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During the ship's final hours, Titanic was close to the 'Samson

by Bob Stealey

Editor

It has been several months ago, but one Sunday in Bob'n'Along I used an item that had been sent to me from the law offices of McNeer, Highland, McMunn and Varner, L.C. The article pertained to the famous Hope diamond that was supposed to have been on board the Titanic on its ill-fated journey.

The material was sent to a member of the firm by Arne Mjaland of Birkeland, Norway, who had written it in August 1998. While checking Briefcase II this past week, I came upon that same envelope, which included even more information related to the Titanic. This article was about the famous sealhunting ship "Samson," built in Arendal, Norway, in 1885, which was reportedly situated very close to the Titanic during that doomed ship's final hours.

Njaland wrote: "On September 9, 1998, the Arendal newspaper Agderposten published an article about Samson. I thought many people from other countries than Norway would be interested in reading that article. I have therefore translated the article into English language."

That newspaper article -- I've divided it into two parts due to its length -- follows:

"'Samson' was built in 1885 at Logebergskaret, not far east of the town center of Arendal. The weight was 525 reg. tons. December 30, 1952, Samson met its fate. It was then towed to Halifax in Nova Scotia. The towing miscarried outside of Yarmouth. It went on ground. There broke out (a) fire, which shortly spread throughout the whole vessel. Here, Samson got into the state of a wreck. The Yarmouth Country Museum, under supervision of Eric J. Ruff, is preparing an exhibition of the ship. At the same time, there will be written a book about the vessel.

"Why all that? Because Samson has a famous history. The ship's fame was not due to sealhunting, though it, together with the other Arendal vessel 'Pollux,' was a pioneer in that field. Like Pollux, it got famous as (a) discovery ship in polar areas.

"In the late 1920s, Samson was sold to the American discoverer Richard Evelyn Byrd. From then, Samson changed its name to 'City of New York.' Byrd used Samson on his first expedition to Antarctica in 1928-29. The sealhunter got famous all over the world. Byrd's expeditions lay the foundation for later American research at this continent. The Norwegian pioneer in Arctic areas, Martin Ronne, went with Byrd as his supervisor during the expedition.

"But how did the ship get its bad history? Then we are back to the Titanic disaster. Samson was situated very close to Titanic during that ship's final hours. The night (of) April 15, 1912, there was a ghost ship in the horizon. Was it Californian, as shown in an earlier Titanic movie, or was it just 'Samson'?

"The British newspaper, The Guardien (sic), stated that it was 'Samson' in the article, 'Clue to the Titanic ghost ship' in 1963. Leslie Harrison, general secretary in (the) Mercantile Marine association, means that the captain on (the) Californian, Stanley Lord, had become the victim of the grossest miscarriage (of) justice in the history of British marine inquiries. Californian was situated more than 20 miles away, while Samson's position was only 10 miles away from Titanic.

"There has been written a report by Henrik Bergethon Noess, who was a mate on Samson from April 1912. When he got on board, Samson was in the Norwegian town (of) Tonsberg. Coal and other equipment was shipped in. Samson was, at that time, owned by a company managed by August Fosse in Trondheim, Norway. The captain on board was C.I. Ring. (On) 9 February, the ship left Tonsberg. It sailed north of the Orkney Islands. Then it went to the hunting fields at Newfoundland.

"While the ship approached Newfoundland, icebergs were expected. The crew measured the sea temperature every hour. When the temperature sank to zero, they took the temperature every half hour. There was so much fog that there was hardly any (visibility). They sailed southward until they passed Kapp Hatteras. Then it cleared up, and it was starbright. The Samson then settled for the night."

I shall stop at this point of the story, to continue in Bob'n'Along in Monday's Exponent and Telegram. Have a terrific weekend.

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