Thursday, July 15, 2021



When on the morning of 7 April 1978 Pacific Far East Line's Mariposa (III) sailed into San Francisco to conclude her final voyage, more than just a fine ship was ringing off "Finished With Engines." It was truly The End of An Era, the last U.S.-flag passenger liner and ending one of the longest and most legendary of all trans-Pacific passenger operations, not only those of her owners, Pacific Far East Lines, but those of the former operators, Matson Line and  Oceanic Steamship Co., the latter beginning passenger services from San Francisco to Hawaii, the South Pacific islands, New Zealand and Australia  in 1885.  

If Mariposa and Monterey of 1956 represented the end, their predecessors Mariposa and Monterey of 1932 represented the acme, the apogee of American liners to the Antipodes.  Seldom in the history of steam navigation did a pair of sister ships so immediately dominate an entire route or better fulfill the ambitions of government encouragement of its merchant marine. Of all the splendid liners spawned by the Jones-White Act of 1928-- Mariposa, Monterey and Lurline-- were among the most impressive when introduced and went on to be the most successful and longest lived trio of passenger liners ever built, chalking up an astounding total of 163 years between them, Monterey finally succumbing in 2000 at the age of 68  after more than a half a century of active service.  

A longevity and legacy too fulsome to be contemplated let alone properly appreciated in a single monograph. So here, the focus will be Mariposa and Monterey's pre-war service on the U.S.-Antipodes route, wartime transport duty and aborted post-war rebuilding.  A story of liners in their prime during the 1930s halcyon heyday of ocean travel with its conflicting themes of success, slump and style;  valiant and varied war service and post-war limbo.  And the Stars and Stripes and United States Mail Flag proudly at the mastheads of the finest pair of sister ships ever to trade Beneath the Southern Cross.  

Enduring Icon (and the bridge is pretty impressive, too): U.S.M.S. Monterey whose 68 years afloat (of which 51 were in active service) with her original machinery will most likely never be exceeded by another large deep sea passenger vessel.  When new, she was the image of Yankee-built maritime modernity, mode and method.  Credit: Library of New South Wales. 

"The beauty of the Mariposa and the Monterey, together with their advanced contributions to comfort and convenience, become the peculiar attributes of their route. White visions upon the blue-green of the sea…"

Three years ago when we decided to build these ships, we had great faith in the future of trade between California and the Antipodes, and so did the United States Shipping Board and the Post Office Department, which have aided in their construction. Unless we had such confidence we certainly would not have begun such a comprehensive  program and we have just as much confidence that Australia and New Zealand will be first to lead the Pacific area out of the present economic depression. The Matson company is ready to put all its resources and effort to make this venture a success.

Edward D. Tenney, Chairman, Matson Navigation Co., 4 February 1932

It was an uniquely American beginning to the oldest of all U.S.-flag shipping companies-- a confluence of one of the most famous and successful magnates and empire builders, a German immigrant named Claus Spreckels, and an obscure Swedish immigrant seafarer, Capt.William Matson-- and of two shipping enterprises, both begun remarkably in the same year, 1882, which would link Hawaii, the islands of the South Pacific and the Antipodes with the boundless and buoyant America of the Gilded Age. 

One of America's great merchant adventurers, empire builders and developers… of communities, industry and commerce... Claus Spreckels (1828-1908) was the quintessential American success story.  In 1846, he emigrated from Germany to America, first New York City and then San Francisco and from running a grocery store to a brewery to resorts and sugar beet refineries. By 1876 he set his entrepreneur vigor to the Kingdom of Hawaii which had signed a Reciprocity Treaty with the United States the previous year, removing duty on sugar imports and opening up commerce between the two. In 1878 Spreckels founded Spreckelsville, a company town on Maui which became the largest sugarcane producer in the world.  
A Dynasty of Destiny: Claus Spreckels (1828-1908) (left) and his son John D. Spreckels (1853-1926).

Matching his father in  business acumen, the eldest of Claus Spreckels' five children, John D. Spreckels (1853-1926), started J.D. Spreckels & Bros. in 1880 which concerned itself with the refining, transport and distribution of Hawaiian sugar. With shipping services from Hawaii to California wholly inadequate, the Spreckels set their sights on starting their own line.  On 23 December 1881 the Oceanic Steamship Co. was incorporated in San Francisco with a capital stock of $2.5 mn.  and began regular San Francisco sailings with the chartered British steamer Suez in June 1882. 

There was business enough to share with a Capt. William Matson (1849-1917) who was a Swedish emigrant seafarer and captain of Spreckel's yacht Lurline.  The two established a friendship and Spreckels bought shares to  finance Matson's first vessel in 1882, the 195-ton schooner Emma Claudina, named after Spreckel's daughter, which made her first voyage under the Oceanic houseflag. in April.  Thereafter, Oceanic and Matson cooperated fully and came to dominate the island trade. 
Remarkably, Spreckel's new Oceanic Steamship Co. (left: first sailing advertised in San Francisco Examiner 1 June 1881 and Honolulu Pacific Commercial Advertiser 10 June 1881) and Capt. Matson's first ship's maiden voyage (right: Oakland Tribune 10 April 1881 and Evening Bulletin (Honolulu) 2 May 1881)  occurred with with a month or two of one another. 

Spreckels lost little time in ordering its own tonnage and in 1883  two new steamers, the 3,158 grt, 14-knot Alameda and Mariposa, were built by Wm. Cramp.  Far wider horizons beckoned when, in 1885 Pacific Mail Steamship Co. relinquished its Australian mail contract which Oceanic together with the Union Steamship Co. of New Zealand now shared, securing a three-year contract with both Australia and New Zealand for a four-weekly service from San Francisco, Honolulu, Pago Pago, Auckland and Sydney, effective in November.  Alameda and Mariposa were assigned to this and Oceania acquired Pacific Mail's Australia and Zealandia to replace them on the direct Honolulu run and they were uniquely registered in Hawaii. 

Proving the obverse of the "trade follows flag" imperial credo, Spreckels and other American business interests so wedded the fortunes of Hawaii to the United States that in wake of Spanish American war of 1898 that suddenly made America a Pacific power,   it was no surprise when Hawaii, too,  was annexed, becoming an  American Territory in 1900. It was beginning of a new American century in the Pacific: the Hawaiian-Mainland made a protected domestic sea route excluded to foreign tonnage,  ending Oceanic's partnership with Union Steamship Co. and  creating Matson Navigation Co. in 1901 with the acquisition of its first passenger steamer for the Hawaii-Mainland route. 

In a bold stroke even for the Spreckels, three new express liners-- the 17-knot, 6,000-ton Sierra, Sonoma and Ventura were ordered from Wm. Cramp and commissioned in 1900 for the San Francisco-Antipodes via Hawaii service. The trio quickly established themselves supreme on the route, Sierra setting a new San Francisco to Sydney record of 19 days 7 hours.  More than just dominating the North America-Antipodes run, Oceanic was now a major competitor on the  U.K. to Australia route, offering a London-Sydney journey via express Atlantic liner to New York and transcontinental railroad to San Francisco of 33 days versus 40 via Suez or the Cape. 

U.S.M.S. Ventura, after her 1912 rebuilding and resumption of the Oceanic service which she and her two sisters would maintain for another two decades.

The calamity of the San Francisco earthquake and fire in April 1906 followed by the financial Panic of 1907 rocked even the fortunes of the Spreckels who found it impossible to make up the losses on the post-fire disrupted Oceanic service without an increase in the mail subsidy which was not forthcoming. In the first of two such prolonged disruptions, the Antipodes service ended in 1907, the three ships laid up (Sierra, however, successfully running on the Hawaii run 1910-15) until 1912 when Congress renewed the mail contract under better terms and the trio refitted and converted to oil fuel, but running only to Australia  as The Sydney Short Line maintaining a 30-day London-Sydney journey time. Sierra, Sonoma and Ventura soldiered on for some three decades,  outliving more than a few efforts to replace them and sailing on while American-flag competition on other of the world's ocean highways all but disappeared.

American merchant marine policy foundered after the First World War, the wartime created U.S. Shipping Board's government funded output of an armada of wartime-built "standard" designs, most of which were not even completed until hostilities had ended, had little peacetime commercial utility amid a glut of tonnage, high tariffs and inflation dragging down global trade. 

Moreover,  the mail contracts left over from the 1891 Ocean Mail Act, were all due to expire and that in particular granted to Oceanic Steamship in 1912, set to end on 30 June 1922.   The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 did authorize the Post Office  to extend existing mail contracts and increase the per mile payment.  This was effected in 1922 with Oceanic securing the first of a series of two-year extensions paying $3 per ocean mile.  

There was a brief flurry of speculation that Oceanic might get from the U.S. Shipping Board  the former N.D.L.  Prinz Ethel Friedrich, which was seized in the First World War and operated as the transport U.S.S. De Kalb,  but  she went instead to United American Lines as Mount Clay

Profile of the proposed Oceanic S.S. pair for the Antipodes route c. 1923. They would have been the first American turbo-electric liners. 

The June 1923 issue of Pacific Marine Review reported that Oceanic Steamship Co. was "discussing plans for the construction of two new passenger steamers to operate in the San Francisco-Sydney mail and passenger service. It is reported that the vessels will be equipped with turbo-electric engines capable of developing speed of 18 knots. Accommodations for 220 First and 120 Second Class passengers will be provided."  A one-year extension of the main contract was signed and speculation continued that if the new ships were contracted, they would qualify for the higher $4 a mile rate.

Oceanic's plans for a pair of new 9,500-grt 18-knot turbo-electric liners to replace Sonoma and Ventura were serious enough to produce a complete set of plans published in the July 1923 issue of Pacific Marine Review. 

In the event, the pair were never ordered as the 1920 Merchant Marine Act lacked the commitment to new long-term mail contracts or low rate loans to facilitate newbuildings.  Instead, Oceanic repurchased the 24-year-old Sierra (which had operated as the Polish flag emigrant liner Gdansk since 1919) in December 1923 and after refitting, she rejoined her sisters on the Antipodes run.  That proved to be the final capital investment by the Spreckels organization in what remained a money losing proposition (to the tune of $3.5 mn. in losses) even in boom times.  It was not surprising when Oceanic Steamship Co. was put up for sale and on 21 April 1926 it was quickly purchased by Matson Navigation Co. for $1.5 mn.  Matson had the capital and the confidence that evolving new merchant marine legislation would finally enable meaningful renewal and expansion.
The longstanding relationship between Spreckels and Matson came to full fruition in 1926 when Matson acquired Oceanic Steamship Co. which it ran as a subsidiary as The Oceanic Steamship Co. but seemed, at first, to be content to include it as part of Matson Line as the center brochure above indicates. Credit: Huntington Museum.

So it was that Matson inherited the operations and the quarter of a century old Sierra, Sonoma, Ventura trio of what was now called The Oceanic Steamship Co. and run as a fully owned subsidiary.  While benefiting from Matson's enviable public relations, sales and agency operations, it was but a holding operation awaiting the passage of the most significant piece of Merchant Marine legislation to date: The Merchant Marine Act (or Jones-White Act after its two originators, Sen. Wesley L. Jones (Washington, Republican) and Sen. Wallace H. White (Maine, Republican) of 1928.  

The legislation increased the per mile payment of mail contracts which were let for a ten-year period on designated overseas routes and established a newbuilding fund of $250 mn. from which low interest loans up to three-quarters the cost of new ships were awarded on the proviso ships were built to  U.S. Navy specifications with potential wartime use in mind.  The Jones-White Act transformed the American passenger fleet and vastly increased its presence, power and prestige on the world's ocean routes. And no single American steamship company was better poised to take immediate advantage of the new order than Matson-Oceanic.  

In April 1928 Pacific Marine Review reported that Matson-Oceanic was planning three new combination passenger and freight liners, costing upwards of $5 mn. each, for the Antipodes run, carrying 350 First and 250 Second Class passengers and 7,000 tons of cargo.  "W.P. Roth said the construction program was contingent upon the passage by Congress of the White Bill.  To quote Mr. Roth these vessels will be built 'if the White Bill passes enabling the government to lend us money. Under the provisions of this bill, we would be granted a subsidy or given a mail contract to run not less than ten or more than twenty years.'"  The legislation, passed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 53 to 31 (ironically, far more Republicans voted against it than did Democrats), was signed into law by President Coolidge on 23 May. 

The United States Post Office on 19 October 1928 inked a new 10-year mail contract for route no. 24 San Francisco-Antipodes which obligated Matson-Oceanic place into service one new vessel within three years and a second within four. 
The U.S. Shipping Board approved on 17 October 1929 a loan of $11,780,000 ($5,850,000 for the first ship and $5,827,000 for the second) to Matson-Oceanic  to construct two new ships to replace Sierra, Sonoma and Ventura. With advance plans already well in hand and approved by the U.S. Navy,  no time was lost in contracting the new vessels. On the 25th the order was placed with Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp. at its Fore River, Quincy, Massachusetts yards. Their initial specifications were cited as being 20,000-25,000 grt, length of 620 ft. and service speed of 20 knots with accommodation for 620 First and 217 Tourist Class. As such, they were only slightly smaller than the new Dollar Line sister ships under construction at Newport News.

Early rigging plan and profile for the new Matson-Oceanic ships. Credit: Pacific Marine Review, December 1929. 

On 17 November 1928 Matson's Vice President A.C. Diericx announced: "The designs for the Matson Navigation Company's new Australian liners have been approved by the Navy Department and the United States Shipping Board. The vessels will rated in Class 2 under the Jones-White bill, and will be capable of a sustained sea speed of twenty knots. These liners will mark the first step of our company to revive the American merchant marine on the Pacific with Government aid under the new law."

First artists rendering of the new ships showing them in dark hulls. Credit: Honolulu Advertiser, 20 May 1931.

Assigned yard nos. 1440 and 1441, construction of the first hull commenced with an impressive and symbolic keel laying ceremony at 2:00 p.m. on 17 May 1930. Lt. Gov. Youngman of Massachusetts drove in the first rivet which was made of Swedish iron salvaged from U.S.S. Constitution during her recent rebuilding and restoration, and one of the four that were made and silver plated for the occasion, two others being used in the keels of her sisters  Present for the event were Rep. Wallace White, Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Marine and Fisheries and one of the co-authors of the Jones-White Act, and U.S. Postmaster Walter F. Brown.  The keel of the second ship, yard no. 1441, was laid down on the adjacent slipway at Fore River on 13 June.

The keel laying of the first of the Matson liners was "news" along all of their route as this photo in the Sydney Morning Herald of 9 July 1930 indicates. 

The Honolulu Star Bulletin of 20 May 1930 used this unusual rendering of the new Matson-Oceanic liner to report on her keel laying.  Note the different open promenades and the double-banked lifeboats. 

Events moved quickly and on 5 September 1930 Matson-Oceanic exercised an option for a third ship (yard no. 1447 which would be completed for the company's non-subsidised Hawaii run as a running mate for Malolo). by which time the keel of no. 1441 was laid on the adjacent slipway to no. 1440. Four days later it was announced that the first two ships would be named Mariposa and Monterey respectively, this following  Oceanic's practice of naming ships after California counties. Conversely, the name of the third ship, a true Matson liner, was revealed to be Lurline on 15 January 1931 and following its naming practice. 

One of four paintings of the new ship by Duncan Gleason completed in October 1930 still showing the ship in the seal brown hull. 

If the new ships names were an appreciative nod to Oceanic traditions,   the announcement by E.D. Tenney, Chairman of the Board, on 5 March 1931, during a visit to the Port of Wilmington that the first would be registered in Los Angeles rather than the customary San Francisco, was in recognition of the now Matson-owned Los Angeles Steamship Co.. "Tenney states that several officials of the Matson company shortly will recommend that the Mariposa be registered at this ports, intimating there is little likelihood the plan will miscarry. The action the veteran shipping man said, is a gesture of friendliness to this port and an indication the company means business here indefinitely and will lean heavily on Southern California business… Registration of the ship here will add notably to the port's prestige and boost the tonnage of ships making it a home port." (The Long Beach Sun, 6 March 1931).

On 4 May 1931 Matson announced that Mariposa would be launched on 18 July, christened by Mrs. Wallace Alexander, wife of the Matson Vice President.  Four days later the San Francisco Examiner predicted that Capt. Joseph H. Trask would be appointed her master, it being said it was "toss-up" between him and Capt. Berndtson, master of Malolo.  By coincidence, Capt. Trask arrived in Sydney on 30  April in command of Sierra, completing his 300th voyage on the San Francisco-Antipodes run.  

The addition of Los Angeles and Auckland to the Antopodes run  was confirmed on 18 May 1931 effective with Sonoma on 2 July from San Francisco. It marked the resumption of the original Auckland call that ended in 1907 while the Los Angeles stop reflected Matson's increasing commitment to the booming Southern California citrus trade as well as the connections already established with the acquisition of the Los Angeles Steamship Co. (LAASCo) that January which operated their own service to Hawaii from the port. 

It is significant that these huge new American flag vessels, like many others now building or contracted for, are pointed for service in the Pacific. Recent years have seen the development of new world currents  in foreign trade and travel indicating that the 'Pacific Era' is at hand. In American ships alone, upwards of $65,000,000 worth of new tonnage is building for this trade. 

