THE NEW ZEALAND MARITIME RECORD
|NORTHERN STAR 1961 - 1975
The Shaw Savill and Albion Line needed to replace the magnificent, but ageing Dominion Monarch of 1938 (even though this grandest of all Shaw Savill liners still commanded a faithful following). Accordingly they ordered a sister ship to the radical, but immensely successful Southern Cross of 1955, which, as the Ocean Breeze, is still in service some forty-six years later.
In general concept, Northern Star was a refined adaption of the successful Southern Cross. The same engines-aft specifications were adopted, as was the overall layout of her decks and accommodation. She was almost 5,000 tons greater than her sister and 50 feet longer, and featured many updated details, including a flared bow, bulkier superstructure, streamlined funnel, and a cruiser stern.
Even though the grey and green Southern Cross and Northern Star became familiar sights throughout their itineraries, their colour scheme is reputed to never really have become popularly accepted, in contrast to that of Dominion Monarch and other more traditional ships.
She represents the most obvious example of the decline in passenger shipping witnessed in the South Pacific during the past quarter century. Although she could never be remembered for her beauty or style, Northern Star nonetheless must be recorded as one of the most advanced ships of her era.
"She was designed purposely to cash-in on the £10 fare-assisted migrant trade out to Australia and as Shaw Savill's response to the rival P&O-Orient's very ambitious, far larger team, the brand new Oriana and Canberra. But the Northern Star was literally 'flung together' for quick profits. She was all Formica and Linoleum, and always seemed to have a list. The Southern Cross was the better of the two and had more quality, such as veneers in her passenger accommodation. Also, the company always seemed to be experimenting with the Northern Star. I recall that they even changed her funnel colours and put a Detroit-style grill star on her stack. It looked like something from a Cadillac. I suppose that she might have been converted, at least in later years, to the ideal cruise ship, but then her engines were faulty as well. Clearly, she was a mistake from day one." Scott Baty
However, she would become a favourite with economy minded Australians and New Zealanders - as well as the many thousands of assisted British emigrants who travelled aboard her to Australia and New Zealand in the 1960s.
The fashion of single class travel, as pioneered by Southern Cross in 1955, proved a practical innovation. For the first time economy-fare passengers had the 'full run' of the ship, instead of being restricted to the aft decks. Although single class vessels had been operated in previous decades by various companies, it was the first time that a major company engaged upon the Australasian had ordered such large vessels configured in this fashion, which allowed some 45,000 square feet of unobstructed and open deck spaces.
In 1962 the Dominion Monarch went to the breakers at Osaka and the Northern Star took her place on the Australasian service. However, the new liner was reputed to be plagued by mechanical problems in a time when the market place was diminishing with the advent of jet aeroplane travel.
Built by Vickers-Armstrong, the Northern Star was constructed in accordance with the rules of Lloyd's Register of Shipping, and her underwater form was the subject of exhaustive tests carried out by her builders before the final lines were adopted. She was to have one of the shortest working lives for a passenger liner. Large turbine steamships like her were expensive to run and after only thirteen years of uneconomic service, she was broken up in Taiwan in 1975
Builder: Vickers Armstrongs Naval Yard, Walker, Newcastle-on-Tyne, England.
Port of Registry: Southampton.
Registered Number: 304076.
Displacement: 23,982.84 gross and 12,567.03 registred tons net.
Dimensions: 65O feet x 83 feet(198.1 m x 25.3 m)
Draught: 26 ft (7.9 m)
Propulsion: Two sets of Parsons double-reduction geared turbines, developing 22,O00 shp at 120 rpm. The steam was provided by two Babcock & Wilcox superheat boilers with a pressure of 665 psi and a controlled superheat temperature of 900 F.
Speed: Maximum speed; 22 knots, reputed service speed; 21 knots, actual cruising speed; 19.5 knots
Ship's company: about 400
Livery: Grey hull, Green superstructure, Buff and Black funnel, and Red boot-topping.
With seven passenger decks, she was air-conditioned throughout, including the officers' quarters (unlike those in Southern Cross), and could carry 1,412 passengers in one class. The deck layout and public rooms were very similar to Southern Cross, one notable change being the lower deck swimming pool. This was not included and the space was used for a launderette. The sun deck pools were larger than those in Southern Cross, as this had been found to be the main centre of activity in fine weather. Forward of the bridge and 87 feet above sea level was an observation deck for the passengers' use.
