Sunday, December 30, 2007
The first SOS was heard by the Ocean City coast guard station at 8 AM and they launched their 35 foot rescue boat immediately. At the same time boats from Cape May were dispatched and a number of helicopters from Chincoteague and Quantico. The African Queen had been running in rough weather all night and suddenly hit the shoal and broke into. The ship drew 32 feet of water and the water dept atop the shoal was 24 feet. At the time of the breakup the seas were running 4 to 8 foot waves with 20 knot winds. The Norwegian Captain ( Kai Danielson) said they had been traveling at four to six knots. Most of the crew were German, Norwegian, Danish and Sudanese. All 47 members were removed safely to Ocean City where they were quarantined until immigration officers from Baltimore processed them.
The African Queen was 590 foot, registered at 13,800 tons and was built in 1955 at Kiel, Germany. It was owned by African Enterprises Ltd, registered in Liberia and operated by Packard Shipping Company. The African Queen was carrying 21,000 tons of crude oil from Columbia to Paulsboro, NJ (outside of Philadelphia). The oil was valued at that time between $600,00 to $700,000. Part of it was pumped off the part of the ship that did not sink, the rest went into the ocean. Let’s see, if it was 21,000 tons of crude and at 7.3 barrels to the ton at today prices of lets say $100 a barrel so today it would have been valued at $15,330,000. The interesting part was in the true ocean front wrecker tradition everyone in the area made for the tanker to steal something. It was an incredible free for all hauling stuff off the ship. A good account of that is here.
The sunken part of the African Queen is on the dive circuit now. It was an interesting time with the news coverage being nationwide and a number of reporters coming in for coverage.