San Francisco Examiner, 30 June 1931

On 29 June 1931 Matson-Oceanic set final plans for Mariposa's launching for 15 July, it being stated that "water from the picturesque landlocked harbor at Sydney, Antipodean terminus for the big liner will be used in the christening."  Prohibition, of course, not waived even for ocean liner christenings. The launch of Monterey was set for 10 October.  In consideration of the hull's size, the Fore River was closed to all shipping after 10:30 a.m. that day and it was estimated that the hull would throw a 14-foot wave on entry and would almost reach the Weymouth shore opposite until the checking chains held her, the hull being 631 ft. in length and the channel about 800 ft. wide. 

Mrs. Mary S. Alexander, wife of Matson Vice President Wallace M. Alexander, Godmother of Mariposa, Credit: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. 

What was then the largest passenger ship ever built in New England was christened Mariposa by Mrs. Mary S. Alexander  and sent down the ways before a crowd of several thousands at 1:30 p.m. on 15 July 1931. Among the dignitaries present were  W.G. Race, President of Bethlehem Steel Corp and Albert H. Denton, Shipping Board Commissioner.

Water from the harbor of Sydney, Australia, dashed against the towering white bow of the Matson Navigation Company's liner Mariposa this afternoon, and the largest ship ever constructed in a New England shipyard slid down the ways of the Fore River shipyards-- first of a trio of Matson superliners building at Fore River.

Shooting down the greased ways with increasing momentum, the ship sent a great wave rushing toward the Weymouth shore before the series of intricate stops checked her speed. She settled in the water without a hitch, amid the blare of whistles and the flare of music, while a large gathering of distinguished guests cheered.

Mrs. Wallace M. Alexander, wife of a Matson vice president, was the sponsor of the ship, and broke the bottle of Australian water on the hull as the signal for the release of the skids. W.P. Roth, president of the Matson Navigation Company, by her side on the decorated platform, gave the word that all was ready for the launching. Ernest Lee Jahncke, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, was one of the guests." 

Boston Globe, 18 July 1931

Mariposa roars down the ways at Fore River, the impressive array of checking chains in the foreground will be well employed to ensure the largest vessel yet built in New England doesn't reach the shores of Weymouth across the river. Credit: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. 

For over three centuries Massachusetts has played a prominent part in the building of ships. We may rightly refer to  this State as "Maritime Massachusetts".

On Oct. 21., 1797, there launched from the ways of Hart's Shipyard, in Boston, America's most famous naval vessel, the Constitution, popularly known as 'Old Ironsides".

We have just witnessed the launching of the Mariposa,  a new unit soon to be added to America's merchant marine. This ship has distinction of being the largest commercial vessel constructed in this historic maritime State.

"It is of considerable interest that the first rivet driven in this ship was taken from the original iron used in the construction of the Constitution."

It is through the constructive shipping legislation passed by the Seventieth Congress that ship owners in the United States are enabled to build such ships in American yards as the one launched today.

Not only shipbuilding but industry throughout the entire country has benefited in the building of  these new ships."

S.S. Sandberg, Commissioner of the U.S. Shipping Board

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin of 3 August 1931 used this splendid photo to report on the launch of Mariposa

Mariposa safely launched, in her native element and in charge of a bevy of tugs to shift her to the fitting out berth. Her place on the ways will be occupied within weeks by the keel of the third new Matson liner, Lurline. Credit: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. 

"The Tugs Take Hold" by Charles J.A. Wilson (1880-1965). 

Early into her fitting out, Mariposa's fore deck was used on 24 July 1931 as the background for the filming of a scene of "Rich Man's Folly" (Paramount) with George Bancroft. 

Having already established itself in the long cruise trade with Malolo's annual long Pacific trips since 1929, Matson announced on 25 September 1931 an equally ambitious delivery/maiden cruise for Mariposa, from New York on 16 January 1932 for San Francisco via Havana and Los Angeles (arr 29th) and  San Francisco on the 30th. On 1 February she would depart on a 30,000-mile, 19-port, 14-country cruise on a reverse itinerary to Malolo's third Pacific cruise which had just commenced, calling at Hawaii, South Sea islands, Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, Java, Malaya, Siam, Philippine Islands, China and Japan.  On 28 April she would make her first regular voyage from San Francisco to the Antipodes.  

Mariposa fitting out at Fore River. Credit: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 3 October 1931

Capt. J.H. Trask brought Sierra into San Francisco on 7 October 1931 for the last time, having joined the ship when she came new out of Cramp's shipyard 31 years previously, and, after a spell of leave, headed  east to assume command of  Mariposa

The keel of the third new Matson liner was laid down at Fore River on 3 October and seven days later the second, Monterey, was launched by Mrs. E. Faxon Bishop of Honolulu at 9:20 a.m. "Amid the cheers of more than 5,000  spectators the $8,000,000 steamer Monterey slid gracefully down the ways at the Fore River yards of Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation here today to join her sister ship, the Mariposa, on the high seas." (Los Angeles Times, 11 October 1931).  

Credit: Napa Journal, 23 October 1931.

Already one of the first American lines to really embrace modern publicity and advertising, and doubly important in attracting Depression diminished business, Matson-Oceanic placed six full pages of advertising for Mariposa's maiden cruise in the 24 October 1931 issue of the Saturday Evening Post.

The Fore River fitting out basin in November 1931: Monterey (left) and ready for her trials, Mariposa (right). Credit: Warren Parker photograph,

The completed Mariposa at Fore River. Credit: William B. Taylor photograph, Mariners Museum. 

On 8 November 1931, Mariposa's trials were set for the following month and all was proceeding exactly on schedule.  She left Quincy for the first time at 7:28 a.m. on the 23rd, commanded by Capt. Joseph I. Kemp (still being of course owned and manned by Bethlehem Shipbuilding) and sailed to South Boston where just before noon she was floated into the Commonwealth Dry Dock for cleaning and painting of her underwater hull prior to trials. 

One of a splendid series of photos by the Boston Herald's Leslie Jones of Mariposa in the Commonwealth Dry Dock, South Boston, in November 1931 for underwater hull cleaning and painting. Credit: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. 

Credit: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. 

Showing Los Angeles as her port of registry, a "first" for a Matson liner. She was then largest ship to be registered in the port. Monterey, however, was registered in San Francisco. Credit: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. 

Mariposa left dry dock on 26 November 1931 and the following morning sailed from South Boston at 8:00 a.m. for a shakedown run for her builders. Passing Deer Island Light at 8:35 a.m., she passed out into the Bay where, after working up, she returned that evening to Quincy for final adjustments and fitting out. Destined for more tests, Mariposa departed  the morning of 5 December for a series of runs in the Bay between Cape Ann and Cape Cod  after which she returned to Fore River. 

Picture Perfect: U.S.M.S. Mariposa berthed at Quincy, Massachusetts, November-December 1931. Credit: Warren S. Parker photograph,

On 9 December 1931, Mariposa left Fore River at 9:00 a.m. and "pushed her way up the coast in a blinding snowstorm today and was safely at anchor outside of Rockland breakwater early tonight." (Boston Globe, 10 December 1931).  Commanded by Bethlehem's Capt. Joseph I. Kemp,  she had aboard 150 experts and specialists to oversee every aspect of her machinery.  Matson Vice President Albert C. Dieriex was also aboard as was Charles D. Wetmore, who designed her interiors.  

Mariposa's official trials (or in U.S. Navy parlance, standardization trails) were run on the Navy's Rockland course on 10 December 1931. The results were relayed by wireless message by Vice President Dieriex to Matson President W.P. Roth, in San Francisco: 

Just finished highly satisfactory trials over naval course, Rockland, with clear weather and wind varying between 15 and 35 miles. Highest single run, 22:843 knots, with developed shaft horsepower of 28,270. Mean of three such runs, 22:274 knots with corresponding mean power of 28,320. Draft 25 feet six inches displacement. Results materially exceed contract requirement and your wishes have been fully met.

Mariposa, the Magnificent: running full speed trials off Rockland, Maine.  The clean entry of these ships' hulls at speed was sheer perfection. Credit: Auckland Daily News,  Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19320217-31-1 

Another view of Mariposa at full speed on trials. Credit: Pacific Marine Review.

Overnight, she ran her 12-hour economy trials returning to Quincy where she docked at 11:20 a.m. on 11 December 1931.  "The Mariposa was designed to meet typhoon weather in the South Pacific seas and she rode the North Atlantic waves with ease," reported the Boston Globe, whilst adding that "Having bettered her contract speed by fully two knots, the Matson liner Mariposa returned to Fore River yesterday from the Rockland, Me., course with brooms lashed to the mastheads."  Matson-Oceanic accepted delivery of its finest and largest vessel from her builders on the 14th. 

Mariposa at Fore River. Credit: Mariner's Museum.

Bidding farewell to the river of her birth, Mariposa left Fore River on the flood tide of the afternoon of 9 January 1932. "As the massive white steamship passed through the draw of the Fore River Bridge and turned slowly down the hairpin curve in the channel of the river she got a great sendoff from other steam craft at the yard and in the river."  (Boston Globe 9 January 1932).  As soon as she cleared Quincy, Capt. Kemp turned over command to Capt. Harry Trask and Mariposa headed south with 65 passengers, all invited guests. Leaving Boston at 10:00 a.m. on the following morning, she hit heavy weather, including a full gale but according to her skipper, "she rode the storm with little rolling and no vibration." On the 10th, Mariposa docked at Bush Terminal, Pier 2, South Brooklyn, to load cargo and then shifted to Pier 86 North River where she was opened to invited guests and later the general public for inspection from 13-15th. 

A new era of American supremacy of the South Pacific Ocean Highway was in the offing. 

Credit: Huntington Museum.

and Monterey-- new sovereigns of the Pacific, vested with every attribute of ocean royality! There is majesty in their poise, all white against the blue of sea and sky… a royal power in the their swift conquest of distance… a queenly gracious in the atmosphere which pervades them throughout. There nine decks in sizes… they accommodate over seven hundred passengers each… their speed is over twenty knots… they run the gamut of sumptuous living at sea. From the byway to a highway they are transforming the route between California and the Antipodes.  Ship life vibrant with the sorcery of the South Seas, yet keyed with perfect harmony to the luxury you always expect on liners like these. Patrician lounge… stateroom spaciously charming… outdoor swimming… talkie theaters… night club… shop… daily newspapers… every modern facility… and so much more. Tropic sunshine splashing with you in that pool… peacock-colored seas no movie can ever screen… night club gaiety catching its glitter from the Southern Cross!  No ocean can boast a finer crossing---  in ships, in route, in service.

New Sovereigns of the Pacific, Matson-Oceanic brochure, 1932.

Matson-Oceanic's MariposaMonterey and Lurline are, by any standard, the most successful trio of ocean liners ever built and as such, surely the greatest American passenger liners of all time. When new, they were the acme of modern liner design and construction, even more so when compared to their immediate predecessors SierraSonoma and Ventura; they were two generations apart and seldom did replacements be more different, indeed of another era and quality entirely.  Coming at the very end of that truly epic production of wonderful ships of the Jones-White Act of 1928, they capped a new era of American innovation and excellence in shipbuilding, marine engineering, decoration and indeed style.  Mariposa and Monterey literally swept the seas of competition and no two ships more dominated their route more quickly and  more definitively.  

New Sovereign of the Pacific: U.S.M.S. Mariposa on trials.  Credit: Matson Line photograph.

Bethlehem-Built Perfection: U.S.M.S Monterey at full speed on her trials cleaving the seas with the grace of a canoe and the power and presence of a cruiser.  And someone has the fuel mixture spot-on perfect, too, with nary a heat haze showing! Credit: Pacific Marine Review

No less impressive at anchor (Sydney Harbour on her maiden arrival), Monterey looking every inch the robust Tasman taming Yankee she was. Credit: National Library of Australia, Fairfax Collection.

One hundred sixty-three combined years afloat: several factors contributed to the Matson-Oceanic Trio's remarkable longevity.  Their size and speed were optimal for many routes and purposes, their construction and build was extremely robust ("overengineered and overbuilt" to naval specifications), their machinery was conventional, resisting turbo-electric alternatives that seldom stood the test of time or economics, their layout was essentially one-class with but one other, high quality "second class" enabling a straight forward arrangement in a very large superstructure while the good cargo capacity did not impact the passenger areas.  In service, they proved good seaboats and economic steamers and singularly free of defects or design flaws. And throughout their Matson careers, they were afforded the meticulous maintenance that was and remains a hallmark of the line.  Their quality too, was appreciated and cherished by succeeding generations of owners, officers, crews and passengers, furthering their legacy and longevity. 
Left: Matson President W.P. Roth and, right: Vice President A.C. Diericx

Electing not to return to William Francis Gibbs (designer of Malolo), Matson-Oceanic entrusted the design of the new ships to Bethlehem Shipbuilding's house architect Hugo P. Frear (1862-1955), John F. Metten, Marine Engineer, and their own Vice President, A.C. Diericx (1866-1942), an accomplished naval architect in his own right and designer of  Matsonia and Manoa of 1913.  

Under the provisions of the Jones-White Act, the design and specification of the new ships had to be vetted and approved by the U.S. Navy with potential wartime service in mind as a fast transport or auxiliary cruiser as had been Malolo.  This was reflected in the hull subdivision being to excess of the requirements of the 1929 Convention for Safety of Life at Sea, especially in regards to stability in a  damaged condition, steering gear entirely below the waterline and provision for gun mountings. With both the requirements of the U.S. Navy and those of Matson-Oceanic, their bunker capacity of 6,606 tons was sufficient for a round trip between San Francisco and New Zealand without refueling. 

Identical sister ships, their principle dimensions were 18,017  tons (gross American measurement), 26,141 tons (displacement,  10,580 (net),  632 ft. (length overall), 605 ft. (length b.p.) and 79.4 ft. (beam).

Of the ships' nine decks-- Bridge, Boat, A, B, C, D, E, F, G-- four were entirely for passengers.  The hull was divided into 13 main compartments by 12 watertight bulkheads.  E Deck was devoted to crew, dining rooms and galleys with passenger accommodation on D, C, B Decks with the main public rooms on A Deck. On Boat Deck was the bridge, officers quarters and mess rooms as well as the gymnasium and sauna, open promenades and an impressive deck tennis court atop the raised house of the main lounge amidships between the two funnels and another sports deck aft. 

...and the whole appearance of the ship is of dignity and neatness, with a very jaunty and live sheer and a curved stem suggestive of the modern cruiser yacht profile.

Pacific Marine Review, February 1932

"Yankee Built": if any ships could be described as reflecting their country of design and build, Mariposa and Monterey were quintessentially American in their broad shouldered, businesslike manner with a tremendous amount of freeboard, slab sided, beamy and full bodied underwater.  Yet, they were, at the same time, remarkably graceful, pleasingly profiled and handsome ships with probably the best transition between hull and superstructure of any passenger liner of their age. The appearance of speed and modernity was imparted by a novel and subtle refinement that they, in fact, introduced: the second funnel being slightly shorter than the first, imparting a "streamlined" effect oft credited to Normandie, but pioneered by the American trio three years earlier.  

Bathed in New Zealand sunlight, an immaculate Monterey shows her pleasing lines to advantage. Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 5-U12

A quartering stern aspect showing their high slab sides, substantial superstructure beautifully transitioned to the hull and the rakish low funnels, the second one diminished in height to impart a racy profile.  Credit: Library of New South Wales. 

Impressive bows with slightly raked knife-edge stem, very high freeboard and high slab sides with no tumblehome are characteristic features illustrated above.  

Smokestack Studies: showing the substantial cowled tops and the single chime steam whistle and Typhon siren. Credit: Johan Hagemeyer photographs,

The funnels themselves were of a short, beefy profile and like many American liners of the day  fitted with pronounced "Admiralty caps" which anticipated in appearance those fitted on the wartime "Liberty" ships and T-2 class tankers.  Their effectiveness in keeping smoke and smuts clear of the ship was somewhat suspect given that Mariposa was first delivered with her substantial engine room blower vents aft of the second funnel, aft king posts and mainmast painted buff which were repainted black after her first voyage! 

Mariposa in Boston's Commonwealth dry dock prior to her trials showing details of her superstructure, boats and funnels as well as her two full covered promenade decks, the lower one having sliding windows, on B Deck, the first accommodation deck. Credit: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. 

In service, Mariposa and Monterey proved ideal for their route, their high freeboard and flared bows making them remarkably dry ships in the oft-encountered headseas and rollers of the notorious Tasman although they could roll in the beam seas often encountered in those waters, but nothing like Malolo or "Marollo" as she infamously known. One quality of these ships was their astonishing clean entry at speed, no large and fast liners cleaved the seas with nary a ripple or foam as did Mariposa and Monterey.  They were also renown for the lack of vibration, shuddering and creaking at speed.  For insulation purposes, the whole of the hull in way of the accommodation was lined with cork slabs behind the panelling. 

The ship is built without the use of expansion joints, B deck being the strength deck amidships and C and D decks at the ends. To distribute properly the stresses at the forward end of the deck house, B deck is continued forward of the house for a considerable distance and the side plating is carried up to that deck, and special attention is given the continuity of structure between B and C decks. Aft, the erections end more gradually, and the strength is thus more easily transferred from B deck to C deck, and then to D deck, way aft. Over the greater part of the ship's length, the heavy side plating is carried up to B deck. 

Pacific Marine Review, February 1932

Finally, and most wonderfully, was their unmatched staunch Yankee-built qualities which ensured Monterey a place in the annals of large passenger liners with  an astonishing 68 years at sea with her completely original hull, machinery and boilers.  She and Mariposa remain enduring exemplars of American shipbuilding and define "Bethlehem Built" when that meant something.  

