mv enton
1925 - 1931


After delivery to its owners, R W Potter London (Avenue Shipping Company), the Enton commenced its maiden voyage from Antwerp to Auckland carrying 8,000 tons of basic slag. Auckland was reached on April 20th, whilst here a dispute affected the handling of the Enton & the Kakapo, but this was settled by April 27th. The Enton then sailed for New Plymouth, NZ and Sydney, arriving here on May 14th.

On May 23rd it departed Sydney, via ports for the United Kingdom, this was the start of its first round the world voyage, it would be back in Sydney during October. Suez was reached on June 30th, Gibraltar (July 12th), Cork/Queenstown (July 17th). After handling in the United Kingdom the North Atlantic was crossed and cargo was unloaded/loaded at New York as the Enton prepared for its first trip to Australia via the Panama Canal and the Pacific Ocean. Colon was visited on September 10th and Sydney was reached during the middle of October.

The Enton departed Sydney for Fremantle on October 17th and sailed into controversy at Fremantle. Due to the commencement of a seaman's strike here the lifting of overseas cargo into British owned vessels had been blacked. On October 28th the Enton moved from its anchorage in Gage Roads to dockside in Fremantle with 70 police officers present. The Enton would unload 2,500 tons of case oil and general cargo, but the loading of a large shipment of wool did not take place. On October 31st the Enton departed Fremantle for Bunbury without incident after the unloading had been completed at North Wharf under a police guard. A police launch was used to take the pilot off the vessel after the Enton had cleared the port. Strike action had prevented the Seaman's Union from conveying the pilot in the normal manner. The Enton arrived back at Fremantle from Bunbury on November 18th.

On November 29th the Enton departed Fremantle for the United Kingdom, noted at Suez on December 28th.


By January 18th the Enton was at London to unload, visiting other ports including Liverpool, from where it departed on February 13th for Australia via Suez. It was noted at Port Said on February 28th and passed Perim on March 6th. By early April Australian ports had been reached including Adelaide (April 9th), Melbourne (April 16th) & Sydney (April 18th).

The Enton left Sydney on April 22nd for Brisbane and what would become two round trips to Vancouver & San Francisco. The Enton departed Brisbane on April 30th. From June 8th to June 12th the ship was at San Francisco, en-route from Vancouver for New Zealand.

On August 3rd the Enton departed Sydney on its second trip to Vancouver, it would be here from August 31st to September 2nd, visit Ocean Falls (Sept 7th) and then sail for San Francisco. By October 12th the Enton had arrived at Napier (NZ?), Lyttleton (Oct 25th), New Plymouth (date?) and Sydney (Nov 16th).

On November 19th the ship left Sydney for Port Kembla, to load a cargo of coal for delivery to the Argentine.


After its trip to the Argentine the movements of the Enton are not known by your webmaster but by April 13th the Enton was expected to depart from New York for Sydney & Fremantle. Colon was visited on May 3rd and Sydney was reached on June 2nd.

Between June 10th and July 12th the Enton was working the ports between Sydney and Fremantle including Melbourne and Bunbury. On July 12th the ship departed Fremantle for the United Kingdom, passing Perim on August 3rd, Port Said (Aug 8th), Alexandria (Aug 14th).

On December 29th the Enton arrived at Sydney from New York.


On January 2nd the Enton was at Jones Bay and then worked the Australian ports until February 3rd when it arrived at Fremantle having loaded wheat at Bunbury. Further cargo was load at Fremantle before departing on February 11th for Peru (Caliso?).

By May 10th the Enton was expected to depart from San Francisco for New Zealand.

Late in June the ship departed Melbourne for Launceston where June 27th-29th were spent unloading cased oil at Beauty Point, Tasmania for the Vacuum Oil Company. The use of Home Reach & King's Wharf at Beauty Point by the Enton had required the dredger Ronrabbel to dredge these locations to handle the larger ships now visiting this area. The Enton then sailed for Hobart, Burnie, Adelaide (July 8th) with timber for the Globe Timber Mills, Port Pirie (July 13th). After loading at Port Pirie the Enton departed on July 20th for Table Bay (Aug 17th), Port Natal (Aug 18th), Capetown (Aug 21st) and the United Kingdom.

