Ghost Ships: The Pamir

by T. Duplain

Ghost Ship: The PamirThe Pamir was built at the Blohm & Vass shipyards in Hamburg, Germany. She was launched July 29, 1905. She had a four-masted barque and a steel hull. She was 375 feet in length, a beam of 46 feet, and a draught of 23.5 feet. Her top speed was 16 knots but usually cruised at 8 to 9 knots. She was the fifth of ten ships and was commissioned on October 18, 1905 by the Laeisz company in the South American nitrate trade.

German Ghost Ship: The PamirBy 1914, she had made eight trips to Chile and between 64 to 70 one-way cruises to Valparaíso or Iquique. During World War I, she stayed in port on the Canary Islands. Because of the war, she did not return to Hamburg until March 17, 1920. On July 15, 1920 the Pamir left from Hamburg and went to Naples as a war reparation for Italy. Unfortunately, the Italian government was unable to find a proper crew, a deep-water sailing ship crew, actually, so she was laid up near Castellamare, the Gulf of Naples. In 1924, the Laeisz company bought her back for £ 7,000. The Pamir went back into the nitrate trade, but in 1931, she was sold to Gustaf Erikson’s Finnish shipping company to work in the Australian grain trade.

While in port in Wellington during World War II, the Pamir was taken as a war prize by New Zealand on August 3, 1941. After about ten voyages for the New Zealand ensign, she eventually made her way back to Wellington in 1948.

The Pamir Is Saved
In 1950, a German ship owner saved her and the Passat from the scrapyard by purchasing them. The German owner modernized the Pamir by giving her an auxiliary engine and then used her as a cargo and as a sail-training ship on route to Argentina. In 1954 both ships were bought by a German consortium, made five voyages, and were decommissioned in 1957 because they were not profittable any longer. The Pamir’s journey was just beginning.

On August 10, 1957, the Pamir set sail for Hamburg for the final time. She left Buenos Aires with a crew of 86, including 52 cadets. Her cargo included 3,780 tons of barley. On September 21, the Pamir was caught in Hurricane Carrie. This was before the ship was having shortened sails. Hatchways and other openings had not been closed, so considerable amounts of water could have been let into the ship. Another theory is the ship had leak that let a large amount of water in. However the water got into the ship, it still shifted the cargo in the ship, thus aggravating the Pamir. For whatever reason, the captain did not order the crew to flood the ballast tanks. By this time, the Pamir’s lifeboats were flooded and therefore, they could not be deployed. The Pamir was able to send distress signals before capsizing at 13:03 in the middle of the Atlantic. What was found were three damaged lifeboats and numerous sharks. The United States Coast Guard cutter, Absecon, organized a nine-day search for survivors, but all they found were four crewmen and two cadets alive from two lifeboats.