Equipoise dated January 6, 1942, location unknown. Photo courtesy of  The Mariners' Museum.

The Sinking of Equipoise:

The ship originally started off as the freighter, Chanda owned and operated by the British Steam Navigation Company from 1906 to 1925. In 1925 it was sold to the Italian Navigation Company and renamed Pietro Campanella. On August 23, 1941, it was seized by the United States on the executive order and turned over to the War Shipping Administration and renamed Equipoise. At this time it was registered in Panama. On October 3, 1942, it was given to International Freighting Co. under GAA (General Agency Agreement) agreement.

On January 17, 1942, the ship departed New York heading for Rio de Janeiro with a load of unspecified cargo. It stopped in Norfolk, Virginia on January 19, 1942, On January 23, it departed Norfolk headed to its destination. Equipoise arrived in Rio de Janerio on February 25 and departed on March 5 headed to Baltimore, Maryland. Onboard was 8,000 tons of manganese ore. Manganese ore was predominately used in the making of steel.  So to say the least in wartime, it was precious cargo. 

The Naval Routing Office at Rio gave Equipoise a specific track to maintain on its voyage to Baltimore. So traveling at a speed of eight knots it made it way up the coast. The Captain, John Anderson followed the protocol of running blacked out at night. Some of the men had been chosen to operate the ship's 4-inch deck gun, two machine guns on the poop deck, and two machine guns on the bridge.

Unfortunately, the preparations made in the case of an attack were all for naught. At 2:38 A.M. on March 27, 1942, the ship was hit by one torpedo from German U-boat U-160. This was the first ship to be attacked by this German U-boat.  The torpedo struck the starboard side of the ship between the #1 and #2 hatches, destroying the bottom of the ship. The ship sank within two minutes. A summary report stated: "It is believed that an entire bottom portion of the ship was blown out." In addition, the weight of its cargo of ore only added to its quick sinking.

In those two minutes, there was much confusion. Because of the various nationalities (Finns, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Poles, Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians, Hungarians, Portuguese, Brazilians, and Americans), communication was a huge problem. Kjeld Kristiansen, a fireman, stated: "Too many nationalities; they couldn't understand each other."

Most of the men were below deck and were trapped by the quick-rising water and drowned.  Two lifeboats and two rafts were launched. However, one of the lifeboats overturned as it reached the water. The other lifeboat launched without any men in it.  At that time only fifteen men were left alive and some were injured. The other major problem they had was no one knew they were out there or the ship had sunk. Due to the orders of maintaining radio silence, there was no issuing progress reports nor transmitting an SOS.

The first night one man died of his injuries. The following morning, Captain Anderson died and his body was washed overboard due to high seas. The remaining survivors had to endure the bitter cold. They continually looked and listened for any patrol planes or other ships to appear on the horizon. And yet, they saw or heard nothing. Day turned into night and the men continued their suffering with food or water. Those in the lifeboat were cramped together in a very uncomfortable situation. Those on the raft had to endure constant waves washing over them. 

On that second day, thirteen men were still alive and desperately hoping to be rescued. Late that afternoon (4:30 PM) the U.S. destroyer Greer (DD-145) spotted the lifeboat containing eight of the survivors. Approximately between (5:00 and 6:00 PM), the Greer found the two rafts carrying the other five men and the body of the carpenter.  They were all taken to the Norfolk Naval Base in Norfolk Virginia at 2:00 AM on the 29th of March. Nine of the thirteen men were hospitalized.

The U-160 went on to sink an additional 25 ships and damage 5 other ships. On July 14, 1943, it was sunk in the North Atlantic, 33.54N, 27.13W, killing all 57 men aboard.  


Built: 1906 Sunk: March 27, 1942
Type of Vessel: Steam Merchant Owner: International Freighting Co. Inc,, New York
Builder: Barclay, Curle & Co, Whiteinch, Glasglow, Scotland Power: Coal-fired steam
Port of registry: Panama Dimensions: 429' long x 54' wide x 34' deep
Previous Names: Chanda (British India Steam Co.: 1906-1925), Pietro Campanella (Tito Campanella: 1925-1941)   