Late in November the Enton departed New York for New Zealand, at Newport News (Dec 2nd) and Colon (Dec 7th).


On January 4th the ship departed Suva for Auckland & Lyttleton, leaving here for Napier on January 24th. By February 7th Portland (Vic) had been reached in order to load 96,000 bags of wheat (7,500 tons), the first vessel to do so here in several years. In celebration the ship was dressed with many flags. The Enton departed February 9th for Indian ports.

By March 7th the Enton was back at Portland to load a further 70,000 bags of wheat for delivery again to Indian ports. After unloading in Bombay the ship was at Melbourne by April 9th and Portland by April 11th to load a further 94,000 bags of wheat, expected to take about a week to load. The Enton departed April 20th for Perim (passing May 22nd), Port Said (May 30th), Piraeus (June 6th). After unloading/loading in the United Kingdom the Enton crossed the North Atlantic to New York.

On August 18th the ship departed New York, Newport News (Aug 22nd), Colon (Aug 29th) then via Panama for New Zealand, the cargo included case oil for the Vacuum oil Company.

On October 6th the Enton arrived in Sydney (via ports from New York) then sailed on October 11th for Noumea & Rabaul. By November 7th Townsville had been reached to discharge cased oil for the Vacuum Oil Company and about 500 tons of general cargo. On November 16th the Enton arrived at Cairns, after working the cargo here the ship then sailed for Rabaul.


From Rabaul the Enton sailed for the United Kingdom, at Suez January 28th, Marseilles (Feb 7th), passed Gibraltar (Feb 14th). After unloading/loading in the United Kingdom the ship sailed across the North Atlantic reaching Halifax on March 30th, then departed on April 8th for the New York area. On May 11th the Enton departed New York for New Zealand, at Newport News (May 13th), Panama (June 1st) with arrival in Auckland on June 23rd. On July 9th the ship departed Dunedin for Sydney, then to Newcastle (15th) and Rabaul.

From Rabaul the Enton set out for the United, passed Perim at September 26th, Suez (Oct 2nd). After completing its business in the United Kingdom, the Enton crossed the North Atlantic for New York.


The Enton had left New York on December 2nd 1930 (Newport News Dec 12th) with case oil for New Zealand, New Caledonia, and Rabaul. Having discharged her New Zealand cargo, she left Lyttleton on January 22nd with about 1,000 tons of case oil still on board. After unloading part of this at Noumea, she was to have loaded chrome ore at Pagoumene (New Caledonia), completed discharge of her outward cargo at Rabaul, and then loaded copra in the islands for the Continent.

Whilst en-route from Noumea in the early morning of January 28th the Enton's officers were unable to determine her position in the darkness, which compounded by a heavy swell and un-noticed side currents had pushed the ship out of her course. Sailing at about 11 knots the ship struck a reef and then bumped along on the reef until she settled into a firm position.

Three radio messages reportedly intercepted by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia), Ltd. were:
3.27 a.m. "Fire of case oil in No. 4 hold. Request vessels stand by to render assistance."
3.55 a.m. "Please cancel previous information, as vessel is ashore, south-east end of New Caledonia, making water badly."
6.15 a.m. "Please annul distress signals. Vessel not in immediate danger. Sea smooth,"

Initially no water had entered the holds or engine-room, and everything appeared to be watertight. The wireless operator, Mr. K H Bond, stood at his post for 62 hours, and sent messages until water stopped the dynamo. Several members of the crew took to the lifeboats. While taking care of a lifeboat, Patrick O'Sullivan (36), seaman, of Queenstown (Irish Free State), put one of his legs into a coil of rope on the deck. A heavy sea caused the lifeboat to lurch away from the ship's side for about 20 yards. Like a snake the coil tightened around O'Sullivan's foot, severing it. Suffering excruciating agony, he endeavoured to draw himself away from the coil, which suddenly gripped his maimed leg above the knee, severing a further portion. Other seamen rushed to his aid, and placed him on a stretcher on deck. There was nothing on board to ease his sufferings except brandy, and finally he died, an impressive funeral later being held at Noumea. The Enton had settled in about two feet of water, when those who had pushed off in the lifeboats saw that she was in no immediate danger they returned to the vessel.