Their appearance was abetted by the new Matson-Oceanic colors, introduced in 1931, by Malolo, of all white hull,  blue sheer line, green boot topping and buff masts, funnels and exterior facings of the Boat Deck houses and forward well deck.  Originally, renderings of the ships showed them in the traditional seal brown hulls.  Then there was the question of... the "M"s.  This is the source of considerable confusion.  When Matson acquired Oceanic, Sierra, Sonoma and Ventura were given their funnel colors and big welded "M"s on their single funnels, but painted the same buff as the stack, and with black not blue upper band.  Yet, Mariposa made her delivery and maiden cruise  in full Matson livery.  By the time she returned to San Francisco, Matson had settled on a revised funnel color for Oceanic and Los Angeles Steamship Co. that was the same as their ships but sans "M"s.  Mariposa's were removed before she sailed, under the Oceanic S.S. Co. houseflag on her first regular mailship voyage to the Antipodes.  Monterey never had "M"s initially.  Both ships eventually had "M"s placed on their funnels in  August 1939 when Matson paid off the last of their original construction loan.

The forecastle showing the no. 2 hold.  Credit: Pacific Marine Review

The cargo capacity was substantial with a total deadweight of 5,000 tons (bale) and 850 tons (reefer) in six holds of 245,019 cu. ft., 34,629 cu. ft. reefer and 29,974 cu. ft. baggage and mail.  There were two holds forward with no. 2 hold hatch used as the First Class swimming pool tank and one hold aft which was similarly arranged to serve as the Cabin Class pool. These were worked on the foremast, four booms of 5-tons capacity each and one of 30-tons capacity; on the mainmast, two of 5-tons capacity each; on the forward end of the deck house two 5-ton booms; on the two kingposts aft, one 5-ton boom each. Additionally side ports were fore and aft for regular and reefer cargo.  

The wheelhouse.  Credit: Pacific Marine Review

The behavior of the Steamship Mariposa on her trials and on her maiden trip to New York leaves no doubt as to the comfort of the passengers; and an examination of the excellent results obtained on the measured mile trials held at Rockland, together with the consumption figures from the economy run, demonstrate that this vessel has established new high standards for efficiency among vessels of her size and type and justify very definitely the choice of hull form and type of propulsion. 

Pacific Marine Review, February 1932

Engine room control station. Credit: Pacific Marine Review.

Although the proposed pair of newbuildings for Oceanic c. 1923 would have been the first American turbo-electric liners and the propulsion was certainly readily embraced by many of the Jones-White Act ships (notably Morro Castle/Oriente and President Hoover/President Coolidge), it is telling that the last big express liners built under the Act-- Manhattan/Washington and Mariposa/Monterey/Lurline-- reverted to conventional geared turbine machinery. 

Fireroom. Credit: Pacific Marine Review.

Mariposa and Monterey were propelled by twin screws, each driven through single reduction gearing by a Bethlehem impulse-reaction type three-stage turbine. Steam was generated in twelve Babcock & Wilcox water-tube boilers with a working pressure of 375 psi and a total temperature of 640 degrees F.. and operating  under forced draft. The oil bunker capacity of 6,300 tons gave a steaming radius of 20,000 nautical miles. The normal sea speed of 20.5 knots was obtained from 20,000 shp and as true sister ships, there was little difference in their trial speeds and performance:
                                 Full speed trials average                          Full speed trials maximum  
Mariposa               22.274 knots 28,030 shp 131 revs.         22.843 knots 28,270 shp  132 revs.  
Monterey               22.26 knots 28,825 shp 132.3                 23.003 knots 28,900 shp 132.3 revs.

The machinery plant was extraordinary reliable in service and there was not a single case of a defect or delay in hard steaming on a long and exacting route that saw, in just 50 voyages, 750,000 miles logged. In the end, Monterey went on to log some three million miles or more in a half century of active service.

Turbo-generators. Credit: Pacific Marine Review.

The electrical generating plant consisted of four Westinghouse 500-horsepower geared turbo-generators generating 2,600 k/w and a total lighting load of 230 k/w.  This was an exceptionally powerful plant for its era and like the turbines and boilers, lasted the life of the vessels.  

Looking aft from the bridge.  Credit: Pacific Marine Review

The all-metal main lifeboats, carried on   Welin-McLachlan type gravity davits,  comprised two 26-ft. motor boats (10-person capacity); 14 30-ft. lifeboats (70 persons); and four 26-ft. lifeboats (40 persons). The four 26-foot boats were nested inside four 30-foot boats. In addition, two 20-ft. wooden working boats (18 persons) were carried aft at regular Welin hand-operated quadrant davits. The motor lifeboats had cabins and were equipped with radios.

Rigging Plan, Profile & General Arrangement Plans
credit: Pacific Marine Review

(LEFT CLICK on image to view full size scan)

Rigging Plan & Profile. 

Boat Deck.

Bridge Deck.

A Deck. 

B Deck.

C Deck.

D Deck.

E Deck.

F Deck.

G Deck.

Hold Deck.

Deck Plans
credit: Huntington Museum

(LEFT CLICK on image to view full size scan)

Sun Deck.

A Deck.

B Deck.

C Deck

D Deck.

E Deck.

American resort hotel at sea: Warren & Wetmore redefined American ocean liner decor with Mariposa and Monterey

Mariposa strikes a new note in architecture, color, and furnishings. The keynote of design is simplicity; and beauty is obtained without ornate and elaborate decorations. Heaviness of style has been carefully avoided; the opposite extreme is the rule. Furniture through-out the ship is light in appearance, and therefore cool in effect. Rattan and cane are much used, finished both naturally and in vivid contrasting colors. It is especially notable that heavy appearing hardwood is entirely eliminated from the decorations in the first class quarters, appearing only in the curly mahogany bar counter in the men's club room. Drapes and curtains are entirely omitted in the first class; carved wood grilles in soft tones are substituted for them at windows in public rooms. Mariposa is, in fact, the first passenger ship afloat which has not a single curtain or drapery in any first-class stateroom or public room, excepting the rather necessary stage curtain in the main lounge. The effect of the interior decoration as a whole has been so studied and developed that this omission is an appropriate and pleasant departure from the ordinary. 

Pacific Marine Review, February 1932

In the evolution of American liner interior decor, furnishing and architecture, the Matson-Oceanic trio were notable ships being just the second group of ships (after President Hoover and President Coolidge) to embrace contemporary decoration and going an important step further than the Dollar pair, by adopting new concepts and use of colors and materials to achieve the first "resort" themed passenger liners. It marked a complete break from Malolo's  rather stodgy ocean liner period interiors by Harry P. Etter. 

In entrusting the decoration of the new ships to Warren & Wetmore Architects, Whitney Warren (1864–1943) and Charles D. Wetmore (1866–1941), Matson-Oceanic in aiming for something new was doing so with familiar and trusted hands, the same firm having been responsible for its Royal Hawaiian Hotel (1927), the first resort hotel on Waikiki Beach and other resorts like The Boardmoor, countless hotels, Grand Central Station, New York's Chelsea Piers, etc. in a portfolio without equal in the hotel, resort, terminus and travel genre.  All the more remarkable that MariposaMonterey and Lurline were, in addition to extensive redecoration of Malolo/Matsonia, their only liner interiors. 

Whitney Warren (1864-1943).

The joiner work was done by Hopeman Bros. of Rochester, New York.  The design credo, as described by Pacific Marine Review, was "to produce furnishings of a style appropriate to the service in which the Mariposa is to be used. With service in the tropics in mind, the decorators selected soft, cool colors for the interiors; and the oriental and Chinese Chippendale effects are reminiscent of the South Seas and islands therein to which the ship is designed to sail."

Eschewing heavy drapery, dark woodwork and stuffy upholstery to suit tropical voyaging was not novel, and had already been accomplished with Union's S.S. Co.'s Niagara of 1913, but where Warren and Wetmore broke new ground was the use of colors-- soft greens, yellows, pale blues, soft silver grays and cool clean decking, most of which was rubber in complimentary colours, instead or carpets and rugs.  The circulating areas-- passageways, foyers and stairs, were bereft of mouldings and pilasters, the passageway bulkheads uniformly finished in pale French grey with decking in blue and light grey rubber.  Staterooms doors were finished in dull silver with pale blue frames and the foyers were in gray-green with complimentary flooring.   

The interior decoration and furnishing of Mariposa is without doubt a distinct departure from the conventional style of steamship decoration. Period rooms are entirely lacking, and heavy hardwood finish has given way to painted walls; and draperies and window curtains to wooden grills in the public rooms.

Pacific Marine Review, February 1932

Unique among all the Jones-White Act liners, the decor of the Matson-Oceanic sisters finally elevated and enlivened American passenger liner decor away from the Calvinist conventions of the 1920s.   

Accommodating 475 passengers, the First Class of these ships was, by any standard, the finest afloat when they were introduced, and indeed could retain that claim through the decade.  It occupied all or most of six decks.

Sun Deck featured, aft of the bridge and officers accommodation, a large gymnasium and "medicinal bath" on either side of the forward funnel casing.  Amidships was the raised flat roof of the main lounge atop which were two full sized tennis courts, then open deck space, engineers accommodation and aft a sports deck also arranged on the raised roof of the dance pavilion.  Around all of this was open promenade deck under the life boats. 

The principal First Class public rooms were on A Deck.  The  de luxe lanai suites were right forward and then the forward foyer. This and its amidships counterpart (between the lounge and smoking room) had ebony framed Chippendale style furniture with champagne-colored leather upholstery, console tables, mirrors and paintings. In Mariposa, one of the painting was by the well known marine artist M. Dawson depicting a brig in a heavy sea.  Each of the main stairways had a lift. 

First Class library. Credit: Huntington Museum.

First Class library. Credit: Huntington Museum.

The library-- port of departure for fascinating mental cruises. More than fifteen hundred volumes to meet the taste of every reader. In fine harmony with the spirit of the room are rare old prints of ships of every period… telling in their gallant lines the history of man's conquest of the sea.  

First Class library. Credit: Pacific Marine Review.

Flanking the forward funnel casing were the library (port) and writing room (starboard).   Panelled in knotty pine, including the ceiling, the library was in "early American style" with rare old prints of sailing ships along the inboard bulkhead and wood grills over the windows facing out to the promenade deck.  Deep armchairs in blue morocco were complemented by the deep blue rubber decking with thick carpet runner in the same hue down the center. The indirect lighting ran along the sides in the form of a cornice. Large floor to ceiling bookcases were found on each end. 

First Class writing room. Credit: Huntington Museum.

The writing room-- what letters there are to write between ports-- of days crowded with absorbing episodes.  If by chance your thoughts lag, there South Sea mural portraying the lands you visit to stir the muse again, and maps by which you can trace your voyage from beginning to end.

The writing room was one of the more striking rooms with its charts and murals of the Pacific Ocean and ports of calls along the ships' route with a soft ivory color used for the cornices and ceilings and desks in soft old yellow and upholstered fixed swivel seats in green, coral and silver brocade. Here, the window grills were in the Sheraton style. 

First Class lounge. Credit: Huntington Museum.

First Class lounge detail. Credit: Huntington Museum.

Expect an artistry that is original, yet suffused with subtle captivation when you enter the lounge of either the Mariposa or the Monterey. The exquisite color harmonies of a tropic dawn, breaking over a surf-washed island shore… cool blues and greens brightly touched with coral pink… is your first vivid impression of this exotically beautiful rendezvous. And then the intriguing detail… the ceiling an open sky… grilles and gay canopies at the windows… light softly flooding from beneath inverted bowls of Philippine kapa shell, mounted on columns whose odd design suggests the pillars of some strange temple. Park Lane keyed to tropic tempo!

First Class lounge. Credit: Pacific Marine Review.

Measuring 50 ft. square. and with 15 ft. ceilings, the main lounge was the decorative show piece, done in a "rather broad adoption of Chinese Chippendale" with floor to ceiling murals of "quaint oriental figures and foliage in the style of Pillement, painted in soft coral tones on a background grading smoothly from golden yellow at the bottom to deep turquoise blue at the top."  As with some of the other rooms, the windows were screened with carved wood grilles in antiqued gold leaf.  The windows and doors were capped with striking canopies of carved wood, in gold and turquoise, with valences of Philippine Kapa shell, a translucent sea shell which was also used, to dramatic effect in the four columns  in the room with the shell forming inverted flaring bells giving indirect lighting to the room in graded tints of yellow at the bottom to turquoise flue at the top.  The plain raised ceiling was painted flat white to enhance the indirect lighting.  Here, the furniture was almost entirely rattan framed with cushions in blue, green and gold while large Chinese style vases formed the bases for standing lamps with large silk shades and large potted cacti  were in each corner. 

First Class smoking room. Credit: Huntington Museum.

A dome for dignity, a fireplace for good fellowship and deep chairs for comfort… the smoking room…  ship's center of conviviality! The walls of silver grey chestnut, laid out in checkerboard panelling, remind you of your club at home, but murals of strange and vividly colored ocean life bring you quickly back to your nomadic state of South Sea voyaging. An ideal setting for a smoke and a chat… a rubber of bridge… or an hour of listening to radio broadcasts coming in from far-away shores. Just off the smoking room is the Men's Club, a retreat that is politely but firmly immune from feminine intrusion… where masculine pursuits alone hold sway. 

First Class smoking room. Credit: Pacific Marine Review.

The large smoking room, arranged in the classic inverted H shape around the second funnel casing and the engine hatch, featured a central area with a well in the ceiling decorated with panels of "underwater sea life in misty tones, somewhat in the Japanese style" while throughout the room was wainscotted in gray stained chestnut and a shallow beamed ceiling also in chestnut. The furniture was framed in grey oak with blue leather upholstery or cane.  Rare prints of old English hunting scenes decorated the walls.  Aft and on the starboardside was the men's club room, "a sanctum sanctorum for men only" which panelled in Oregon cedar and an impressive bar with an illuminated panel behind "showing Neptune and a mermaid drinking toasts to each other, while angel fish, seahorses, and a sea serpent look on."

First Class dance pavilion. Credit: Huntington Museum.

The dance pavilion undergoes a transformation every day. During the morning and afternoon it is an inviting garden with all the debonair charm of a Riviera outdoor café. Lattice of Chinese lacquer zig-zags gaily across walls of ashlar, like the bright streamers  of a streamer of a carnival. Palm-shaded corners, with the tables and chairs-- the bar is nearly-- make perfect haunts for ocean-going boulevardiers. With night comes the transformation. Spotlight in revolving reflectors shed a spray of vari-colored lights on the gleaming dance floor. A bit of Bohemia… ringing with music and laughter… a scintillating night club for Broadway evenings at sea. 

First Class dance pavilion. Credit: Huntington Museum.

First Class dance pavilion. Credit: Pacific Marine Review.

Certainly the most innovative room was the dance pavilion aft which was a large space with direct sea views on three sides and aimed to combine the functions of a veranda café during the day and a night club.  The bulkheads were of a pale green material giving the appearance of stone or marble and overlaid with wooden lattice works, trimmed in green, gold and Chinese red.  Live palm trees were a feature as was the large central maple dance floor with its revolving mirror sphere overhead, surrounded by small tables.  French windows facing over the stern could be opened to form a quiet veranda in fine weather. 

First Class dining saloon. Credit: Huntington Museum.

Bold in its departure from conventional decoration, yet splendid in its artistry, the dining salon delights the connoisseur quite as keenly as its cuisine delight the epicure.  Pearly light filtered through windows of delicate shell illumines a hall nobles proportions.  Murals by Paul Arndt lead the eye to the dome in which the artist has achieved a brilliant climax. Here spreads a gorgeous panorama-- clouds filmy with sunshine… gallant old ships riding to distance coral isles. In magical contrast to these ancient clippers, the Mariposa and Monterey both provide ultra modern 'air conditioning' to keep the atmosphere pleasantly tempered throughout the voyage.

First Class dining saloon. Credit: Huntington Museum.

First Class dining saloon. Credit: Pacific Marine Review.

The dining saloon was pacesetting, being windowless, and fully air-conditioned (only the second such example at sea, Lloyd Triestino's Victoria being the first).  It was finished in dull silver with green mouldings with the central well decorated with marine paintings. Lighting was indirect in the central portion and the chairs were aluminium framed, anodized in a dull green with plain upholstery of the same hue. 

Spaciousness is one of your first impressions of these two palatial liners, gained as you cross the gangplank and enter the foyer in which is located the Purser's office. Here you may have frequent occasion to 'rub elbows' with your fellow passengers, but genial choice, not from necessity. For it suggests the lobby of a metropolitan hotel in its generous proportions. In the smooth movement of electric elevators between decks, one find the character of these great ships… the ease and grace with which they accelerate a flow of suave and glowing ship life. 

First Class main foyer and pursers office on E Deck. Credit: Huntington Museum.

The smoothest of ocean routes, under the fairest of skies-- here is a voyage that is supremely felicitous for outdoor life at sea. And the Mariposa and Monterey make the most of their golden opportunity. They provide more promenade deck area per passengers that many other ships. They have outdoor swimming plunges, a regulation tennis court, courses for deck golf, and broad areas for deck tennis, quoits, shuffleboard and ping-pong-- with a playground for children. For those watching their waist-line, there are a fully equipped gymnasium, electric baths and masseurs. 

