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A postcard issued for passengers' use on board the Korea (Kinghorn)

S.S. Siberia

Other name: Siberia Maru
Sister: Korea
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., hull number 32
Launched October 19, 1901; maiden voyage March 11, 1903; scrapped 1934
Hull: length 552'; beam 63'; 11,284 tons
Power: quadruple expansion engines by builder, with cylinders of 35", 50", 70", and 100" diameter, stroke 66"
6 double-ended and 2 single-ended boilers; steam pressure 180 lbs.; bunker capacity 2,976 tons

 

The Siberia was ordered by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company in 1898 for the San Francisco-Hong Kong-Manila service but she was not delivered until November 19, 1902, and did not commence her first crossing of the Pacific until March 11, 1903. The Siberia 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 Siberia was capable of 20 knots but maintained a service speed of 16 knots.

In 1904 the Siberia transported Jack London and other war correspondents to Japan and Korea to cover the Russo-Japanese War (which ended in Russia's crushing naval defeat at Tsushima).

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. Evidently $1,000,000 was paid for Siberia. 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 Siberia sailed on September 29 for the Panama Canal. Because landslides had blocked the canal she had to sail through the Straights of Magellan.

Siberia 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.

Renamed Siberia Maru, she carried the first shipment of dolls for an international doll exchange to the Port of Yokohama in January of 1927. The 12,739 American dolls received a huge and colorful welcome when they arrived in time to participate in the Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival) on March 3, 1927. The Toyo Kisen Kaisha service was taken over by the Nippon Yusen Kaisha in 1927. Both Siberia and her sister were laid up in 1930 and scrapped in 1934.

Sources: The Atlantic Transport Line, 1881-1931; The Ships List; 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; Passenger Ships of the World Past and Present, Eugene W. Smith, Massachusetts, 1977; 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


A photograph of the Siberia at sea in 1911 (Kinghorn)

This brochure issued by the Panama Pacific Line c.1910-15 describes the ships and their service (Kinghorn)
This brochure issued by the Panama Pacific Line c.1910-15
describes the ships and their service (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (40,441 KB)

Siberia sailing for Yokahama in 1927Siberia sailing for Yokahama in 1927
Left: A tinted postcard captioned "Siberia." Right: Siberia sailing for Yokahama in 1927 (American Hurrah)

 

For more information ...

Kinghorn "The Atlantic Transport Line 1881 - 1931" McFarland, 2011

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