The reef was located at Kaure Pass on the south east coast of New Caledonia, 45 miles from Noumea. Also described as Umbel (or Ambuie or Amadu) Reef, about 30 miles from Amedee Isle, which is approximately 13 miles in a direct line from Noumea, and about 50 miles by sea.

Birt and Co. Ltd., agents for the vessel in Sydney received their first intimation of the accident in a wireless message despatched to Captain Smith at 6.30 a.m. Later a message received stated "Getting assistance tomorrow morning from Noumea. Sea smooth. Please contradict rumour that vessel on fire. Now lying quiet, head on, and upright, making very little water."

By January 30th the condition of the Enton had deteriorated. A heavy swell turned the vessel beam-on to the reef, with bumping adding further strain to the hull. The vessel was however only making water slightly and the list was not very considerable. A wireless message from Captain Smith late on the afternoon of January 29th stated that the French steamer St. Vincent de Paul, which has been sent from Noumea to the Enton's assistance, was in sight. A tug had left Noumea with lighters, into which the cargo of case oil would be unloaded, to give her maximum buoyancy. Birt and Co. Ltd. also made preparations for the despatch of an Australian tug, possibly from Brisbane, in the event of the first attempts to refloat the stranded vessel being unsuccessful. The St. Vincent de Paul would eventually take the Enton's crew to Noumea.

About February 7th thirty members of the crew left Noumea for Sydney by the La Perouse, arriving there on February 11th. The eight officers would then sail by the P&O liner Mongolia for London from Sydney on February 20th. The men, who appeared none the worse for their experience, were under the Second Officer, Mr. W. B. Handle. They attributed their bad luck and the wreck to the 'jonah' influence of a stowaway who embarked at Littleton, the ship's last port of call. The stowaway Arthur Howe, of Dalgety, NSW entertained a fruitless search for work in New South Wales, then scraped together enough money to pay his fare to New Zealand, where he was equally as unsuccessful at finding a job. Whilst in Lyttelton he found the Enton at berth, and hid in the forepeak when the vessel sailed. When looking for something to eat the next day he was discovered by one of the crew and taken before the skipper, Captain Smith. 'I thought that I was going to be put in irons', he said, 'but the captain was very decent, and as the fourth engineer was indisposed, I was put to work in the engine-room as a donkeyman. Everyone wanted to help me and at least I thought that I was going to have a slice of good luck, but we ran ashore and here I am back at Sydney with nothing to do'.

Captain Smith remained in Noumea with several other men in the hopes that salvage still remained a possibility. However this was the month of hurricanes.

On February 21st marine surveyor Captain James W Herd, appointed by the London Salvage Association, sailed on the St Joseph from Brisbane to Noumea to survey the abandoned Enton for the possibility of salvage. Noumea was reached on March 2nd.

Captain Herd reported: Reaching the wreck they found the Enton lying broadside to the reef, exposed to the full force of the breakers and the wind, with a heavy swell breaking over the vessel. No anchors were out, and a slight list was noticeable on the vessel, which was gradually being driven further up on the reef. An examination of the Enton showed that she had been badly holed, and rivets broken and plates loosened. The holds were flooded with water to a depth of from 6ft. to 8ft, but the machinery and the bulk of the cargo appeared to be in good order. Taking everything into consideration, it was felt that the prospect of a successful salvage looked bright. Returning to Noumea, he chartered the small steamer Neo Hebridais and two lighters, and also secured the necessary salvaging gear, consisting of wires, anchors, air compressors, motor pumps, &c. In addition he hired skilled and unskilled labour, his 50 helpers comprising motley crew of British, French, French Congoese, Czechoslovakians, Japanese, Javanese, and New Caledonian kanakas.

