"The commercial morality of the world seems to have been markedly lowered as a result of the war," said one underwriter today, when asked for an explanation of the situation. "The demand for bottoms after the armistice raised shipping to unprecedented values. Insurance valuations increased correspondingly. Then the slump came and values were lowered and owners faced tremendous losses, but insurance policies continued at an artificially high mark. What we term 'moral risk' naturally increased and sinkings began. That is our notion how it all came about." ("Suggests Storms Sank Lost Mystery Ships," The New York Times, June 24, 1921.)
Sunday, September 2, 2012
Albyan, October 1, 1920.
The Russian bark Albyan sailed from Norfolk on October 1, 1920, and vanished in or near the Bermuda Triangle. (Spencer, p. 108.) She was bound for Gothenberg (Gothenburg, Sweden?). ("More Ships Added to Mystery List," The New York Times, June 22, 1921.) Simpson calls her the Albyn and asserts that while she was claimed to be a free Russian ship that refused to recognize the soviet government, she was in fact a Finnish four-masted bark from Nystad, and indeed bound for Gothenburg, Sweden. (Simpson, p. 113.)
The winter of 1920–21 was one of the worst on record in the North Atlantic. (Winer, Devil's Triangle, p. 79.) From the weather maps: A southern storm passed over the Eastern Seaboard through October 1, the day the Albyan sailed. It looks like she sailed after the worst was over in Norfolk, but she may have found that it was worse than expected at sea. If she made it through the ass end of that one, Horta in the Azores reported a strong gale (force 9) on October 17.
The Albyan was one of a number of ships claimed by the Bermuda Triangle in late 1920 and early 1921. The record number of vanishing ships aroused suspicions that Russian reds were hijacking ships and sailing them to soviet ports. When government investigators realized how severe the storms had been, investigations ceased.
While most or all of those ships were probably really storm victims, it is of course not impossible that some ships were hijacked by communists. A correspondent of The Washington Post saw several ships with their names painted out in Vladivostok. (Group, p. 36.) However, I tend to think those may very well have been Russian ships that had their tsarist names painted out, pending renaming with, uh, "good socialist/communist" names.
Finally, those ships not sunk by storms may be victims of insurance fraud.