The New Zealand Maritime Record - sponsored by the NZ National Maritime Museum

THE NEW ZEALAND MARITIME RECORD

Maintained by the NZ National Maritime Museum
as a service to Shipping Enthusiasts and Maritime Historians


Go To the NZNMM Website

This website is developed from the site originally conceived developed & maintained by Marcus Castell and associates. Opinions are those of the various authors of the articles, and are not those of the NZ National Maritime Museum unless specifically noted. Information in this site has been updated to 2002 and will be progressively updated as resources allow. More information on historic ships (etc) is contained in the MARITIME INDEX website

M.V.   AURELIA

Huascaran 1938     Beaverbrae 1948     Aurelia 1954     Romanza 1970     Romantica 1991-99

Specifications

Original tonnage:       10,480 Dimensions:       437 x 60 feet (133.2 m x 18.2 m). Rebuilt to 459 feet l.o.a. in 1955. Draft:       22 feet (6.7 m) Propulsion:       Three M.A.N. Diesel-Electrics 6500 SHP, Single Screw Cruising speed:       17 Knots. Ship's company:       285 Passenger decks:       7 Passengers:       1,126 one class

Livery:       White hull and superstructure; Red, White and Blue funnel, Red boot topping.

Introduction

Construction began in 1937 at a time when Blohm & Voss at Hamburg had a payroll of 14,049.  Under construction at the time were the 25,484 ton passenger ship Wilhelm Gustloff, the turbo-electric liner for HAPAG's North Atlantic service; the 41,000 ton Vaterland and the battleship Bismarck of 41,700 tons.

The Huascaran and her sister ship; the Orsono were named after Peruvian mountains and commissioned for the Hamburg to South America service.  The Orsono was sunk by Allied bombers at Bordeaux on the last day of 1943, but the Huascaran was to have an extended career that spanned seven decades and include taking more than 38,000 European immigrants to Canada in six years.

Log

1938     December 15     Launched as the cargo-passenger vessel Huascaran by Blohm & Voss at Hamburg, yard number 518.

1939     April 27     Delivered to Hapag (the Hamburg-America Line).

1939     April 29     Maiden voyage Hamburg to Genoa, then on the Hamburg to the West coast of South America service, with 58 first class passengers.

1939 - 1945     After only one voyage she was seconded to the German Navy and saw service as a troop transport, armament freighter and then as a submarine depot and repair ship.  She spent most of her time in Norway where she was captured undamaged by the Allies in 1945.

1945     November 14     After the war she was handed over to the Canadian Government by the War Assets Commission in reparation for the loss of the first Beaverbrae (1928) in 1941 and managed by the Park Steamship Company.

1947     April     Arrived in Liverpool for a refit to carry 775 passengers.

1947     June     The first issue of Volume 2 of the World Ship Society's Marine News appeared with a photograph of the ex-German vessel Huascaran on page 2, it was taken by Michael Crowdy the founder of the Club.

1947     September 2     Sold to the Canadian Pacific Line and refitted at Sorel, Quebec with cabin accommodation for 74 passengers and dormitory accommodation for a further 699 passengers and re-measured to 9,034 GRT.

1948     February 8     Renamed Beaverbrae and sailed from St. John with cargo for London (subsequent cargo voyages to Antwerp) and then to Bremen for passengers; and made 51 sailings from Bremen to Canada with displaced persons.  At that time she was Canada's largest merchant ship.

She was the only Beaver ship to carry cargo East bound and passengers West bound (the others were cargo ships) and was also the only one under Canadian registration and with a Canadian crew.  Canadian Pacific worked with the International Refugee Organisation and with the Canadian Christian Council for the Relief of Refugees and the refugees were forwarded from collection points on the German frontiers to the despatching centre in Bremen.  Here they were examined by Canadian government officials for health and security. Documentation and embarkation arrangements were handled by the Canadian Pacific office in Bremen.  The Beaverbrae made an average of one sailing each month and usually carried between 500 and 700 emigrants, of whom approximately one in five were children.  They were destined for friends or relatives in Canada and few could speak English.  Before the ship reached port, the purser would issue each emigrant with an identification tag, indicating their destination.  When advice was received in Montreal that the ship had left Bremen, arrangements were made for two special trains with colonist and baggage cars to be assembled at the port of entry.  The first train would usually be routed to Montreal and Toronto, and the second to Winnipeg and points West, almost every car destined to a different part of the country.  A special three car unit was attached to each train to feed the refugees.  One car was fitted as a kitchen, the second as a dining car by day and a sleeper for the crew at night, the third being used as a recreation and dining car for the passengers.

