SS Columbus (1924)

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Career (Germany) North German Lloyd
Ordered: 1914
Builder: Schichau, Danzig, Germany
Launched: 1914
Out of service: 1939
Renamed: 1914; Hindenburg to Columbus; 1920
Struck: 1939
Homeport: Bremen
Fate: Scuttled by crew to avoid capture by British Navy
General characteristics
Tonnage: 32,354 gross tons
Length: 774 ft (236 m)
Beam: 86 ft (26 m)
Propulsion: Triple-expansion reciprocating engines; Twin screw
Speed: 20 knots
Capacity: 1650 passengers

The Columbus, laid down before the start of World War I, was originally to be named Hindenburg. However, her then-sister, originally named Columbus, was handed over to the White Star Line after the war as part of reparations in 1920. The Allies allowed the Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL), her owners, to keep the remaining ship. NDL decided to give her the name of her departed sister, now the British Homeric. Construction, which had been held up by the war, resumed at Schichau Shipyards in Danzig, Germany.

Construction and maiden voyage

Material shortages caused by the war delayed her completion until 1924. She made her maiden voyage in April of that year. At the time, she was the German merchant marine's largest, fastest ocean liner. She measured 32,354 gross tons, was 774.3 feet in length and carried 1,650 passengers (400 in First Class, 600 in Second and 650 Third Class passengers). She was one of the first liners to have an outside swimming pool installed on her top deck, as well as a platform for nighttime dancing. She had triple-expansion steam engines which drove her at a rather modest 18 knots. Still, she was quite popular and convinced NGL that larger passenger liners were feasible.

Later career

With the building of the Bremen and Europa, the Columbus was supplanted as the queen of the NDL fleet. In 1929, she was given a refit to make her resemble her younger, larger and faster running mates. This included the addition of two larger smokestacks and replacement of the reciprocating engines with geared turbines, increasing her speed from 18 knots to 22 knots. She spent the winter months cruising the Caribbean.

At the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Columbus was on one of these cruises when she was given word to return to Germany at once. The British Navy was on the lookout for enemy ships. Dropping her passengers off at Havana, Cuba, her captain and crew spent two months dodging the British by taking refuge in several South American ports. On 19 December, she was spotted by the British destroyer Hyperion approximately 400 miles off the coast of Virginia. The still neutral American heavy cruiser Tuscaloosa was also in the area, and silently observed the two ships. Rather than surrender the ship, her crew scuttled her, and she burned and sank. Her crew of 567 men and 9 women were taken aboard Tuscaloosa, as rescued seamen, not prisoners of war, had they been picked up by the British. Tuscaloosa took the sailors to New York City. After the end of war many returned to Germany.

External links

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