Daily Event for August 31

August 31, 1986: The final voyage of a ship with a long history. Launched in 1925 at Bremer-Vulcan for the North German Lloyd line she was named Berlin. From 1925 until 1938 she sailed the north Atlantic between Bremerhaven, Southampton and New York. She made news more than once in her peace time roll. On Nov. 13, 1928 she rescued 23 survivors from the sinking British liner Vestris and in 1937 she sailed from New York with a load of scrap metal. This most likely ended up in Nazi munitions factories. In 1939 while on a "Strength through joy" cruise she suffered a boiler explosion which killed seventeen of her crew.

She came out of the ship yard repaired and under new management, she was now a Nazi hospital ship, Lazarettschiffe A. She served during the Norwegian campaign and was then sent to the Baltic and served as an accommodation ship. The Berlin was involved in the German evacuation of the east, transporting German citizens and soldiers from Poland and Russia in the face of the advancing Russian army. On Jan. 31, 1945, the same night the Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk, the Berlin hit a mine. She was taken under tow to Kiel but she hit a second mine and sank in shallow water. There were apparently no lives lost but the ship was abandoned. So ended her career for Germany.

In 1948 the Soviet's raised the wreck of the Berlin and rebuilt in a Soviet yard. When she emerged, eight years later she was called Admiral Nakhimov. From all accounts when she was put into service with the Black Sea Line she was in immaculate condition. She sailed the Black Sea for the next thirty years until Aug. 31, 1986. On that night she was in the harbor at Novorossiysk when she was rammed by a Soviet bulk carrier, the Pjotr Wassjew. The damage was so great that she sank within 15 minuets. Of the 888 passengers and over 300 crew over 400 were killed. This was the worst peacetime disaster in Soviet history.

As a footnote to this story a Soviet film company had just arranged to shoot a movie aboard the ship called "Catastrophe", the film was never made since the set, the ship, sank. Additionally, she sank at about the same place where in 1930 the Soviet Communists murdered over 400 priests and monks by sealing them in a barge and sinking it.

© 2005 Michael W. Pocock

North German Lloyd's Berlin