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SS Hugin 38m (Shell wreck) 1889-1918


Depth: 38 metres | Length: 85 metres | Cargo: 4.5″ shells

Constructed of iron with three full decks and could be rigged as a four mast barkentine. The ship was launched on 4 November 1880 and delivered one month later to the British Ship owners Company of Liverpool as the British Queen. (3,657 brt.) (Other sources indicate that she was delivered on 15 January 1881) The BSC was not really a shipping company but more of an investment group who built ships for their own account and then chartered them out to other shipping lines and/or sold the ships when the price was right.

The British Queen commenced her maiden voyage on 31 January 1881 with a trip from Liverpool to New York. This was followed by the start of a charter on 22 March 1883 for the New Zealand Shipping Company and later on she sailed for the British company’s: Shaw Savill, Inman, Anchor Line and Furness. At the end of the last charter in November 1883, the ship was laid up.
Bought in January 1889 by an independent company in which the NASM participated.After a refit the ship is renamed in Obdam and starts her first voyage on 23 March 1889 sailing from Rotterdam to New York. In 1890 the ship is fitted with electric light.

Now a rather eventful career starts.
These were the days of the late 19th century when Trans Atlantic travel was not as safe and well regulated as it is now. No radars, no coastal stations monitoring every move, it was all do-it- yourself and sometimes hope for the best and God help us all. Bad weather, bad visibility and a lack of navigation aids and reliable equipment were the biggest problems to deal with. The Obdam had her share of adventures and misadventures. On 23 October 1890 it was reported in the New York Times that the ship had run ashore in tempestuous weather and was badly damaged. However when the Obdam made it to port, the captain reported that he had been far out to sea and not even close to where it supposedly had happened. The captain in command was Captain Bakker, who would make the head lines the next year, when he stopped a mutiny in a rather drastic way.

While in command of the Obdam during a crossing from New York to Amsterdam a dispute ensued with the engine room crew. The ship had left New York on 18 July 1891 and was carrying 300 passengers when on the second day of the crossing the ratings of the engineering dog watch (12 -4) refused to go to work. Thus just after midnight of the 20th.of July the engines stopped and for two hours the ship drifted. Luckily it was beautiful weather and very little swell so the ship was in no danger. The engineering officers ordered the crew to go to work but to no avail. Also a direct order from the captain was ignored. The captain had no inkling about any problems that might have been present among the crew as no complaints had been received. The chief engineer Mr. Bol, who tried to mediate, was threatened with personal violence when he wanted to enter the engine room and therefore went to see the captain.

Capt. Bakker armed himself with a revolver and backed up by the Quartermaster of the watch, who carried a large brass belaying pin, he went below. Greeted by a chorus of jeers and threats he ordered the men to return to work. He summoned the ring leader who was coming towards him to retreat and showed him the revolver. When the ringleader, a certain Peter Duzen, suddenly sprang forward the captain raised his revolver and shot a bullet into his abdomen. The rest of the mutineers then retreated to the other side of the engine room space. The captain ordered arms to be released to the other officers and this convinced the rest of the engine crew that it was better to return to work without delay. The injured person died shortly after from his wounds and was buried at sea the next day.

Captain Bakker informed the head office when the ship arrived in Boulogne Sur Mer in France this being the first stop after the North Atlantic crossing. These were the days before wireless at sea. When the ship arrived in its home port Amsterdam, the captain went with the general manager to the local court to make a statement. The court preliminary decision was that the captains actions were justified in this case of mutiny and also that no charges would be pressed against the other crew, as it was understood that the ring leader had somehow set them up. Most of the mutineers where from Liverpool and London and they decided to go home at once instead of waiting for any follow up to this case.

However the Dutch prosecution service saw things different and considered them not mutineers but strikers and charged Captain Bakker with murder. The trial went ahead while the captain was at sea in command of the Obdam. On March 22, 1892 he was sentenced in absence to one year in jail for manslaughter. Hal advised in a press release (they had them in those days as well) that Capt. Bakker who was 46 years old, had been with the company for the last 15 years and was one of the companies most popular officers. The company was planning to ask the Dutch Queen to commute his sentence and they had absolutely no intention of taking any action against him. In contrary they commended him on his steadfastness in the situation. The appeal was heard on 2 June 1892 in Rotterdam and the prosecutor asked for the more severe sentence of four years, while the defense requested acquittal. On June 16, the Court of Appeal reduced the sentence to three months for cruelty. After serving those three months captain Bakker was given command of the ss Werkendam and continued his career with the company.

When it was bad weather, and especially when the visibility was bad, ships tried find a safe anchorage and wait for things to get better and the weather to clear and the –often limited- navigational aids to become visible again. Thus it happened on the 4th of March 1893 that the Obdam ran aground in the middle of the Hudson at Roemer shoals. She was not the only one; also the French steamer La Gascogne did the same thing. A third vessel the Tancarville incoming from Bordeaux touched ground as well and lost her rudder. A fourth vessel the schooner Roger Drury had done the same thing earlier in the morning. The turn in the weather must have really surprised them. With the pilot on board the Obdam had been inbound for New York and was going slowly up the river. With worsening visibility the pilot miscounted the buoys, thinking he was in mid channel, but he was not. As the ship grounded on the high tide, the initial actions of three tugs were to no avail and it was decided to wait for the next tide. To make the most of the lost time, the company agent brought the NY health officer on board to pre clear the ship. 10 guests then left with a tugboat for New York, the rest opted to wait on board. Late in the afternoon, four tugs managed to free the ship and the Obdam safely anchored in deeper water. The next morning at first light she steamed into New York and docked safely. There was no damage and very little recriminations. It just happened in those days.

Damage to the ship did occur near the end of October 1895 while the ship was on a crossing from the Netherlands to New York. She broke the tail end of the shaft and had to be towed into Halifax as she only had one propeller. This was done by another passenger liner, the Pennland from the Red Star Line. On board were 8 saloon, 6 six second class, 106 steerage passengers and a lot of Dutch mail. The Obdam (measured at 3,558 brt at the time) had left Rotterdam on October 19 and was supposed to have arrived in New York on 2 November but arrived that day in Halifax in tow. It was several weeks before the ship was back in service again. All passengers and the mail were sent to New York by train while the Pennland continued to Philadelphia.

In 1896, the ship received a major refit when new propulsion machinery was installed. The plant consisted of two new boilers and one three cylinder triple expansion engine (1,950 Ihp. / 2500 Hp.) All made and installed by the Nederlandsche Stoomboot Maatschappij of Rotterdam. This was a shipping company that operated her own shipyard and also did work for other companies. The new machinery increased her speed to over 15 knots. At the same time the passenger accommodations were extended by enlarging her promenade deck by including a shelter deck. (This is a not completely enclosed deck so it does not count for tonnage /tax calculations)


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