1900 - 1947
early decades of the 20th century were indeed prosperous times
for the world’s shipping companies. A vast number of emigrants were leaving
the homes in the Old World and set out to find a new life on the other
side of the North Atlantic. Most of them came to the United States, where
the unrestricted immigration laws welcomed anyone who was healthy and could
earn their living in America.
made the North Atlantic the most profitable shipping lane. The shipping
lines were competing for popularity among the emigrants’, for it was in
fact they who provided the real income. The steamship design had evolved
rapidly, resulting in larger, faster and more luxurious vessels constantly
surpassing each other. These liners carried the wealthy in luxurious settings,
but it was the
steerage passengers – cramped
in small staterooms below deck – who made it viable to built such large
ships. It was, in a sense, all about carrying as many people as possible
across ‘the pond’.
original appearance, as built.
the companies embroiled in this fierce competition was the Holland-America
Line, or HAL, which had started its business back in 1872 with their first
steamer – Rotterdam. The company’s official name was Nederlandsch
Amerikaanische Stoomboot Maatschappij, and the abbreviation of this – NASM
– was suitably emblazoned on the line’s green and white houseflag.
the closing years of the 19th century, Holland-America Line
was enjoying prosperous times, and it was decided to expand the fleet with
three new sister ships, the largest yet for the company. The contract for
the first ship was granted to the German shipbuilding yards of Blohm &
Voss in Hamburg, while the following two sisters would be built in the
Irish yards of Harland & Wolff, Belfast. It was also the Belfast builders
who designed the new trio, so even though she was built in Germany, the
first ship was of Irish design just like her younger sisters would be after
down as yard number 139 at Blohm & Voss, work proceeded on the new
ship until, on December 15th 1899, the day of launch finally
arrived. The new ship – the first of her class – was christened Potsdam,
and was then sent down the ways into her proper element. However, there
was still work to be done. Now she was to be fitted out with her engines,
and craftsmen of different types were to transform her innards into comfortable
passenger areas. Just short of five months later, the new ship was delivered
to HAL on May 5th 1900 after satisfactory sea trials. She was
now ready to start her career as a Holland-America liner.
twelve days after her delivery, the Potsdam set out from the port
of Rotterdam on her maiden voyage on May 17th, bound for
New York. At over 12,000 gross
tons she was the largest HAL liner yet, and she sported the classic steamship
look with two masts and a single funnel painted in the colours of Holland-America
Line – yellow, green and white. She measured 571 feet from her straight
stem to the tip of the counter stern, and she was indeed the latest masterpiece
of the Dutch merchant marine. But although fitted with luxurious First
Class areas and comfortable Second Class staterooms, there could be no
misunderstandings about her primary role as an emigrant ship when looking
at her carrying capacity; 282 people in First Class, 210 in Second and
as many as 1,800 people in Steerage.
|One of the Potsdam's
public rooms, done in a classic turn-of-the-century style.
went through her first summer of service on the North Atlantic, but she
quickly proved to be slowish and it was not long before she was known as
a ‘poor steamer’. The cause of this soon turned out to be insufficient
flue draught, and the company decided that something had to be done to
remedy this unfortunate flaw. So, during her first winter overhaul from
1900-1901, the Potsdam’s funnel was heightened by a full 23 feet,
or nearly seven metres, to improve the draught. When she emerged from the
refit, her funnel was an easily identifiable feature that soon earned the
ship a suitable nickname – ‘Funneldam’. Nevertheless, the cure had been
successful, and Potsdam’s speed had been noticeably improved. The
original flaw left one scar though, as the ship never had any reserves
to service, Potsdam settled into her service on the North Atlantic.
In the following years she was joined by her two sisters; Rijndam
in October 1901 and Noordam in May the year after. As ships of the
same basic design, they were in most aspects
very similar to the Potsdam,
but their Harland & Wolff-built machinery proved better than the
German-built one of their older sister. Thus, Potsdam became the
only one of the class to sport the extremely tall funnel, although the funnels on
the two sisters were slightly taller than in the original design.
|A picture showing the
Potsdam's distinctively tall funnel, and with neutrality markings
on her side.
by many as ‘Funneldam’, Potsdam continued her service with the Holland-America
Line. The shipping industry continued to prosper, but in 1912 an event
took place that shocked the world. White Star Line’s brand new Titanic
– the largest and most luxurious liner in the world at the time – collided
with an iceberg on her maiden voyage and sank with a loss of more than
1,500 souls. At this point, the steamship design had come to such a stage
that such an accident had been unthinkable. But the fact that Titanic
indeed had foundered, and perhaps most importantly that she had not carried
enough lifeboats to accommodate all her passengers, made all shipowners
rethink their safety procedures. HAL was no exception. The Potsdam
was given two extra pairs of lifeboats, fitted aft on a deckhouse.
this time, a menacing dark cloud was looming on the horizon. As the political
situation in Europe grew more and more tense, the danger of a great conflict
became a very real fact. And so, in the summer of 1914, the shots in Sarajevo
triggered what was to become World War I.
nation, the Netherlands kept a neutral position, but submarine warfare
in the Atlantic endangered the line’s vessels. To protect them as much
as it was possible, the Holland-America ships were painted with neutrality
markings – the ship’s name and home port in large letters – on their sides. But the war resulted
in a serious decline in passenger numbers, and the Potsdam was subsequently
laid up at Rotterdam for sale.
as it were, there was another company that had a great interest in the
laid-up Potsdam. In Sweden, the Broström Group was realising
the dream of a Swedish transatlantic shipping line. Originally the plan
had been to build two 18,000-ton ships to start operations, but it was
soon realised that this idea had to be revised. So instead, the newly-formed
Swedish American Line (SAL) purchased the Potsdam in September of
1915, and renamed her Stockholm.
