Gold Ribbon Banner
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
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!

Boudicca

Most Popular

  • First of Giant New Container Ships is Handed Over +

  • Alan Sinclair to Nova Star +

  • Billionaire Arthur Blank has his own Dreamboat +

  • From Fjords to Fiji +

  • Two Gulf Tankers Set on Fire in Attacks +

  • 1
  • 2

Latest Products

Maritime Log

  • Admiral Bellingshausen +

    Admiral Bellingshausen A 24m YACHT carrying members of an Estonian expedition arrived at Lerwick on Aug 14 on a voyage to mark Read More
  • Two Rescued by Lifeboat +

    Two Rescued by Lifeboat TWO local fishermen were rescued after their fishing vessel caught fire off Land’s End on the afternoon of July 16. Read More
  • First Task of Shell Bunker Barge +

    Shell Bunker Barge SHELL’S first inland waterway LNG bunker barge carried out her first bunkering operation at Rotterdam in June. Read More
  • A Special Surveyor Joins the Humber Estuary Fleet +

    Special Surveyor A NEW £600,000 vessel has joined the survey fleet of Associated British Ports (ABP)’ Humber Estuary Services. Read More
  • Denmark Sails into Fifth in the World +

    Denmark Sails into Fifth in the World DENMARK has now moved into fifth position in the list of the world’s largest shipping countries. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Operation to Salvage Three Tugs +

    Tug Salvage THE US Coast Guard has launched an investigation into the sinking of three vessels in the Illinois River near Hardin, Read More
  • Terminal Being Made 'Big Ship Ready' for 2021 +

    Terminal Being Made Big Ship Ready WORK has started on the expansion of Seattle’s Terminal 5 so it can handle container ships of up to 18,000 Read More
  • Record Set by Largest US Ship for Hawaii Service +

    Lurline The largest combination container, roll-on, roll-off ship ever built in the United States was formerly named in a ceremony at Read More
  • $293mn for Port Projects +

    Long Beach port The United States is to invest $292.7mn in the country’s ports through a new Port Infrastructure Development Programme. Read More
  • Facility Exports First Cargo of Propane to Japan +

    Sumire Gas The first marine export facility for propane in Canada has been officially opened. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Asia-Pacific

  • First of Giant New Container Ships is Handed Over +

    MSC Gulsun THE SWISS-based Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC) has taken delivery of one of the world’s largest container ships, the MSC Gulsun, Read More
  • The Last New Magnolia Ship in Series +

    The Last New Magnolia Ship THE Singapore-based container shipping company Ocean Network Express (ONE) has taken delivery of the 14,000 teu capacity ONE Cygnus, 138,611dwt, Read More
  • Line Adds Automated Power Kite to Propulsion +

    Airseas The Japanese shipping company Kawasaki Kisen KK (K Line) aims to cut ship greenhouse gas emissions with automated power kites. Read More
  • ONE Express to North Sea and Baltic +

    ONE Apus The Japanese shipping line Ocean Network Express (ONE) was due to start an enhanced North Sea Baltic Service with Russia Read More
  • MOL Links with Russian Uni for Crew Training +

    Makarov University The Japanese shipping company Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a Russian university on co-operation Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • USS Cincinnati to be Delivered to US Navy +

    USS Cincinnati US News USS CINCINNATI is the latest member of the expanding littoral combat ship fl eet to be delivered to Read More
  • Scorpene Sub Snags +

    INS Khanderi indian News The troubled Scorpene class submarine program hit another snag in June. Read More
  • US Navy’s Frigate Program Passes Significant Hurdle +

    USS Minneapolis-St Paul US News The US Navy has unveiled its plans for the purchase of a new frigate known as FFG(X). Read More
  • Fourth Dreadnought Named HMS “King George VI” +

    Dreadnought Class UK News The fourth member of the new Dreadnought class of nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines will bear the name Read More
  • US Navy Orders Flight II Landing Platform Dock +

    LDP30 American News The contract for the construction of LPD30, the first Flight II Landing Platform Dock of the San Antonio Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Alan Sinclair to Nova Star +

