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Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast, yard number 613
Launched March 22, 1923; delivered August 25, 1923; maiden voyage September 1, 1923; broken up 1934
Hull: length 626'; beam 80' 4"; 21,716 tons; 5 continuous steel decks; 17,000 tons cargo capacity
Power: triple screws; 4 single reduction geared Brown Curtiss steam turbine engines of 15,000 h.p.
12 boilers, 60 burners for fuel oil; steam pressure 220 lbs.; 16 knots
Registered in Belfast; official number 145433
The Minnewaska (IV), whose name means "clear water," was the first of four super-Minne type ships planned for the post-war recovery of the Atlantic Transport Line's premiere London to New York passenger cargo business. Each of the new ships was to be named after its illustrious predecessor sunk during the war. In the event however, only two of the ships were actually built because post-war freight business and first class passenger traffic never reached, let alone surpassed, pre-war levels. The Minnewaska (IV) reportedly cost £1,175,000 to build.
The ships were ordered in 1919 but their construction was delayed. They were similar in length to the pre-war Minnes but they had a much broader beam which made them even more stable and increased their cargo capacity and passenger accommodation. They were the largest cargo vessels in the world when launched. As well as carrying more passengers the ships offered additional facilities for them including a lounge and a reception room the full width of the ship designed for dancing. Another improvement was the glazing of the fore portion of the promenade deck to provide a measure of shelter.
The U.S. Shipping Board did not authorize a resumption of the Atlantic Transport Line's London to New York service until the new Minnes were nearing completion. The Minnewaska (IV) sailed initially under Captain Thomas F. Gates, and commenced her maiden voyage on September 2, 1923. From 1924 her captain was Commander Frank H. Claret, O.B.E., R.N.R., who made 52 voyages in command of this ship. She is recorded in the Morton Allan Directory of European Passenger Steamship Arrivals making 85 voyages to New York between September 1923 and December 1930.
The Minnewaska (IV) came to the rescue of some airmen in August 1928. The British pilot Captain Frank T. Courtney was attempting the first East-West crossing of the Atlantic (via the Azores) when the engine of his Dornier-Napier flying boat, "the Whale," caught fire and he was forced to ditch. She had a minor collision with the former White Star Line tender Traffic at Cherbourg in 1929, which resulted in some damage to the smaller vessel. And when the Minnewaska (IV) left London on December 7, 1929, she encountered "a gale and a very high sea" and could not take on her passengers at Boulogne. She anchored in the Downs near Dover before putting to sea and steaming about in the gale until she could enter Cherbourg on the Monday morning. Shortly before Minnewaska (IV) left New York on her next voyage the president of the line, P.A.S. Franklin, called Captain Claret to his office to present a sterling silver cigar box given by a group of businessmen who had endured the channel gale as a token of their appreciation and friendship.
The depression of 1931 ended any hope the International Mercantile Marine Company had of selling off its foreign-flagged lines and the Atlantic Transport Line was closed down. Alternative work was sought for Minnewaska (IV) and her sister, and it was reported in the New York Times that they were to be converted for the New Zeeland frozen meat trade and would be sailing out via the Cape of Good Hope and home via Cape Horn, a round trip of 30,000 miles! In the event the both Minnes were transferred to the Red Star Line's transatlantic tourist third service to enable a weekly sailing schedule to be maintained.
The Minnewaska (IV) was the last ship to sail under Atlantic Transport colors and started on the Antwerp to New York route on May 13, 1932 carrying 413 passengers. The fare was $98 one way or $172 for the round trip (half the former rate), and was marketed as "the most sensational travel value ever offered." Sadly the venture did not prove to be successful. The Minnewaska (IV) made just ten round trips for the Red Star Line before her service was terminated in September of the following year. It was announced in May 1934 that both of the Minnes would be laid up in Antwerp but both ships were sold in December 1934 to Douglas & Ramsey for scrap. The sale "was accepted yesterday in shipping circles as marking the end of the Atlantic Transport Line" according to the New York Times.
The post-war Minnes were scrapped after remarkably short careers. Vernon Finch published a double page spread featuring a poignant image (from The Times, February 14, 1935, p.16) showing the Minnewaska (IV) at the breakers. A ship's bell engraved "Minnewaska" is preserved at the Millbridge Care Home in Heacham, Norfolk formerly "Loo Water," the unfortunately named country home of Atlantic Transport Line Managing Director Charles F. Torrey, and probably comes from this ship given that her namesakes were scrapped overseas.
Sources: The Atlantic Transport Line, 1881-1931; The Ships List; 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; A Century of Atlantic Travel: 1830-1930, Frank Charles Bowen, 1930; The Red Star Line and the International Mercantile Marine Company, Vernon E.W. Finch, Antwerp, 1988; Atlantic Transport Line brochure, dated May 2, 1923 (Kinghorn); Atlantic Transport Line brochure of c.1924 (Kinghorn); The New York Times, August 14, 1922; December 22, 1931; April 6, 1932; May 5, 1932; May 22, 1932; May 27, 1934
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