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M/T Alexandra Høegh
Owner: Skibs-A/S Arcadia.
Completed in May-1935 by Eriksbergs Mek. Verkst., Gothenburg, Sweden.
Captain: Anton Bredo Heian.
As will be seen when going to Page 1 above, Alexandra Høegh was on her way from Corpus Christi to Gibraltar when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940. Voyage is given as Port Arthur for Lisbon, and she later arrived Lisbon on Apr. 26, remaining there for about 3 weeks. Her 1941 voyages also start on this document (showing a 3 weeks's stay in New York that spring) and continue on Page 2, which shows another long stay in port that fall (Boston).
Alexandra Høegh had departed Caripito for Halifax in the early morning hours of Jan. 13-1942 with a cargo of about 12 000 tons of crude oil. In the afternoon of Jan. 21 the lookout on the bridge, Able Seaman Håkon Kristoffersen spotted the wake of a torpedo on the port side, and it hit the ship in the bow before anything could be done to avoid it. The position was 40 54N 66 03W (Jürgen Rohwer gives the position as 40 53N 65 56W), and the torpedo had come from U-130 (Kals).
The engine was stopped right away and they all took to the boats, except the captain and the 2nd mate who was also the radio operator. The latter sent out SOS signals which were acknowledged by Halifax, Canso and Seal Rk.
15 minutes later, after the captain and mate had gone in the starboard motorboat, a periscope was seen straight in front of them, heading for the ship on the port side. Once those on the U-boat had seen that the boats had rowed to a safe distance behind the ship, another torpedo was fired, which hit amidships, causing a tremendous explosion that broke her in 2, with the 2 parts floating away from each other after a short period of time. 40 minutes had now passed since the first torpedo wake had been spotted. The foreship appeared to be sinking quickly, while the afterpart remained higher in the water.
As it was starting to get dark, and as it was assumed the ship would not remain afloat much longer, the 3 boats set sail. At midnight, the survivors in one of the boats were distributed in the other 2 boats, whereupon the motorboat continued north towards nearest land with the lifeboat in tow. The following morning, they saw what they believed to be a periscope again, but shortly afterwards it was gone. Several hours later, they saw a number of powerful explosions in the east, but no ships could be seen.
By 01:00 on Jan. 23, they had used up their petrol, except for 3 gallons which they wanted to keep in case of emergencies, so they stopped towing and set sail. 2 hours later, a light was seen in the north/northeast and they sent up emergency flares, but received no response. However, as they steered towards the light they realized a vessel was heading towards them. This turned out to be the Boston fishing vessel Grant Marshall (possibly Grand Marchand or Grand Marshall) which picked them all up after having been in the lifeboats for 38 hours (about 120 miles). They were landed at Shelburne, N. S. late that afternoon, where the cook and the messboy were admitted to a hospital, but their injuries were not serious. The other 26 were sent to Halifax the following day, where they were met by the Norwegian consul and a representative from Nortraship and given new clothes and lodgings. The maritime hearings were held there on Jan. 30-1942 with the captain, the 1st and 2nd mates, the carpenter, the chief engineer and the 3rd engineer, as well as Able Seaman K. Karlsen, Able Seaman H. Kristoffersen and Mechanic S. Olsen appearing.
Because of the lack of convoy protection on the U.S. east coast at the time, the German U-boats could more or less operate freely, and in the month of January, 11 Norwegian ships were sunk, 155 crew members died, and 5 passengers. The total loss of allied ships in that area for the month of January was 26 (number varies according to source), and the U-boats continued to terrorize the east coast of U.S.A., with little risk to themselves, until well into May of that year.
In many of the survivors' accounts that I've come across in my research, the so-called Vaco suit is given credit for the survival of the seamen; so also in the case of Alexandra Høegh. I believe Norway was the only nation to issue these suits to her seamen(?). It resembled rubber coveralls attached to a pair of rubber boots, with elastic around the neck and a yellow hood which left only the face showing (a picture is availble on this external page). Worn with a lifevest, this suit saved many a Norwegian seaman, as it kept them fairly warm and dry, as well as floating vertically in the water, due to the fact that the boots had lead in the bottom of them. It was, of course, rather awkward to work in; the simple lifevest was preferred for that, but in the most dangerous areas the seamen would have the suit "standing" ready nearby, with the suit itself folded over the boots, so that they could quickly and easily step into it and pull the suit up and over their body. It was designed in 1939 by Carl Dybberg (1888-1957) from Bergen, inspired by the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Most of those who had perished had not drowned, but frozen to death, and Dybberg felt it ought to be possible to come up with a waterproof suit that would prevent such a fate. About 30 000 suits were eventually made and became obligatory equipment on all of Nortraship's ships.
Back to Alexandra Høegh on the "Ships starting with A" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume I, and Leif Høegh fleet list. Details on the Vaco suit are from "Handelsflåten i krig", book 3, "Sjømann - Lang vakt", Guri Hjeltnes - 1995 - ref My sources.