SS Viking

Last updated
Builder: Nylands Shipyards, Oslo, Norway
Laid down: 1881
Launched: 1882
Fate: Exploded and sank off Horse Islands in 1931
General characteristics
Tonnage: 310 gross register tons
Propulsion: Sails, Diesel Engine

SS Viking was a wooden-hulled sealing ship made famous by its role in the 1931 film The Viking . During her use in the seal hunt in Newfoundland, the ship was commissioned by the film crew. During production, an explosion destroyed the ship, resulting in the largest loss of life of a film production crew in film history. [1]

<i>The Viking</i> (1931 film) 1931 film by Varick Frissell, George Melford

The Viking, also known as White Thunder and Vikings of the Ice Field, is a 1931 Newfoundland/American adventure film about sealing directed by George Melford. This was "the first film to record sound and dialogue on location". It is best known for the explosion aboard the ship SS Viking during filming, in which many members of the crew, including producer Varick Frissell, were killed. It remains the incident with the largest loss of life in film history.

Dominion of Newfoundland UK possession in North America between 1907 and 1949

Newfoundland was a British dominion from 1907 to 1949. The dominion, situated in northeastern North America along the Atlantic coast, comprised the island of Newfoundland as well as Labrador on the continental mainland. Before attaining dominion status, Newfoundland was a British colony, self-governing from 1855.



Fridtjof Nansen (left) and Captain Axel Krefting, sitting on just shot polar bear with the Viking in the background (One of the pictures from a journey with sealers to Vestisen during the period March to July 1882). Nansen Krefting 2.jpg
Fridtjof Nansen (left) and Captain Axel Krefting, sitting on just shot polar bear with the Viking in the background (One of the pictures from a journey with sealers to Vestisen during the period March to July 1882).

In 1881, Viking was built by the Nylands Shipyard at Christiania, Norway, the same location where another famous Newfoundland vessel, Southern Cross, was constructed. Viking was a vessel of 310 gross tons and equipped with a 90 horsepower (67 kW) auxiliary engine. She was launched in 1882 from the Nylands Shipyard.[ citation needed ]

Norway constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic country in Northwestern Europe whose territory comprises the western and northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula; the remote island of Jan Mayen and the archipelago of Svalbard are also part of the Kingdom of Norway. The Antarctic Peter I Island and the sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island are dependent territories and thus not considered part of the kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land.

SS <i>Southern Cross</i> (1886) steam-powered sealing vessel

SS Southern Cross was a steam-powered sealing vessel that operated primarily in Norway and Newfoundland and Labrador.

In 1904, Viking was purchased by Bowring Brothers [ not in citation given ] of St. John's for the sealing industry. [2] She was placed under the command of Captain William Bartlett, who remained her master until 1923. Viking was the smallest of the Bowring Brothers' fleet, but was capable of carrying 276 men. [3]

Bowring Brothers

Bowring Brothers Ltd. was a Canadian operator of retail stores, mostly focused on gifts and home decor, throughout Canada.

St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial capital city in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

St. John's is the capital and largest city of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is on the eastern tip of the Avalon Peninsula on the large Canadian island, Newfoundland. The city spans 446.04 square kilometres (172.22 sq mi) and is North America's easternmost city.

Viking sailed for a number of years hunting the saddleback seal off the coast of Greenland. In 1882, Norwegian explorer, scientist and diplomat Fridtjof Nansen used her for his first Arctic expedition. [4]

Harp seal Species of mammal

The harp seal or saddleback seal,Pagophilus groenlandicus is a species of earless seal, or true seal, native to the northernmost Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Ocean. Originally in the genus Phoca with a number of other species, it was reclassified into the monotypic genus Pagophilus in 1844. In Latin, its scientific name translates to "ice-lover from Greenland," and its taxonomic synonym, Phoca groenlandica translates to "Greenlandic seal."

Greenland autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark

Greenland is an autonomous constituent country of the Kingdom of Denmark between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for more than a millennium. The majority of its residents are Inuit, whose ancestors began migrating from the Canadian mainland in the 13th century, gradually settling across the island.

