’t have known it at the time, but the ship’s destruction with the loss of 8 lives happened only 7-weeks before VE-Day (Victory in Europe).

Memorial plate on homes built for the Scottish Veterans Association. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. Photographs, 'Garden cottages', No.54)

Memorial plate on homes built for the Scottish Veterans Association. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. Photographs, ‘Garden cottages’, No.54)

The Empire Kingsley was one of a number of Empire vessels listed as Salvesen ships – other losses of these included the Empire Bruce, Empire Dunstan, and Empire Heritage  (the latter being the firm’s greatest as far as lives were concerned with 60 crew dead) – and each was in fact owned by the Ministry of War Transport and managed on contract by Christian Salvesen & Co.

On Thursday 22 March 1945, on its way from Ghent to Manchester, the Empire Kingsley was sunk by a torpedo from the German submarine U-315 off Land’s End in Cornwall. U-315 surrendered at Trondheim in Norway a few weeks later in May 1945. It had hunted in several patrols since entering service with the German Kriegsmarine in July 1943, but had sunk only the Empire Kingsley and written off a Canadian frigate.

The British merchant marine suffered heavy losses during 1939-1945. Merchant ships and their crews suffered attack from submarines, surface raiders, mines and assault from the air. Christian Salvesen & Co. suffered no less than any other firm, indeed the  whaling side of its business was all but suspended after the 1940-41 season. The firm’s transport ships and whale catchers were pressed into naval service under the control of the Ministry for War Transport, with its factory ships being used as tankers and heavy lift vessels.

Contained within the Salvesen Archive (1st tranche. B2. Box 4.) is a copy of a list of Chr. Salvesen & Co.’s Vessels Lost or Damaged by Enemy Action… a list that records the deaths of over 400 seamen between October 1939 and April 1945, and the loss of Salvesen tonnage all over the world and around the home waters of the British Isles…:

List_ship_losses2

List_ship_losses3

The firm suffered its first wartime loss at sea with the sinking of the Glen Farg – a coaster – by the German submarine U-23 on 4 October 1939. The ship was on its way home from Norway to Methil and Grangemouth with a cargo of pulp, carbide and ferro chrome when it was captured and sunk off the north of Scotland, west of Orkney and Duncansby Head. One seaman was lost, but there were 16 survivors who were picked up by a Royal Navy destroyer based at Scapa Flow, Orkney.

The Salvesen vessel 'Salvestria' sunk by an exploding mine in the Firth of Forth, 27 July 1940. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, No.1)

The Salvesen vessel ‘Salvestria’ sunk by an exploding mine in the Firth of Forth, 27 July 1940. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, No.1)

The loss of the whale factory ship Salvestria in July 1940 – on Edinburgh’s own doorstep – brought the deaths of 10 seamen. On 22 July 1940, two miles east of Inchkeith in the Firth of Forth, the ship was sunk by a magnetic mine while on its way to the naval installation at Rosyth with a cargo of fuel oil.

Minutes_losses_28-10-40_part1

The loss of the vessels ‘Salvestria’, and ‘Shekatika’, and the attack on ‘Coronda’ reported in the Minutes of Meeting of Directors of The South Georgia Co. Ltd. […] 28 October 1940

Minutes_losses_28-10-40_part2

The same Minutes – 28 October 1940 – reported the loss of the ‘New Sevilla’

 

The same year, in September 1940, the whale factory ship New Sevilla was sunk off Northern Ireland – a bit out from Islay – on the way from Liverpool to Aruba and South Georgia.

The Salvesen vessel 'New Sevilla' sunk by a torpedo off Northern Ireland, 20 September 1940. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, No.13 and 41)

‘New Sevilla’ sunk by a torpedo off Northern Ireland, 20 September 1940. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, No.13 and 41)

The vessel was carrying a cargo of whaling stores when it was struck by a torpedo fired from the German submarine U-138. The attack could have had worse consequences as the human cost was 2 lives lost out of a total complement of 285.