The passenger decks were vast for a liner of her size - over an acre of open space. As with her older consort, her layout enabled larger than usual public rooms and accommodation areas. Minimalist good taste and style were coupled with a number of modern and original ideas in the decoration and furnishing of her public rooms. The tavern, so successful a feature of the Southern Cross with its gay continental atmosphere, was repeated in the new ship. The cinema lounge with its 18-foot high ceiling was exceptionally spacious, and seated 600. The same room was also used for dances, closed circuit television, concerts, and church services. The shop and purser's office were under the tavern bar.
Two almost identical restaurants, one forward and the other aft of the centrally placed galley, served a total of 750 people at each of the two sittings. Passengers sat at tables for two, four, six and eight persons. There was also extensive shopping facilities on board. Two swimming pools were provided. The main pool, 30 feet in length, was flanked on either side by a shallow pool for non-swimmers and children. The infants paddled in a small pool adjacent to their playroom. The crew had a portable pool on their own recreation deck at the forward end of the ship.
1960 mid April Keel laid.
1961 June 27 Launched by H.M. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother
Before she left on acceptance trials, her builders took the unusual step of putting the liner on view at their yard, so that workmen and their families, the staffs of sub-contracting firms concerned in her construction, and members of various technical institutes could inspect her. It was expected that about 8,000 people would view the liner. When leaving the Tyne she had a narrow escape. A gust of wind swept her round at right angles and she nearly hit the pier at South Shields. After a struggle, her tugs managed to manoeuvre her away from danger. However, she suffered the ignominy of leaving the river stern-first.
1962 June 19 Sea trials.
1962 July 10 Entered service in the opposite direction to the Southern Cross with calls at the Las Palmas, Capetown, Durban, Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney, Wellington, Auckland, Suva, Papeete, Acapulco, Panama Canal, Trinidad, Port Everglades, Lisbon and Southampton. Before she sailed the Queen Mother sent the following message to Captain L. H. Edmeads, her master, who had previously commanded the Southern Cross.
I send my warmest good wishes to you and all who are sailing in Northern Star today. May she have a long life and many happy and successful voyages.
1962 July 16 In mid-Atlantic, the starboard engine had to be stopped, due to a fault in the high pressure turbine. This was disconnected and the engine re-started, only for the port engine to suffer identical problems on the 20th of July, and also have the high pressure turbine disconnected. After making calls at Cape Town and Durban, Northern Star reached Fremantle two days late, on 11 August. She then went on to Melbourne and Sydney, where she remained for six days undergoing repairs and having the high pressure engines reconnected. Her engine builders later stated that they thought the fault lay in the metal used in the construction of her main engines, rather than in their design, and that following the extensive tests carried out with certain parts, the vessel would be free of further trouble.
1962 July 21 The liner's first Fancy dress ball.
1962 August 4 The Indian Ocean Race Meeting; six races were conducted on the Boat deck from 8.15 pm.
1962 August 24 Departed Sydney.
1962 August 28 Arrived at Wellington and after a call at Auckland, visited Suva and Papeete. Four days out from Tahiti, first the starboard engine and then the port engine had to be stopped again, and the high pressure turbines disconnected. Northern Star continued through Panama, and limped into Southampton on her two half-engines nine days late.
1962 October 8 Above: arrived at Sydney.
1962 October 18 Repairs were effected before she sailed on schedule for her second voyage, however, engine problems were to plague this ship throughout its lifetime, and bring about her early demise. Northern Star settled into a pattern of four round-the-world trips a year, with some cruises as well.
1963 February 1 At Southampton
1963 June The Northern Star was involved in a mishap at Wellington while berthing in high winds which resulted in damage to her shell plating on the port side through coming into contact with Glasgow and Pipitea wharves. Repairs were carried out at Wellington with Lloyd's approval, and she subsequently sailed from the port only two days late.
1963 June 27 A 45 foot, passenger carrying replica of the Northern Star became the largest model of a liner in the world and made her maiden voyage on the Stapleford Park lake.
During a cruise aboard the Southern Cross, Lord Gretton had the idea of having a scale model of a liner constructed to carry passengers on the lake at his Stapleford Miniature Railway. Visitors had long asked for the chance to hire boats on the lake, but this was deemed difficult to administer and police. The liner would solve this problem, and add to the railways operational interest. The replica of the Northern Star was constructed by Curwen and Newbury and made her maiden voyage on the Stapleford Park lake on 27th June 1963. The lake includes islands and even had a working lighthouse on one!
1964 December 8 Above: berthed at Wellington's Clyde Quay terminal with 1,450 passengers.
1965 Dr. Edgar William Verralls (Bill) entered the Merchant Navy as an apprentice deck officer rising to the rank of First Officer of the passenger liner Northern Star.
