Welcome to Sail Freighter Fridays! This article is part of a series linked to our new exhibit: "A New Age Of Sail: The History And Future Of Sail Freight In The Hudson Valley," and tells the stories of sailing cargo ships both modern and historical, on the Hudson River and around the world. Anyone interested in how to support Sail Freight should also check out the Conference in November, and the International Windship Association's Decade of Wind Propulsion.
This week's Sail Freighter is of especial interest to those who like the 20th century story of sail powered trade, Parma made the fastest run on the Grain Races from Australia to the UK: 15,000 miles around Cape Horn in only 83 days. Originally named Arrow when she launched at Glasgow in 1902, she was renamed Parma upon her purchase by the F. Laeisz Line as one of the "Flying P-Liners" in 1912.
Parma was a 4-masted Steel Barque typical of her time, with fast lines, 327 feet long on deck, and capable of carrying 5,300 deadweight tons of cargo. She served on a variety of trades through her eventful career, parts of which were well documented by a famous figure in maritime history who we will talk about a bit later.
When she was launched, she went into the fossil fuels trade, under the flag of the Anglo-American Oil Company, but after a decade she was sold and renamed as a Flying P-Liner, where her reputation really starts to get established. Newly rechristened Parma and put to work in the Nitrates Trade between Chile and Germany, carrying Guano for making fertilizer and explosives.
When the First World War broke out, she was in Chile, and she was interned there as a belligerent ship in a neutral port. At the end of the war, she was given to the UK Government as Reparations, then sold to Belgium, before being repurchased by the Laeisz Line in 1921, returning to the Nitrates Trade. She racked up some impressive speed records on this run over the next decade.
In 1931, Parma was sold to noted maritime historian and photographer Alan Villiers. She shifted from the Nitrates Trade to the Grain Trade from Australia. In 1933, Villiers was aboard when she made the fastest run recorded by a sailing vessel between Port Victoria, Australia and Falmouth, England, winning that year's grain race.
In 1936, Parma crashed into a dock in Glasgow and was severely damaged. While repairs to her hull were made, she was sold, derigged, and effectively ended her career as a sailing vessel. She was scrapped two years later in 1938.
The 1933 voyage from Australia to the UK in the Grain Races which had Villiers onboard is well documented, and his collection of photos from the trip are publicly available on Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of the UK's National Maritime Museum. Villiers was a major force in helping preserve the skills and history of sailing vessels, and wrote many books on the subject. Without these and similar efforts, we would likely not have the preserved vessels and skills necessary to revive sail freight today.
Steven Woods is the Solaris and Education coordinator at HRMM. He earned his Master's degree in Resilient and Sustainable Communities at Prescott College, and wrote his thesis on the revival of Sail Freight for supplying the New York Metro Area's food needs. Steven has worked in Museums for over 20 years.
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This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
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