Rostock, Germany, 1923. Grete, a 6,548-ton cargo ship built by Neptun AG, slips into the water, awaiting service and ready to begin a strange life at sea. Entering service in July of that year for C Mohlenberg Reederei GmbH, she would sail under a German flag until 1934. In that year, the 440ft long ship with a beam of 57ft, and a draught of 25ft, 9 inches, was sold to an Italian firm and renamed Gabbiano.
I spotted a large, rusting hulk on the beach that quickly disappeared behind the tree line as I bounced and banged along a disused road on the way to the ghost town of Big Brook, Newfoundland. Not yet knowing precisely what I was looking at, I was nevertheless already quite interested.
When I returned to see her more closely, I realized this ship had been here, battered by the sea and wind for a very long time, taking more abuse than she could handle, as evidenced by the debris scattered up and down the beach.
Her poor luck began on June 10, 1940, while tied up in Liverpool, UK. Italy declared war, and a detail from HMS Glasgow, berthed nearby, boarded her and took the crew prisoner as enemy aliens. They surrendered without a fight having been taken completely by surprise.
The UK renamed her Empire Energy and pressed her into service as a Convoy freighter. During this phase of her life, she sailed to ports like Pointe-Noire, Belgian Congo, Freetown, Sierra Leone, Reykjavik, Iceland, Boston, Massachusetts, and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The wind was high as the remnant of a hurricane blew itself out. I walked along the rock trying to get a look from every angle that the tide would allow. I assumed I could have gotten much closer at low tide, but I didn’t time to wait for that, so this would have to do.
A week after Empire Energy left Sydney, Nova Scotia, she returned after being attacked by U-boats. On her next voyage, November 5, 1941, she ran aground near Big Brook and was declared a total loss, with no loss of life.
Still fascinated, but unable to capture any more detail, I reluctantly turned to make the walk back to the Rav 4. I looked forward to finding out more about how she would end up here in such a sad state.