August 9, 2018

All Aboard Were Lost (MS Hans Hedtoft)

The sea is beautiful when you’re standing on the shore, but seamen know it can be perilous and deadly...the MS Hans Hedtoft was an ill-fated ship that sailed the treacherous Greenland Sea between Denmark and Greenland...at least it did once...but unfortunately, it sank on its maiden voyage...the date long ago, January 30, 1959...as of now, it remains the last known ship to be sunk by an iceberg and as a result, had a tremendous loss of life...for some reason, much like a certain other ship that was built in Ireland that is famous for being sunk by an iceberg in 1912 with a great loss of life, the Hans Hedtoft was fashioned with a riveted hull, instead of a stronger welded hull...the design of the ship was even criticized by a concerned ship owner for its construction...the ship was built in Denmark and it was to provide year round service hauling goods and passengers...it featured a double bottom and was equipped with seven watertight compartments...the ship had left port in Copenhagen on January the 7th of 1959 and successfully made the voyage to Greenland, it did so in record time in fact...so all seemed well and everyone was pleased...but it was on the return trip, that the tragedy ensued...it collided with an iceberg and immediately began taking on water...how it failed to avoid the berg is unknown...the collision occurred about 35 miles south of Cape Farewell which is the southernmost point of the desolate, frosty expanse known as Greenland...the ships communications officer sent out an emergency distress call...we don’t know exactly what happened and probably never will, but we can only guess that the rivets let go upon impact with the iceberg and permitted water to breach the hull...it could be that the iceberg tore a gash in the side of the ship, like what happened with the Titanic...the officer wired that he had water coming in and the engine room was flooded and that any ship should come immediately to assist...the damage had caused an inevitable sinking and the ship sank below the icy death inducing waters...the S.O.S was one that was heard by at least three other ships that were in the area...unfavorable weather conditions prevented any aircraft from searching for the doomed ship...a United States Coast Guard Cutter and other ships began a search for the ill-fated vessel...by the time the ships arrived to the location of the accident, no trace could be found of the Hans Hedtoft...ship or passengers…the search was suspended on February 7th...one of the vessels that searched reported that the weather was the worst they had even seen in that area with high winds and wild seas...the only item to ever be recovered to this date from the sinking was a lifebelt...this item from the disaster washed up onshore nine months after the sinking...95 people went down with the ship...it has never been determined if any lifeboats were ever launched...or if not, why not...perhaps it was the nasty weather with the whipping winds and angry seas that might have made any attempts impossible...and what about the wreckage of the Hans Hedtoft?... I mean they even found the wreckage of the unsinkable Titanic...but even though the coordinates given by the desperate crew were 59°30′N 43°00′W...the exact final resting place of the ship is unknown to this day...On January 30th, 2005, the Queen of Denmark dedicated a landmark at North Atlantic Wharf in Copenhagen to the memory of the 95 lives that were lost in the accident.

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