The Salvesen vessel 'New Sevilla' sunk by a torpedo off Northern Ireland, 20 September 1940. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, No.13 and 41)

The Salvesen vessel ‘New Sevilla’ sunk by a torpedo off Northern Ireland, 20 September 1940. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, No.13 and 41)

Further west of Ireland, and south of Iceland, the Sirikishna was lost in February 1941. This steam cargo ship was on its way from Glasgow to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and had become separated from a convoy. It was attacked by the submarine U-96.

Minutes_losses_17-12-41

Pages from the Minutes of Meeting of Directors of The South Georgia Co. Ltd. […] 17 December 1941, reporting the loss of several vessels… ‘Sirikishna’, ‘Sevra’, ‘Sarna’, and ‘Stora’.

Not all attacks on Salvesen’s stock ended in a sinking. The vessels Coronda, P.L.M. XIV (a former French vessel taken as booty when France surrendered), Folda, and Daphne II were each either bombed or torpedoed but none of them were immediately lost. In September 1940, the steam-driven tanker and supply ship Coronda (the second Salvesen vessel to bear that name… the namesake was the vessel that transported the first penguins to Edinburgh Zoo in 1913) was bombed in a German air attack off Northern Ireland on a journey from Iceland to Liverpool, carrying herring-oil.

'Coronda' ***** Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche....)

‘Coronda’ , bombed but not sunk. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, ‘Old Salvesen ships’, No.41)

Coronda suffered the loss of 21 seamen and suffered heavy fire-damage, and was beached on Kaimes Bay, Tighnabruaich, in the Kyles of Bute.  P.L.M. XIV was torpedoed on Smith’s Knoll (part of the Haisborough Sands, off Norfolk) in October 1940 with the loss of 10 crew, and the vessel was towed to Immingham. In November 1940, Folda was bombed off the Thames estuary with the deaths of 3 seamen, and then the ship was towed to Harwich. Then, in March 1941, the vessel Daphne II was torpedoed off the Humber with no human loss, and towed to Grimsby.

The Salvesen vessel 'Folda' bombed in November 1940 and towed to Harwich. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, No.45)

The Salvesen vessel ‘Folda’ bombed in November 1940 and towed to Harwich. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, Envelope ‘Norwegian lines and coasters’, No.45)

Not all the attacks on Salvesen’s ships ended in the deaths of crew. Between September and October 1940 the Crown Arun, Shekatika, Strombus and Snefjeld were each mined or torpedoed. The Crown Arun, known earlier as Hannah Böge, and taken into British service as war booty, then placed under Salvesen management by the Ministry of Shipping, sank off north west Ireland with a cargo of pit-props while in a convoy. Shekatika was sunk near Rockall en route to Hartlepool carrying steel and pit-props. Strombus broke up near Swansea after being attacked just as it was setting off for South Georgia, and Snefjeld sank north west of Ireland, also while in a convoy. None suffered human loss, and as has already been told Daphne II was attacked in 1941 with no losses either. Then, in March 1942, the tanker Peder Bogen was torpedoed, shelled and sunk south east of Bermuda by the Italian submarine Morosini, and again all crew were saved. The crews of the Indra lost in the Atlantic just above the equator in November 1942 and the Empire Bruce lost off the coast of Sierra Leone in April 1943 were also saved.

The Salvesen vessel 'Peder Bogen' torpedoed and sunk near Bermuda in March 1942, though all men saved. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, No.18)

The Salvesen vessel ‘Peder Bogen’ torpedoed and sunk near Bermuda in March 1942, though all men saved. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, No.18)

However, a few months after the loss of the Peder Bogen in March 1942 – and the saving of all the crew – the Saganaga was lost at anchor in Wabana Harbour, Newfoundland, in September 1942 with the loss of up to 30 lives. The steam cargo vessel loaded with iron-ore was sunk by a torpedo from the German submarine U-513.

