News from 1928 Athenic becomes a whaler

Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
The Evening Post, Wellington, 23 May 1928
Retrieved from the National Library of New Zealand web site,


Australian Press Association
LONDON, 22nd May

The "Daily Telegraph" is informed that the Athenic has been purchased by Mr.
A. Jahre, chairman of a whaling company of Norway, and will be converted
into a whaler for use in South Polar seas. Her transformation will occupy
three months, at a cost of £100,000. She will start her new career as early
as possible with a crew of two hundred.
For nearly a quarter of a century the Athenic has been employed as a
passenger steamer between New Zealand and England, and last visited this
country at the end of last year. She sailed from Wellington on 28th January
for Southampton and London, via Panama. One of the most popular of the Home
liners, the Athenic is a four-masted twin screw steamer of 12,366 tons,
built in 1901 by Harland and Wolff at their Belfast yards for the Oceanic
Steam Navigation Company (White Star Line), and operated by the Shaw,
Savill, and Albion Company. The only incident of note attached to the
Athenic during the time she has been running between England and New Zealand
was her stranding on the beach at Jamaica in 1918, when she was employed as
a troopship. She was not seriously damaged, however, and was refloated,
arriving at Liverpool on 16th September. Captain J. E. Crossland will always
be associated with the Athenic by travellers, as he was her master for a
great many years and retired from the sea in 1923. Captain Binks was in
command of the Athenic on her last voyage from New Zealand.


Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
The Mercury, Hobart, 26 June 1928
Retrieved from the National Library of Australia web site,

Conversion of Athenic
Vessel's Fine Record
Many Voyages to Dominion
Service During the War

The cabled announcement that the Shaw-Savill liner Athenic, which has been
continuously associated with the New Zealand trade for over a quarter of a
century, has been sold to a Norwegian firm for conversion into a whaling
ship will cause a pang of regret to the thousands of New Zealanders who have
travelled in the ship at some time or other during her long career (says the
New Zealand "Herald"). Few ships were better known in the London-New Zealand
trade than the Athenic, the first of the trio of 12,000-ton lines [sic]
specially built for the passenger and cargo service of the Shaw, Savill and
Albion Company, which has been associated with the White Star Line for many

The Athenic was launched in 1901 and arrived at Wellington on April 2, 1902,
on her maiden voyage from London, via Plymouth, Teneriffe, Capetown, and
Hobart. She sailed from this port on May 8, homeward bound, via Cape Horn
and Montevideo. The Corinthic and Ionic joined the Athenic in the London-New
Zealand service in 1903, and thereafter the three big ships traded regularly
and uneventfully in conjunction with the Gothic for some years, and
subsequently with the Arawa and Tainui.

Nothing occurred to break the continuity of the service until the Great War
came in August, 1914. A few weeks later the Athenic was taken over and
converted into H.M.N.Z. transport No. 11, and she sailed from Wellington
with the Main Body convoy, escorted by the cruisers Minotaur and Ibuki.
After landing her troops at Alexandria, the Athenic returned to New Zealand
and loaded for London.


Unlike many other ships which were diverted to other trades the Athenic
remained in the New Zealand trade throughout the war. She carried troops to
England on five other occasions, including the 20th, 33rd, and 39th
Reinforcements, and she repatriated many New Zealand soldiers. The Athenic
escaped the perils of submarines and mines, and her only mishap during the
war was when she grounded at Jamaica in 1918 while Homeward bound with
troops and cargo. She was not badly damaged, and arrived safely at Liverpool
on September 16, 1918.

Since the war the Athenic has continued in the London-New Zealand trade,
with the exception of one run out to Australian ports last year, when she
came across to the Dominion for homeward loadings. On her last voyage the
old ship left Wellington on January 28, and arrived at London on March 8 of
this year.


For the first 11 years of her service the Athenic was commanded by Captain
C. H. Kempson. He was succeeded in 1913 by Captain J. E. Crossland, who,
with the exception of two war voyages, remained in command of the Athenic
until he retired in 1924. Captain J. L. Jones, who had previously sailed in
her as first officer, then took command, but he died on his second voyage,
and was succeeded by Captain Evan Davies. Last year Captain J. W. Binks took
charge, and he was in command of the Athenic on her two last voyages to New
Zealand. Captain F. Hart, who retired last year after 18 years in command of
the Corinthic, was chief officer of the Athenic on her maiden voyage in
1902. A number of officers who afterwards rose to high commands in the White
Star Line have served in the old ship.


The Athenic was always a favourite ship, and during her long career she
brought thousands of new settlers out to the Dominion, and carried many New
Zealanders to the Homeland. In all she made 58 voyages to the Dominion, and
in doing so steamed something like 1,500,000 miles. After 26 years of
continuous service the Athenic is still thoroughly sound, the splendid
condition of her hull and engines being a tribute to her builders. As a
whaling (factory) ship she will be vastly different in appearance from the
stately liner she has been for so long, but, barring perils of the sea, she
has many years of useful service ahead of her.


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