First Class B Deck promenade. Credit: Huntington Museum.

Inspired by the warm weather, outdoors life that characterized the South Seas/Antipodes route, the open deck, promenade and sports decks facilities were exceptional. In all, a remarkable 71 sq. ft. of promenade and recreational space was afforded each passenger (First and Cabin). In addition to the aforementioned topside sports decks, there was a broad covered promenade, with high deckheads, on either side of the A Deck public rooms and a walk-around promenade, with opening windows, on B Deck. All cabins on this deck had full windows as well. 

Livability-- which is comfort, convenience and charm all combined-- sums up in on word staterooms on the Mariposa and the Monterey. Spacious enough for a foursome of bridge, they are modern home luxury gone to sea. Beds on which sea-born slumber comes like a gift from the gods… dressing tables liberally supplied with drawers… full length mirrors… private toilet… running water, hot and cold… every room with telephone and nearly all with private or connecting shower or bath. An ultra-modern ventilation system changes the air completely in a few minutes. 

Space has been so liberally devoted to comfort in the de luxe suites on the Mariposa and Monterey that they suggest exclusive elegantly furnished apartments in which personal routine is delightfully unrestricted, and one may entertain at dinner or card with every appointment at hand and space to spare! Suites consist of living room, bedrooms with bath, entrance lobby and trunk room. A distinctive feature of these ships is the 'lanai' suites-- the lanai or verandad being a secluded, glass-enclosed private lounging deck, looking out upon the sea. The joy of ship life centers in the intimate, gracious charm of these luxurious 'ocean apartments.'

Unique arrangement of the shared bathroom between groups of four First Class cabins on D Deck; all cabins having private toilet and washbasins with hot and cold running water.  

The First Class accommodation was, in a word, exceptional and not bettered by any liner of the era. Every cabin had a private toilet, most also having  a private bath or shower, or a bath for the use of either of two adjoining rooms. The cabins on D deck situated a shared bath to every four cabins, accessed from the short passageway accessing the four rooms so that the facilities were of a semi-private nature and there was none of the traditional "down the hall in the bathrobe" liner ritual. The cabins all had full beds only for one or two persons, and no upper berths. Accommodating 475 passengers, the 250 cabins comprised 41 single-bed and 209 twin-bed cabins of which 153 had private bath or shower, 177 were outside and 73 inside.  In addition, there were four deluxe suites and, most famously, eight private "lanai" or veranda staterooms. There was an extensive choice of stateroom combinations of two to four cabins to accommodate large families or parties.  The beds were steel framed, in imitation of bamboo, with Simmons "Beautyrest" mattresses.  All cabins had a folding card table, large full length wardrobes, dressers with vanity mirrors, hot and cold running water, telephone and 115-volt electrical outlet for curling irons.  Wicker armchairs were also provided. 

A typical outside twin-bedded First Class stateroom. Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum.

A larger outside twin-bedded stateroom. Note the bamboo effect steel bedsteads, wicker furniture and the elaborate fitted dresser.  And shutters and no curtains for the portholes. Credit: Huntington Museum.
Layout of the unique eight deluxe private lanai suites forward on A (Promenade) Deck. Note the small inside cabins for servants or children inboard. 

Bedroom of one of the splendid private lanai cabins. Note the window cranks to open or close the windows onto the lanai which had its own floor to ceiling folding open windows to the sea. Credit: Huntington Museum.

The lanai showing the quad-folding full length French windows open directly onto the sea. Credit: Pacific Marine Review

One of the four deluxe full suites. Credit: Huntington Museum. 

Sitting room of one of the deluxe suites. Credit: Huntington Museum.

The staterooms were finished in a cool grayish green, with touches of bright coloring in the rattan chairs and the shades for the bed and dresser lights. The specially designed dressers are painted green to harmonize with the walls and were decorated by "dainty painted garlands of small flowers.  The furnishing of the four special suites de luxe was mostly of the Chinese Chippendale style. 

If still  traditionally situated aft, the Cabin Class for 222 was an entirely new rethink on "Second Class" and the finest of its kind in accommodation, deck space, public rooms and decoration.   Among the amenities was an outdoor pool built in the hatch cover of the no. 3 aft hold on B Deck with ample surrounding open deck space extending almost to the stern.  The principal public rooms--  lounge, smoking room with bar and veranda-- were aft on C Deck whilst the pursers office, barber and hairdressers was on D Deck and the dining saloon was on E Deck.  The accommodation was aft on D and  E Decks. 

The decor of the Cabin Class public rooms was of entirely different character, however, than that in First, being traditionally styled with hardwood panelling or painted surfaces with conventional lighting, drapery and colors  more suited to the relative scale of the rooms and, in its own way, as pleasant and tasteful. 

In the cabin-class accommodations, the staterooms, foyers and corridors are decorated in a manner very similar to corresponding first-class spaces. The walls and furniture are painted similarly to walls and furniture of the first-class; and here also, coolness, comfort, and simplicity are the keynotes of the decorative schemes.

In the cabin-class, the style of decoration is more conventional, but wicker and light appearing furniture is still retained to a large extent, and the upholstery provided the bright color necessary to relieve the plain paint generally used on the walls. Gay tapestry curtains are used in the windows here. The paint on the walls in staterooms and public spaces is generally ivory and dull green. Fancy decorations are omitted in favor of refined simplicity. 

Cabin Class lounge. Credit: Huntington Museum.

Cabin Class lounge. Credit: Huntington Museum.

Cabin Class lounge. Credit: Pacific Marine Review.

Cabin Class smoking room. Credit: Huntington Museum. 

Artistically panelled in antique oak from floor to ceiling, its central feature is a finely conceived fireplace, surmounted by a mantel of Old English design, the Cabin Class smoking room suggest the charm and beauty of the English manor. Settees and lounge chairs are attractively arranged around the fireplace, with an inviting suggestion of convivial enjoyment. The striking black and gold floor covering sets off to excellent advantage the interestingly designed chairs and tables. In the smoking room there is a novelty shop, and in near proximity, the Cabin Class veranda.

Cabin Class smoking room. Credit: Pacific Marine Review

Traditionally panelled in dark oak with chairs both upholstered in fabric, leather and some with wicker backs and fitted with an electric fireplace, the smoking room struck all the masculine clubby notes. 

Cabin Class dining room. Credit: Pacific Marine Review.

The Cabin Class dining salon is another triumph in investing a room with distinctive beauty and charm. From the soft lacquered panels, the spritely figured overhangings on the windows and the gay buff and slate motifs on the floor covering, comes an impression of ease, well being and contentment, made a substantial reality by the excellent of the Oceanic cuisine. With exquisite public rooms, with talking pictures, daily newspaper, radio, dancing, outdoor swimming plunge and ample deck area for sports, Cabin Class passengers enjoy every facility for comfort and diversion. 

Cabin Class dining room. Credit Huntington Museum. 

The dining saloon was finished in dull green with brightly colored curtains at the portholes and checkerboard rubber decking in complimentary shades. The chairs were identical to those in the First Class saloon.

Cabin Class stateroom. Credit: Huntington Museum. 

In its close approximation to First Class facilities Cabin Class on the Mariposa and the Monterey sets a new standard in trans-Pacific travel. This is abundantly manifest in the staterooms. There is the came conception of spaciousness, the same regard for convenience and the provision for ventilation. All Cabin Class staterooms are equipped with individual beds, dressing table, capacious wardrobes, thermos bottles, running water, hot and cold, individual telephone… facilities that assure the utmost comfort combined with the advantage of travel economy. 

Cabin Class three-berth stateroom. Huntington Museum. 

If the First Class accommodation was the acme of ship living, Cabin Class was a revelation, indeed it was in many cases superior to First Class in Aorangi. In the essentials-- telephone, elaborate bureaus, wardrobes, hot and cold running water, lighting and furnishings-- the cabins were indeed comparable to those for First Class. The principal difference being the provision of upper berths and even these were of a novel design, being folding with a double hinged arrangement that could be stored in a ceiling-mounted box, allowing almost full headroom over the beds and not giving the appearance of folding upper berths. Of the 70 Cabin Class cabins, there were five two-berth, 36 three-berth and 29 four-berth with 15 with the "Bibby" arrangement with porthole, 35 outside and 20 inside.

The 359 officers and crew: deck department 46, engine department 46, steward's department 240, purser's department 12, medical department 3 and watchman 12.

In accommodation, public rooms and deck space, decor and appointments, speed and style, Mariposa and Monterey were indeed the Sovereigns of the Pacific.  Now, they embarked on a nine-year reign Beneath the Southern Cross during which they nailed the Stars & Stripes and the Oceanic houseflag to the highest masthead on the ocean highway to the South Seas. 

U.S.M.S. Monterey entering Sydney Harbour, photographed from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Credit: Library of New South Wales. 

And now for a moment of easy chair reflection glowing in your mind of those two giant super-liners, the Mariposa and the Monterey coursing though gold-tinted vistas of the South Seas.

They are enacting one of the miracles of modern ocean transportation-- drawing continents closer together by days-- opening new avenues gleaming with fresh interest. Swift transport to the singing isles of Hawaii… to the coral-fringed loveliness of tropical Samoa… to the weird haunts of the barbaric in exotic Fiji. Then on to new sights and new charms of the wonderlands of New Zealand and Australia. 

Matson-Oceanic brochure, 1937

Halcyon Heyday: it would be difficult to conceive of another long distance ocean trade route more transformed-- more utterly or as suddenly-- than that from the United States to the Antipodes in the first half of 1932.  American ambitions to show or place in the field of ocean competition were, there and then, rewarded with a dominance scarcely dreamt of, let alone so triumphantly realized.  Even more so, achieved amid the very worst of a now global economic and trade depression. Cut short by the war, it was nevertheless a nine-year dominance like none other by an American line and ships and one that perfectly and pleasingly coincided with a true heyday of ocean travel.  For a pair of ships that endured for decades, those first nine years were doubtless their best.


Beginning a career that came to be associated with passing through the Golden Gate, departures to the strains of the Royal Hawaiian Band in the shadow of the Aloha Tower and under Sydney's new and epic Harbour Bridge,  U.S.M.S. Mariposa instead cast off from a chilly and cloudy Manhattan on suitably impressive delivery voyage/cruise that would not only introduce her to regular route ports but circle the North Pacific before winding up at her homeport of San Francisco whereupon she took up her Oceanic mail route duties. 

Mariposa sails from Pier 86 North River on her maiden voyage to Los Angeles and San Francisco, 16 January 1932. Note the awning over her forward swimming pool. Credit: Mariners Museum

Mariposa's delivery voyage was sold both as a trans-Canal New York-Los Angeles-San Francisco voyage carrying First and Cabin Class passengers or as part of her "Coronation Cruise" around the Pacific and Orient from San Francisco which was First Class only. Sailing from New York on 16 January, 1932, Mariposa called at Havana on the 19th (sailing at midnight), arrived Cristobal 22nd, transited the Panama Canal, leaving Balboa at midnight on the 22nd, stopped at Los Angeles on the 29th  (8:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.) and docked at San Francisco at 11:00 a.m. the following day. 

Mariposa sailing down the North River, California-bound. Credit: Mystic Seaport Museum, Rosenfeld Collection.

Mariposa passing the lower Manhattan skyline. Credit: Pacific Marine News

In a true Jones-White triumphal moment, Mariposa cleared New York on 16 January 1932 with 300 passengers (including Matson President W.P. Roth) just as Dollar Line's new President Coolidge returned to the port to conclude her own maiden voyage. Mariposa made quick work of her trip to the West Coast and on the 28th was reported to have been averaging just under 20 knots north of the canal and did the 2,913 miles from Balboa to Los Angeles in 6 days 9 hours. 

Mariposa's triumphant arrival at Los Angeles (Wilmington), her port of registry. Credit: Mariners Museum

Her arrival at Wilmington, Port of Los Angeles, her port of registry, at 6:00 a.m. on 29 January 1932 occasioned considerable interest and press coverage, the Long Beach Sun reporting that "shipping men here agreed that the  Mariposa was the finest looking ship they had ever seen enter this port."  Mariposa docked at the LASSCo Pier 157 Wilmington at 8:30 a.m., but her visit was fleeting and she was off at 4:00 p.m. bound for the Golden Gate.

Credit: Illustrated Daily News, 30 January 1932.

Registry notwithstanding, the newest Matson-Oceanic liner was always San Francisco's own, her true homeport and given a memorable reception there on arrival on the 30th:

Undaunted by leaden skies and the drip of rain, San Francisco extended a joyeous welcome yesterday to an $8,000,000 addition to her merchant marine.  The new Matson liner Mariposa steamed into port at 11 a.m. on her maiden voyage from the East coast, ready to start regular runs to the Orient and the South Seas. Met at the Golden State by airplanes overhead and a fleet of small craft in the bay, the speedy vessel, to the accompaniment of whistles and sirens, outdistanced her convoy to her berth where State and city officials joined in welcoming officers and crew.  There Captain Joseph H. Trask, commodore of the Matson fleet and skipper of its new  flagship, received the welcoming committee, preceded by the Municipal Band.

San Francisco Examiner, 31 January 1932

Credit: San Francisco Examiner, 30 January 1932. 

The Mariposa was  given a rousing reception  upon its arrival in the bay from the south, Saturday morning. While yet far out to sea airplanes began flying over the craft and dropping great bunches of purple heather onto the decks. At the Golden Gate gaily decorated launches and power boats formed into parade lines and escorted the new white hulled beauty of the seas to the Matson dock. The parade down the bay was a genuine progress of acclamation for at every pier freighters and passenger liners opened their sirens and whistles to full blast in a throaty welcome. At the Matson docks thousands of people crowded in to aid to the reception.
Oakland Tribune, 1 February 1932

The brochure cover art for Mariposa's South Seas & Oriental Cruise. Credit: Huntington Museum,

The route of the cruise had Mariposa first visit what would be her regular service ports in the South Pacific and Antipodes. Credit: Huntington Museum.

On 2 February 1932 Mariposa sailed  from San Francisco (and from Los Angeles on the 3rd) on her South Seas & Oriental Cruise. "She was cheered on her way by a crowd that packed the Lassco piers, while the sirens and whistles of ships in port shrieked a bon voyage that was even more colorful than the welcome she received upon arrival from New York last week." (Los Angeles Times, 4 February 1932). In addition to her master, Capt. Trask, there were three other Matson captains aboard: Capt. William A. Meyer, former  master of Ventura,  as Staff Captain, and Capt. C.A. Berndtson, former captain of Malolo, as guest pilot. Capt. James Rasmussen, Honolulu port captain for Matson, also aboard. Chief Engineer C.J. Knudsen was formerly on Ventura, J.M. Ford, Jr., formerly of Malolo, was Chief Purser. 
The first of the many celebrity thronged passenger lists Mariposa would feature included Robert Friml (composer of the light opera "Rose Marie," Miss Betty Carstairs, powerboat speed champion and cartoonist Robert "Believe it or Not" Ripley. Credit: New Zealand Herald

Among the passengers aboard were Matson President W.P. Roth (as far as Honolulu),  Matson Chairman of the Board Edward D. Tenney and daughter, Mrs Roth and daughters Lurline and Bernice, Matson Vice President Wallace Alexander and Mrs. Alexander., cartoonist Robert L. Ripley, powerboat racing champion Marion Barbara "Joe" Carstairs and composer Robert Friml. 

Mariposa ready to sail from Los Angeles on her "Coronation Cruise" to the South Pacific and Orient. Credit: Los Angeles Times, 4 February 1932.

This reversed the order of ports recently visited by Malolo on her third such cruise to introduce the new ship to her regular calls in the Antipodes first as well as give better weather for the Northern Pacific ports later in the voyage, coinciding with cherry blossom season in Japan.  Limited to 550 in First Class and "in the Grand Manner of Matson," the superb itinerary called at Honolulu, Pago Pago, Suva, Auckland, Sydney, Port Moresby, Thursday Island, Macassar, Batavia, Singapore, Bangkok, Manila, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Chingwangtao, Miyajima, Kobe, Yokohama, Honolulu and Hilo before returning to San Francisco on 28 April 1932 after steaming 29,491 miles. 

Credit: Honolulu Advertiser, 8 February 1932. 

The Honolulu newspapers went "all out" to welcome Mariposa and her passengers on her maiden call. Credit: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 8 February 1932. 

Honolulu, of course, afforded the new ship a memorable reception when she arrived on 8 February 1932:  "The vessel was met off port at daylight by a committee from the chamber of commerce together with a group of lei  girls who decorated the passengers with flower leis. The Royal Hawaiian Band also went off port and serenaded the big ship as she came into port. As the Mariposa neared Pier 2, hundreds of automobiles lining the pier front honked their welcome while craft in the harbor large and small tied down their whistles. Above all the din could be heard the shrill blast of the siren on the Aloha Tower." (Honolulu Advertiser, 9 February 1932).  She had 506 passengers aboard, 200 landing at Honolulu and another 50 embarking.  A luncheon reception was held aboard  for local steamship men and business leaders.

It was atypically cloudy in Honolulu for the maiden arrival there. Credit: Mariners Museum

Mariposa sailed at midnight 9 February for Pago Pago and Suva.  "Mariposa arrives at Suva, Fiji "aroused enthusiasm of natives here today when the giant  Matson ship pulled into dock here. A military and native band, accompanied by Fijian girl singers serenaded the passengers as they came ashore. Native dances and other receptions were included in the welcome of the British governor." (Fresno Bee, 18 February 1932).

