Greek Line - TSMS Lakonia

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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Author, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer and Maritime Lecturer

Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having completed well over 700 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information they are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure!

“Memories of the JVO

MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt

Chapter Nine

The End is Near

The tragic looking Lakonia is seen on fire

After several explosions, Lakonia was burning furiously, lighting the clear night sky. The Argentinean Passenger ship, "Salta" was the first to arrive at the scene. This ship rescued the majority of the survivors. The British ship Montclalm was the next ship to arrive , with the next ship being the Belgian "Charlesville", P&O's "Stratheden", HMS "Centaur", "Rio Grande", and the "Mehdi."

Many of Lakonia’s lifeboats that were safely launched reached the Salta, which had also launched her lifeboats picking up those the remaining passengers. Whilst the crew of the Charlesville went onboard the burning ship searching for survivors who were still aboard who had been abandoned by the crew, and then searched the waters near and around the ship. Lakonia’s captain held fast to tradition and was the last person to leave the dying ship. He was collected by a lifeboat from the Charelsville. Those survivors not rescued by the courageous crew of the Salta, were taken aboard various ships now at the scene. Soon the Lakonia was ablaze with the fire now raging from the bridge to the stern, with smoke gushing from the forward holds. Early in the morning, launches were sent for a final search. This was accomplished with the help of American and British aircraft. They searched the stern of Lakonia and the surrounding waters for survivors, but sadly, their final report concluded, "There are still a number of bodies in the water, but no sign of life. " Tragically, one hundred and twenty eight, out of one thousand and twenty two, souls were lost. Then there were those that were badly injured and in shock. Most of the survivors commended the crew for their bravery and a job well done. But some spoke of cowardice, communications and language difficulties, and looting of passenger belongings from cabins. It must be recognised that most of the crew worked very hard, both fighting the fire and saving as many passengers as possible. The number of lives saved is testament to this fact.

A sad sight of what was once a fine passenger liner and cruise ship!

On Tuesday 24 December, Christmas Day, Lakonia was listing some 10 degrees whilst continuing to burn deep within. The elegant spotless white liner that departed Southampton just five days ago was now a sad sight. Topside her bridge and several of her aft decks had caved in. Her white hull plates were severely scared and were now black because of the fire. On this day, Dutch and Norwegian tugs, with naval assistance, managed to attach towropes and commenced to tow Lakonia to Gibraltar through choppy seas. Suddenly, five days later, the dying cruise liner finally gave up, due the worsening weather. First, her list began to increase, then around noon on Sunday 29 December 1963; the Lakonia began to sink. The end was very fast; within three minutes, she heeled over on her starboard side and with a huge splash went under the waves. A tragic end to a fine ship.

Newspaper clipping of the keeling over and sinking of the Lakonia


Chapter 10 - Conclusion



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