Monday, August 21, 2017
Painting of Venus

The chain of events that led to the Bergen Line building the Venus started in the head office of Swedish Lloyd. From 1879 they had operated a service between their home port of Gothenburg that linked Sweden with Britain.

Despite having neutral status during the First World War Sweden - with its population of 6 million in 1930 - had been hard hit by stringent food rationing. It was from Britain came relief shipments of grain in 1917. The importance of a physical link across the North Sea was the reason why Swedish Lloyd ordered two ships from Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson which emerged as the Suecia (4,216g) and Britannia (4,216g) in 1928. The steam powered sister ships went into service each accommodating - as built - 180 First class and 44 Second class passengers. With Gothenburg as the Swedish terminal port the crossing to London (Tilbury) was made in 39 hours. With the ships’ service speed of 17 knots this enabled passengers to travel from Stockholm to London between Saturday evening and Monday morning. The frequency of the sailings was three times a week in the summer and weekly during the winter. To enhance the trade for the service’s new ships Swedish Lloyd aggressively promoted traffi c originating from Oslo using the 150 mile railway southwards along the shoreline to Gothenburg as the fastest way to get from Oslo to London.

What P&O was to Britain in the early 20th century Bergenske, the Bergen Steamship (Bergen Line hereafter) was albeit in a smaller way to Norway. Wherever the young nation traded much of the cargo would be carried by one of its world-roving ships. Norway had been in union with Sweden – created in the fallout of Napoleon’s attempted conquest of Europe – since 1814. Fitful dissatisfaction had rumbled on in Norway for most of the 19th century for the two countries had developed differing forms of democracy. Eventually lead by Christian Michelsen the union was peacefully dissolved in 1905 and one of the prime minister’s most ardent supporters was Kristofer Lehmkul (1855-1949) a Bergen merchant and a member of the government. At this time of transformation Bergen Line needed a chairman and in that position he filled it with experience, modernising forethought and distinction until his retirement in 1936: he was also managing director from 1908 until 1936. Amongst much else Lehmkul successfully promoted Bergen as the “western entry” port for contact with the UK, and the USA. The new nation was also well served by its choice in 1905 of a constitutional monarch. King Haakon Vll was to guide the young nation of 2.8 million people through the privations of the First World War, political troubles of the 1920s (which included a period of the prohibition of alcohol) and the economic tribulations of successive trade recessions.

As long ago as May 1890 Bergen Line had opened a mail carrying service between Bergen and Newcastle: originally this was a partnership with another local line Nordsenfjeldske SS Co (NFDS). The leading personality involved was P G Halvorsen, a Bergen shipowner involved in the vital coal trade from Newcastle. But the joint venture lasted for only two years which used the Mira (966g /1891) being the first ship ordered specifically for the year round service. This primary trade route across the North Sea developed to a climactic point when two sister ships came into service, the Jupiter (2,625g) in 1914 and the Leda (l) (2,519 g) from a British shipbuilder in 1920: delivery had been delayed by the War: she was Bergen Line’s first steam turbine powered ship. On the route to Britain Bergen Line had long faced competition from the Wilson Line of Hull but, after they were taken over by Ellerman, there opened up an era of expansive cooperation which led to the purchase of a warehouse company in London in 1919, a large holding in H.Clarkson & Co, and the establishment of Bergenske (London): the latter was the vehicle of much promise as a trading and shipping joint venture with the new Soviet Russia, only to have it arbitrarily nationalised by Stalin with its eventual closure in 1933.

