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Other Name: Korea Maru
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., hull number 31
Launched March 23, 1901; delivered June 17, 1902; maiden voyage August 30, 1902; scrapped 1934 in Japan
Hull: length 572' 4"; beam 63'; draught 27'; 11,284 tons
Power: twin screws, quadruple expansion engines by builder, with cylinders of 35", 50", 70", and 100"diameter with a stroke of 66";
6 double-ended and 2 single-ended boilers; steam pressure 180 p.s.i.; capable of 20 knots (service speed16 knots); bunker capacity 2,976 tons
The Korea was ordered in 1898 by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company for the San Francisco-Hong Kong-Manila service but her construction proceeded slowly and she was not delivered until June 17, 1902. She and her sister cost $3,975,114 to build, and were the largest and finest ships on the Pacific when they entered service; each carried accommodation for 300 first class passengers and there was "no expense spared in their equipment." The Korea was capable of 20 knots but maintained a service speed of 16 knots. Both ships had two open decks on their port sides, but on the Korea's starboard side the lower of these decks was plated over to provide a sheltered corridor to the best cabins.
Korea arrived at her home port of San Francisco for the first time in August 1902 and when she sailed some 2,000 people gathered to see her off. On her return trip the Korea steamed at an average speed of 18 knots and set a new record of 10 days, 15 hours and 15 minutes. She cut this time again in October 1905 to 10 days, 10 hours, and 28 minutes, a record that stood until 1937.
In 1915, according to the New York Times, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company began selling its fleet "owing to inability to compete with Japanese steamship lines in the Pacific trade under the La Follette Seaman's Law." The five largest steamers in the fleet (Manchuria, Mongolia, Korea, Siberia, and China) were sold to the Atlantic Transport Company of West Virginia for $5,250,000 to replace wartime losses. $1,000,000 was paid for Korea. Prepared for service on the North Atlantic, with her hull painted with the American flag and her name and nationality in letters seven feet high, the Korea sailed on September 22 for the Panama Canal and London via Norfolk, Virginia. Because of landslides on the canal and she had to sail through the Straights of Magellan. During her brief period of service with the line she was damaged when she collided with the Princess Sophia in the English Channel on December 6, 1915.
Korea and her sister were both sold on in 1916 to the Toyo Kisen Kaisha of Yokohama, Japan, which "was in need of additional tonnage even before it lost the turbine liner "Chiyo Maru," recently wrecked near Hong Kong." The Japanese had apparently tried to buy both ships in 1915, and in 1916 offered the International Mercantile Marine Company twice what it had paid for them barely a year earlier.
Under Japanese ownership this vessel was renamed Korea Maru and operated a sea post office from 1916-1921, and again for just five weeks in 1930. The Toyo Kisen Kaisha service was taken over by the Nippon Yusen Kaisha in 1927.
Sources: The Atlantic Transport Line, 1881-1931; The Ships List; Passenger Ships of the World Past and Present, Eugene W. Smith, Massachusetts, 1977; The Red Star Line and the International Mercantile Marine Company, Vernon E.W. Finch, Antwerp, 1988; "The Scandalous Ship Mongolia," Robert Barde, Steamboat Bill, Spring 2004; Transpacific Steam: The Story of Steam Navigation from the Pacific Coast, E. Mowbray Tate, 1986; www.pennfamily.org; http://fuzzo.com; Merchant Fleets in Profile 2; the Ships of the Cunard, American, Red Star, Inman, Leyland, Dominion, Atlantic Transport and White Star Lines, Duncan Haws, 1979; The New York Times, August 14, 1915; May 27, 1916
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