The salvaging crew took up their quarters aboard the Enton on March 12, and commenced to lighter about 600 tons of drum (100 drums) and cased oil (14,000 cases), and motor spirits and general cargo, with the work carried out under extreme difficulty, owing to the constantly bad weather. The breakers dashed against the ship, and crashed down on to the decks, the spray rising to a height of 75ft., completely enveloping the vessel. With each buffet the Enton heavily pounded the reef, making the task of salvage every day more difficult. In spite of the bad weather on March 16th and 17th six anchors were laid out seaward, and were connected to the ship fore and aft by wire cables, ranging from 240ft. to 320ft. long. When sufficient cargo had been removed the vessel was sealed down, and the water forced out by the air compressors.

On March 17th Chief Officer E O. Morris and Carpenter Spoormaker returned to Sydney by the steamer Saint Joseph before sailing on to England. Mr. Morris stated that Captain A. Smith, master of the Enton, and Chief Engineer A. Rightson were now the only members of the crew left at New Caledonia. While salvage operations were being carried out, the vessel's engines were started, and they worked perfectly.

In the early hours of March 21st advantage was taken of the equinoctial tide, and the Enton's stern was moved 26ft. It was difficult and dangerous work, as the crew were exposed to the full force of the breakers which swept the decks. At a critical moment, when the tension on the wire cables was at its highest, a big roller smothered the vessel. The cables were too secure to give way, but as the wave receded it swept away with it part of the ship's gear, and broke the windlass, which was so essential for the salvage operations. Although disheartened, the crew set to work to repair the damage, in readiness for another attempt the following morning.

The next day the vessel would budge only about 4ft and, as the tides were falling off, it was decided to wait for the following spring tides, from April 2nd to 4th. In the meantime about another 300 tons of cargo was lightered, and a considerable quantity of oil jettisoned. For the whole of the 26 days the crew were aboard the Enton the vessel was battered by the breakers, and the crew drenched by the spray. The spring tides fell a foot short of expectations, and the task of refloating the vessel had to be abandoned, and the continued bad weather drove her back to her original position on the reef. The Enton was eventually turned over to a Noumean syndicate for salvage.

The salvaging of the cargo was a difficult job. The vessel was lying on a practically flat reef in only a couple of feet of water. All the cargo was transported from the Enton by means of flat-bottomed lighters. The lighters could only be brought alongside at high water, the rise of tide being only three feet, and four feet at exceptional tides. Heavy surf was breaking on the reef the whole time, and the spray was shooting over the vessel.

Nine feet of water were required under the Enton to refloat her, but tidal conditions giving the required depth would not occur until September. However, should a westerly gale blow across the island and pile the tide up on the lee side, the vessel might float off. She was thoroughly moored by means of 5.5 inch wires and three-ton anchors. She was making a little water in No. 5 hold and in the after tunnel recess. Currents on the reef were terrific. In three feet of water, a man had to cling to the guest warp, a line from the bow to the stern of the vessel, along which lighters were pulled, to prevent himself being washed off his feet into the sea.

And the final fate of the ship?

From a 1925 advert for the Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Company Ltd, Wallsend on Tyne comes this view of a four cylinder diesel engine of 2,000bhp. This was probably very similar to the one fitted in the Enton.

Built: Furness Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Haverton Hill.
Launched: February 1925
Tons: 8,000 dwt; 4,425 gross tons, ?? net tons
Length: 375ft 5in
Breadth: 52ft 5in
Draught: 25ft 7in
Propulsion : 1 x 4ST68 Wallsend Sulzer diesel engine, total of 1,850bhp.
Auxiliary engines: steam powered.
Screws: 1
Speed: 10 knots
Crew: 34

National Library of Australia : Trove website of archived Australian Newspapers (
Sulzer List of Motorships approx 1933

Trove - next 108 (2120=107)

Page added May 30th 2012:

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