Mariposa at Pago Pago. Credit: U.S. Library of Congress.

Capt. Joseph Trask of Mariposa figured in that week's "Ripley's Believe it Or Not" cartoon strip, penned by Robert Ripley who was aboard for her maiden voyage. Trask's 158 round voyages between San Francisco, totaling 2,325,760 miles, competed for attention with the "The Tailed Claim", the Maltese Cat who was the mother to 168 kittens and the armless football player.   Credit: Honolulu Star Bulletin, 17 February 1932. 

And raining in Auckland.. Credit: Auckland Star, 23 February 1932

Like a ship out of a story-book she came—the Mariposa, newest unit of the Matson fleet. Even through an unkindly rainstorm she appeared as a thing of dazzling whiteness, her huge hull and towering upper-works glistening with fresh paint. From each of her two lowset funnels trailed the finest wisp of smoke, and from her raking masts fluttered long strings of bunting. Above her cruiser stern flew the Stars and Stripes. Her smoothly-running engines made it seem as if the ship was softly talking to herself as she steamed up harbour, her sharp bow, with just the suggestion of a "are about them, giving birth to thousand upon thousand of long ripples that stretched away on either side to lap the distant shores. And then, when abreast of the long Stanley Bay wharf, the Mariposa, hailed by her owners as the Queen of the Pacific, lowered a brand-new anchor to the bed of the Waitemata. 

It was in no way an ideal morning for the white giantess first to display her splendour in Auckland. She rode to her anchor on a sullen tide, and glowering rain clouds emptied their contents from above. But even in this dismal setting the Mariposa, dressed from boat deck to waterlina in shimmering white, looked a typical cruise ship, a ship of the tropics. Hurrying ferries that heeled perceptibly as their passengers crowded to one side appeared almost out of place. One pictured the Mariposa basking in a sun-drenched harbour, with Island canoes clustered about her and native huts nestling among vivid green palms on shore. It was the ship's great whiteness that made one's imagination whisk her back to the Islands whence she had come. 

Auckland Star, 20 February 1932

Even if greeted by heavy rain, Mariposa's arrival at Auckland the morning of 20 February 1932 created a sensation and crowds were on hand to see her dock at the Central Wharf, aided by the tug Te Awhina, the sightseers remaining throughout her two-day stay.  Those fortunate enough to get passes to inspect the vessel were captivated and all agreed nothing quite like her had been seen in the port.  

Mariposa berthed at Auckland. Credit: Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Auckland could scarcely have failed to be captivated by the efficiency and elegance of the Mariposa, first of three new Matson liners engaged in the trans-Pacific service, which arrived at Auckland shortly after 6 a.m. on Saturday… This admiration was won deservedly by the Mariposa, which contributes so much that is new to the Dominion's store of shipping knowledge… at night the Mariposa gave Auckland's waterfront a newer appeal. The liner's bulk was a dusky whiteness of indeterminate limits, broken by chains of lights. The floodlighting of the two funnels completed the picture. There was, in Auckland's mind, a conviction that the Mariposa, the Monterey and the Lurline will form a stately and famous trio"  

New Zealand Herald, 22 February 1932

Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19320224-34-1 Auckland Weekly News 24 February 1932

Arriving at Auckland with 356 passengers, Mariposa added an additional 65 First Class and 53 Cabin Class passengers for the trans-Tasman crossing which began 22 February 1932. "The interest that was taken in the vessel when she arrived on Saturday morning was maintained and, in addition to a large crowd which was on the wharf to see her leave, residents near the waterfront were astir to catch a glimpse as the liner, bathed in sunshine, headed for the open sea." (New Zealand Herald, 23 February 1932).

Mariposa sails from Auckland the morning of 22  February 1932 "bathed in sunshine, headed for the open sea."  Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19371215-54-4  Auckland Weekly News.

Memorable Morning: the two newest Australian liners, Strathnaver (left) and Mariposa meet in Watson's Bay in brilliant early morning sunshine. Credit: National Library of Australia, Fairfax Collection.  

Mariposa's arrival at Sydney on 25 February 1932 was especially memorable, coming through the Heads at 5:00 a.m. as a truly glorious morning dawned, and joined in arrival by the brand new P&O liner Strathnaver on her second voyage as well as Union S.S. Co.'s Aorangi

Both majestic vessels arrived to-day in the purple mist of the early morning, which later became bright, sunny, and exhilarating, affording passengers and tourists a unique opportunity of seeing the harbour and Sydney at its best.
Manawatu Standard, 26 February 1932

The picture was unique for Sydney. The sun by this time lighted the ships with dazzling splendour. Sydney welcomed the Mariposa with its most beautiful weather, and not less fitting was the welcome given by other craft on the harbour as the new 19,000-ton vessel, the largest to trade to Sydney across the Pacific, came up harbour. Sirens shrieked and people on the ferries and foreshores showed keen interest.
Sydney Morning Herald, 26 February 1932

Mariposa coming into East Circular Quay with the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the port's new icon, on the left. Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum.

Mariposa arriving at Sydney with Strathnaver already alongside at West Circular Quay. Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum. 

With 448 passengers aboard, including 240 full cruise passengers, Mariposa docked at No. 2 wharf, East Circular Quay.  Her passengers were soon the toast of the town, a group of them on a city tour later that day being greeted at the City Hall by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress whilst the local papers were filled with photos of the ships and her celebrity passengers.  That evening Capt. J.H. Trask was feted at the Wentworth Hotel by 100 friends and associates of the port in honor of his retirement at the end of the voyage, it being noted he had completed 158 round voyages to Sydney from America during his long career.  The following day, the ship hosted a luncheon aboard for local dignitaries, including the Lord Mayor, and businessmen. On the 27th, a group of passengers led by former Hawaii Governor, Mr. George H. Carter, placed a wreath on behalf of Mariposa's passengers at the Cenotaph in Sydney.

Mariposa alongside East Circular Quay, Sydney. Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum.

When Strathnaver sailed and vacated the West Circular Quay, Mariposa was shifted across to that as shown above. Credit: State Library of New South Wales.

On 9 March 1932 Mariposa docked at Tangjong Priok in Batavia and caused a sensation among the 700 specially invited visitors during her stay. The planned call at Shanghai had to be cancelled owing to Japanese bombing of the city and Mariposa stayed instead for four days at Hong Kong where she arrived on the 24th by which time there were 248 passengers aboard. 

On the last leg of her epic maiden voyage, Mariposa came into Honolulu the morning of 22 April 1932 and sailed at 6:00 p.m. for Hilo. She had 235 through passengers and 55 for Honolulu. "Passengers and ship's officers who arrived today on the giant Oceanic liner reported that the cruise was a tremendous success." (Honolulu Star Bulletin, 22 April 1932.) When she departed Hilo on the 23rd, she had 34 passengers taking advantage of the rare direct crossing from the island to the Mainland. 

Matson-Oceanic announced on 1 April 1932 that effective with Mariposa's first regular voyage south beginning 6 May from San Francisco that Melbourne would be added to the line's route being done as a roundtrip from Sydney.  Additionally, Monterey's maiden voyage was set from San Francisco on 3 June following her delivery voyage from New York beginning 12 May.  This would include a special call en route at San Diego on the 25th before arriving at Los Angeles the following day. 

Monterey on trials making 22.43 knots with nary a ripple. Credit: Pacific Marine Review

Local motorists were inconvenienced for a considerable time when the Quincy drawbridge over the Fore River was kept raised on 5 April 1932 as Monterey was maneuvered slowly out past the moored collier William C. Atwater, just below the span, leaving the shipyard for drydocking at the Commonweath Graving Dock in South Boston. She returned to Quincy on the 8th and then did her builders trials in the Bay.  Her standardization trails followed on the 21st on the U.S. Navy Rockland measured mile, making a total of 15 runs on the course.  Of the three full high speed runs, the mean speed was 22.36 knots at 132.3 rpm. and 28,825 shp while the maximum speed of 23.003 knots was achieved at 132.5 rpm and 28,900 shp.   On this, she was skippered by Bethlehem Shipbuilding's Capt. Joseph I. Kemp. Monterey was handed over to her owners on 29 April, finally leaving Quincy on 7 May for New York. Commanded by Capt. Andrew G. Townsend, she docked at New York, Pier 58, North River on the morning of the 9th. On the 10th she was opened for public inspection. 

It was little wonder that Monterey was favoured by a long life and good fortune during her almost seven decades on the high seas for her first master, Capt. Andrew Townsend, had his lucky carved wood pig with him from the moment he assumed command. His seafaring father had bought the pig in the South Pacific and returned home to his new born son to whom he presented the figurine which remained with Capt. Townsend throughout his own career at sea. Credit: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 9 May 1932.

With 83 passengers aboard, including J.E. Burkhardt of Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., Matson-Oceanic Vice President A.C. Dieriex and Mrs. Dieriex, John Ryan, General Passenger Manager and family, Monterey sailed from New York for San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco on 12 May 1932.

Monterey docking at San Diego's Broadway Pier on 25 May 1932.  Note the Omaha-class light cruiser in the harbour to the right. Credit: San Diego History Center.

Credit: Los Angeles Times, 27 May 1932

Decked in flags and with her whistle tooting in reply to courtesy signals from other vessels in port, the new $8,000,000 liner Monterey entered the harbor this morning, 14 days out of New York.

News-Pilot, 26 May 1932

Monterey was a afforded an enthusiastic welcome on her maiden arrival at Los Angeles on 26 May 1932 on her delivery voyage.  At noon, some 300 local business leaders were invited aboard for luncheon and there was also a dinner that evening for travel agents.  By the next day the west side of slip no. 1 presented a remarkable line-up of four of America's fastest liners:  Monterey, the just arrived Malolo, H.F. Alexander astern and ahead of Monterey, Yale just in from San Francisco. Indeed, Malolo had clocked 22.35 knots for three days on the run up from Honolulu, her best showing since her first year in service.

The Monterey alongside the LASSCo piers at Wilmington, Port of Angeles, joined by the just arrived Malolo.

Monterey sailed for San Francisco at 5:00 p.m. on 28 May 1932 and docked there at Pier 32 shortly after noon the following day. 

These were indeed busy and wonderful days for Matson-Oceanic and American passenger liners. Capt. W.R. Meyer was appointed to assume command of Mariposa on 29 April 1932 on the retirement of Capt. Trask upon bringing the ship home from her maiden voyage.  The following day the ship went into the dry dock at Hunters Point, San Francisco for cleaning and painting of her hull in preparation for her maiden voyage on her regular route.

Capt. William R. Meyer, commanded Mariposa throughout her regular line service and throughout the Second World War. 

Heralding a new era of fast and luxurious transportation over the romantic South Sea travel lane between California and Australia, the S.S. Mariposa, first of a trio of modern super-liners, sailed from this port yesterday inaugurating the Matson-Oceanic service. Before sailing the huge "M's" on the stacks of the liner were removed and she sailed under the "Oceanic" house flag, with Captain W.R. Meyer as commander. 

San Francisco Examiner, 7 May 1932

Mariposa and Monterey operated their U.S. Mail Route as steamers of The Oceanic Steamship Co. and during her drydocking, the big "Ms" on Mariposa's funnels were removed and when she sailed from San Francisco on 6 May 1932 with 300 passengers to open a new era in the U.S.-Antipodes service, she flew the Oceanic houseflag from her mainmast.  She had another flag to fly when, upon arrival at Los Angeles the following day, Mariposa was officially inducted into the U.S. Merchant Marine Naval Reserve Fleet during a special ceremony at noon with the presentation of her Naval Reserve ensign by Capt. Alonzo H. Woodbine. Another 130 passengers embarked at the port and she sailed at 5:00 p.m. When she arrived at Honolulu on the 12th, she had 209 passengers landing there and 10 for Pago Pago, one for Suva, six for Auckland, 23 for Sydney and eight for Melbourne, 1,746 tons of cargo and 236 bags of mail for Honolulu and 1,486 tons of cargo and 1,196 bags of mail for the south.

Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19320525-32-3 Auckland Weekly News 25 May 32

Another wet and windy welcome awaited Mariposa as she came into Auckland on the morning of 23 May 1932 on her first regular service call there.  The voyage from Los Angeles was accomplished in just 15 days, a full five fewer than with the old Sierra, Sonoma and VenturaMariposa averaged 21 knots from Los Angeles to Honolulu, 20.5 knots to Pago Pago, 19.1 knots to Suva and 19 knots to Auckland. She had 294 passengers aboard.  At the time, New Zealand papers reported that Lurline would not be placed on the Antipodean route as planned owing to "depression in trade and the slackness of passenger traffic" and after a special introductory Pacific cruise, would enter the Hawaiian service instead.  Mariposa embarked 83 passengers for Sydney.  
Losing little time in record setting, Mariposa, which left Auckland shortly after 5:00 p.m. 23 May 1932, reached Sydney at 8:15 a.m. on the 26th, setting a new mark for the trans-Tasman crossing of 2 days 16 hours 45 minutes, beating the record held by R.M.S. Niagara of 3 days 23 minutes since 1923. 

Mariposa anchored in Watson's Bay in heavy fog on arrival at Sydney 27 May 1932 after she came close to grounding when she strayed from the main entrance channel. The tug Hero is standing by to guide her back to the approach. Credit: National Library of Australia, Fairfax Collection. 

When Mariposa came into Sydney, she was met by very heavy fog, the worst experienced in the harbor in  a decade. Mariposa, under a pilot, had to be anchored when she came close to the shoals off the Sow and Pigs and await tugs to guide her back into the main channel.  The tug Heros arrived and swung her into channel and several hours late she docked at West Circular Quay at 9:00 a.m..  Also coming in at the same time was P&O's Carthage and Orient's Oronsay.

All the glamour of a Hollywood premiere alongside Station Pier in Melbourne when Mariposa hosted an evening reception in honor of her maiden call there.  Credit: The Argus 1 June 1932

This voyage marked the maiden call at Melbourne on 30 May 1932. A reception was held aboard that evening: "The mild temperature last evening was only one of the many details which ensured the success of the at home given on the Matson liner Mariposa at Station Pier Port Melbourne. Dressed with thousands of twinkling lights the steamer was most attractive, and there was a large crowd of onlookers on the pier. On the vessel all signs of shipboard vanished. It was a fairy palace of soft jade, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl and faint coral pink. The pavilion, in which several hundred people danced, was illuminated with slowly revolving lights which were reflected and multiplied by overhead electroliers formed of tiny pieces of mirror." (The Argus 1 June 1932).

Melbourne marked the equidistance of journey times to London via Suez vs. the Pacific/North Atlantic, both occupying 32 days.  So that sailing from Melbourne in Mariposa on 1 June, one would reach Los Angeles on 21 June, leaving the same day by train to arrive Chicago on 24 June and then New York the following day to catch an express liner to Southampton by 2 July or 31 days total journey. via P&O by way of Suez and Marseilles to London, the time was also 32 days. 

Mariposa sails from Sydney on 4 June 1932. Credit: Frederick Garner Wilkinson photograph, Australian National Maritime Museum.

When Mariposa sailed from Sydney on 4 June 1932 she had aboard the 15-strong Australian Olympic Team bound for the Los Angeles Games among the 288 passengers, 108 for Auckland. Soon after leaving Sydney at 3:00 p.m., she ran into moderate south-west gales which lasted through the crossing of the Tasman.  Mariposa rolled heavily in a beam sea and much crockery was broken.  But she still set a new record from Sydney to Auckland of 2 days 16 hours 24 minutes at an average 19.83 knots and came into Auckland the morning of the 6th.  Mails by Mariposa from Auckland reached London in 25 days with the ship arriving at Los Angeles on the 21st and leaving New York on the 26th in Columbus reaching Plymouth on 2 July. This compared to 28-30 days on the Suez route. She came into Honolulu on the 16th with 17 passengers and 146 through passengers for the coast and embarked 350 passengers for the coast. When Mariposa docked at Los Angeles on 21 June,  concluding the first round voyage of the new service, it was doubly significant being the first passenger liner arrival at the port direct from the Antipodes and with 522 passengers aboard, the biggest list so far that year and the largest ever landed from the South Pacific in a single vessel. 

Maiden voyage announcement for Monterey from Los Angeles 4 June 1932. Credit: Los Angeles Times, 31 May 1932. 

Monterey sailed from San Francisco on 3 June 1932 on her maiden voyage to the Antipodes. She carried 398 passengers for Honolulu and 114 through passengers, including  Capt. George B. Landenberger, U.S.N., newly appointed Governor of Samoa.  "Escorted by a flotilla of harbor craft, the Oceanic liner Monterey slid gracefully into Honolulu harbor early Thursday morning on her first visit to this port… The Hawaiian band, aboard a gaily decorated Young Brothers tug, serenaded the ship as she entered the harbor." Honolulu Advertiser, 10 June 1932. "She is a wonderful ship. We made an  average of 22 1/2 knots without straining the ship in the least. She rides well, and is equipped with every convenience known to modern navigation. The passengers, as far as I can judge, enjoyed the trip and profuse in their praise of the Monterey," Capt. Townsend told a reporter of the Honolulu Advertiser upon arrival. 

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin's cartoonist prepared a special piece to welcome Monterey on her maiden arrival at the port. Credit: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 11 June 1932. 