1950     December 18     Departed Bremen, arrived at St. John, New Brunswick, Canada on December 30. 1951     Switched to Bremen. The West bound leg saw passengers in basic and austere accommodation, the East bound leg she carried only cargo.

1952     June 24     Departed Bremen, arrived at Quebec on July 9, 1952.

1954     July 28     Last emigrant voyage when she left Bremen, having carried over 38,000 refugees to Canada. Subsequently laid up and offered for sale.

1954     November 1     Sold to the Compagnia Genovese d'Armamento of Genoa (Cogedar Line) and renamed Aurelia.  Sent to Monfalcone to be rebuilt for emigrant service from Italy to Australia with accomodation for 1,244 passengers in one class, with air conditioning.  Much of the rebuilt public areas were crafted from the space originally occupied by the cargo holds.  The superstructure was modernised and extended both fore and aft.  She received alterations to her bow and stern quarters - adding another 22 feet to the hull.  She re-measured at 10,022 GRT.  Her first voyage was from Trieste to Sydney.

1955     May 13     Sailed from Trieste via Naples, Messina, Malta, Piraeus, Port Said, and Aden to Australia, calling at Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney.  Made four voyages a year on the Australian route, later voyages were from Genoa.

1958 - 1959     Rebuilt with new M.A.N. Diesels, super-structure modernised and re-measured to 10,480 GRT.

1959     June 12     First voyage Bremerhaven to Sydney.

1960 - 1963     Chartered by the Council on Student Travel for one round trip from Bremen to New York, arriving June 27, 1960.  This experiment was repeated in 1961 twice in 1962 and 1963.  She made a total of 34 round voyages between English Channel ports and New York between May 1962 and August 1969.

1960     From Bremerhaven to Melbourne.

In the early 1960's we sailed from Southampton on the good ship "Aurelia" via Curacao (West Indies), Panama, Tahiti, Auckland (NZ), Sydney then Melbourne.  The ship was Italian owned with Italian crew.  Let me tell you, I never ever want to eat Italian food again!  It had called at Rotterdam earlier to pick up a few hundred Dutch migrants who were to prove difficult travelling companions.  In fact at times it became very tense as tempers boiled over into fist fights as the Dutch pushed their way into the best seats at ships concerts etc. instead of queuing in orderly fashion like we reserved Britishers.  Many families were separated into different cabins which was not well received and so the most requested tune from the ship's band was "Strangers in the night".

First night at sea as I lay in my bunk I thought "What have I done?" as England disappeared over the horizon and those icy cold hands of fear reached towards me.  About three days out from Southampton we hit bad weather. Oh boy did that ship rock & roll!  Probably 80% of the passengers were sick and confined to their cabins for several days as the storm lashed us.  There was vomit everywhere in the alleyways, on the stairs, in the bathrooms, in the lounges, even on the handrails!  And you can imagine how the Italian crew reacted to that!  As an "Old Salt" I enjoyed watching the raging seas, but I think many a set of false teeth now lie at the bottom of the Atlantic!

1960       November 11       Voyage 22 departed from Sydney for Europe. An adult fare in a four berth cabin was £128 for the voyage.  In cabin 205 on "Blue Deck" were Maldwyn and Sheila Billingsley with eight year old Janet and Stephen aged seven.  Would you know of their current location? Christine Williams would be pleased to hear from them.        Send an E-mail to Christine Williams

1961       September 14       First call at Southampton on the Australian service.

1963       January       "Well, I think some of the information on the juke-box in the outside bar must have come from someone who was on my voyage, January 1963 from Sydney to Bremerhaven via Melbourne, Adelaide, Aden, Naples and Southampton, etc.  From my recollection the song was Telstar although Al di La took a bit of a beating.  Four of us from this voyage keep up communication and would like to catch up with the rest of the gang (Phil, Pete, Robyn, Ilonka, Susan and Brenda, etc).  It was a memorable time with 14 days of blissful calm in the Indian Ocean followed by a few days of Force 8 from Alexandria to Naples.  No one could sleep in the front part of the ship, for as it dropped from each swell you would be pressed against the ceiling or the bunk above."       Barry Ward   (Australia)      

1964     Five transatlantic voyages from Channel ports to New York.

1964     December 9     Voyage 38 was the first from Rotterdam with assisted immigrants via Tilbury, Curacao, Panama, Tahiti and Auckland to Melbourne and Sydney.

