21 September 1957 – Pamir, a four-masted barque, was shipwrecked and sank off the Azores during Hurricane Carrie.
Pamir was a four-masted barque built for the German shipping company F. Laeisz. One of their famous Flying P-Liners, Laeisz sold her in 1931 to the Finnish shipping company of Gustaf Erikson, which used her in the Australian wheat trade.
She participated in the last of the Grain Races in 1949. Pamir (Captain Verner Björkfelt), fully loaded with 60,000 sacks of Australian barley for distilleries in Scotland, set sail at Port Victoria on 28 May 1949, rounded Cape Horn on 11 July, passed Lizard Point on 2 October and arrived at Falmouth just beyond it in 128 days. Passat (Captain Ivar Hägerstrand), left Port Victoria four days after Pamir, but passed Pamir somewhere in the Roaring Forties of the southern Pacific Ocean on the 6,000 mile run to Cape Horn, and arrived at Penarth Dock South Wales after 110 days. However, it bestowed on Pamir the honor of being the last windjammer with a commercial load to round Cape Horn.
By 1957, she had been outmoded by modern bulk carriers and could not operate at a profit. Her shipping consortium's inability to finance much-needed repairs or to recruit sufficient sail-trained officers caused severe technical difficulties.
After being being seized as a prize or war by New Zealand at the beginning of WW II, she was returned to the Erikson Line on 12 November 1948 at Wellington and sailed to Port Victoria on Spencer Gulf to load Australian grain. On her 128-day journey to Falmouth, she was the last windjammer carrying a commercial load around Cape Horn, on 11 July 1949.
On 10 August 1957, she left Buenos Aires for Hamburg with a crew of 86, including 52 cadets. Her cargo of 3,780 tons of barley was stored loose in the holds and ballast tanks, secured by 255 tons in sacks on top of the loose grain. Records indicate that this was one of the major mistakes implicated in the sinking – she had been held up by a dockworkers' strike, and Captain Diebitsch, under severe pressure to sail, decided to let the trimming (the correct storage of loose cargo so that it does not shift in the hold) be done by his own untrained crew. It was later found that he also had the ballast tank filled with barley. Even though testing of the roll period (the time the ship took to right itself after load transfers) showed that she was dangerously unstable, Diebitsch decided to sail.
On the morning of 21 September 1957, she was caught in Hurricane Carrie before shortening sails. It was later considered that because the radio officer had also been given substantial administrative tasks (to save the money required for another officer's position), he had likely not received any of the radio storm warnings. She had also not responded to radio hails by ships that had sighted her earlier in the voyage. She soon listed severely to port in the sudden storm. As hatchways and other openings were not closed at once, they probably allowed considerable amounts of water to enter, as found by the commission which examined the probable causes of the sinking. The shipping company's lawyer at the investigation claimed that the water entered her due to a leak. According to the commission, the water caused her to list further and the grain to shift, which aggravated the list.
The captain did not order the flooding of her grain-filled ballast tanks, which would have helped her to right herself. Once she listed severely, the lifeboats could not be deployed because her port side was underwater and her starboard side was raised to an angle that did not allow use of the boats.
She sent distress signals before capsizing at 13:03 local time, and sinking after drifting keel-up for 30 minutes in the middle of the Atlantic 600 nautical miles (1,100 km) west-southwest of the Azores at position 35°57′N 40°20′W. Three damaged lifeboats that had come loose before or during the capsizing and the only lifeboat that had been deployed was drifting nearby. None contained any provisions or working distress signal rockets. Many sharks were later seen near the position
A nine-day search for survivors was organized by the United States Coast Guard Cutter Absecon, but only four crewmen and two cadets were rescued alive, from two of the lifeboats. It was reported that many of the 86 men aboard had managed to reach the boats, but most died in the next three days.
As none of the officers nor the captain survived, the reasons for the capsizing remained uncertain.
(Image - Pamir as she is heading into Hurricane Carrie. Picture taken by Chief Engineer Serafims Berzins aboard M/S Coolangatta. Coolangatta has recently left Cape Town and endured Hurricane Carrie, when they met Pamir headed straight for the hurricane. Seen on the picture are junior engineers (on the left) and cooks (on the right).
Source:Trevor Powell - Australian Maritime History