The Pamir                                                     Back to Ghost Ships

By T. Duplain
The 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.

By 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.

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.  
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