White Star Line SS Afric
WSL Afric 1899-1917. Torpedoed and sunk by UC-66 22 killed <- click for more info
Afric was built by Harland and Wolff in in Belfast in 1899. Afric was a combination refrigerated cargo ship / passenger ship and worked the Australian trade. She was one of five White Star Line vessels belonging to a new generation of passenger liners designed to carry freight and passengers both. These "new generation" vessels set new standards for the White Star line and offered accommodations for 350 cabin-class passengers as well as capacity for general cargo and refrigerated meat in the forward area.
Afric saw military duty first as a troop transport during the Boer War, and then again in WWI, never again to serve in regular passenger service. On February 17, 1917, in the cover of darkness, Afric was slowly making her way into Plymouth City Sound and arrived short of the Eddystone light (Southwest England) Her captain morsed for a pilot to see him safely into Plymouth City Harbor but there was no reply. She proceeded in slowly making her way between Eddystone and Lizard Point, a place known to be regularly patrolled by German U-boats.
As the sun began to rise, Afric was making 10 knots east-north-east when suddenly the Chief Officer on the bridge spotted the white streak of a torpedo zipping across the water at a 45° angle heading directly for Africa's starboard bow. With a deafening explosion, the torpedo slammed into the steamer rocking it violently. The order was immediately given to abandon ship, and the crew began lowering lifeboats. The U-boat allowed the crew to row clear of Afric before a second torpedo was fired putting her on the bottom.
The 3-month old UC-66 coastal mine laying sub commanded by Herbert Pustkuchen surfaced and picked up the survivors, including the Afric's captain for questioning. Four months later UC-66 would be depth charged by the British trawler Sea King setting off her own mines, destroying the U-boat and killing her crew of 23.
Discovered and positively identified in 1987, the wreck of the 550 ft long Afric lies in about 130 feet of water, 15.5 nautical miles south-east of Dodman Point and is a popular dive site in the UK. She is sitting upright with about a 15° list to port, fairly well intact, and her starboard anchor is still in place. Divers penetrating the forward cargo holds in the refrigerated area of Afric can still see the bones from the frozen sides of beef she was transporting in 1917. Much of her teak though slowly being consumed, is still visible. She lies covered in shrouds of fishing nets lost by boats over the years from getting tangled and caught on the superstructure.
The White Star Liner Afric today.
Photo image credit: Divernet.com
(Above left) a fishing net caught on the wreck (Above center) Inside one of Afric's cargo holds with teak still intact (Above right) Two of Afric's mooring bollards
A letter written by a passenger aboard the Afric dated Nov. 8, 1911.
(webmasters private collection)
Dear Aunt Mary,
We shall probably reach Cape Town early next Friday morning and get ashore for an hour or two to stretch our legs.
It has been a very pleasant voyage so far.
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