Fridtjof Nansen Norwegian polar explorer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Fridtjof Wedel-Jarlsberg Nansen was a Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. In his youth he was a champion skier and ice skater. He led the team that made the first crossing of the Greenland interior in 1888, traversing the island on cross-country skis. He won international fame after reaching a record northern latitude of 86°14′ during his Fram expedition of 1893–1896. Although he retired from exploration after his return to Norway, his techniques of polar travel and his innovations in equipment and clothing influenced a generation of subsequent Arctic and Antarctic expeditions.

The Viking

In 1930 and 1931, Viking was chartered by film producer Varick Frissell and Alexander Gustavus Penrod (the cinematographer of the film Down to the Sea in Ships ) to make a film of the annual seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland. She was commanded by Captain Bob Bartlett, son of William Bartlett, and was featured in the final production. The film was premiered on March 5, 1931, at the Nickel Theatre in St. John's. Its producers felt, however, that it required more sensational footage, so both Frissell and Penrod returned to the ice fields soon after aboard Viking, this time with Captain Abram Kean.

Varick Frissell American filmmaker

Lewis Varick Frissell was an American documentary filmmaker. His last film, The Viking, set in Newfoundland, involved the largest loss of life of the film production crew in film history. This film was also "the first film to record sound and dialogue on location".

<i>Down to the Sea in Ships</i> (1922 film) 1922 film by Elmer Clifton

Down to the Sea in Ships is a 1922 American silent romantic drama film about a 19th-century Massachusetts whaling family. Directed by Elmer Clifton, the film stars William Walcott, Marguerite Courtot, and Clara Bow. The film's title comes from the Book of Psalms in the Bible,.

Newfoundland (island) Island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Newfoundland is a large Canadian island off the east coast of the North American mainland, and the most populous part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It has 29 percent of the province's land area. The island is separated from the Labrador Peninsula by the Strait of Belle Isle and from Cape Breton Island by the Cabot Strait. It blocks the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, creating the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the world's largest estuary. Newfoundland's nearest neighbour is the French overseas community of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.

On March 15, 1931, about eight miles (13 km) off Horse Islands, while stuck in the ice, Viking was rocked by an explosion that blew the stern off the vessel. Dynamite loaded on the vessel to add to the sensationalism of giant explosions of icebergs had somehow been set off, killing 28 of the 141 on board. The deaths included Frissell and Penrod. [5]

Dynamite explosive

Dynamite is an explosive made of nitroglycerin, sorbents and stabilizers. It was invented by the Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel in Geesthacht, and patented in 1867. It rapidly gained wide-scale use as a more powerful alternative to black powder.

Iceberg A large piece of freshwater ice broken off a glacier or ice shelf and floating in open water

An iceberg is a large piece of freshwater ice that has broken off a glacier or an ice shelf and is floating freely in open (salt) water. Another name for iceberg is "ice mountain". Small bits of disintegrating icebergs are called "growlers" or "bergy bits".

Viking caught fire and sank. [6] The ship's loss was the first for Bowring Brothers in 52 years. [7] Some of the survivors made the over-ice trek to the Horse Islands, while others were rescued by vessels dispatched to the area. [8]

Despite the fatal accident, the film was completed and released in June 1931. The title was changed from White Thunder to The Viking . A French-language version, Ceux du Viking, was released in 1932. [9]

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  1. McIntosh, Andrew. "The Viking (White Thunder)." Canadian Film Encyclopedia. Retrieved: March 29, 2012.
  2. "Trade and Commerce in Newfoundland." Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site, 2015. Retrieved: November 7, 2015.
  3. Rist 2001, p. 230.
  4. Huntford, Roland (2001). Nansen. London: Abacus. pp. 21–27. ISBN   0-349-11492-7.
  5. Rhodes 2001, p. 95.
  6. "Film and Video - Early Days." Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. Retrieved: December 16, 2007.
  7. "First disaster for 17 Years." St. John's Daily News, March 17, 1931. Retrieved: November 9, 2015.
  8. "Viking survivors estimated at 118." The Evening Telegram, March 18, 1931. Retrieved: December 15, 2007.
  9. "Ceux du viking (1932)." IMDb. Retrieved: November 6, 2015.