Daily Event for December 22

1963: The Greek liner Lakonia burned on the north Atlantic. Lakonia was built for the Nederland Royal Mail Line of Holland in 1930 as the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and served as a transport in World War 2. After the war she was placed on the route she previously served, Amsterdam to the Dutch East Indies. She was refit in 1951 and again in 1959 and then used on world cruises. In 1962 she was sold to the Greek Line and was overhauled in Genoa.

Under her new name, Lakonia, she was used on cruises from Southampton to the Canary Islands. On Dec. 19, 1963 Lakonia left Southampton on a Christmas cruise to the Canaries but, three days out a fire broke out in a hairdressing salon. The smoke spread through the ship rapidly causing panic among the 651 passengers. The crew seemed to be of little value in an emergency. No instructions were given and passengers who made it to the boat deck said that the crew was in a state of confusion attempting to launch the boats.

Distress signals were sent and several ships responded. The Salta, Centaur, Montcalm, Export Aide and Charlesville arrived on the scene and rescued 905 passengers and crew. One hundred and thirty one people died on the ship. Eighty nine outright and forty two were never found.

On Dec. 24 the still burning Lakonia was towed by the tug Herkules but, she rolled over and sank on Dec. 29.

© 2005 Michael W. Pocock