Salvage of the metal cargo of the Asturia, German cargo ship


A valuable salvage story - The Asturia
From the LLoyd's collection of reports - by Pascal Kainic

Steel steamer of German flag, the "Asturia" was owned by the  Hamburg Amerika Linie, with a gross tonnage of 5290. She was on a voyage from Yokohama (Japan), via Hong Kong to New York and was unfortunately wrecked on Ras Jard Hafun, Cape Gardafui, Gulf of Aden,  on the 16th of June 1901.

News came to Hamburg that the "Asturia", captain Petermann  ran aground on the night of the 16th inst. She has 12 feet of water in her hold and lies in a very dangerous position. She carries no passengers and her crew have been landed in Aden by the Clan Maclachlam. She is expected to be a total wreck.

The "Asturia"  had on board a cargo of general merchandises and metals from which 750 tons of tin, loaded at Penang, Straits Settlements.

Following telegrams received about :

London, June 21 - Assistance has not yet been sent. Position for salvage very difficult. The Salvage Association report that they are in communication with the shipowners on the subject of the arrangements for salvage and in the meantime they are arranging for despatch of a special officer to this vessel on behalf of the cargo.

The owners at Hamburg have arranged with Nordischer to sent the steamer "Hermes" from Suez. Undertaken salvage money to be settled by Hamburg arbitration afterwards under  No Cure, No Pay rules. The Steamer "Wissman" is also sent from Aden to the "Asturia".

London, June 24 - Italian Man-of-War "Cristoforo Colombo", the only armed vessel available, has also proceed to the spot of the wreck. The "Asturia" is lying in such a position as to render communication with it by sea impracticable. Aden advisors also confirm their view that salvage of cargo at present season is only available from the shore under protection and that an expedition would have to land on the North coast and march across the country.

London, June 27 - The HMS "Lapwing", from Aden, has also proceed for assistance to the German steamer.

London, July 9 - No agreement was made with the "Lapwing". Resident Pomeroy consider agreement between Italian Man-of-War and Sultan affords inadequate unreliable protection. "Lapwing" also considers it doubtful. All agree could probably arrange satisfactory protection for salavge and recovery cargo already looted, provided Italian withdrawn and permission granted deal  direct with Sultan, "Lapwing" being present during negociations. Resident promissing armed guard if necessary.

London, July 21 -  "Clan Campbell", belonging to the Clan Line, reports having seen the "Asturia". Wind blowing directly on shore with heavy sea breaking. British gun boat, Italian Man-of-War and 2 small steamers anchored close in shore five miles from Guardafui.

London, July 29 - Pomeroy remaining Guardafui with steame Wissman watching possible salving cargo. Salved 40 pieces of tin, when lifeboat filled in surf, other damaged, obliged stop. Large quantity of cargo plundered. Now estimate about 6.000 tin, 500 copper, 2.000 tons general cargo gone. 1.000 pieces of tin on deck ready land.

Sultan refuses re-deliver cargo or protect wreck under contract. Resident fixed award. finally, we agreed to pay Sultan 15 rupees for tin, half that for copper, for every piece already landed and re-delivered to us. Then, Sultan signed contract. Opinion floating ship very improbable. Supposing successful, value not cover expenses. Engines, boilers deck aft badly set up, butts open, main steam condenser discharge badly broken separated ship seaward side aft stove in by seas, probably soon become worse. Returning to wreck with other steamer taking stores and coal when ready.

London, August 2 - Total 270 tin salved, greatest difficulty, boats frequently swamped or smashed. Condition of hull much worse. seaward side shell plates topsides amidships vertically fractured, engine room at water line least one strake 30 feet length completely gone, sea breaking inside, plates, frames, beams whole lenght set in. Consider ship practically total wreck.

London, October 1 - "Sheikh Berkhud"  arrived with a full cargo from the "Asturia" 888 tin, 442 copper, 640 gutta, 119 cassis, 394 tea, 578 sundries.

London, October 14 - "Wissmann"  leaving full cargo  131 copper, 601 tin, 265 pepper, remainder principally gutta. Very large quantity bulk boxes destroyed. Large quantity lost, washed broken bulkhead number 4 hold. Quantity recovered floating.

London, October 21 - "Sheikh Berkhud"  leaving full cargo 60 tin, 42 copper, 2269 bags gambier, 63 gutta, 110 rattans, 32 tin, 21 copper only recovered from Sultan.

London, November 6 - "Sheikh Berkhud" leaving approximate 1247 tin, 2 copper, 1184 gambier, 34 gutta, 970 rattans, 165 oil, 79 wax.

London, November 14 - Italian Consul searched locality recovered all looted cargo any value remaining here consisting of 1717 of curios, few pieces of blackwood, 1 vase. "Wissmann"  taking 418 tin, 1059 gambier, 475 gutta, 103 curios, 844 rattans, 84 wax, 28 oil and other sundries. Further cargo salved: 3900 slabs tin, 1000 slabs copper, 4300 packages gambier and a large quantity of gutta-percha, rattans ans sundries, including oil and wax.

London, November 27 - Probably all cargo out fortnight hence except tin number 3 hold, about 4.000 there difficult to recover. "Sheikh Berkhud" taking approximately 301 tin, 5 copper, 1307 gambier, 676 rattans 182 oil, 37 wax, 2 curios and sundries.

London, December 7 - Salvage continues slowly number 4 and 5. "Wismann" brings 1706 tin, 223 gutta, 18 gum, 199 bags, 8 bales wool, sundries. Captain Ridge has returned to Aden in order to make fresh arrangements regarding divers in connection with the recovery of the tin in number 3 hold.

London, December 24 - Italian Man-of-war leaving. Recovered 3664 tin from total 5137 number 3. Divers report utmost 300 remaining. Difficult to recover balance, presume Somalis looted. Other holds nearly finished.

London, January 1, 1902 - "Wissmann" bringing roughly 42 tin, 25 bristles, 42 bales, quantity loose wool, 15 curios, 26 gutta, sundries. "Sheikh Berkhud" 1722 tin, large quantity of ship's fitting. Both companies report divers cannot recover  further cargo any value. Utmost 30 tin remaining number 3 covered with sand. impossible and dangerous to recover more.


Was all the cargo of ingots salvaged at the time ?
We are not totally sure... But what we know about, is the wild place were the wreck remains lie, with its dangerous pirates so famous until now !


  • treasures

    You are probably talking about the SS Meïkong from the French Messageries Maritimes...!

    She was salvaged by Robert Stenuit in September 1995 (

    Another link :
  • Farah Yusuf
    • 2. Farah Yusuf On 10/08/2010
    I am water engineer, I born in the area Guardafu.
    now i live in Uk Liverpool town. I know the area there are lot of ship wrecks, the main one that all local people talk about is "Maikoh", that is how the local people pronounce. the ship was carriying the treasurer of french royalty at that time.
    I am looking any one who can give information about that ship,
    farah yusuf
    Mobile: 07903448571

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