1965 June Above: a rare meeting: the Southern Cross (left) and the Northern Star passed in the Panama Canal.
1965 December Below: berthed at Wellington, the funnel had been repainted Aberdeen Green with a thin Black top, and a four-pointed Gold star attached to each side.
1966 Funnel was returned to the regular Shaw Savill colours, but the star remained.
1966 Minimum fare for a berth in a double cabin for the round the world voyage was £386.
1967 Typical homeward bound voyage; Auckland, Rarotonga, Tahiti, Acapulco, Panama City, Trinidad, Lisbon and Southampton.
1967 July First of a series of two week cruises from Southampton to the Mediterranean.
1967 November 13 While at Durban a fire caused considerable damage to the control equipment, resulting in 1,000 passengers being evacuated and a ten day delay while repairs were effected.
1967 December Grounded on a reef at Tahiti during a storm but was freed.
1969 March 5 Departed Sydney.
1970 Above: berthed at Southampton.
1970 July "So,
having never been to Southern Trinidad let alone off the island to
neighbouring Tobago, 17-year-old Andrew Ramroop announced to his surprised
family that he was going to work in Savile Row, London. A fortnight
later he boarded the Northern Star liner, which departed on July
29, 1970 for England.
It was an extremely sad
departure," he says. For a start the boat was four hours late.
"All my family left the quay. When the boat arrived, they had to
hire a small boat to take us out because the duty was too much for the
liner to dock." Apart from Ramroop there were only six other
passengers joining the vessel at Trinidad, including a World Heavyweight
Championship wrestler called Golden Ray Appollon. Northern Star
arrived at Southampton, England on August 8, 1970.
1970 July "So, having never been to Southern Trinidad let alone off the island to neighbouring Tobago, 17-year-old Andrew Ramroop announced to his surprised family that he was going to work in Savile Row, London. A fortnight later he boarded the Northern Star liner, which departed on July 29, 1970 for England.
It was an extremely sad departure," he says. For a start the boat was four hours late. "All my family left the quay. When the boat arrived, they had to hire a small boat to take us out because the duty was too much for the liner to dock." Apart from Ramroop there were only six other passengers joining the vessel at Trinidad, including a World Heavyweight Championship wrestler called Golden Ray Appollon. Northern Star arrived at Southampton, England on August 8, 1970.
1971 April 10 Under the command of Captain D. T. Mouldey, with Chris Marshall as 3rd Officer, voyage 35 departed Sydney for Southampton via Melbourne, Lyttelton, Wellington, Auckland, Rarotonga, Papeete, Acapulco, Cristobal, Curacao, Trinidad and Barbados.
1971 April 14 First visit to Lyttelton.
First visit to Lyttelton Harbour, New Zealand, 1971
1971 May 10 Cancelled the call at Port-of-Spain, Trinidad due to engine failure.
1971 May 13 Fancy Dress Ball.
1971 May 19 Arrived at Southampton.
1972 October 3 Departed Southampton for Wellington via South Africa and Australia.
1972 Passage Ticket, Southampton to Wellington
1973 "I had recently seen some colleagues off on the Northern Star, a Shaw Savill ship and was not impressed with her interior at all."
1974 Northern Star remained on the circumnavigation service from Southampton via the South Pacific, in company with the newly acquired Ocean Monarch after 1970, until 1975 when she was laid up at Southampton. Just prior to her withdrawal, she had undertaken a number of short cruises from Sydney to the Pacific islands to augment the recently introduced Ocean Monarch. The older ex-Canadian Pacific ship became the only Shaw Savill liner in service, although her career upon the Pacific was not to prove successful.
1974 May 31 The Queen Mother visited the Northern Star whilst she was berthed at the Ocean Terminal, Southampton. Captain W A Murison, the ship's Master showed the Queen Mother over the ship she had launched 13 years previously. Following this the Company chairman Mr Brian Shaw and the Master entertained her to lunch on board. The Queen Mother presented a Silver Salt Cellar after she visited the ship. That salt cellar has very recently been loaned in perpetuity to the Shaw Savill Society by Furness Withy and is now on display on board H.Q.S. Wellington in London, the floating livery hall of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners.
1974 June 11 Extensive boiler tube failure occured when North of Sicily after she had sailed from Venice. She put into Tunis on the following day, from where the majority of the passengers were flown home. After temporary repairs she steamed back to Southampton at 17-18 knots where permanent repairs were carried out.