The Salvesen vessel 'Saganaga' torpedoed and sunk in September 1942 with the loss of 30 lives. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, No.47)

The Salvesen vessel ‘Saganaga’ torpedoed and sunk in September 1942 with the loss of up to 30 lives. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, No.47). Photograph by W. Ralston, Glasgow, and acknowledged by request

The Salvesen vessel Saganaga was reported in the Minutes of the Meeting of Directors of the Salvesen enterprise, The South Georgia Co. Ltd., on 30 December 1942, as having an insurance value of £155,000, which at today’s values would be circa £6.5-million. The Sourabaya which was lost earlier – in October 1942 – had an insurance value of £220,000, or £9.2-million today. Sourabaya was a whale factory ship and it was steaming in convoy from New York to Liverpool with a cargo of fuel oil, war stores and landing craft. It was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-436 in the mid-Atlantic. 30 crew lost their lives.

Notes on the 'Svana', 'Saganaga' and 'Sourabaya' in the Minutes of Meeting of Directors of The South Georgia Co. Ltd. [...] 30th December 1942. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (3rd tranche)

Notes on the ‘Svana’, ‘Saganaga’ and ‘Sourabaya’ in the Minutes of Meeting of Directors of The South Georgia Co. Ltd. […] 30th December 1942. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (3rd tranche. Minute Book)

Another whale factory ship was lost in October 1942 – the Southern Empress. This ship was on its way to Glasgow, in convoy, and was also carrying a cargo of fuel oil and landing craft. In a position north west of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and south of Kap Farvel, Greenland, the Southern Empress was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-221.

The Salvesen vessel 'Southern Empress' sunk after attack by 3 torpedoes off Newfoundland in October 1942. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, No.41)

The Salvesen vessel ‘Southern Empress’ sunk after an attack from 3 torpedoes fired by U-221off Newfoundland in October 1942. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. C1. Photographs, No.41)

The greatest loss of life came in September 1944 when the tanker Empire Heritage, managed by Salvesen, was sunk by a torpedo north west of Malin Head, Ireland, on its way to Liverpool from New York. The vessel was carrying a cargo of fuel oil and a deck cargo including Sherman tanks when it was met by German submarine U-482. Over 100 lives were lost (of which 60 were crew). On 3 March 1945, the Salvesen vessel Southern Flower, formerly a whale catcher and which had been requisitioned for Admiralty service in anti-submarine duties, was torpedoed and sunk off the Icelandic coast by U-1022 patrolling between Bergen in Norway and southern Iceland. The Southern Flower had been owned by Salvesen since 1941 the year in which the firm acquired the Southern Whaling and Sealing Co. Ltd.  from Unilever (Lever Bros.) along with its two whale factory-ships and fifteen whale-catchers.

From the Minutes of Meeting of Directors of The South Georgia Co. Ltd. [...] 10th July 1945. Chaired by Capt. H. K. Salvesen. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (3rd tranche)

Notice of the vessels ‘Southern Flower’ and ‘Empire Kinglsey’ which had been lost to enemy action, from the Minutes of Meeting of Directors of The South Georgia Co. Ltd. […] 10th July 1945. Chaired by Capt. H. K. Salvesen. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (3rd tranche. Minute Book)

Then, later the same month the Empire Kingsley  was sunk off Land’s End with the loss of 8 lives from a crew of 57.

Correspondence files concerning honours and awards to officers and men serving on Salvesen vessels during the Second World War. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. E2)

Correspondence files concerning honours and awards to officers and men serving on Salvesen vessels during the Second World War. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. E2)

Many of Salvesen’s officers and men received awards for gallantry and for meritorious service at sea during the War, and others were commended.

Pamphlet literature of the Scottish Veterans' Garden City Association, 1940s. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (1st tranche. File 1919-67. H14)

Pamphlet literature of the Scottish Veterans’ Garden City Association, 1940s. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (1st tranche. H14. File 1919-67)

Appreciation of the efforts and sacrifice of the seamen during the War years was met by Christian Salvesen & Co. through the establishment of a fund to assist the families of those whose lives were lost.

Memorial plate on homes built for the Scottish Veterans Association. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. Photographs, 'Garden cottages', No.54)

Memorial plate on homes built for the Scottish Veterans Association. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (2nd tranche. Photographs, ‘Garden cottages’, No.54)

Money was also made available from various members of the Salvesen family for the building of homes for veterans through the Scottish Veterans’ Garden City Association.