    Glen Sannox Those in management positions must dread the retirement of those characters who retire from their life’s work with a wealth Read More
  • Fragile Future for Calmac +

    Isle of Arran TMore and more, I am reading reports that say the media, and the public too, are well aware of the Read More
  • Oscar Goes to Italy +

    Oscar Wilde Irish Continental Group has entered into a bareboat hire purchase agreement for the sale of its 1987-built Oscar Wilde to Read More
  • CalMac Heritage +

    Columba I include a fine poster and artist’s image of the famed Macbrayne paddler Columba. Read More
  • Russian Adventure +

    Ocean Adventurer To the North East Coast and arriving at Aberdeen for the first time for many months, I witnessed a passenger Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • From Gloucester Tall Ships to Kenyan Sailing Dhows +

    Royalist Gloucester Dock is linked to the River Severn at Sharpness by a 16 mile canal. Read More
  • The Zea Servant +

    Zea Servant The Hong Kong registered Zea Servant arrived late June from Hull. She was in Campbeltown to load wind turbines for Read More
  • The Green Band of Marstal +

    Bessie Ellen The Danish Maritime Museum had the schooner Bonavista built on the island of Aero at Marstal and this year they Read More
  • Norweigan National Day +

    Thorodd I was in Montrose on the Norwegian National Day, 17 May, when its independent constitution from Sweden was confirmed in Read More
  • Port of Aberdeen Fifty Years On +

    Aberdeen Harbour Extension Project When I first arrived in Aberdeen in 1968, I couldn’t believe my luck. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • Welcome to 'Spirit Of Discovery' - Farewell to 'Oriana' +

    Spirit of Discovery WITHIN the last two months the British cruise industry has welcomed the arrival of Saga Cruises, 58,250gt, Spirit of Discovery, Read More
  • Lower Figures in the Area of Ship Losses +

    The Sincerity Ace IT WAS HEARTENING to read in a recent press release from the Allianz Global Corporate & Speciality SE’s (AGCS), in Read More
  • President Opens ‘Largest UK Ship Simulation Centre’ +

    Sir Michael Bibby With the training of seafarers being so important to safety at sea, and in particular navigation equipment and bridge procedures, Read More
  • Hands-Free Mooring at St Lawrence Seaway +

    St Lawrence Seaway I feel there are probably many readers, like me, who feel a shiver down their spine when they think of Read More
  • Flying the Flag on Merchant Navy Day +

    Red Ensign For more than 35 years, it has been my immense privilege to be a local Isle of Man committee member Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Billionaire Arthur Blank has his own Dreamboat +

    Billionaire Arthur Blank's Dreamboat ARTHUR BLANK helped create the American home improvement store chain, Home Depot, and it seems that now, his new fl Read More
  • Boudicca Pays Tribute to D-Day Veterans +

    Boudicca Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines were proud to have played its part in hosting 250 D-Day veterans. Read More
  • Captain of a Modern Passenger Carrying Sail Ship +

    Sea Cloud 2 If you have ever wondered what qualities a Captain of a cruise vessel might need to have listed on his Read More
  • Every Ash Cloud Has A Silver Lining +

    The ash cloud crisis continues to cause uncertainty as we see sporadic closures of airspace and cancelled flights, and this Read More
  • Damen Group Superyachts +

    Amels With 25 projects underway, business is booming for Amels, the Dutch luxury yacht builder. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places

Cuba

An Unexpected Job in Cuba

In 1948, I joined the MV Yamaska Park as an EDH and, over the first few days aboard, I became Read More
Suez Canal

The Creation of the Suez Canal - Part Two

IAt the end of 1858, the company’s Works Committee convened for the first time. It included an impressive assembly of Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

Birkenhead

Women and Children First

HMS BIRKENHEAD was one of the first iron-hulled warships built for the Royal Navy. Although laid down as the frigate, Read More
MV Scillonian

The Boatmen of Scilly

The romantically named Guiding Star, Sapphire and Sea King will be recognisable to folk all over the UK who are Read More
  • 1
  • 2