One of the problems of the terminal at Newcastle was that it involved a long passage up the Tyne: there was intensive traffic formed of ships loading cargoes of coal from the many riverside loading berths. In 1928 an agreement was concluded with the Tyne Improvement Commission to build a new quay, 1,110 ft in length at North Shields only three miles from the port’s entrance at Tynemouth. To the Tyne Commission Quay a rail link was laid to the East Coast mainline at Newcastle along which boat trains could run to connect with Bergen Line arrivals and sailings. The line had hardly opened when the Swedish Lloyd service between Gothenburg and Tilbury with the two new ships came into service. Bergen Line lost no time in recognising the very evident threat by the Swedes could only be met with a new fast ship for their Bergen-Newcastle route. This improved service for passengers and mail could only be done with an increase in the subsidy paid by the Norwegian Postal department. The need was put before the Storting (parliament) and the day after it was agreed by a large majority the new ship was ordered from the Danish Elsinore shipyard . It was no coincidence that the order went to a Danish builder for it was locally at Burmeister & Wain that much of the pioneering work in marine diesel engines had quickly established them as a choice for progressive shipowners. A prominent role in the design was played by Knud E. Hansen making his debut in a career that went on to establish it as a world famous naval architectural practise. The ship that was delivered in the spring of 1931 was claimed to be the fastest motor ship in the world. Each of the Venus’ two ten cylinder main engines, operating at 160RPM, produced a total of 10,250 bhp giving a service speed of 20 knots for a ship of 5,600g on a hull with a length of 412 ft, a beam of 54 ft and a draught of 20ft. The supercharged main engines were 18 ft high to complement the design of the required depth of the hull. Specific measures were taken to dampen the vibration of the main engines when operating at full power: this was a common problem on early motor ships.

The general arrangement of the Venus followed that of previous ships of the Line: two holds forward and one aft of the main body of accommodation. Most of the cabins for the passengers were in the tween deck level (B Deck) above was the main deck ( A Deck) with numbers 1 and 2 and as built no forecastle: aft at this level, was a large dining saloon served from an adjacent galley, and 13 single berth cabins on the starboard side – right aft – even further than No 3 hatch trunk was a small dining saloon for the Second Class passengers whose cabins were directly below at the aft extremity of B Deck. Above on the main deck was a spacious Promenade Deck with the First class Music Saloon forward that doubled as the Main Lounge: aft of the main entrance was the largest public room onboard, the First Class Smoke Room with a recessed ceiling/deck head into the Boat deck above. The focal decorative feature was a large marble (fake) fireplace at the after end against the front of the engine room casing. Probably a late “add on” to this room was a small cocktail bar on the port side: it too had a marble fireplace. For a scheduled year round route transiting the North Sea that could expect only a few weeks of settled summer weather Bergen Line considerately made extensive use of a glassed in deck area adjacent to the main public rooms: aft of them was an open area made up of 3,500 sq ft of veranda area. If passengers wanted to enjoy some of as much as 18 hours of sunlight on a summer crossing in the open air this was the place to do it rather than on the exposed Boat Deck above. At the forward end of the Boat Deck was accommodation for five passengers in single berth cabins and a two berth cabin de luxe suite. The passengers in this accommodation must have been a select group for they shared a common alleyway on the centre midships line of the Venus with navigating officers and the captain.

Mr Zimmer, Bergen Line’s technical director, showed not only innovation in the engine room and specifying that the hull have a cruiser stern but also a major development in ventilating the accommodation. This was described in The Motor Ship monthly magazine as a system which allowed each passenger (cabin) “to have either warm or cold air discharged into his cabin. In a two berth cabin there are two separate ventilators”. Photos of the accommodation show these as an early version of Punkah louvres. The central plant for this novel ventilation system was on the Boat deck and was manufactured by Det Forenede Jernstoberier “driven by motors of between 6 hp and 10 hp at moderate speeds”. If this system worked it must have made habitability onboard greatly improved on what earlier ships had installed – if anything.

The Venus had a pleasing proportioned profile. With the main engines located well aft in the hull a raked funnel housed two silencers for the main engine exhaust. To balance the profile there was a second forward funnel which contained a skylight for the main stairway through four decks below: it also exhausted the three B&W 180kW generators. The two masts were each 75 ft high and looked even taller in the early photos of the ship.

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - July 2017 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!