Homes built in Muirhouse, Edinburgh, were similar to those shown in the pamphlet literature of the Scottish Veterans' Garden City Association, 1940s. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (1st tranche. File 1919-67. H14)

Homes built in Muirhouse, Edinburgh, were similar to those shown in the pamphlet literature of the Scottish Veterans’ Garden City Association, 1940s. Salvesen Archive. Coll-36 (1st tranche. H14 File 1919-67)

Construction of the houses designed in a ‘garden village’ style in Muirhouse, Edinburgh, was begun in 1946, and the houses were occupied by 1948. Streets were named Salvesen Crescent, Salvesen  Gardens, Salvesen Grove, and Salvesen Terrace.

Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian – Archives & Manuscripts, Centre for Research Collections (Special Collections)

 

Sources used in this piece:

Salvesen of Leith. Wray Vamplew. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1975; A whaling enterprise. Gerald Elliot; as well as internet wreck sites, and material contained in the Salvesen Archive

Pipe bombs, hurt sternframes, peas, penguins, stowaways and cookery books: the Salvesen Archive

After the recent BBC whaling documentary produced by KeoFilms / KeoNorth– entitled ‘Britain’s whale hunters: the untold story’ – a spike in enquiries about the archive of the former whaling firm Christian Salvesen & Company of Leith was anticipated. To meet this, some light work has been carried out on the archive, largely to ease the difficulties sometimes encountered when handling the collection. Slightly more expanded listing of the files – beyond those supplied by the Company some decades ago – has revealed interesting aspects of life down in the far Southern Ocean, in the Falkland Islands and on South Georgia.

While the television documentary was very descriptive of how dangerous a whaler’s life could be, both at sea and on the ‘flensing plan’, it is clear that off-duty activities could be dangerous too, if not fatal. A report from Hansen to the Magistrate at Grytviken, South Georgia, relates how two sailors from the whaler ‘Swona’ had gone to the vessel’s powder magazine and taken 10 kilos of gunpowder and a 5 pound tin of ‘granatepowder’. They had then gone ashore in order to make fireworks, putting the 10 kilos of powder into a cast-iron pipe and lighting the powder. One of the sailors was killed when this firework (we would call it a pipe-bomb nowadays) exploded.

Whale-catching vessels could also be ‘hurt’ as shown by this marconigram (wireless telegraph message) from Hansen, again, to the Magistrate at Grytviken. The whale-catcher ‘Sotra’ had lost her propeller and ‘hurt her sternframe’.

Wireless telegraph message sent by Leganger H. Hansen (Salvesen manager, Leith Harbour, South Georgia, between 1916 and 1937)

Wireless telegraph message sent by Leganger H. Hansen (Salvesen manager, Leith Harbour, South Georgia, between 1916 and 1937)

Then there was the difficulty of sending provisions to the whaling stations – inferior goods were often a problem. A letter from the Salvesen offices in Glasgow, 3 December 1912, to a local city supplier refers to the peas supplied to the Company. The Manager of the Whaling Station at South Georgia had written that the peas were of ‘such a bad quality that it is impossible to get them boiled down so as to make pea-soup’.

Letter, 3 December 1912, from the Manager in South Georgia to the Company's offices in Glasgow

Letter, 3 December 1912, from the Salvesen office in Glasgow to a local city supplier, after a complaint from a Manager in South Georgia

Another file shows that in December 1926, the Magistrate at Grytviken granted permission to Salvesen on behalf of the Danish Government to take a selection of 75 penguins for exhibition purposes in Denmark. The permit was conditional upon half of these penguins then being delivered to London Zoo afterwards.

