Monday, February 18, 2019

KobenhavnOn December 14th 1928, the Danish five masted barque, København, departed the River Plate bound for Melbourne, Australia.

Apart from radio contact with the Norwegian steamer William Blumer on the 21st December 1928, she was never heard of again – she simply disappeared. The København, said to be the largest sailing ship of that time, was owned by the Danish East Asiatic Company. She was a well found vessel, fitted with wireless, an auxiliary engine and ample lifeboats. A training ship, she had a crew of 6o men, many of whom were cadets, some from very prominent Danish families. The loss of this fine vessel shocked the Danish nation. The København could not win any decent paying cargo in Argentina so was to make the passage to Australia in ballast. She was under the command of Captain H F Anderson.

In 2012, a wreck was found by divers off Cave Point in the remote South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha. At first thought to be a relatively modern small yacht, further investigation revealed her to be a much more substantial vessel. The loss of the København has always intrigued the people of Tristan; indeed in January 1929 a missionary on the island, Philip Lindsay reported seeing a large sailing ship in distress, stern awash and seemingly drifting on to the rocks. Later it was thought that this may have been the Finnish four-master Ponape, which passed Tristan da Cunha on that day bound for Australia, but not in trouble.

At a conference in Greenland in October 2012, Chris Bates, UK Representative for Tristan da Cunha, on meeting representatives from Denmark, brought up the subject of the wreck found off Tristan da Cunha – could it be that of the København? The Tristan authorities with the Danish Maritime Museum, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Danish East Asiatic Company are now working together to try to confirm the identity of the wreck off Cave Point. A telling factor in establishing if the wreck is that of the København would be the discovery of the distinctive auxiliary engine, but so far divers have not found this.

Hull Section Following the København’s disappearance, many theories sprang up as to her loss, but the most likely seems to be that she struck an iceberg in darkness or fog. There were also reports of sightings of a phantom five masted vessel in 1930. In 1935, human remains and the skeleton of a lifeboat were found partially buried in sand along the southwest coast of Africa, again raising speculation that these may have been from the København.

Could this wreck off Cave Point, Tristan da Cunha be the key to solving one of the great maritime mysteries of modern times? If any Sea Breezes readers have information that might help in this investigation, please send it to us and we will forward to the Tristan and Danish authorities.

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - June 2013 Issue
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