1975 January 28 It is reputed that problems with the low pressure turbines resulted in the ship missing a cruise departure from Sydney. An alternative source states that the cruise from Sydney was cancelled because of low bookings and not engine problems.
1975 February 7 Resumed service from Sydney after engine repairs.
1975 March Her withdrawal from service was announced.
1975 June 7 Departed in the evening from Southampton for a cruise, having arrived from a similar voyage early that morning.
1975 November 2 Returned to Southampton at end of her last Mediterranean cruise via Lisbon (below), where she was de-stored.
Owing to the depressed state of the world's shipping industry, she was sold for scrap to the Li Chong Steel & Iron Works of Taiwan. She was only thirteen years old; the youngest of a great fleet of doomed liners to make that last voyage to Taiwan during the seventies.
1975 November 7 The departure from Southampton on her final voyage was filmed by the local TV network. With no passengers, the skeleton crew of about 50 were able to choose from any of the passenger cabins for the voyage.
"I do remember having to help take off a wall clock, I think there were two of them, they were very expensive and I was told that they were a gift from the Queen Mother. We all had Yellow Fever vaccinations on the day before departure and it was hard to bring the lines aboard on leaving
"The only wall clock in Northern Star was in the Smoke Room. It had a large central dial with twelve small dials displaying the time at different places in the world and was the bane of the Second Officer's life because it frequently stopped and never kept good time when it did work. It was removed (by me) before sailing for Taiwan while the ship was in Southampton. As First Officer for the final Med cruise from Southampton I was appointed Security Officer and was responsible for taking down and safely storing all objets d'art (which included the clock) during the last 24/36 hours of the cruise - to protect them from souvenir hunters! I can assure you that the clock was not presented by the Queen Mother. Its full story is in Alan Mitchell's "Splendid Sisters". The last time I heard of it (at least ten years ago) it was in an hotel in Peterborough."
1975 December 11 Arrived at Kaohsiung, Taiwan, her crew signed off the following day.
"I was a deck cadet on the Northern Star in November 1975 when she went to Kaohsiung for scrap in December that year. I remember seeing beautiful ships like the Oranje, Oronsay and Reina del Mar there. It was like an elephant's graveyard, if they could have put ships on top of each other (like a car scrap yard) they would have. It was such a sad sight to see, one that will remain with me all my life."
There were about ten deck cadets on the on the final voyage, it was like a training ship and they stripped down davits to see how they worked; chipped & painted the deck, streamed a log and launched lifeboats. The Mate had the idea of having a burial at sea service. It's not a common affair on cargo ships, but a fact of life on cruise liners.
If a liner is within two or three days of port, the deceased is not buried at sea; rather one of the cold storage units is emptied and the body put in there. If the nearest port is several days away, then a burial at sea occurs. The ceremony usually takes place at 8:00 a.m.. the ship is stopped and all available hands are on deck. The national anthem of the deceased's country is sung and the body is committed to the deep. The ship stays put for 45 minutes to ensure that the corpse does not bob back up to the surface. If it does, it is re-weighted and cast off again.
"We had a dummy which was cloth human size and was heavy, it was used in fire drills. The dummy was wrapped in Canvas cloth with a few iron bars to sink it and stitched up (we didn't get a tot of Rum!). It took four of us to carry it and we put it on the wooden chute, where it was covered with a red ensign. I was one of the ones to lift the wooden chute for the "body" to be tipped over the rail and into the sea at the appropriate time. About twenty of us paraded on the poop having the so called service read out and the Mate gave the nod and this other lad and me lifted our end of the chute and the "body" shot down the shute into the sea. Well I was looking aft and somebody in the group started to laugh then I looked out and started to laugh as well; the "body" was floating like a mummy. Unbeknown to most of us as I later found out (albeit so heavy to lift), someone had sneaked in a lifejacket before we stitched it up without us knowing! You can imagine this floating "body" being washed up on some beach somewhere. I'm sorry to sound awful and without feeling, but I cannot lie and at the time it was very funny. You've got to remember I was only a young 18 year old then."
Mark Billington, UK (who served with Shaw Savill and Furness Withy between 1975 and 1986).
The demolition of Northern Star marked the end of Shaw Savill's 125 year passenger service; and the sale of the container ship Dunedin in 1986 marked the end of the company as a ship-owning business.
Thanks to Mark Billington, Graham Pepper (Founder and Honorary Secretary of the Shaw Savill Society), Steven McLachlan (specialist in Maritime Covers) for many of the images and Marcus Castell for bringing it all together.
New Zealand Maritime Record
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