Letter, 1926, from the Magistrate in Grytviken, South Georgia, granting permission to take several dozen penguins to Denmark for exhibition

Letter, 1926, from the Magistrate in Grytviken, South Georgia, granting permission to take several dozen penguins to Denmark for exhibition

In spite of the hard life of the whaler, there were always stowaways willing to bring change to their lives either in the Southern Ocean or in the other parts of the world fished and hunted by Salvesen. This is proved in a 1933 letter from Leganger H. Hansen (the Salvesen manager of the Leith Harbour whaling station, South Georgia, between 1916 and 1937, and almost certainly the same Hansen mentioned in the brief glimpses of whaling life described above). In the letter, Hansen tells how the whale-factory ship ‘Salvestria’ had acquired three stowaways and that they could possibly be ‘landed at Dover’. He did not ‘wish any stowaways to receive either pay or part’, and he believed ‘it best that such men should be transferred to the ‘Coronda’ and placed under the command of Captain Begg, who has assured us that he will make them work’. There was a possibility of stowaways on other Salvesen vessels too – ‘Sourabaya’ and ‘New Sevilla’.

Whale-factory ships 'Coronda' and 'New Sevilla', season 1934-35

Transport ship ‘Coronda’, and whale-factory ship ‘New Sevilla’, season 1934-35

Completely unconnected with the Argentine name for the Islands – Las Malvinas – the ‘Malvina Stores’ was a thriving business on the Falkland Islands in the early years of the 20th century. In 1909, in Stanley, the principal town, ‘Malvina Stores’ sold everything that might be needed, from corsets, cookery books, spare pants and under clothing, fingering yarn, ear syringes, toilet covers, nuns veiling, and bronchitis kettles.

Advertisement for 'Malvina Store', Stanley, Falkland Islands, from 'The Falkland Islands magazine and Church Paper' No.1. Vol.XXI. May 1909

Advertisement for ‘Malvina Store’, Stanley, Falkland Islands, from ‘The Falkland Islands Magazine and Church Paper’ No.1. Vol.XXI. May 1909

Several sections of the archive contain printed matter, including government ordinances. At the opening of 20th century, in an ‘Ordinance relating to Aliens, Destitute Immigrants, and to the Naturalization of Foreign Subjects’ dated 27 July 1900, William Grey-Wilson, the Governor and Commander-in-Chief, advised that several South Americans including Uruguayans and an Argentinean had taken the oath of allegiance.

From 'An Ordinance relating to Aliens, Destitute Immigrants, and to the Naturalization of Foreign Subjects', 27 July 1900

From ‘An Ordinance relating to Aliens, Destitute Immigrants, and to the Naturalization of Foreign Subjects’, 27 July 1900

What a difference a century can make !

Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian Archives and Manuscripts, Centre for Research Collections

 

Whale hunting: New documentary for broadcast on BBC Four

The story of Britain’s whale hunters is to be broadcast across the UK in a new 2-part documentary on BBC Four on Monday 9 June and Monday 16 June. The documentary has been produced by ‘KEO films’, and in the second episode some material from the Salvesen Archive will appear. The collection had been given to us on permanent loan in 1969, and with subsequent additions, and was finally gifted by Christian Salvesen Investments Limited in 2012.

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Recently a ‘Keo films’ researcher spent some days looking at material from the Salvesen archive before travelling to South Georgia in the South Atlantic to visit the remains of the Salvesen whaling operation there.

Box. 2. No. 1.

In addition to the broadcast in June, the documentary entitled ‘Britain’s Whale hunters: The Untold Story’ will again be transmitted on BBC Two, in Scotland only, later in the year, no date confirmed.

The Salvesen story itself had been an interesting one. In the early decades of the 20th century, the shipping firm Salvesen of Leith, Scotland, led the whaling industry at a time when food oils and other products from the Antarctic were considered an endless resource. Indeed, whaling dominated the Salvesen business. In later years – the 1960s and 1970s – the firm had diversified into the tanker fleet business, shipping steel and coke to Norway for the Norwegian shipbuilding and steel industries, factory fishing trawlers, and then to shore-based cold storage, canning, property development and also to house-building. Then, in October 2007, the French based transport and logistics provider Norbert Dentressangle announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire Christian Salvesen.

The images shown here are also from the Salvesen Archive and show the Company vessels ‘Coronda’ and ‘New Sevilla’ at Leith Harbour in South Georgia, and crew on board a prospecting cruise to South Georgia and Antarctica in 1913-1914.

Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian Archives & Manuscripts