SS Flying Enterprise

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Flying Enterprise.JPG
Still from newsreel footage of SS Flying Enterprise when she was sinking, 10 January 1952
Name: 1944: SS Cape Kumukaki
1947: SS Flying Enterprise
Owner: 1944: War Shipping Administration
1947: Isbrandtsen Company
Port of registry: 1944: United States Los Angeles
1947:  New York
Builder: Consolidated Steel Corporation, Wilmington, California
Yard number: 360
Launched: 7 January 1944
Completed: March 1944
In service: 18 March 1944
Fate: Sunk 10 January 1952
General characteristics
Type: Type C1-B ship
Tonnage: 6,711 GRT
Length: 396 feet 5 inches (120.83 m), pp
Beam: 60 feet 1 inch (18.31 m)
Height: 25 feet 8 inches (7.82 m)
Propulsion: 2 x Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co steam turbines, double reduction geared driving one screw. 4,000 horsepower (3,000 kW)
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h)
Crew: 48, plus 10 passengers

SS Flying Enterprise was a 6,711 ton Type C1-B ship which sank in 1952. She was built in 1944 as SS Cape Kumukaki for the United States Maritime Commission for use in World War II. The ship was sold in 1947 and then operated as a tramp steamer under the name Flying Enterprise.


Cape Kumukaki was built by Consolidated Steel Corporation of Wilmington, California and launched on 7 January 1944.[1] Delivered on 18 March 1944,[2] she was owned by the United States War Shipping Administration and registered at Los Angeles.[3]

After the end of World War II, she was sold in 1947 to the Isbrandtsen Company. At this time, her name was changed to the Flying Enterprise and re-registered in New York.[4] For the next five years, she was used as a general cargo freighter in the North Atlantic.

On 21 December 1951, under the command of Henrik Kurt Carlsen, she left Hamburg, Germany bound for the USA. Among her cargo was 1,270 long tons (1,290 t) of pig iron and 486 long tons (494 t) of coffee, 447 long tons (454 t) rags, 39 long tons (40 t) peat moss, twelve Volkswagen cars, antiques and antique musical instruments, typewriters, 447 long tons (454 t) of naphthalene[2] as well as ten passengers.[5] There is speculation that the cargo also included gold and zirconium[6]

Four days later, on Christmas night, she encountered a storm in the Western Approaches to the English Channel.[5] Afterwards, it was discovered that she had suffered structural damage and a crack was found across the weather deck. The cargo then shifted. An SOS was issued on 28 December, by which time she was listing 45 degrees to port. The SS Southland[5] and USS General A. W. Greely responded. On 29 December 1951, the crew and passengers were evacuated[7] with the loss of one life (a male passenger).[5] Captain Carlsen remained on board.

By 2 January 1952, the USS John W. Weeks had arrived and relieved the merchant ships.[5] The following day, the tug Turmoil arrived, guided by the searchlights from USS John W Weeks,[8] but found it impossible to take the Flying Enterprise in tow. The tug's mate, Kenneth Dancy, was then transferred to the Flying Enterprise on 4 January, by which time the list had increased to 60 degrees. The ship was taken in tow on 5 January, when she was some 300 nautical miles (560 km) from Falmouth, Cornwall.[5] On 6 January, USS Willard Keith relieved the John W Weeks and the French tug Abeille 25 also joined the rescue effort.[8] The tow line parted at 01:30 on 10 January, with Flying Enterprise 31 nautical miles (57 km) south of The Lizard and 41 nautical miles (76 km) from Falmouth. Later that day, the Turmoil was joined by the Trinity House vessel Satellite and the tugs Dexterous and Englishman.[5] Carlsen and Dancy finally abandoned ship at 15:22 hrs and were picked up by Turmoil. The Flying Enterprise sank at 16:10 hrs to whistle, siren and foghorn salutes from the flotilla.[8]

The salvage attempts were criticised as the ship might have been saved by heading for the nearest safe harbour, Cork, rather than Falmouth.[citation needed]

A public house in Cork, Ireland is named the "Flying Enterprise" after the ship.[9]


In 1960, some $210,000 of the $800,000-worth of cargo was salvaged from Flying Enterprise by the Italian company Sorima. Under a confidiality clause in the salvage contract, further details of the recovered cargo were not released.[10]

Speculation into the sinking and cargo

Speculations about a shipment of zirconium, intended for use in the first nuclear submarine USS Nautilus (SSN-571), but registered as pig iron, were discussed in a 2002 Danish television documentary Det Skæve skib (English title: The Mystery of Flying Enterprise).[11] In 2005, a dive was conducted on the wreck of the ill-fated ship and featured along with the story of the Flying Enterprise on the History Channel show Deep Sea Detectives.[12]


The passengers on board Flying Enterprise were Nicolai Bunjakowski, Nina Dannheiser, Maria Duttenhofer, Rolf Kastenholz, Leonore von Klenau, Curt and Elsa Müller and their children Liane and Lothar and Frederick Niederbrüning.[2]


Captain Carlsen was awarded a Lloyd's Silver Medal for Meritorious Service in recognition of his efforts to save Flying Enterprise,[5] and received a ticker-tape parade in New York City on January 17, 1952.

Kenneth Dancy was awarded a medal for Industrial Heroism by the Daily Herald and an illuminated citation from the American Institute of Marine Underwriters.[8]


  • Brookes, Ewart (1957). Rescue Tug: The story of the Flying Enterprise and the salvage tug Turmoil. Dutton. ISBN. 
  • Delaney, Frank (2006). Simple Courage - A True Story of Peril on the Sea. New York: Random House. pp. 292. ISBN 1-4000-6524-0. 
  • Holman, Gordon. Carlsen of the Flying Enterprise. ISBN. 


  1. Colton, Tim. "Consolidated Steel Corporation, Long Beach and Wilmington CA". The Colton Company. Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Excerpt from 'Simple Courage'". USA Today. 24 July 2006. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  3. "Lloyds Register". Plimsollshipdata. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  4. "SS Flying Enterprise (1944-1952)". Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 "The FLYING ENTERPRISE Saga Page 1". Teesships. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  6. "The FLYING ENTERPRISE Saga Page 3". Teesships. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  7. "SS Flying Enterprise (1944-1952), originally named SS Cape Kumukaki". US Navy. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "The Flying Enterprise Saga, Page 6". Teesships. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  9. "The Flying Enterprise Lounge". Munster Pubs. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  10. "The Flying Enterprise". Vindicatrix Association. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  11. "The Mystery of Flying Enterprise" (promotional flyer for documentary). Danish Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  12. History Channel. Deep Sea Detectives: "Captain's Last Stand" (Season 5, Episode 8, 24 April 2005)

External links

da:Flying Enterprise de:Flying Enterprise nl:Flying Enterprise