LIFEBOAT EVACUATION Mohawk


Jim Kalafus

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In conjunction with the controversial "raft" thread ongoing, I would like to offer this photo from my collection as comic relief of sorts- possibly THE least dramatic image ever captured of rescue at sea, showing some extremely unconcerned passengers and crew being evacuated from the Clyde Line's Mohawk during a 1928 mishap.
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Jim Kalafus

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Terror etched on every face. Some years later, in 1935, this scene was repeated in virtually the same stretch of ocean, but on that occasion no one was laughing. The Ward Line chartered the Mohawk as a replacement for its Morro Castle and Havana (destroyed by fire, and seriously damaged in a stranding, respectively) and on her maiden voyage for the line she was lost when her steering gear "locked" sending her across the path of the freighter Talisman. She sank quickly after the collision and 42 (or 45) passengers and crew froze to death in the boats waiting for rescue, over 1/3 of all on board.
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Jim Kalafus

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Mohawk had generous cargo space, and also a large on-board garage. Clyde-Mallory had seen the writing on the wall as far as Coastal Shipping was concerned (auto travel had doomed it) and on her normal 'run' she was advertised as a pleasant addition to one's cross country motor trip~ one rolled the car aboard with an empty gas tank in NYC and could roll it off and be given 3 gallons of gasoline at any of the intervening stops between NYC and Houston, Texas.

Her fatal voyage, however, was a charter between NYC, Havana and Vera Cruz Mexico. There were a number of wealthy passengers aboard, some of whom MAY have taken their cars.

A few odd details about the wreck: Mohawk sailed in the tail end of the worst blizzard of 1935 (6 meters of snow) with her lifeboats, in many cases, encased in ice and frozen to the deck. These never escaped. The "morning after" the lifeboats had thawed enough to self-launch from the wreck and I have several dramatic pictures of them tethered in place marking the liner's grave.

The Mohawk came to rest ALMOST within sight of the Morro Castle hulk~ she, of course, had been chartered to fill in for MC. Several survivors testified that about 45 minutes before the collision they had left the lounge and gone to the rail to see if they could see the wreck as they passed Asbury Park.

The Mohawks' nearest underwater 'neighbor' of note was the scattered wreckage of the Akron.

Her sister ship, Algonquin, arrived on the scene before she sank and trained her search lights at the foundering vessel so the passegners who jumped from the stern at the end, and those who went into the freezing water clinging to the funnel were clearly visible to all.

She came to rest in less than 80 feet of water and, on sunny days,was clearly visible from the air until she was dynamited and wire-dragged.

The original Mohawk was a considerably more lavish ship than her doomed replacement. Shortly after sailing from NYC into the worst storm-at-sea of 1925 she caught fire. Her crew was forced to battle to contain the blaze in the cargo areas and lower deck in mountainous seas until she was able to reach shelter behind the Delaware Breakwater, at which point her passengers were evacuated and the ship scuttled in 40 feet of water. I have a funny account of the disaster by her two stewardesses who were sorry that a ship with such a "happy" soul was lost, and who were thankful for the hurricane-like storm: "the passengers were so deathly ill that they could scarcely move or take notice of the fire, so panic was avoided."

There is ANOTHER East Coast Mohawk wreck, but dive with caution: for decades the NYC raw sewage barges off loaded their cargo directly atop her, burying her under a mountain of....uh.....potential fertilizer and creating a dead sea. During the 1970s and 1980s it was noted that the sludge was walking across the bottom towards some of the better NYC area beaches and finally the dumping stopped. Currents have 'unearthed' much of this Mohawk from her fecal tomb, and in some places the sand bottom is visible again as are fish and crabs. However, I've seen photos of medical waste near the wrecksite and the whole concept of exploring her seems a little creepy. So, if you arebuying Mohawk salvage on eBay, make sure it is from the 1925 or 1935 wrecks
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Jim Kalafus

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Neglected to mention, after >Mohawk had generous cargo space< that the majority of the ruined vehicles were cargo en route to Cuba, but that some MAY have been passenger's cars.
 

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