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Carl-Otto Claesson
M/S Stockholm - A Capricious Beauty

By Göran C-O Claesson ©

In August 1948 Carl-Otto Claesson began serving on the newly built M/S Stockholm. A beautiful ship, he thought, and so did most people. Passengers and crew found her fittings cosy. However, the Stockholm rolled wildly. She heeled so fast that pottery was crushed and humans injured. In addition she heeled nearly as much to the stem and the sternpost as to the sides. Her movements were unpredictable and difficult to parry.

M/S Stockholm was built as a combined cargo and passenger ship with a fuel-efficient hull, i.e. with much of the displacement midships. With less buoyancy in stem and sternpost the ship easily heeled in their direction too. Further, by applying latest technology the superstructure had been built light in order to save fuel. That made the Stockholm heel less than the older ships, measured by the number of degrees deviating from the vertical line. However, she heeled much faster and in all directions.

During the first voyages the conditions onboard became very difficult. The editor of "Stockholmstidningen" (The Stockholm Times), an unpretentious little newspaper onboard, handled the difficulties in his own way. Pretending that the story had arrived from the news agencies AP, UP, TT and Reuters chief mate C. O. Claesson is quoted: "For experimental reasons we make use of a new technique of maneuvering. By making the ship go crosswise we pushed away the seas." Several such news items were published. One of them told that the orchestra of the ship has chosen vomiting as the leitmotif of the signature melody. CEO Gunnar Engberg of Eriksberg's shipyard was quoted. He told the Swedish American Line to swap the Stockholm's AGA ranges for diesel engines. "That would enable the ship to cross the Atlantic forward."

While at home Carl-Otto told members of the family and friends about desperate makeshifts during the first months. He said that whale fins were welded to the hull in order to hamper the foward/backward heeling - and kept all onboard awake by the bangs they generated when hitting the surface. Holes were cuts in the fins to muffle the bangs. That helped against the bangs but instead a roar was heard when the water was forced through the holes. The fins had to be cut away. In stead the heeling was calmed down by putting tons of paving-stones fairly high up in the superstructure. The Stockholm then heeled more degrees but slower.

Were really such desperate measures taken? Can I trust my memory? Can I be sure that my father did not spin a yarn? I have looked for other sources and found several, even Douglas Falkman, the foreman of the platers who put "the whale fins" on and off - although he used the word "extra stabilizers". At that time stablizers were not yet manæuvrable .

The initial problems of the Stockholm were caused by this combination: midship concentration of the displacement, light superstructure and lack of cargo caused by the fact that cargo and passengers were not as easily combined in New York as presumed. In the beginning the problems were indeed attacked in desperate ways. Extra stabilizers were welded to the stem. Such welding requires openings in the seam. They were horisontal just like the tail fin of a whale. Plates were welded to the ordinary stabilizers in the stern to make them wider, also with 'holes' in the seam. These extras had to be removed. Instead several thousand tons of paving-stones, concrete blocks and scrap iron were loaded on between-deck. Later the superstructure was elongated. Still later the manæuvreable stabilizers arrived. M/S Stockholm finally became a ship that behaves well at sea, especially when new owners had given her a superstructure that goes from stem to sternpost. Her name is M/S Athena now.

The reasons for M/S Stockholm's initially fast heeling in all directions is an exemple of a common problem: a weak interplay between top leaders and top experts on the one hand and the users on the other.
Göran C-O Claesson


Childhood and World War I

A Mate in the White Fleet

From Prisoners of War to War Brides

The Drottningholm Turns Italian

M/S Stockholm - A Capricious Beauty

Serving under the Most Forcible Captain

The Fourth Stripe off and on.

From Roosevelt Hospital to a Building Site



Oct 15
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