S.S. Córdoba

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Pablo Edronkin

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The S.S. Córdoba was a passenger ship especially fitted to transport immigrants as Argentina became one of the preferred destinations of Europeans leaving the Old World after WWII.

Argentina has been know for government mismanagement, yet, it has been and remains quite a destination for immigrants. In the beginning of the XXI century those immigrants arrive at the country mainly from Latin American neighbors, because despite all its misdeeds Argentina offers very advantageous conditions for people living in its neighboring lands.

A view from the Córdoba
A view from the Córdoba, stern upper deck, H.A. Braun[94.7].
A view from the Córdoba
A view from the Córdoba, stern upper deck, H.A. Braun[94.8].

Before the creation of the European Union in its original form, and NATO, institutions that brought peace and stability in Europe, people from the Old World also went by the millions to Argentina. Not only the country offered prosperity, but it also offered peace, since Argentina rarely had wars and violent confrontations. When the Berlin blockade started, I 1948, my grandmother felt especially worried about the possibility of WWIII; grandfather wanted to stay in the UK but she argued that in the advent of a new confrontation he would be called to arms because he was still in active duty in the army (see The Day Yolanda met General Anders and the Archbishop of Canterbury).

These were the reasons why my grandmother chose Argentina; she knew, from pre WWII dealings of her family, about the conditions in the South American country; so, in 1948, she, my grandfather, uncle and mother took the first ship going from Southampton to Buenos Aires. That ship was then the S.S. Córdoba[99][145].

A view from the Córdoba
A view from the Córdoba, still in Southampton, U.K. H.A. Braun[94.9].
A view from the Córdoba
A view from the Córdoba, sailing out of Southampton, H.A. Braun[94.10].

The ship was built by Betlehem – Fairfield Shipyard Inc. and launched in June 1945; as the war ended, it was sold as surplus to Río de la Plata S.A. which a fairly large Argentine shipping company that made very good deals at the time buying surplus war material and converting it to commercial uses.

The case of this particular shipping company was an odd one: It existed prior to WWII, and some of its vessels were sunk by error, since Argentina was a neutral country during the war, so damages were paid and the company was paid for the value of the ships destroyed. But shortly after the conflict ended, there were some brand new ships that could be bought for much less money. So, the buying power of the amount of money in terms of what could be bought as a replacement, was significantly higher. The line bought at once over 110.000 tonnes – 25 ships, including several aircraft carriers that were converted to passenger and cargo transport.

A view from the Córdoba
The passenger upper fore deck[94.11].
A view from the Córdoba
The family in Vigo during a stop over[94.12].

In its passenger configuration the Córdoba carried 827 passengers and 47 crew members; in 1947 the company inaugurated a service between Southampton and Buenos Aires using the S.S. Córdoba. Unfortunately, the Argentine government, greedy as always, confiscated the whole company in 1949 due to "strategic reasons." The ship was soon reconverted to cargo configuration.

My relatives made some lifelong friends on board the Córdoba; just a few months ago, my uncle took back to Poland a set of silver spoons that belong to a woman that traveled with them to Argentina; she sent them to her sister, who still lives in Poland. You never know what you will find on a ship; it is different than in the case of a plane that flies in twelve hours between Europe and South America. A ship takes three weeks at least, so you get to know people. You never know what you will find on a ship; it is different than in the case of a plane that flies in twelve hours between Europe and South America. A ship takes three weeks at least, so you get to know people.

A view from the Córdoba
A view from the Córdoba, Canary Is., H.A. Braun[94.13].
A view from the Córdoba
A view from the Córdoba reaching Canary Is. H.A. Braun[94.14].

According to all the members of my family that sailed in the Córdoba, the ship was nice, food and service were excellent. Being a converted ship, it wasn't meant to be luxurious but it was comfortable.

Nevertheless, as times change, people used increasingly the airplane and the need for passenger ships diminished; aside from the fact that the shipping company was nationalized, only the pure passenger ships remained in service, and then so for a while only. Converted ships like the S.S. Córdoba were not needed in such a configuration, so, those that could be reconverted to cargo configuration were kept in service, while others were sold for scrap.

The Córdoba continued servicing Argentine trade routes, but over the years it became obsolete; first, it was relatively slow compared to newer ships, it was also a comparatively expensive steamer competing with diesel and turbine ships, and then, more modern types, such as container ships, began taking over the job that formerly belonged to ships like the Córdoba.

A view from the Córdoba
A view from the Córdoba, reaching Rio de Janeiro, H.A. Braun[94.15].
A view from the Córdoba
A view from the Córdoba, Rio de Janeiro, H.A. Braun[94.16].

On Sep 15 1971 the ship was taken out of service and sold to be scrapped, which happened during 1972 in a place called Campana, near Buenos Aires. The state-owned merchant fleet, managed like most state-owned businesses, was liquidated some years later due to its losses and lack of customers.

As my parents gained some very lucrative contracts in their medicinal practice, in the norther side of Buenos Aires, they went to live there in 1966; a few years they bought a villa (see Bashing the Villa), where we still live. Ironically, it is not located far away from the place where the Córdoba went to die.


S.S. Córdoba
S.S. Córdoba; Pablo Edronkin.

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