Here is the location of the sinking: 36° 36'N, 74° 45'W
equipoise sinking




Total Lost: 41, Survivors: 13

LastFirstDate of DeathPositionHomeAge
 Andersen Oskar Johan March 27, 1942 Donkeyman Skien, Telemark, Norway 33
 Anderson John March 27, 1942 Master/Captain North Bergen, NJ 51
Andreassen Karl Johan March 27, 1942 Sailor Bergen, Hordaland, Norway 37
Bailey Lester March 27, 1942 Ordinary Seaman Norfolk, VA  
Bjerke Olav Ediam March 27, 1942 Chief Engineer Officer Horten, Vestfold, Norway 52
Bringeland Håkon Marius March 27, 1942  Watertender Bergen, Norway 32
Camibra Carlos March 27, 1942 Messman Portugal 41
Carvalhana Antonio March 27, 1942 Crew Member Portugal  
Collazo Francis March 27, 1942 Messman Puerto Rico 20
Damsleth Rolf Christian March 27, 1942 First Assistant Engineer Horten, Vestfold, Norway 52
Ekholm Edward March 27, 1942 Crew Member Finland 34
Eliassen Peter Johan March 27, 1942 Able Seaman Bremanger, Norway 30
Esteves Antonio March 27, 1942 Crew Member Portugal 33
Fraga Manuel March 27, 1942 Crew Member Portugal  
Gundersen Erling Andreas March 27, 1942 Boatswain Sannidal, Telemark, Norway 40
Gundersen Gunvald March 27, 1942 Chief Mate Farsund, Vest-Agder, Norway 33
Haauaste Johannes March 27, 1942 Oiler Estonia 21
Hansmann Ruben W. March 27, 1942 Coal Passer Newberg, OR 37
Hjælmcranz Sture Ivan March 27, 1942 Sailor Stockholm, Sweden 30
Hovden Hjalmar Marinius Berg March 27, 1942 Ordinary Seaman Harstad, Troms, Norway 30
Hultberg Tage Vollmar March 27, 1942 Coal Passer Gothenburg, Sweden 25
Huttunen Veijo Brynolf March 27, 1942 Fireman Finland 28
Jensen Thorbjørn March 27, 1942 Radio Operator Oslo, Norway 45
Jorgensen Ole March 27, 1942 Second Assistant Engineer Baltimore, MD 42
Krastins Janis March 27, 1942 Fireman Latvia 20
Kristiansen Karl Oskar March 27, 1942 Fireman Trondheim, Sør-Trødelag, Norway 42
Larnen Sorind March 27, 1942 Carpenter    
Lindholm Henrik Jaako March 27, 1942 Able Seaman Pargas, Finland 35
 Lucas Orville K. March 27, 1942 Radio Operator Charleston, WV 25
McClafferty Hugh Charles March 27, 1942 Coal Passer Philadelphia, PA 33
Miranda Enrique March 27, 1942 Coal Passer Puerto Rico 22
Noddeland Hallvard March 27, 1942 Able Seaman Østre Moland, Aust-Agder, Norway 22
Sanchez Julio Ernesto March 27, 1942 Messman Vega Alto, Puerto Rico 26
Siepa Carol March 27, 1942 Crew Member Hungry 38
Silva Rosebeck March 27, 1942 Fireman Brazil 58
Siuda Kazimierz Andrew March 27, 1942 Crew Member Philadelphia, PA 40
Sørensen Håkon March 27, 1942 Radio Operator Glemmen, Østfold, Norway 34
Taraldsen Lars March 27, 1942 Second Mate Østre Moland, Aust-Agder, Norway 32
Truhponen Simon March 27, 1942 Crew Member Finland  
Valen Leif Gunnar March 27, 1942 Able Seaman Oslo, Norway 36
Zankowski Stefan March 27, 1942 Crew Member Lithuania 31



A  listing of the surviving crew: 

Blomquist  August  Second Cook 1910 Finland 32
Dars Leo Fireman      
*Disch Heinrich Anton Chief Cook March 13, 1892 Tyholmen, Arendal, Norwary 50
Holmstrom Karl Galley Boy 1920 Finland 22
Jensen Robert Steward 1913 Denmark 29
Kinnunen Kauko Seaman 1923 Finland 19
Kokenen Will Fireman      
Kristiansen Kjell Fireman Oct. 15, 1912 Halden, Østfold, Norway 29
Laurikaninen Ilmari Fireman Oct. 2, 1912 Finland 29
Liljavaara Timo Aleksanteri Oiler March 26, 1917 Turku, Finland 25
Nilsen Nils Third Mate 1918 Norway 24
Patrikka Alpu Able Seaman 1921 Finland 21
Prichard Ray Fireman 1913   29

* Killed on the Besholt on December 2, 1942, when the ship was sunk by U-174.

Photos of the Equipoise:

Equipoise when it was the British India Steamship - Chanda

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