AURELIA in the PANAMA CANAL Voy38 1964 - photograph thanks to John van Soest
Were you aboard Voyage 38? Fellow passenger from Rotterdam to Auckland, John van Soest would be pleased to hear from you.      Send an E-mail to John van Soest

 

1964     "It was my first time on a ship, first time on a ship for five weeks and going to live in an unknown country.  The food on our trip was not the best, mushy potatoes with big black spots, tasteless greens and coffee straight from the dishwasher.  As far as the coffee goes one night we sat at our table and waited till coffee was served.  Our waiter was not impressed as he wanted to set the table for the next sitting. For a long time we wondered about coffee, it was on the menu but never served.  So . . . we just sat there that night and waited and waited and waited.  In the mean time the waiter got angrier and grumpier and ruder.  Finally he found out what it was all about and from that night on we never had wait for coffee again.  Oh yes then there was that "No Label" red wine. Let's say it required an acquired taste to be able to enjoy it.  I finished up drinking a bottle for lunch and another for dinner. Yes, I did survive it without any long lasting effects.  When we stopped in Tahiti for a few hours they were loading Tuna. Nothing like the strict food regulations we have nowadays.  The Tuna was hanging in the hot summer sun, not covered, not refrigerated.  I tell a lie, the fish was covered . . . in flies.  No surprise then when Tuna was on the menu no one wanted to eat it.  No Tuna steaks, no Tuna pie, no Tuna soup, no Tuna. All of a sudden everyone liked Pasta.

There were some scary moments during the voyage.  At one time the ship listed to what must have been some 45 degrees or more. People were sliding on the deck and the dining room could not be set, not even with damp table cloths, nothing would stay in place.  I think that day I missed out on my bottle of wine. Christmas dinner was something special tho, the lights went out and the waiters entered the dining room all at the same time with food that was lit up.  Our waiter was a chubby type of fellow, bit thin on top if I remember correctly.  When we were having our last meal on this voyage someone started humming "Michael Row the Boat Ashore", for a brief moment there was this eerie silence apart from this single Hummm.  Slowly other passengers joined in.  It did not take that long really before most of the passengers filled the dining room with a glorious "We did it" kinda sound.  Applause for the Captain and staff followed. 

Emotional? . . . Yea I suppose so.  Eerie? . . . you bet!  If they had served Tuna that night no-one would have cared. Then there was the total destruction of the Juke-box in the teen-age disco bar.  Not so much a highlight really but it all started with a particular popular record developed a scratch deep enough to make the needle jump, needle jump, needle jump, needle . . . kick it!  Need I say more? I can remember calling in to a cafe in Curacao and drinking a real beer for the first time in weeks; Heineken, cold and oh so long.  Next stop was Cristobal on the Carribean cost of Panama and I bought my first dinkum T-shirt, not only that but I could pay with Dutch coins.

Another fascinating thing was the fact that once in Auckland, tablecloth and flowers were set on the table. The reason is now obvious (at last).  She changed from an emigrant ship to a cruise liner. "

1965     January     Above: at Queen's Wharf, Auckland, with disembarking Dutch migrants.  She was under the command of Captain Raffaele Corradi at this time.  Alberto Basili was the Chief Engineer and Angelo Caliaro the Chief Purser.

1965     Several transatlantic sailings under charter.

1965     January 13 -28     Right: A 14 day "Summer Tasman Cruise" departed from Auckland at 5 pm.

" I was on the Aurelia in January 1965 travelling from Auckland to Sydney only twelve years old at the time - my father took our family on a short cruise from New Zealand. It was the first time we had been overseas and I remember it well because I had never before heard other languages. Every announcement was in Italian, German ('achtung bitte'), English & Dutch - this was quite interesting. I also remember running around the top deck that had a space in the deck letting the light through to the swimming pool one deck below - the stairways were very steep, we had sauerkraut, pasta, thin soup and Italian wine for dinner. The ship didn't have stabilizers and because of that I was very seasick the second day out of Auckland. It was a new sensation walking down a corridor fast then slow as the ship swerved around in the rough sea.


Aft deck photographed 22nd of January 1965, entering Hobart harbour, Tasmania.

Everything came right the next day. The sea smoothed out and we were able to just lie in the sun up near the funnel. We arrived at Sydney just before dark and went to the wharf early next morning. That is where most of the passengers from Europe disembarked and the ship seemed rather empty by comparison. We then went on to Melbourne, Birnie, Hobart then back to Picton in NZ finally getting to Auckland again."

