25th March 1929 –
Europa catches fire

Europa on fireNorth German Lloyd used the intense public interest in its two new ships to its advantage, announcing that Bremen and Europa would sail on their maiden voyages only two weeks apart. Europa would depart on 24th April 1929, and Bremen would sail on 8th May 1929. However, a three month worker’s strike at Blohm & Voss meant it was increasingly doubtful that the shipyard could guarantee the projected date for Europa. Then, early on 25th March 1929, Europa was swept by fire that allegedly started at four different locations within the ship. Nearly eighteen hours later, at 9pm, the fire was finally brought under control.

Inspectors assess the damage to EuropaInitially, Europa was thought to be beyond repair, but after inspectors surveyed the damage more closely, they estimated repairs could be made for around $3,000,000. Her hull was declared sound, although the turbines and other propulsion machinery were heavily damaged. Unfortunately, in her partially-completed state, the shipyard had insured her for $9,500,000 in the event of a total loss, and not the $15,000,000 insurance value once completed. Before she could be rebuilt, Europa needed to be raised. During the fire, she had been flooded so she could settle in an upright position. Divers sealed every opening in the hull, and the water was pumped out. By 14th April 1929, the hull was afloat once again. Over the next few weeks, buckled plates were removed and the keel straightened. The turbines and heavy machinery were replaced or reconditioned. All the damaged interiors were removed and rebuilt.

Now rebuilt, Europa sails on her maiden voyageAmazingly, just ten months later, on 22nd February 1930, Europa was ready to leave for her sea trials. She left on her maiden voyage on 19th March 1930, heading for New York via Southampton and Cherbourg. Passing Ambrose lightship on 25th March, she had broken Bremen‘s record and gained the Blue Riband, taking 4 days 17 hours 6 minutes for the crossing.