American Line was in many ways a result of the great emigration. The idea
was to provide a route from Sweden to America without any unnecessary detours,
as well as giving the emigrants a chance to sail on a Swedish ship with
a Swedish crew.
With the Stockholm, the
new service could soon begin. But first, the ship had to be brought up
to contemporary Swedish standards, mainly in the Third Class areas.
|A postcard of the Stockholm,
at the time of her arrival to SAL the largest ship in the Swedish merchant
finished, the Stockholm was ready to inaugurate SAL’s sailings.
But before she set out on her second maiden voyage, a gala dinner was held
on board to celebrate the birth of the new company. This attracted a great
deal of attention in the press, and had Sweden’s Prime Minister Hjalmar Hammarskjöld
as guest of honour. Then, finally, on December 11th 1915, Stockholm
sailed out from Göteborg bound for New York. It was a joyous occasion,
but there were a few reminders about the fact that war was raging in Europe.
For one thing, the ship was painted with neutrality markings. And during
the crossing, she had to call at Kirkwall to undergo an inspection for
to Sweden’s neutrality, the new company soon prospered despite the fact
that they had only one ship in their fleet. But the service had to be postponed
after two years, when unrestricted submarine warfare was introduced on
the North Atlantic. Neutrality markings were no longer protection from
lurking U-boats, and so the Stockholm was laid up at Göteborg
in May 1917.
the bloody conflict finally came to an end in 1918, SAL could recommence
their sailings. After a little more than a year in lay-up, Stockholm
resumed her service in June. But despite that the war was over, there was
much work to be done before everything would be back to normal. Soldiers
from many nations had been brought in to fight the war in Europe, and now
those who had survived were to be shipped home again. So, in 1919 the Stockholm
was chartered to the United States for troop repatriation.
afterwards, the Stockholm was returned to the Swedish American Line,
still as their only vessel. But this came to an end in February of 1920,
when the Virginian was bought from the Canadian Pacific Railway
Company and renamed Drottningholm. At last, the Stockholm
had a fleet mate. SAL’s intention to improve their fleet was also reflected
when in 1922 the Stockholm was sent
to the yards of Götaverken
in Göteborg for conversion into oil-firing. This refit greatly enhanced
the performance of her engines, and therefore the funnel was reduced in
length by some seven feet, or two metres.
|The popular First Class
Music Salon on board the Stockholm.
time, after only two years of service, the Drottningholm was also
in need of a refit. Through her career, her machinery had not been working
quite satisfactory, and SAL had now decided to do something about it. However,
the absence of Drottningholm resulted in a gap that had to be filled
somehow. As fate would have it, this gave the Stockholm a chance
to get reacquainted with her Holland-America Line ancestry, when her sister
Noordam was chartered to SAL in 1923 and temporarily renamed Kungsholm.
was merely a short reunion. After only a year in Swedish America service,
Noordam was returned to the Holland-America Line, and the Drottningholm
could resume her duties with the company. Together with Stockholm,
the two ships provided a link between Sweden and USA. However, the great
emigration wave for which the line had been created was now wearing off.
In fact, at the time of the company’s birth back in 1915, the emigration
had already started to decline. 1923, however, became known as the year
of ‘the last wave’ of emigrants. After that, it was all over. SAL had been
too late to earn a big share of the business, and now they had to rethink
would no longer function as a route to a new life for emigrants, but as
a link between the former emigrants and their former homeland. And by this
time, the cruising industry was beginning to take shape, and SAL wanted
ships to earn their share. In 1925, the brand new Gripsholm was
delivered, and she was followed three years later by the second Kungsholm.
the old Stockholm was considered surplus of the SAL fleet, and on
September 29th 1928 she set out on her final voyage for the
Swedish American Line. The following November, she was sold to the Norwegian
whaling company Atlas. Under their ownership, the ship was sent to Götaverken
for conversion into a whale factory ship. For this less glamorous purpose,
she was renamed Solglimt, and she entered service in her new role
on September 12th 1929.
remained in service as a whaling ship for another decade, although she
was sold to the company A/S Thor Dahl in 1930. When World War II erupted
in 1939, she continued her operations. But as a Norwegian ship, her career
would soon take another
|In 1928, the Stockholm
was sold and converted into the whale factory ship Solglimt.
invaded Norway in the spring of 1940. A few months later, while in the
Antarctic, the Solglimt was captured by the German auxiliary cruiser
Pinguin (formerly the liner Kandelfels) on January 14th
1941. As a prize, the ship was taken to Bordeaux with a cargo of whale
oil and taken over by the Erste Deutsche Walfangesellschaft (First German
Whaling Company). Renamed Sonderburg, she was now put under the
German flag and used as a supply ship in various French ports.
the Sonderburg was anchored in Cherbourg when the port was under
several air raids. The ship subsequently sank in the harbour due to the
damage she sustained. She was salvaged at a later date, but there were
not enough resources to repair her damages. Two years later, on June 15th
1944, she was scuttled by the Germans and sunk as a block ship when Cherbourg
remained in the port of Cherbourg until peace was achieved in Europe. In
August of 1946, the French partly demolished the ship with explosives in
order to clear the port. The final remains of the former Potsdam
were raised in January the following year, towed to Great Britain and scrapped
there. Thus ended a long and eventful career in maritime history.
Solglimt/Sonderburg - Specifications:
||571 feet (174.5 m)
||62.2 feet (19 m)
||12,606 gross tons
engines turning two propellers.