26 January, 1965: berthed at Picton in the Queen Charlotte Sound on New Zealand's South Island.

1965     January 21     "Welcome Dinner" menu. Right: cover

Juices
Orange - Pineapple - Fruit Cocktail "Riviera"
Soups
Hot or Cold Consomme in Cup Pastina in broth
Rice in broth
Velvet Soup "Favorita"
Farinaceous
Buttered Noodles
English style Rice
Bolognese or Tomato sauce
Fish
Boiled Schnapper - mayonnaise
Entree
Pork Chops a la Mesicaine
Grilled Spring Chicken "Cleopatra"
From grill (15 minutes)
Entrecote a' la Hoteliere
Grilled Calf liver - bacon
Vegetables
Saute peas
Buttered Brussels Sprouts
Potatoes: Fondantes - Boiled - Delmonico
Cold Buffet
Beef Ribs, underdone
Duckling Tureen
Stuffed Veal "Fortoriana"
Crawfish with mayonnaise
Smoked carre of Pork
Giant Turkey, Cramberry
Salads
Lettuce - Tomato - Cucumbers - "Combinazione"
Sauces
Gremolada - Horseradish - apples - Cumberland
Dessert
Welcome Cake
"Coppa Medinette"
Cheese
Gorgonzola - Parmesan - "Bel Paese"
Baskets of fresh fruit
Demitasse

1966     Fares for a Northbound passage from Sydney or Melbourne to Rotterdam or Bremerhaven started at UK£133 for an inside 8 berth cabin on Blue deck or a 6 berth cabin on Green deck, through £152 for an inside cabin on the Promenade deck to £188 for an outside two berth cabin with private facilities on the Lido deck. Southbound fares were about 15% more expensive.

1967     January     Below: Australasian cruise advertisement. Expanded image opens in a new window

click to expand, opens in a new window

1967     Four day "Cruise to Nowhere" from Auckland, the mystery destination was White Island; an active volcano off the East coast of New Zealand.

1968     Withdrawn from the Australian service and went on to an unsuccessful career mixing Mediterranean cruising and a short Transatlantic season.

1968     Refitted to carry 470 passengers in one class on a Southampton to Madeira service which did not prove popular.

1968     "My favorite memory took place while I was a member of the Study Abroad program from September 1968 until January 1969 at the University of Caen in France.  Our group had sailed from New York to Le Havre on the Aurelia. We hit a tropical storm and many people aboard got very sick. The voyage took 10 days."

1969-70     Cruises to Madeira, Canary Islands, Morocco, Mediterranean, Scandinavia and the Baltic.

1969     August     34th transatlantic voyage.

1970     September     Bought by the Armadores Romanza S.A. a subsidary of the Chandris Group and renamed Romanza, registered and refitted at Pireaus to carry 650 passengers.  With extra superstructure constructed aft, she re-measured to 8,891 GRT.

1971     A great success cruising the Mediterranean.

1977     Registered at Panama.

1979     Transferred to Armadora Romanza SA, Panama.

1979     October     Grounded on Dhenousa Island during an Aegean cruise. Suffering considerable hull damage, her passengers were transferred to Princesa Victoria and she was towed to Piraeus for repairs.  After considerable repairs she spent the eighties under charter to a number of companies and spent much time laid up.  Later chartered to Lloyd Brasileiro.

1983     Passenger accommodation altered to accommodate 707.

1984     April     Laid up at Piraeus.

1988     Refurbished to 298 cabins and insured for US$4 million. Her first voyage out of Piraeus after the refurbishment, following dry docking for two years, was delayed by a host of shellfish blocking the outlet pipes of the toilets on the lower decks. 1991     Sold to New Ambassador Cruises of Cyprus and renamed Romantica for a new Limassol-based short cruise program to Egypt and Israel.  While at first a success, the ship was soon overtaken by competition.

1992     The ship was seen in Michael Palin's (of Monty Python fame) series "Pole to Pole" while he was in Cyprus.

1995     New Ambassador Cruises went bankrupt and the ship was laid up at Piraeus.

1997     Bought by Cyprus based Paradise Cruises, and refurbished for service alongside their Atalante for two and five day Mediterranean cruises.

1997     October 4     All 673 passengers and crew were evacuated without any reported injuries between 6.30 and 7.45 am after a fire had broken out in the engine room an hour earlier.

Two British bases Wessex helicopters from Akrotiri also flew straight to the scene and helped to winch passengers from he burning vessel.  The Royal naval vessel Sir Tristram also rushed to the scene "at full speed", base spokesman Mervyn Wynne-Jones told the Cyprus Mail.  The captain of the Romantica and four senior ship's officers stayed at the scene aboard the British vessel to help assess the damage. Wynne-Jones said the Sir Tristram had "coincidentally" been only some 30 miles from the Romantica on its way to Cyprus after "supporting international military exercises off Egypt".

