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Photo kindly sent by Morten Richarsen


Built: 1939

Tonnage: 2,161 / 3,190 tons

Cargo: 2,500 tons of paper and pulp.

Route: Halifax - Buenos Aires

Shelled / sunk by Italian submarine Pietro Calvi 10 APR 42 on pos. 02º 30’S 38º 00’W. some 60 miles north off Fortaleza. 

7 Dead

24 Survivors 

Balkis had arrived New York on Jan. 31-1942, left there on Febr. 28 for St. Johns N. F. with arrival on March 3. She had a cargo of 2500 tons paper and pulp. Departed St. John's on the 25th for Halifax where she arrived on the 28th, then left for Buenos Aires on March 30. On April 10-1942 at 7:30 pm Brazilian time*, when off the coast of Brazil, 60 naut. miles north of Fortaleza she was torpedoed (after end of No. 2 hold, port side), shelled and sunk by the Italian submarine Pietro Calvi (Olivieri). All the lights went out, the engine was stopped.

A report written by 2nd Mate Wilhelm Schinrud says the Brazilian oiler (with the very Norwegian sounding name Nils Iversen) was asleep down below and was never seen again, while the lookout, Able Seaman Erik Hansen and 2nd Cook Norman Olsen drowned**. It was believed that either the explosion from the torpedo, or the gun fire had killed Captain Tønder, 1st Mate Georg Samuelsen, 3rd Mate Nils Henriksen (both on watch on the bridge) as well as the stewardess Marget (Mary?) Halten.

* Rohwer gives the time as 00:24 on Apr. 11, Berlin time.

** "Nortraships flåte" states the Norwegian woman and the Chilean man drowned when one of the lifeboats malfunctioned and the other capsized. Wilhelm Schinrud's report was in part based on statements given to him by the injured helmsman (who had lost consciousness for a while), since he himself was down below when the torpedo hit.

The port lifeboat could not be launched because the block aft had been broken. Seeing no-one around from whom he could get further instructions, and observing that the bridge was under heavy fire, Able Seaman Harry Petttersen attempted to lower the starboard boat by himself, but the bow hit the water first and it filled with ater due to the way of the ship. He went to his cabin to get a knife, then returned to the boat, got in it and cut it loose. The aft motorboat was also lowered, but when the forward rope was cut, it swung around and tossed several men into the water (the 2 who drowned were initially in this boat).

The motorboat got away from the ship with 18 men about 20 minutes after the attack had started, and bout 10 minutes later the ship sank (02º 30'S 38º 00'W). 1 of the men who was in the water and 3 who were on a raft were subsequently picked up by the motorboat. The able seaman remained in the starboard boat, and one of the occupants of the motorboat went over to him with a flash light and a bucket, then later signalled that it had been bailed and was in good shape.

Able Seaman Knut Kristoffersen, who had been at the helm was severely injured, and first aid was rendered to him. They all stayed around until 02:30 while attempting to pick up survivors from the water and distribute themselves in the 2 boats. An emergency sail was then rigged on the lifeboat, which proceeded to tow the motorboat for several hours until the motor started.

The 24 survivors (and the boats) were picked up by the Swedish M/S Scania on Apr. 12 and taken to Fortaleza that same day, where the injured man was taken to a hospital. 7 had died.

The maritime hearings were held in Fortaleza on Apr. 21-1942 with the 2nd Mate, the chief engineer, the boatswain, and Able Seaman Pettersenappearing.

The sinking of Balkis and other torpedo attacks off Brazil in the months afterwards contributed to Brazil declaring war on the Axial forces.





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