Hong Kong Express

Most Popular

  • 1
  • 2

Latest Products

Maritime Log

  • Replacement Cranes Giving Humber a Lift +

    Gottwald Cranes Unloading Two new Gottwald 820 cranes were delivered in June to the Humber International Terminal of Associated British Ports (ABP) at Read More
  • Unified Ship Design Rolls Off the Drawing Board +

    Unified Ship Design The UK-based engineering company Rolls-Royce has radically overhauled its vessel design philosophy in a bid to optimise construction and operations Read More
  • World's Largest in Felixstowe +

    OOCL Hong Kong The world’s largest container ship, the OOCL Hong Kong, of 210,890gt and 21,413teu, made her maiden call at Felixstowe on Read More
  • Southampton's Record in a Weekend +

    Southampton Port Southampton welcomed 15 cruise ships in three days making it the busiest cruise weekend on record. Read More
  • Cleaning up Plastic from the Oceans +

    Cleaning up Plastic from the Oceans The marine geophysical company Petroleum Geo-Services (PG-S), of Oslo, has developed a concept for the largescale collection of plastic in Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Battleship Texas "Sinks" +

    USS Texas Having survived two world wars and now a museum ship, New York-class battleship USS Texas (BB-35), began to sink at Read More
  • Third Ice Class Ocean Tug for Foss +

    Nicole Foss On 6 June Foss Maritime christened their third Arctic-class ocean tug, Nicole Foss, at the Foss Waterway Seaport in Tacoma, Read More
  • "You may fire when ready, Gridley" +

    McCulloch On 1 May 1898, when US Admiral George Dewey gave this order to the Captain of his 344-foot Flagship, USS Read More
  • ‘Perfect Storm’ Star’s New Role +

    Tamora Decommissioned 74 year-old, US Coast Guard cutter, Tamaroa, famous for her role in the book The Perfect Storm and the Read More
  • Another Sign Summer’s Almost Here +

    MS Mount Washington Classed by the American Bureau of Shipping, MS Mount Washington, the 129-year-old, 220- foot flagship of the Winnipesaukee Flagship Corporation Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Asia-Pacific

  • Trans-Shipment Hub for Coal Cargo +

    Coal Hub A coal imports trans-shipment hub centred on a floating platform is being established in Vietnamese waters by three partners. Read More
  • Court Stops Demolition Over Radioactive Claim +

    North Sea Producer The breaking up of the former floating oil production and storage tanker (FPSO) North Sea Producer was halted by the Read More
  • Two Crewmen Died Of 'Foul Play At The Hands Of Others' +

    Sage Sagittarius The inquest into the deaths of two crew members of the bulk carrier Sage Sagittarius, 73,427dwt, when the ship was Read More
  • Seven Die in Destroyer Collision +

    USS Fitzgerald Seven sailors died when the US, Navy destroyer Fitzgerald was in a collision with the Philippine-flag container ship ACX Crystal, Read More
  • Alert Over Gas Cylinder Safety Checks +

    Emerald Princess A gas cylinder that had just passed a mandatory detailed safety inspection exploded while being refilled and killed a member Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • Los Angeles Class Decommissioning +

    USS Dallas American News The end of May saw a lot of submarine news within the US Navy with the decommissioning of Read More
  • HMS Westminster Returns to Service +

    HMS Westminster British News After two years out of service undergoing a major reconstruction and refit, the Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster Read More
  • USS Tripoli Launched Ahead of Schedule +

    USS Tripoli American News Ingalls Shipbuilding achieved a remarkable achievement when they launched the latest America class amphibious assault ship, USS Tripoli, Read More
  • New Voyages for USS Enterprise +

    USS Enterprise American News Huntington Ingalls Industries was awarded a $25.5 million contract to essentially start the advanced fabrication of the third Read More
  • Naval Update - April 2017 +

    USS Antietam American News On Tuesday 31 January, the Ticonderoga class cruiser USS Antietam ran aground off the coast of Yokosuka in Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority +

    Iyanough The Isle of Wight has always been associated in my mind with the “Southampton, Isle of Wight and South of Read More
  • CalMac's Isle of Lewis +

    Isle of Lewis This fine study of the Isle of Lewis in the dramatic environs of Castlebay, Barra, is a reminder she has Read More
  • Rotor Sails +

    Viking Grace If you thought the ungainly looking rotor sail system, an invention from the early 20th Century, was gone forever, you Read More
  • New Fast Ferry Deliveries +

    Express 3 News of Fast ferry investment; Express 3 has sailed from Tasmania on her delivery voyage to Denmark via the Panama Read More
  • Ferry Implications of Brexit +

    Cote des Dunes It must be a uniquely worrying time for operators of UK Ro-Ro Ferry ports with an uncertain future entirely out Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • Oil Downturn Continues +

    Ocean Seeker The offshore oil downturn has been taking its toll around the North Sea amongst many rig boat operators and also Read More
  • Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta +

    Artemis On April 6 Dutch sailing vessels took part in the Race of the Classics from Holland across the North Sea Read More
  • Pioneering Spirit For Teeside +

    Pioneering Spirit Teesside has lost most of its steel manufacturing and much of the shipping traffic it brought, but at the other Read More
  • Troubles for Ahlmarks' Skagern +

    Skagern Ahlmark is Sweden’s oldest shipping company, founded by 1847, and still going strong, if not as strong as they used Read More
  • The Dawn +

    Dawn The 81ft Dawn, a ‘heritage’ sailing barge with an open hold and tiller-steered, took out trips last summer for people Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • Captain Fryatt, The Martyr Of Bruges +

    SS Brussels and Captain Charles Fryatt At the end of the Great War, the bodies of only three heroes were ever brought back to England and Read More
  • Brahminy Kites in Port Sweetenham +

    Brahminy Kite Recently, I have been back in touch with Captain John Anderson; he now lives in Canada, but we sailed together Read More
  • Peel Ports Appoints New Port Director +

    Jouke Schaap Never a dull moment at Peel Ports which owns and operates six of the UK's major ports – Liverpool, Heysham, Manchester Read More
  • Exhibition on HQS Wellington +

    HQS Wellington News of a really interesting free exhibition on board HQS Wellington entitled "Abandon Ship! – Surviving the Wartime Atlantic". Read More
  • MOL Triumph +

    MOL Triumph Gary Davies of Maritime Photographic sent me this "jaw dropping" photograph of the MOL Triumph which dramatically conveys the sheer Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Gliding up the Thames +

    Glider SS18 It's been eight years in the making but finally the first Glider was unveiled in London last month. Read More
  • Yacht With a Pinch of Porsche +

    Dynamiq GTT 115 Taking the spirit of highperformance sports car styling to the high seas, the Dynamiq GTT 115 is designed to appeal Read More
  • The “Celebrity Edge” +

    Celebrity Edge You have to admire the innovative mindset that is evident within the creative corridors of a modern cruise line. Read More
  • The Mailship vs The Corsair +

    Windsor Castle and Corsair Before the Internet, Websites, Blogs and eNewsletters presented themselves to an unsuspecting world, the arrival of the monthly passenger shipping Read More
  • Cloud 9 Launched in Italy +

    Cloud 9 Nine different colours of cloudlike smoke were used as a backdrop when Cloud 9, the brand new 74 metre superyacht Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places

TSS Awatea

Secrets of the "Awatea"

Somewhere off the North African port of Béjaïa, deep on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea, lie the remains of Read More
Dalia

A Different Type of Railway Steamer

When one thinks of Railway steamers of the past, the mind is invariably drawn to smart cross-channel or short-sea packets. Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

Painting of Venus

A Quartet for the North Sea

The chain of events that led to the Bergen Line building the Venus started in the head office of Swedish Read More
MS Pacheco

Happy Seagoing Days - MacAndrew Line

After gaining my Masters Certificate in July 1962, I started to look for another job on General cargo ships, but Read More
  • 1
  • 2