The "five star" Romantica sailed from Cyprus with 486 passengers. Within a few hours of leaving port, they were scrambling into the lifeboats with an inferno raging at their backs.  The Cyprus-flag liner was 58 years old, yet with a liberal application of fresh paint, she looked as good as new.  When fire broke out, she went up like a torch, and her crew of Greeks, Filipinos and Egyptians, having little expertise and no common language, could only stand and watch.  Luckily, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Sir Tristram was at hand.

"The boat burned like hell. We were lucky to get out alive, but I've lost everything," said the ship's photographer, a Briton who gave only the name Chris.

The Cypriot ship Princess Victoria reached the area, 100 Kms (65 miles) off Cyprus, half an hour after picking up a distress signal and found passenger, many still in pyjamas, already in lifeboats.  All the evacuees, 482 passengers and 182 crew members, were taken aboard the Victoria.  The ship had been on a three-day cruise to Egypt and Israel. The passengers were from Europe, including 223 Russians and 120 Britons. Most passengers had left all their luggage on the burning ship.  Many no longer had passports. Initial reports said the fire had started in the engine room, but the cause was still unknown. Cyprus television showed it was still blazing on Saturday with thick smoke billowing from its middle section.

"I didn't really get frightened until I tried to put on the lights and they didn't work. Even the sprinklers were not working.  It was totally dark and we made it to the open deck. There was smoke everywhere.  We received no warning or information.  We made our way to the lifeboats but it was only when we left the ship and saw the fire coming from the funnel that we realised how serious it was.  Our lifeboat got stuck on the way down. We had to wait more than two hours before we got into a boat.  The crew didn't know what they were doing and the rescue operation left a lot to be desired.  Even the oars snapped on the lifeboat after the engine packed up.  Passengers complained that lifejackets did not fit and refurbishment work had not been completed on ship which had just undergone an overhaul.  The passengers were taken to the port of Limassol by the Princessa Victoria and put up in apartments before being flown home."

Some passengers had complained that they did not hear a fire alarm. Others said that safety equipment was missing.  A group of 30 Hungarians rescued from the cruise liner returned to Budapest, saying the ship's crew had lacked emergency training while most of the ship's lifeboats had faulty engines.  One couple said most crew members had left the burning ship before the passengers while others said the lifeboats' lowering mechanisms were rusty, Hungarian news agency MTI reported.

New Paradise Cruises, Romantica's operator, denied the claims. Authorities say the boat complied with safety standards.  "The fact that 700 people were evacuated safely without one single nose being broken that is what is important," said Vassos Pyrgos, the director general of the ministry of communications and works, responsible for merchant shipping.

Among the passengers were 225 Russians, 120 Britons, 34 Hungarians, 22 Swedes, 21 Dutch, 18 Germans, 24 Greeks and only six Cypriots. Of the 186 crew members, only five were Cypriots.

1997     October 8     Romantica blaze finally extinguished - LLOYD'S LIST.

1997     Monday October 6     Listing at 20 degrees, she was taken to shallow waters outside Limassol Port to prevent her from sinking.  Three salvage tugs were used to tow the burning vessel to Limassol, beach it next to the port, extinguish the fire, and pump the oil and bunkers into two newly acquired barges.

1997     October 10     Work started on pumping hundreds of tons of water from the gutted cruise ship Romantica, anchored off Limassol.  The authorities have said all the necessary precautions have been taken to prevent any spillage of fuel from the vessel. It is believed the tanks, which have been sealed, contain some 50 tons of fuel.  The ship is under police guard at Limassol because there are three safes aboard, one of which contains thousands of pounds worth of diamonds and gold jewellery belonging to an Israeli company.


Experts ready to move in on stricken Romantica.  (A squad of lawyers and experts have descended on Cyprus in an effort to get to the bottom of a fire which last weekend swept through the cruise ship Romantica on its way between Haifa and Limassol.

Investigators say they think the fire started in a control panel in the ship's engine room.

1998     April     Towed to Alexandria, Egypt for scrapping.

1999     February     Moored alongside several cargo vessels with only part of the superstructure cut down.


Acknowledgements

Thanks to Derek Ion, John van Soest, John White, Christine Williams, Ships Monthly magazine and Marcus Castell for bringing it all together.

This page is part of the Migrant Liners in the Antipodean Service section of the
New Zealand Maritime Record
web site.
Webmaster

Copyright (c)2003-2005
NZ National Maritime Museum

Return to the Ship Index

Enquiries & Research