Twin white sister of the Mariposa, the new Matson liner Monterey arrived at Auckland on her maiden voyage this morning. She steamed up the gulf when the city was still asleep and daybreak found her safely anchored, with her proud head facing down stream, a splendid ship in a splendid harbour. It was to the Monterey's disadvantage that she was the second and not the first of the Matson Company's new liners to show herself to the port. With their great white hulls, towering upperworks and low-set funnels, the Mariposa and Monterey are real twins of the ocean, and when you have seen one you have seen them both. Thus there was not the same amount of interest displayed in the arrival of the Monterey; but, even so, her first entry into the Waitemata was an event of considerable importance, for here was another huge new ship that was to make Auckland a regular port of call in her comings and goings across the Pacific. All the praise that had been heaped on the Mariposa was equally due to the Monterey, and if the Mariposa had already been called the queen of the fleet she had earned her proud title only because she had passed from the builders' hands a few months ahead of her sister.

Auckland Star, 20 June 1932

Monterey did even better than Mariposa on her first regular southbound trip. Coming into Auckland on 20 June 1932, she recorded an average of 21.28 knots from Los Angeles to Honolulu, 20.97 knots to Pago Pago, 19.97 knots to Suva and 18.62 knots to Auckland.  She landed 27 passengers at Auckland and had 108 through passengers when she arrived and embarked 83 for the crossing to Sydney.

Monterey alongside Queen's Wharf at Auckland on her maiden call on 20 June 1932. Credit: Percival Frederick Nash photograph, Alexander Turnbull Library

Sailing for Sydney at 5:45 p.m. on 20 June 1932, Monterey reached the Heads at 6:50 a.m. on the 23rd, thus setting a new trans-Tasman record of 2 days 14 hours 35 minutes, averaging 20.37 knots.   

Leaving Sydney on 25 June 1932, Monterey made her maiden arrival at Melbourne on the 27th. docking the same time as the new P&O liner Corfu, also on her maiden voyage, at Station Pier. 

Monterey at Melbourne, 28 June 1932, on her maiden call. Credit: Allan C. Green photograph, State Library of Victoria. 

Another superb Allan Green photo of Monterey on her maiden call at Melbourne.  Credit: State Library of Victoria. 

Monterey sailed from Sydney 2 July 32 and called at Auckland on the 5th.  Upon arrival at Honolulu on the 14th,  she had 143 through passengers but embarked an additional 395 passengers there for the mainland.  She came into Los Angeles on the 19th, landing 220 there before proceeding to San Francisco. 

Monterey sailing from Sydney 2 July 1932. Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum

The Depression continued to exact its toll and on 24 June 1932 Matson announced they would lay up the LASSCo. liners City of Los Angeles and Calawaii and henceforth maintain the Honolulu service by Malolo, Mariposa and Monterey, the three offering three sailings a month, to be increased to weekly upon the completion of Lurline the following spring. 

Upon departure from Los Angeles on 2 July 1932, Mariposa had 550 passengers aboard on her second voyage and took on almost 3,000 tons of cargo there.  When she arrived at Honolulu on the 7th she landed 431 passengers, 346 bags of mail, 1,892 tons of cargo and 16 automobiles.  Among the notables disembarking was comedian Joe E. Brown.  Auckland was reached on the 18th. After a stormy Tasman crossing with following gale force seas causing considerable rolling, Mariposa docked at Sydney on the 21st and at Melbourne three days later.

The oldest Australian mailship (Orient's Orsova, left, on her 58th voyage) and the newest (Mariposa, right, on her second call), shared Station Pier at Melbourne on 25 July 1932. Credit: Melbourne Herald, 25 July 1932.

Northbound, Mariposa left Sydney on 30 July 1932.  She arrived at Auckland on 1 August 1932 where she landed 91 passengers and embarked 60 for the trip north. Honolulu continued to swell the passenger carryings with 421 boarding there on the 12th.  She docked at Los Angeles on the 16th, disembarking 244 there before continuing to San Francisco.

The third liner was launched at Quincy on 18 July 1932 as Lurline by Mrs. Lurline Matson Roth, wife of W.P. Roth, President of Matson.  The same day it was announced by J.E. Ryan, Matson General Passenger Manager, that she would definitely be operated alongside  Malolo on the Hawaiian service only leaving the Antipodes run to Mariposa and Monterey.

Monterey commenced her second voyage on 28 July 1932 and after calling at Los Angeles on the 30th she had 450 passengers and 4,900 tons of cargo, 3,000 of it loaded at Wilmington including citrus fruit, frozen veal, cement, paper, asphalt, borax and machinery.   She called at Honolulu on 4 August and had 190 passengers aboard when she docked at Auckland on the 15th.  Northbound, a remarkable assemblage of the largest liners regularly calling at Honolulu occurred on 8 September when Monterey with 385 aboard joined Malolo and Empress of Japan berthed under the Aloha Tower. She completed her voyage at San Francisco on the 14th where she disembarked 250 passengers.

Three of the largest liners to regularly call at Honolulu 8 September 1932: Monterey (left), Empress of Japan (centre) and Malolo (right). Credit: Honolulu Advertiser, 13 September 1932

With Mariposa's departure from San Francisco on 25 August 1932, southbound sailings would henceforth be on Thursdays instead of Friday every fourth week to encourage Los Angeles passengers able to sail before the weekend. She left with 300 and embarked 250 at Los Angeles, a quarter of whom were ticketed for the Antipodes, including 13 returning Australian Olympic Team members. She called at Honolulu on the 31st, landing 386 there, including 232 island residents and had 129 through passengers for the south. All but four berths in Cabin Class were taken. Proving they really were mailships, Mariposa landed 1,270 bags of British and American mails at Auckland on 12 September along with 35 of the 210 passengers aboard. A warm welcome awaited the members of Australian Olympic team upon arrival at Sydney on the 15th: "The Australian Olympic team, which returned by the Mariposa today, was given a rousing welcome home by crowds lining the wharf. Bands were playing and ferries and other craft on the harbour joyeously sounded their sirens." (The Herald, 15 September 1932).  

On the return trip, the Tasman was up to its old tricks and the crossing was accomplished in a moderate south-southeast gale with rough beam seas and heavy rain. Conditions were not much better on arrival at Auckland on 29 September 1932:  "Rain and rough seas provided an unpleasant trip for the Oceanic liner Mariposa, which arrived from Sydney at 11.30 this morning. Conditions were misty in the Gulf and the vessel made port slowly. The squally weather in the harbour further delayed the berthing of the vessel and a large crowd on the wharf waiting friends had to curb their impatience in continuous rain." (Auckland Star, 27 September 1932).   When she came into Honolulu, Mariposa only had 17 passengers to land there and 310 carrying on to the coast.  Coming into Los Angeles on 11 October, she disembarked 167 passengers.  "Officials of the Matson-Oceanic line are much pleased at the way their passenger traffic is holding up for the two new trans-Pacific liners Mariposa and Monterey." (News-Pilot, 12 October 1932). 

A striking bow view of Monterey alongside Queen's Wharf, Auckland on 5 December 1932. Credit: Auckland Star, 6 December 1932.

Shortly after Monterey left Los Angeles on 19 November 1932, two stowaways were discovered in a cabin.  Capt. Townsend sent a wireless message to the northbound Malolo and at a prearranged point midway from Honolulu, the two young men were transferred by lifeboat to Malolo and returned to the West Coast. Among the 432 legitimate passengers aboard was famous Chicago Cub's pitcher Charles Root who was making the full round voyage with his family.  The liner had 191 passengers when she called at Auckland on 5 December.

Mariposa's final voyage from Auckland for 1932 was also the last to carry mail destined to reach England by Christmas. She took out 22 bags for U.S. and 146 for England. Credit: Auckland Star, 22 November 1932.

New Zealand market poster by Melbourne Brindle. 


Gale force winds at Melbourne on 10 January 1933 broke three hawsers pulling Mariposa clear of her pier but she was able to get on her way without further trouble. Among her passengers were 70 farmers from the Bendigo district of Victoria bound for a study tour of New Zealand. As the Depression reached its nadir, Matson laid up Malolo for two months, December 1932-January 1933, and passenger loads on the Mariposa and Monterey also reflected the hard times. When Mariposa docked at Honolulu on 26 January, she had only 83 passengers, 69 through fares to the Mainland.  Malolo called the same day on her first voyage from the coast back in service. Nevertheless, the new Lurline sailed from New York on her maiden voyage on 12 January and was off on an epic South Pacific/Orient cruise, similar to that which introduced Mariposa. This would be the only time she would call at Antipodean ports being detailed to run with Malolo on the Hawaii run. 

One expanding trade, the trans-Tasman segment, which Mariposa and Monterey immediately garnered at the expense of the established services of Union Steamship Co. and Huddart Parker, caused considerable concern and no little resentment with complaints that they constituted unfair government subsidized competition.  There were calls that Australia and New Zealand emulate the United States in prohibiting foreign flag vessels from carrying passengers or cargo on the "inter-colonial route" just as foreign ships could not trade between U.S. coastal ports or to/from Hawaii. Meanwhile, a more immediate and meaningful commercial response came in January 1933 with the arrival from Belfast of the new Wanganella, ex-Achimota, of Huddart Parker, and Union S.S. placing Monowai on the trans-Tasman route, both capable of three-day crossings. 

Prize passengers: when Mariposa sailed from Auckland for America on 17 January 1933 her two most famous and valuable passengers were the New Zealand race horses Tea Trader (above) and Pillow Fight, both owned by D.J. Davis, part owner of Phar Lap. Credit: Auckland Star, 18 January 1933

Monterey was fairly well patronized on her first southbound voyage for 1933, coming into Auckland on 30 January with 236 passengers, 75 of whom landed there but 236 joined for the trans-Tasman passage.The northbound Monterey landed 26 passengers upon arrival at Honolulu on 24 February of the 121 through passengers aboard and took on 325 more for the Mainland.

Lurline (left) at Queen's Wharf, Auckland, and Monterey coming into to Prince's Wharf. Credit: Auckland Weekly News, 22 February 1933. 

With the addition of Lurline to the Hawaii run, Matson announced on 19 February 1933 a new schedule for  Mariposa and Monterey. Effective with Monterey's sailing on 2 May, departures from San Francisco would now be on Tuesdays instead of Thursdays, arriving at Los Angeles the next day and reaching Honolulu on Mondays.  Northbound, the ships would call at Honolulu on Mondays with same day calls  in both directions and no overnight calls.

Before her next voyage south, Monterey went into dry dock at Hunters Point for cleaning and painting of her underwater hull. The San Francisco Examiner of 5 March 1933 reported that "it takes less than one hundred gallons of paint just to give the under-side of the hull the 'once-over,' up the watermark."

Monterey's ensuing sailing for the Antipodes on 10 March 1933 was rocked by the new Roosevelt Administration and Mother Nature. The sudden but temporary government closure of all banks in the United States left intending travellers without access to funds or foreign exchange and many had to cancel their passage.  It resulted in Monterey's smallest list to date.  Arriving at Los Angeles on the 11th, Monterey was alongside her San Pedro berth when the Los Angeles Earthquake, centered on Long Beach, occurred. The liner was shaken and large cracks were opened in the concrete wharf. "Ship, wharf and everything else suddenly reeled over to one side and then fame back again. We rushed on deck and saw that the wharf had crocked open in two places, and that the part between the cracks had dropped about six inches. The tremors continued, and the ship shook violently. Things were thrown off the tables. The straining of the buildings on the wharf as they were tossed to and fro made a terrible din. Luckily, there was no tidal wave," an officer told a reporter. She was able to embark all her few passengers, but did not leave until the following morning, 11 hours late and without any of her Los Angeles mails. Monterey arrived at Honolulu on the 15th with 95 First and 102 Cabin Class for that port and continued with 51 through passengers.  She also brought in 3,200 barrels of oil fuel for discharge there and a heavy mail consignment for the Antipodes comprising 1,808 bags.

Head winds across the Tasman and then fog off the Three Kings, resulted in Mariposa coming into Auckland several hours late on 14 March 1933 where she landed 115 of the 310 passengers aboard. "Remarkable momentum already gained by the new passengers-mail route to England and Europe from the Antipodes via California, instead of via Suez, was illustrated yesterday by arrival from Sydney of the new Matson-Oceanic liner Mariposa. Of the Mariposa's 464 passengers, 150 were destined to the United Kingdom and the Continent while a material proportion of her shipment of 1075 bags of mail is going through to England."  (Los Angeles Times, 29 March 1933). It was also mentioned that she came in to Los Angeles with 9,000 cases of canned pineapple, 1,002 crates of fresh pineapple, 7,400 bags of sugar, 441 sacks of Kona coffee and 701 tons of general cargo.

The first shipment of New Zealand beer for American Samoa since Prohibition came into effect in 1918 is loaded aboard Monterey at Auckland on 11 April 1933. Credit: Auckland Star, 12 April 1933. 

If nothing else, the new Roosevelt Administration saw the eventual repeal of Prohibition in December 1933 which was preceded by the rather inadequate legalization of 3.2 per cent "near beer" which appeared to apparent general dismay by all aboard Mariposa's southern crossing beginning from Los Angeles on 7 April 1933:

Passengers and officers of the liner Mariposa, which arrived at Auckland on Monday, had little good to say of the legal 3.2 per cent beer which went into consumption a few hours before the vessel left Los Angeles on April 7. The consensus of opinion was that it was very poor beer. "I tried a drink of the beer and it was green—simply terrible," said one of the ship's officers. "They could not have had time to learn how to make it properly. The breweries were turning out all they possibly could in a short time, knowing that it was sure to sell, in the first few days, anyway. Perhaps it will improve as time goes on." Others described it as mawkish and quite like poor home brew. The Mariposa took on board a fair shipment of beer for Honolulu, but a supply for the use of the passengers and crew was delayed on tho railway and missed the vessel. On reaching Honolulu it was found that a Japanese steamer had arrived with a largo consignment on the very day that beer became legal—a tribute to the business astuteness of those who shipped it. At Pago Pago the population was drinking New Zealand beer. This was obviously above the alcoholic strength allowed by law and it was supposed that the administration of American Samoa had not had the heart to ban the only beer that could be obtained at that time. Californians  on the luxury considered that the restoration of light beer would make no difference to "bootlegging," because it could not be regarded as iu any way a rival to spirits among those, who were in the habit of taking the latter. The bootlegger, they said, could be ousted only by the legalised and regulated sale of spirits, wine and beer alike. One man said that probably tho scope of the new law would bo enlarged to cover light wines. If it were the Californian grape-growers would regain a large and legitimate trade and their industry would benefit greatly.

New Zealand Herald, 26 April 1933

The South Pacific and Tasman were in an especially foul mood that Antipodean Autumn of 1933, testing, in turn, both Monterey and Mariposa

The liner Monterey which reached Suva yesterday, late, reports having met the full force of a strong gale, suspected to be part of the hurricane, which has been playing over a considerable area of the Pacific between Fiji and New Zealand. The wind reached gale force and a very heavy sea gave the liner a big shaking. Three members of the crew, who were working on the forecastle head, were washed off into the well deck. One had the ligatures of his leg torn, and the other two suffered cuts and bruises. One man was severely cut about the head. The passengers reported a bad time while within the sphere of the disturbance. Tho vessel behaved well throughout. The Monterey left Auckland on Tuesday, April 11.

Auckland Star, 24 April 1933

Mariposa in the Tasman Sea. Credit: Mariners Museum. 

Tossed in heavy seas whipped by a strong gale from the south-south-west, the Mariposa, with 261 passengers on board, experienced the worst trip of her trans-Tasman career on the voyage from Sydney, completed this morning. Passengers and crew had an uncomfortable time, and the furnishings of the vessels moved about to the extent that it was necessary finally to lash them in place. A few chairs were damaged and some crockery and glassware smashed, but none of the vessel's permanent fittings was damaged. In the difficulty of attempting to keep their feet several passengers received bruises and scratches, and a member of the purser's staff received a cut over the eye which necessitated attention by the doctor. 

Captain W. R. Meyer admitted that it was the worst sea he had experienced in the Tasman during his command of the Mariposa. Though in nautical terms the blow could not be classed as a storm, the captain said the seas, which were abaft the beam, ran high at times and caused an occasional extra roll of the vessel. Speaking again in nautical terms, he said the gale had been at "force nine," while "force twelve" was necessary before a blow could be called a storm. "We left Sydney on Saturday, and it was one of the finest days I have seen," he said. "'It was not until the following day that we ran into rough weather, about 500 miles from the New South Wales coast. The blow came first from the south, and yesterday it increased in force coming strong from the south south-west. It was squally all the time, with more than an ordinary sea running, and at mid-day yesterday we experienced the worst of it. We had bad weather right up to the time we came under the lee of the New Zealand coast. "The ship behaved exceptionally well," he continued, "and did not ship any seas. With the exception of some broken crockery and glassware and several broken chairs, no damage was done. The passengers were remarkably good sailors, and I did not notice that many were absent at meal time, even during the roughest part of the journey." The captain was especially complimentary to the New Zealanders, whom he said were better sailors than most.

