She was launched December 12, 1878 by shipbuilders Russell & Co at Port Glasgow, Scotland; the four-masted, full-rigged ship Falls of Clyde became part of the Falls Line fleet – all of which were named after Scottish waterfalls.
Falls of Clyde has a wrought-iron hull with a net tonnage of 1,748 tons and has a registered length of 266-feet, with a 40-foot beam and a 23.5-foot depth of hold.
She was rated the highest rating the maritime insurance firm could provide (Lloyd’s of London.)
Used for trade between Britain and India, the ship was under the British flag and journeyed into the Pacific, stopping at Australia, New Zealand, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Falls of Clyde made 10 voyages to American ports while under the British flag. Sailing to San Francisco and Portland for wheat, she also made one voyage to New York. The voyages to San Francisco were particularly important, for they involved the ship in one of the United States and Britain’s most significant maritime trades, the California grain trade.
She was later sold to Captain William Matson in 1898 with plans to be used for the lucrative sugar trade between Hawaiʻi and the continent. However, according to US law, Falls of Clyde needed American registry to trade between American ports, a right denied to foreign-built and registered vessels.
“The four masted iron ship Falls of Clyde (under the command of Captain Matson,) floating the Hawaiian flag, the Oceanic Steamship Company’s pennant and her own signal letters, came into the harbor at 10 o’clock this morning. … The Falls of Clyde brings about 1,000 tons or general merchandise, a large part of which is machinery for the Honolulu plantation. She also brings 40 mules and 8 horses for the plantation and a stallion for W. G. Irwin & Co.” (Hawaiian Star, January 20, 1899)
“She is the first four masted Iron ship with yards on each mast that ever came into this harbor flying the Hawaiian flag. Her authority for flying this flag is a temporary register Issued to her by Hawaiian Consul General Wilder at San Francisco.” (Hawaiian Star, January 20, 1899)
A special provision was added to the 1900 ‘Organic Act;’ Section 98 of the Act states: “That all vessels carrying Hawaiian registers on the twelfth day of August, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, and which were owned bona fide by citizens of the United States, or the citizens of Hawaii, together with the following-named vessels claiming Hawaiian register, Star of France, Euterpe, Star of Russia, Falls of Clyde, and Wilscott, shall be entitled to be registered as American vessels, with the benefits and privileges appertaining thereto, and the coasting trade between the islands aforesaid and any other portion of the United States, shall be regulated in accordance with the provisions of law applicable to such trade between any two great coasting districts.”
Converted to US registry, Falls of Clyde then was involved in the Hawaiian transpacific sugar trade for Matson Navigation Co. She carried people, too.
Her cargo hold was not limited to the sugar plantation business; just as modern Matson ships bring in assorted cargo that fill a variety of shelves across the islands, the Falls of Clyde supplied the Islands with various goods that filled the needs of the past.
Here’s a brief summary of an early manifest: “The ship Falls of Clyde sailed yesterday for Hilo with an assorted cargo valued at $23,599 and including the following: 95 bbls flour, 41 ctls wheat, 914 ctls barley, 231 bales hay, 18,521 lbs bran, 12 ctls corn, 75,000 lbs rice, 12 tons salt, 6492 gals wine, 900 lbs lard, 25 cs canned goods, 189,947 lbs fertilizer, 114,174 ft lumber, 38,000 lbs cement, 4200 lbs tobacco, 550 gals distillate, 65 cs gasoline, 150 cs coal oil, 101 cs assorted oils, 100 bxs soap, 1 cs arms and ammunition, 15 pkgs agricultural implements, 3 pkgs machinery, 3 rolls leather, 50 sks coal, 75 pkgs wagon material, 10 pkgs millwork, 6 cs matches, 25 bales paper, 85 kegs white lead, 20 cs paints, 6 pkgs dry goods, 4 pkgs bicycles and parts, 3 bales twine, 1 cs shoes, 30 mules.” (San Francisco Call, February 19, 1905)
The four-masted vessel, originally rigged as a ship, was down-rigged to a bark; in addition, Matson modified and built a large wooden deckhouse forward and a charthouse on the poop deck.
She carried sugar from Hilo to San Francisco until 1906 when the Associated Oil Company (a group of 45 independent oil producers in which Matson had an interest) bought the ship and in 1907 Falls of Clyde was once again modified when she was converted into a sailing oil tanker.
Associated Oil added 10-tanks within the hull, a boiler room and a pump room with a carrying capacity close to 750,000-gallons. She also carried molasses from Hilo to San Francisco over the next 13 years.
In 1921, she was sold to the General Petroleum Corporation who, after dismasting, then used her as a floating petroleum barge in Ketchikan, Alaska.
General Petroleum reorganized as Socony-Vacuum (now Mobil Oil) in 1959 and developed new shore facilities at Ketchikan. No longer needed, Falls of Clyde was again sold and towed to Seattle, and laid up.
After several attempts to save the ship of the fate of being scuttled as a breakwater, a group of civic and historic-minded folks in Hawaiʻi, aided by funds from the Matson Navigation Co. and other donations (spearheaded by the Friends of Falls of Clyde,) purchased and returned the ship to Honolulu in 1963.
With lots of voluntary help she was restored, remasted and rerigged and, under management of Bishop Museum, in 1970 she was opened to the public at Pier 5.
Damaged by Hurricane Iwa in 1982, she was moved to Pier 7, and over the course of a few years she was restored and became the centerpiece of the Hawaiʻi Maritime Center, moored at Pier 7 in Honolulu Harbor.
Maintaining any boat is expensive, particularly one that dates to the late-1800s. By early 2008, after receiving an estimate of at least $30-million to restore the ship, Bishop Museum issued a contract to remove all valuable items from the ship including a priceless figurehead, to dismantle the rigging, and to prepare the Falls of Clyde to be towed out to sea for scuttling.
The Friends of Falls of Clyde mobilized and rallied, again, and on September 25, the Museum’s Board of Directors approved the sale to the Friends, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the Falls of Clyde. (The Friends took ownership of the Falls of Clyde from Bishop Museum on September 30, 2008.)
The Friends needs your help. Join their group on Facebook. More importantly, visit their site and offer to volunteer or donate. It looks like the Friends are planning to haul her out for a much needed drydock.
Falls of Clyde is the world’s only surviving four-masted, full-rigged ship and is the oldest surviving American tanker and the only surviving sailing oil tanker left afloat. (Lots of information and images from NPS, Historic Hawaiʻi and Friends of Falls of Clyde.)
The image shows Falls of Clyde (NPS;) in addition, I have added some other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.