The SS Monterey sailing to the South Seas in the 1930s…

The SS Monterey sailing to the South Seas in the 1930s…

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  • The SS Monterey was a luxury ocean liner launched on 10 October 1931.
  • She was the third of the four ships of the Matson Lines “White Fleet”, which were designed by William Francis Gibbs and also included SS Malolo, SS Mariposa and SS Lurline.
  • Monterey was identical to Mariposa and very similar to Lurline.
  • During World War II Monterey was used as atroopship operated by Matson as agents of the War Shipping Administration (WSA).
  • Monterey was a large, fast transport capable of sailing independently and was allocated to serving Army troop transport requirements.
  • The ship was involved in an attack on a convoy near Cape Bougaroun.

Wonderful video about the SS Mariposa (the SS Monterey’s sister ship)

  • Monterey was built to promote travel to Hawaii and for Pacific Ocean liner service including regular stops in ports along the West Coast of the United States, Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia.
  • On 12 May 1932 she took 83 passengers from New York City to the West Coast on a positioning cruise.
  • Her maiden voyage officially began 3 June 1932 in San Francisco, California after which she made stops in Los Angeles, Honolulu, Auckland, Pago Pago, Suva, Sydney and Melbourne.
  • She scored a public relations triumph when she carried much-appreciated supplies to the Bear of Oakland on Byrd’s second expedition to the South Pole.

britanis-Matsonia

In World War II Monterey served as a fast troop carrier, often operating alone so she would not be slowed by formation navigation in a convoy. The United States Maritime Commission chartered her in 1941 before the US declaration of war to carry 150 Chinese, Korean and Japanese missionaries and stranded US citizens back to San Francisco. Once home, she was quickly refitted to hold 3,500 soldiers. The ship was delivered to WSA by Oceanic Steamship Company, a Matson entity, 3 December 1941 at San Francisco. On 16 December 1941 she steamed to Hawaii with 3,349 fresh troops, returning with 800 casualties of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Monterey to Matsonia

Meanwhile, Matson was enjoying fair post-war success with Lurline and was looking to expand their passenger operation once more. Matson had aC4 “Mariner” class vessel undergoing conversion to a cruise ship for the Oceania and Australasia region; this ship was originally named Free State Mariner but Matson had renamed her Monterey.

Matson bought the old mothballed SS Monterey back from the US Government on 3 February 1956 and had to come up with a new name for her: she was rechristened SS Matsonia, replacing their earlier Matsonia which had been sold toHome Lines in 1954 and subsequently renamed. The new Matsonia (ex-Monterey) first sailed from New York to San Francisco on 22 May 1957 to team up with her sister Lurline on the San Francisco – Los Angeles – Honolulu run.

Matsonia to Lurline

Within five years, profits from passenger service had fallen to the point where Matson decided to anchor Matsonia indefinitely in San Francisco Bay. Sister ship Lurline continued to operate but suffered a major turbine problem in February 1963; one that would require costly repairs. Instead of repairing Lurline, Matson sold the well-loved ship to Chandris Lines to be rechristened Ellinis. Stung by poor public opinion regarding the maneuver, Matson rechristened the former Matsonia (ex-Monterey) as the new Lurline on 6 December 1963 and returned her to service.

Lurline to Britanis

By 1970, passenger receipts were down so low that Matson chose to cease passenger liner service altogether. On 25 June 1970, Lurline arrived in San Francisco to be sold to Chandris Lines. Five days later she steamed under new ownership out of the Golden Gate toward Piraeus with the new name Britanis.

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About Michael L. Grace

During the mid-80s, Michael Grace worked as a writer on the TV Hit Series THE LOVE BOAT. He wrote many of the two hour special featuring great stars of the past, including Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman, Alexis Smith, etc. The public’s access to these stars, in familiar dramas and comedies, made them want to go on a cruise. They could see the stars in an ordinary world as “regular” people. The phenomenally successful series was responsible for creating the cruise industry as we know it today. By the time he was writing for Love Boat, the great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. He had sailed on over thirty ships and liners with his parents, aunt and grandmother in late 50s to early 70s. The very successful CRUISING THE PAST website has been an outgrowth of Michael’s strong interest in cruise and social history. Drawing on his own knowledge and a vast maritime and social history collection, he is able to produce a very successful website. Michael is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. He has written for television and films. Read more by going to "About" (on the above dashboard) and clicking "Editor"…