Auckland Star, 9 May 1933

The liner left Sydney on Saturday in fine weather, but about 500 miles out she encountered a south-south-west gale, with high seas abaft the starboard beam. She rode it well, and the rolling motion was not sufficient to lessen the attendance at meals. On Monday, however, just as the passengers had sat down to lunch, the Mariposa encountered a series of about three very heavy seas, causing a sudden. and considerable roll. Practically all the tables were swept clear of crockery in both the first and cabin class saloons, and the scores of unoccupied chairs slid across the deck to leeward in much confusion. Passengers who were walking to their places and others who stood up when the roll came were unable to keep their feet and found themselves sitting on the deck and clinging to table-legs. In the kitchen pots and pans were flung off the stoves, and there was a heavy loss of chinaware in the pantries. The sea moderated as quickly as it had risen, and stewards were busy for some time collecting scattered furniture and removing broken dinnerware. The supply of hot food, however, had been lost, and the remaining lunchers had to be content with cold viands. "1 have never seen a heavier beam sea," said one experienced traveller, "and it seemed to me that the ship behaved splendidly. How a smaller vessel would have got on 1 do not know. The largest Atlantic liners are buffeted quite as badly at times. I was once on board the Olympic when she was struck by a series of heavy seas and lost a great deal of crockery in just this way. The men who designed the Mariposa have nothing at all to be ashamed of."

New Zealand Herald, 10 May 1933

Mariposa arrived at Auckland on 9 May 1933 with 261 passengers, 110 landing there. When she docked at Los Angeles on the 23rd she had 299 passengers and 1,000 tons of cargo and 1,500 rare South Pacific fish, collected in Australian, Fijian and Hawaiian waters, destined for the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. 

Another splendid Graeme Andrews photo showing Monterey coming into Sydney Cove, c. 1933. Credit: City of Sydney Archives.

Sailing from Sydney on 31 May 1933, Monterey's most important and certainly most valuable (insured for £5,000!) passenger was the champion Australian race horse Winooka bound for a racing season in America. He and his travelling companion, Trevallion, had a special stable built on the forward well deck, guarded by a quartermaster, and had only Sydney drinking water stored in tanks and 32 bales of New Zealand hay for their shipboard meals. He was reported to have been seasick the first day in the Tasman but settled down for the rest of the trip. 

With a record number to date of through passengers for Antipodes, Monterey cleared Los Angeles the evening of 28 June 1933 on her 8th voyage: 164 in all among the total of 395 aboard. By the time she left Honolulu, she had 185 passengers for the south. 

Credit: Daily Telegraph, 28 June 1933

It was revealed upon the arrival of Mariposa at Honolulu on 10 July 1933 from the Antipodes that her 145 passengers had celebrated Independence Day twice as she ship had crossed the International Date Line on the 4th. On the 17th she landed at San Francisco the largest northbound cargo yet carried by the new ships including 2,500 500-lb. bales of wool and 1,500 bales of skins.  

California oranges being unloaded from Monterey on arrival at Auckland 14 July 1933. Credit: Auckland Star, 14 July 1933. 

Another stormy Tasman crossing from Sydney had Monterey arrive at Auckland on 29 July 1933 four hours late. She left Sydney on the 26th in the teeth of a severe north-easterly gale that was bad enough to prevent any other vessel from leaving port. "All the way across the Tasman Sea the wind continued to blow with gale force and the vessel was buffeted by the high head seas, which caused her to pitch heavily, much to the discomfort of the passengers. As the waves struck the bow the strong wind carried the spray high over the liner's bridge. After the vessel rounded Cape Maria Van Diemen on Friday, the conditions continued boisterous until the shelter of the Hauraki Gulf was reached." (New Zealand Herald, 31 July 1933)

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the first Mariposa to begin the Oceanic Steamship Co. service were eight of the original passengers on that voyage who were treated to a celebratory lunch aboard the new Mariposa during her call at Honolulu. Credit: Honolulu Star Bulletin, 1 August 1933.

During her call at Honolulu on 31 July from the Coast, Mariposa hosted a luncheon aboard for eight local residents who had sailed to Hawaii 50 years previously on the maiden voyage of the original Mariposa which arrived on 31 July 1883.  The present day Mariposa brought in 172 passengers, 545 tons of cargo and 1,372 bags of mail for Honolulu.  On the bridge was a new Chief Officer, F.E. Trask, the son of the famous Capt. Trask.

One of the sisters at Suva, Fiji.  

After several passengers came down with influenza after departing Sydney,  46 aboard Mariposa were removed from the vessel upon arrival at Suva  on 28 August 1933 and 28 were placed in quarantine on the island of Makeluva while another 15 were landed at Pago Pago, including the famous polar explorer Lincoln Elsworth, his wife and mother-in-law.  Of those quarantined on Makeluva, they returned to Auckland aboard Monterey on 8 September  as did the Elsworths. 

Monterey's Chief Officer (left) and First Officer (right) show off the Bethlehem Trophy during the ship's call at Melbourne on 15 September 1932 which was award the ship's lifeboat crew for first place in San Francisco's Harbor Day race. Credit: Weekly Times, 23 September 1933. 

On her northbound voyage, Monterey  was met with rough weather in the Tasman on passage from Sydney to Auckland, "the conditions became unpleasant soon after the ship cleared Sydney Heads on Wednesday afternoon, and they continued to be bad until Thursday evening. At times the liner rolled heavily, and a number of the passengers were still feeling the effect of the shaking when they reached Auckland this morning" reported the Auckland Star upon the ship's arrival on 23 September 1933. She had only 185 passengers aboard. When she docked at Pier 11 Honolulu on 1 October, she landed 11 passengers there and had only 86 through fares.  As it was, Malolo was laid up until the following January upon her San Francisco arrival on 14 September leaving the Hawaii run to Lurline as well as the calls there by Mariposa and Monterey

A flawless Mariposa alongside Melbourne's Station Pier working cargo. Credit: Donald Friend photograph, State Library of Victoria. 

Mariposa showed a fine rate of speed from Los Angeles to Honolulu, departing at 2:00 p.m. on 21 September 1933 and arriving at 8:45 a.m. on the 25th. Her best day's run was 528 miles, with 519 recorded her first day and her last day, 518.  Malolo still held the day's run record of 536 miles in 24 hours.  Mariposa carried an exceptionally heavy southbound cargo of 3,000 tons, more than 2,000 of which was destined for the Antipodes and held as a harbinger of better times. 

What was described as "a big crowd aboard" left Honolulu in Monterey on 2 October 1933 bound for the coast, comprising 250 embarks and 100 through passengers from the south.  Monterey came into Honolulu from the Antipodes on the 30th with a total of 72 aboard, 15 landing there and 57 continuing to the coast. 

On paper, at least, the fleet of The Oceanic Steamship Co. was reduced by a third when it was reported on 3 October 1933 that Lurline had been "sold" to Matson Navigation Co. by Oceanic upon which she donned Ms on her funnels.  

Cargo carryings remained more promising than passengers and five hours late owing to having to take it all aboard, Mariposa sailed at 10:00 p.m. on 15 November 1933 from Los Angeles with the largest cargo yet loaded for the Antipodes: 2,100 tons plus another 500 tons for Honolulu.  Her southern cargo included 125 crated automobiles, 2,000 boxes of oranges, 500 tons of asphalt and "a huge shipment of axe and pick handles, the last item is said be evidence of a rebirth of road building and other construction activities in the Antipodes." (News-Pilot, 15 November 1933).  She also had 400 passengers aboard, 224 for Hawaii and the rest through to the Antipodes.  Commanded by Capt. G.B. Wait (normally skipper of Malolo), she glided into Honolulu on the 20th, after clocking just 4 days 7 hours 30 minutes for the passage. 

Credit: Auckland Star, 18 November 1933.

Monterey rendered assistance to an American freighter, Golden Cross, in mid Tasman, en route from Sydney to Auckland.  A crewman was severely burned in the engine room and as the vessel had no doctor, the Oceanic liner replied to the  call for medical attention and a mid ocean transfer, 500 miles west of North Cape, was arranged and the injured man was taken to hospital in Auckland upon arrival on 18 November 1933. 

Bucking both the upward tick in trade as well as two days of strong northwest winds, Monterey was two hours late reaching Honolulu from the south on 27 November 1933, landing just 10 there of the total of just 98 aboard; her smallest passenger list to date.  She did embark 100 more for passage to the Mainland. 

Credit: Auckland Star, 2 December 1933

Mariposa set a new trans-Tasman record upon arrival at Sydney on 4 December 1933, doing the crossing from Auckland in 61 hours 14 minutes in fine conditions and maintaining 20.7 knots across, besting Monterey's record set the previous June by an hour. 

Credit: New Zealand Herald, 23 December 1933.

Proving there really is no Santa Claus, Monterey and her 600 passengers, officers and crew  missed Christmas Day 1933 entirely, outbound from San Francisco on 11 December, crossing the International Date Line, en route to the Antipodes.  Among her cargo for the south were New Years mail, candy, film and phonograph records for the men of Admiral Byrd's Antarctic base. The supplies would be transferred upon arrival at Auckland to Byrd's cutter at Wellington. 

Australia/New Zealand market poster by Melbourne Brindle.


On her first voyage of the New Year, Mariposa docked at Honolulu on 15 January 1934 with 222 passengers for the port and nearly 157 for the Antipodes. Northbound, she left Hawaii on 20 February with "the largest list of passengers taken out of Honolulu for the coast in several years. When the liner left the dock she was swathed in paper streamers tossed over the side to friends ashore. At least 2,000 were on hand to bid the liner and those aboard, aloha. The sailing was one of the most colorful in several months." (Honolulu Advertiser, 20 February 1934).  When she came in, there were 232 passengers aboard, 30 of whom landed at Honolulu but she sailed with more than 560 aboard.  In all, it was the largest list yet carried out of the Pacific on a single sailing in the history of Matson-Oceanic. Among those landing at San Francisco on the 26th was actress Myrna Loy and actor John Gilbert who said rumors of a love affair between them was "just gossip." and Lincoln Elsworth, the famous Antarctic explorer. 

The New Year uptick in passenger traffic was evidenced, too, when the southbound Monterey came into Honolulu on 12 February 1934 with 486 aboard, 354 landing there.  Among the through passengers was 21-year-old John Jacob Astor III, son of the Col. John Jacob Astor who perished in the Titanic disaster, bound for New Zealand having inherited $3 mn. on his birthday and still due another $40 mn.! The vessel left Los Angeles with a capacity 5,000-ton cargo.

Auckland 22 February 1934: left to right: Rangitiki, Monterey, Nagoya and Franconia. Credit: New Zealand Herald, 23 February 1934. 

When she arrived at Auckland on 23 February 1934 Monterey joined an impressive array of liners in port: Franconia (on her world cruise), Nagoya and Rangitiki. In all, the week marked a record in tonnage at the port with Aorangi and Monowai coming in earlier, making a total of 83,233 tons. 

With 453 passengers and a full 6,000 tons of cargo, Mariposa left Los Angeles for the Antipodes on 8 March 1934. Her bill of lading included 350 crated automobiles for Australia (the largest such shipment in more than two years), 4,800 boxes of California oranges and 100 bales of Spanish cork.  She was, in fact, 16 hours late owing to cargo work and instead of reaching Honolulu at 7:00 a.m. on the 12th as scheduled, she came in at 4:00 p.m. after making a fast run and making up about eight hours. She landed 284 passengers there. 

With thousands of gaily colored paper streamers curling down from her sides , the big white Matson-Oceanic liner Monterey departed at 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon with a record list of passengers, there being close to 550 aboard, bound for the Mainland. At least 3,000 persons crowded Pier 11 to witness the departure and an hour before the liner left her corridors were jammed with friends and relatives of those departing.

Honolulu Advertiser, 20 March 1934

With a record list of passengers (close to 600 including more than 200 through passengers from the Antipodes), Monterey left Honolulu for the Mainland on 19 March 1934.

Such was the demand for cargo space for Antipodes from California that on 21 March 1934 Matson announced that Mariposa and Monterey would no longer carry cargo to Hawaii with the freighters Makiki and Makawao detailed to the service five times a month. 

Monterey cleared Los Angeles on 5 April 1934 with another capacity cargo for the Antipodes, the first such exclusive cargo departure for Australia and New Zealand under the new policy. It was, in fact, the eighth capacity cargo taken out from Los Angeles for the Antipodes by the sisters.  This included 292 new Chrysler and Hudson automobiles for Australia (in addition to 285 cars loaded at San Francisco), 5,000 tons of general cargo (2,700 tons loaded there) and 293 passengers.   She was late in departing owing the time to load the full cargo and came into Honolulu still several hours tardy on the 9th where she landed 200 of her passengers and 1,400 bags of mail. 

For the first time in American waters, two of  the Matson-Oceanic trio in port together: Port of Los Angeles (San Pedro) 21 April 1934: Lurline (note she has "M"s on her funnels as a Matson registered vessel) and immediately aft, Mariposa. Credit: California Historical Society. 

With the welcome repeal of Prohibition, America scoured the world for liquor supplies, even as far away as Australia.  On 21 April 1934 Mariposa unloaded 20,000 gallons of whisky and 100 cases of wine from Melbourne upon arrival at Los Angeles, the first ever consignment of Australian whisky exported to the United States. It was doubly memorable being the first time Mariposa and Lurline docked at San Pedro simultaneously, the Oceanic liner coming in with 596 passengers and the Matson ship with 100 aboard, southbound from San Francisco, for Hawaii.  It was the largest list yet from the Antipodes, 300 in all, plus an equal number from Honolulu. 

Among those aboard Monterey on her northbound voyage from Sydney on 2 May 1934 was the Rt. Hon. S.M. Bruce, High Commissioner for Australia, and Mrs. Bruce, en route to England for an Imperial Conference. His sailing in an American liner caused some consternation, but it was stressed it was solely for scheduling reasons he did not sail in Aorangi or NiagaraMonterey's departure from Auckland on the 5th was delayed several hours to permit Mr. Bruce to confer with New Zealand's Prime Minister and cabinet members. 

Monterey at Sydney Cove, c. 1933. Credit: City of Sydney Archives. 

A Liner Goes Down to the Sea,  Lewis A. Lapham

A momentary patter of chill rain flattened the confetti against the white, glistening sides of the Mariposa as she backed smoothly out of Pier 30 at noon yesterday, the strident phonograph shifted from "Over the Bounding Main" to "Aloha," and the lady standing at our right, craning up at a railful of passengers, suddenly ducked her head and begin to sob violently into a moist, ineffectual handkerchief. A boatswain, leaning far out and over astern, hauled up a line from which dangled a last-minute sack of mail, pacing a winch that chatteringly dragged up a dripping hawser. Somewhere behind us a large bare-headed gentleman cupped his lips with a pair of huge fist and view-hallooed, Maori fashion, to an equally large gentleman above, looked about and grinned, blushed and said something about 'good old Charley going back to his sheep ranch.' Charley, meanwhile, was doing a little expert view-hallooing of his own account. Captain Edwards, standing on the tip end of 30, waved up to Captain Meyer as his huge houseboat slewed around, the wake boiling and racing under her, and the Mariposa was off again 'down under', via Los Angeles, Honolulu, Suva and Pago Pago. We watched her out of sight around the Ferry Building, her flags whipping taut, half-masted for Edward Davies Tenney, one of old Captain Matson's early partners, chairman of the Matson board when death found him three days ago, and one of those whose foresight made the Mariposa possible.

San Francisco Examiner, 2 May 1934

The sailing of Mariposa from San Francisco on 1 May 1934, so eloquently described, proved to be the last of the Oceanic sisters from the port to the Antipodes for many months. The "New Deal" of the Roosevelt Administration brought more than the end of Prohibition, bank "holidays" and an evolving alphabet soup of new government agencies and initiatives.  Encouraged by the pro-union initiatives of the National Recovery Act (NRA), it also ripped the scab off the festering sore of American labour relations in many industries, not the least of which was the maritime trade.  Distant, selfish shipping owners and militant and often communist inspired union agitators proved a potent mix that boiled to the surface throughout the pre-war FDR era.  

One of the earliest. violent and most protracted strikes, the West Coast Longhoreman's Strike, began on 9 May and lasted until 31 July.  Beginning and initially centered on San Francisco, it would eventually paralyze much of the Pacific coast and materially effect the operations of many lines and ships. For starters, Matson-Oceanic "turned around" all of their ships at Los Angeles for the duration, proving the worth of their existing service to the port, and permitting somewhat regular operations to continue. A highly efficient boat train service was developed, using Southern Pacific, conveying Bay area passengers directly alongside the ships at Wilmington. 

Monterey was the first to turnaround at Los Angeles, arriving at a crowded Port of Wilmington on 19 May 1934 and to make room for her alongside, Lurline was shifted away from the berth to embark her passengers for Honolulu in the roadstead.  Of Monterey's 345 passengers, 169 continued to San Francisco by boat train. Almost all of Monterey's non-American crew members, virtually all Australians, walked off the ship and had to be replaced by a scratch crew, many former ex-U.S. Navy men, and skilled replacements were not hard to employ along the Depression-wracked seafront. She sailed south on the 30th with 350 aboard. She took away the largest cargo yet carried to the Antipodes, 5,000 tons, and this included all of her San Francisco originated cargo which was shipped south by rail.  Among the bill of lading were 1,000 tons of automobiles and 5,000 boxes of Valencia oranges. Arriving at Honolulu on 4 June, Monterey disembarked 146 passengers. 

Monterey arriving at Auckland on 15 June 1934 as a "Blacked Ship" by the dockworkers who, right, sealed off the entrance to Prince's Quay. Credit: New Zealand Herald, 16 June 1934.

In the drink: when her own crew unloaded Monterey's cargo at Auckland, a large crated motor lorry chassis went overboard between ship and quay and had to be recovered by divers. Credit: New Zealand Herald, 16 June 1934. 

The effects of the strike extended well beyond the U.S. West Coast.  In sympathy with the strikers, Auckland longshoremen refused to work her cargo when Monterey docked on 15 June 1934. Instead, her own crew did the unloading themselves which went fine until a large crated motor lorry chassis fell overboard whilst be swung onto the dock.  A diver team had to retrieve it from the seabed.  Passengers, too, had to carry their own luggage. After a rough Tasman crossing making her several hours late, Monterey arrived at Circular Quay, Sydney, on the 18th.  Police were on hand for any potential disturbance, but the liner was unloaded without incident.  There were also no issues when she docked at Melbourne on the 22nd and she sailed for Los Angeles the next day.

When Mariposa sailed on her northbound voyage from Melbourne on 26 May 1934, she took away 30,000 gallons of Victoria and South Australian wine for a New York distributor and another consignment of 3,500 of Australian whisky for San Francisco. She came into Los Angeles on 19 June with 453 passengers and again, those destined for San Francisco continued their journey via boat trains. A large proportion of her crew, including most of the Australians, went on strike and were replaced by non union workers, including many college students who signed on as stewards.  

The star attraction of Mariposa's southbound voyage from Los Angeles on 27 June 1934 were famed Australian aviator Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith and Lady Mary Smith and a custom-built Lockheed Altair monoplane just completed for the London-Melbourne air race that October. Even amidst the strike, the longshoremen consented to load it. The plane was hoisted carefully aboard by a Merritt Chapman & Scott derrick barge and placed on the tennis court between the funnels, doubtless to the annoyance of devotees of the game also sailing the next day. She sailed with an impressive list of 565 and a full 5,000-ton cargo. There were no issues when she docked at Auckland on 13 July although again longshoremen there refused to work her and crew discharged her cargo. Mariposa docked at Sydney on the 16th.

At Sydney 17 July 1934, the floating crane Titan unloads Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's new Lockheed racing plane from Mariposa.  It was floating across the harbor on a lighter to Anderson Park, Neutral Bay and flown off from there. Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum. 

The Lockheed Altac being hoisted off the deck of Mariposa. Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum. 

After a rough Tasman crossing, an already four-hour late Mariposa was further delayed arriving at Auckland on 28 July 1934 when, rounding North Head, her steering gear jammed. She had to anchor to effect repairs and did not come alongside King's Wharf until 1:00 p.m., her normal departure time. It had already proved an unlucky start to her northbound voyage as reported by the New Zealand Herald:

Captain W. Meyer, master of the Mariposa, said subsequently that the breakdown had been caused by a blockage in a feed pipe in the hydraulic steering gear. "We had tho helm over when it occurred," he said, "and for a second or two I thought we were going to pile up on North Head. However, the engines were sufficiently powerful to enable us to reverse and keep the ship in deep water. It was then just a question of dropping anchor to enable temporary repairs to be effected." Events had moved so quickly that tho majority of the Mariposa's passengers were not aware that anything untoward had happened, believing that the liner had anchored merely to be boarded by the port health officer and customs. From King's Wharf it could be seen that the Mariposa had dropped anchor between North Head and Bean Rock, and it was immediately apparent that something was wrong. Rumours were gven current that the liner had struck a reef. The Auckland Harbour Board's tug Te Awhina stood by in the stream and the port health officer, Dr. G. Graham Russell, and customs officials went down and boarded the vessel while she was at anchor to avoid further delay at the wharf. Meanwhile, temporary repairs were being carried out to the steering gear and, by the time the medical inspection was completed, the Te Awhina was signalled to come alongside. Another tug, the Kumea, stood by in case she was needed. 

It was nearly mid-day when the Mariposa commenced to move up stream, under her own steam, but guided by the tug on her starboard bows. Shortly after the liner was safely berthed at King's Wharf, and representatives of a local engineering firm, previously advised by wireless, went on board to assist in the repairs. Part of the mechanism, including large valves, had to be brought ashore to the firm's workshops. 

It had been an unlucky voyage for the Mariposa, for bad weather was experienced practically throughout tho run from Sydney. The liner had to be driven into a south-east gale, with the wind at times reaching a velocity of 30 miles an hour and seas occasionally breaking over her high bows. In addition, the ship was only lightly booked and passengers, for the most part, kept to their cabins. "It was quite strange at breakfast this morning," one passenger said. "There seemed to be three or four times as many people as we had during the rest of the trip." 

Matson-Oceanic advertisement in Fortune magazine, 1934

Amidst the strike, there was good news to report on passenger traffic as W.H. Sallendar, Passenger Traffic Manager for Matson-Oceanic, did on 2 July 1934. Overall, carryings were up 46 percent that June compared to June 1933 with First Class bookings up 50 per cent. He cited Mariposa which left the previous week with 280 for the Antipodes vs. fewer than 100 on her June 1933 voyage. 

With the strike finally settled by federal government arbitration, Monterey's Los Angeles sailing on 25 July 1934 marked the 35th and last special Southern Pacific boat train service from/to San Francisco.  It was marked by a "star" passenger and possibly the first horse ever to travel by boat train when Winooka enjoyed his own private car to begin his trip home to Australia.  There were 434 passengers aboard, 194 landing at Honolulu on the 30th. Even if the strike had been settled, Auckland longshoremen still refused to handle Monterey upon arrival on 10 August owing to her being loaded with non union labour and still had a strikebreaking non union crew.  The ship was unloaded efficiently by her crew and an officer was quoted by the New Zealand Herald:  "The strike is settled on the Pacific Coast and it is generally accepted now that all the trouble was caused by a minority of extremists. We have had a service to maintain and we have maintained it. "  Among the cargo landed there was an airplane for the latest Ellsworth Antarctic expedition which would be transhipped to party's ship, Wyatt Earp.  Monterey arrived at Sydney on the 13th with a larger than usual crowd on the quayside to see Winooka, "looking splendid" after his voyage, return home. 

"Back Home," Monterey at San Francisco's Pier 32. Credit: OpenSFHistory / wnp28.3507

Sailing from San Francisco on 18 September 1934 and a day later from Los Angeles, Monterey left with a  full 5,000-ton cargo, the 15th consecutive sailing of the sisters with capacity loads for the Antipodes. Her passenger list, too, was the largest she had yet carried southbound: 574 of whom 295 landed at Honolulu on the 24th.  When she sailed from Auckland for Sydney and Melbourne on 5 October, she had a good list, many bound for the Melbourne Centenary celebrations there. 

Spencer Tracy (left) and his brother, Hal Tracy, were among the star-packed passenger list of Mariposa's southbound voyage in October 1934. Credit: Honolulu Star Bulletin, 22 October 1934

Mariposa sailed from Los Angeles on 17 October 1934 with almost 500 passengers aboard, 300 of whom were through booked to the Antipodes, setting a new record.  Among them were seven of America's leading golfers, a diving champion, pitcher Charlie Root of the Cubs and England's tennis team, all bound for exhibition matches at the Melbourne Centenary celebrations.  Mariposa landed 220 passengers at Honolulu on the 22nd. Among them was Lt. Comdr. P.H. Talbot, USN, who was aboard as an "official observer" for the U.S. Government to inspect every aspect of American liners which qualified as naval auxiliaries after the recent Morro Castle tragedy which had shown significant deficiencies in officers, crew and equipment.  Not so with the Matson-Oceanic liner, Talbot saying he "found her to be a fine ship in every respect"   and that the crew was "well disciplined". He would layover in Hawaii and then take the northbound Monterey home. 

Monterey shares Melbourne's Station Pier with one of the Orient Line's "20,000-tonners". Credit: State Library of New South Wales. 

The Los Angeles Times of 26 November 1934 reported that Matson-Oceanic was contemplating the construction of another Mariposa-class ship and that "definite consideration of the plan is awaiting outcome of the new government program on merchant marine subsidies, construction aid and ocean mail pay." It was added that "the Mariposa and Monterey have been successful even beyond expectations of their owners since they entered service early in 1933, and on their last seventeen outward voyages have carried absolute capacity cargoes. Their passenger average, both out and homeward, have exceeded 400 passengers each voyage." A third ship would permit a 20-day frequency instead of the present four-weekly service. 

The poor whale impaled on Mariposa's bows as taken by a crewman aboard. Credit: John Emery collection.

About 300 miles off Sydney Heads on 4 November 1934, Mariposa had the misfortune of striking and killing a whale, estimated to be 40-50 ft. long, and lying directly in the path of the liner making 20 knots.  The poor creature was impaled on the prow and the ship had to go astern two lengths to release it.  Rather more finesse was used  when the big twin-engined Boeing 247 transport plane used by Col. Roscoe Turner in the recent London-Melbourne air race was hoisted aboard Mariposa at Melbourne and secured to the tennis court between the funnels which lately had dual purpose as the ships' "hanger deck..  Without wings, the craft weighed 3 tons.  Mariposa sailed for America on the 12th.

Commanded by Capt. E.A. Johanson, in relief of Capt.  A.G. Townsend who was on leave, Monterey arrived at Honolulu on 20 November 1934 to land 175 passengers. On this trip, she would layover in Melbourne for five days during the Centennial celebrations there. 

Handling Mariposa's record 4,960 bags from offloading to delivery. Credit: Honolulu Star Bulletin, 19 December 1934. 

On 18 December 1934 Mariposa arrived at Honolulu with the largest consignment of mail ever landed at the port: 4,960 bags.

The prospect of a trans-Tasman "race" between Mariposa and Union's Monowai seemed in the offing when schedules had the two ships sail from Auckland for Sydney on 29 December 1934. Alas, it was sworn off by Union Line when it was stated one of Monowai's boilers would be off line for maintenance. 

Cover of Matson-Oceanic's 1935 brochure. Credit: Huntington Museum. 


Mariposa sailing from Auckland for San Francisco. Credit: New Zealand Herald, 15 January 1935

En route from Sydney to Melbourne, in the middle of a gale off Wilson's Promontory, Monterey's ship's surgeon performed an appendectomy on the officers' mess attendant on 31 January 1935.  The patient developed symptoms and it was hoped the ship could reach Melbourne early enough but the situation became acute.  The gale was severe enough to throw the surgeon into a cabinet during the operation but was carried out successfully, the patient recovering sufficiently to remain aboard for the voyage back to San Francisco. 

Capt. Elis R. Johanson, master of Monterey 1935-1946

In February 1935, Capt. Townsend assumed command of Malolo and Monterey was now permanently skippered by Capt. E.R. Johanson. 

It was announced on 18 March 1935 that Lurline would make a single round voyage to the Antipodes on 15 October  to permit Monterey to undergo her first major overhaul.

A large crowd sees Monterey and her passengers off from Auckland on 22 March 1935 as she sails for Sydney. Credit: Auckland Star, 23 March 1935. 

With the largest northbound cargo yet lifted from the Antipodes by any Oceanic ship, Mariposa arrived at San Francisco on 25 March 1935 with 4,000 tons consisting of tallow, copra, wool, hardwood and skins. 

An 18-year-old Yehudi Menuhin aboard Mariposa during the call at Auckland, bound for a concert tour of Australia.  A avid swimmer, the already famed violinist spent hours every day in the ship's outdoor pool. Credit: New Zealand Herald 22 April 1935. 

Mariposa came into Honolulu on 9 April 1935 with 83 landing passengers and embarked others including 18-year-old Yehudi Menuhin, bound for a concert tour of New Zealand and Australia, and sailed south with 131 through passengers. 

Experiencing problems with one of her propeller shafts,  a replacement was ordered and shipped aboard Monterey by the giant floating crane Titan at Sydney a day after arriving there from Melbourne on 1 April 1935. For the second time in less than three months, Monterey's surgeon, Dr. G.E. Davis, performed an emergency appendectomy at sea and again on a crewman, one day out of Suva on the 7th, the operation being entirely successful. She arrived at Honolulu on the 15th with 320 through fares. Docking at Los Angeles on the 20th, she had 422 aboard, many of the through passengers bound for England and the Silver Jubilee celebrations of King George V.  After her arrival at San  Francisco on the 22nd, Monterey was shifted two days later to dry dock at Hunter's Point for her semi annual underwater hull  and painting and fitting the new shaft.  

The San Francisco Examiner featured two wonderful photos of Monterey in dry dock at Hunter's Point. Here, she is entering the dock.  Credit: San Francisco Examiner 25 April 1935. 

And high and dry, showing the impressive bows of these ships. Operating in the warm waters of the South Pacific, their hulls were quickly fouled with grass and barnacles requiring drydocking twice a year for cleaning and painting. Credit: San Francisco Examiner, 25 April 1935. 

The southbound Mariposa, from San Francisco on 28 May 1935, was commanded for the first time by Capt. Frank Johnson, formerly master of Yale, in relief of Capt. William Meyer who was on leave. It was a rough first Tasman crossing for the new captain and the liner arrived late at Sydney on 18 June after a severe buffeting:

The Mariposa, which berthed at Sydney at nine o'clock last .Tuesday morning, received the full force of the storm. Captain Frank A. Johnson, who was making his first voyage to Sydney as master of the ship, said that it was one of the worst he had experienced. The vessel was about seven hours late in leaving Auckland and in order to reach Sydney by Monday drove at a good speed into the storm. Although the ship was reduced at times to eight knots, an average speed of 18 knots was maintained. Waves breaking over the bows were lifted by wind that reached a velocity of 65 miles an hour and the water crashed over the top of the vessel, flooding the highest deck, loosening the fastenings of lifeboats, and washing the vessel from bow to stem. Passengers were not allowed on and most of them were confined to their cabins. One passenger who ventured out was knocked by the force of the wind against a door and both of his wrists were sprained. The vessel stood up well to the buffeting and was described by the captain : 'as°a "game ship." No damage was i done. Precautions were taken to fasten all movable articles, and chairs in the dining saloon were tied together with rope. 

New Zealand Herald, 25 June 1935

Dramatic photograph of waves breaking over the bows of Mariposa in the Tasman en route from Auckland to Sydney. Credit: New Zealand Herald 1 July 1935. 

On her return voyage, Mariposa numbered among her trans-Tasman passengers, Yehudi Menuhin who landed at Auckland on 29 June 1935 to continue his Antipodes concert series there.  He would sail in the same ship for America on 9 August. When the liner sailed for the U.S. on the 29th, for the first time she took out more refrigerated than general cargo including  butter for Singapore, Japan, Honolulu and San Francisco; cheese for Shanghai, Hong Kong and San Francisco; frozen meat for Singapore, Honolulu and San Francisco; and chilled beef for Honolulu. Among her general cargo was a considerable consignment of light ale for Pago Pago which since the repeal of prohibition in the United States, imported ale from New Zealand. 

Monterey sailing from Auckland for the U.S. on 27 July 1935 nearing North Head with the War Memorial Museum prominent against Mount Eden.  Credit: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

More rough winter weather awaited the southbound Monterey en route to Auckland from Fiji, which hit a moderate to fresh easterly gale on 11 July 1935  that blew for 18 hours, accompanied by rough seas and a high easterly swell with continuous rain. She was an hour late docking at Auckland the next day with 369 passengers, 66 landing there. 
No strangers to celebrities of every description and distinction, the Matson pair exceeded themselves on Mariposa's southbound voyage from San Francisco on 23 July 1935 and Los Angeles the following day with 272 passengers for Honolulu and another 277 for the Antipodes.  Aboard were Janet Gaynor, Hal Roach and the shipwrecked Prime Minister of Australia, J.A. Lyons who had been aboard Niagara from Vancouver when she collided with a freighter the first night out on the 17th. He disembarked at Victoria and made for San Francisco to continue his voyage to embark on the American liner. But when Mariposa docked at Honolulu at 9:00 a.m. on the 29th, the 10,000 people thronging Pier 11 all wanted to see one passenger: Shirley Temple. 

Singing 'The Good Ship Lollypop, to an aloha crowd of 10,000 men, women and children, Shirley Temple, America's little sweetheart arrived on the Mariposa today for a three weeks vacation. Dressed in an A B C dress, which matched her taffy curls, and with a dainty pikaki lei around her neck, Shirley stood on the lanai rail of her stateroom, while her father and mother, Mr. & Mrs. George Temple, stood beside their little daughter.  As the Mariposa neared Pier 11 the U.S. Marine Corps band began to play the theme song of Shirley's recent picture, Bright Eyes. Shirley sang. The adoring thousands clapped and waved enthusiastically.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 29 July 1935

Australia's Prime Minister finds America's Sweetheart "a charming fellow passenger on the Mariposa." Credit: Auckland Star, 9 August 1935. 

Mariposa arrived Auckland on 9 August 1935 and what was already a memorable voyage was capped by breaking Monterey's trans-Tasman record by crossing in 59 hours 30 minutes, arriving at Sydney at 8:20 a.m. on the 12th. She cut 3 hours 15 minutes off her sister's mark.  The total time of the crossing was 2 days 11 hours 20 minutes.  Prime Minister Lyons received a warm welcome back home and it was made known that he "distinguished himself both as organizer and as a deck quoits player. He is a popular figure in the vessel." (News, 10 August 1935).

Business was indeed improving and on 6 September 1935 there were 484 aboard Monterey when she docked at Auckland, 134 disembarking there. Mariposa came into Honolulu on the 23rd from San Francisco and Los Angeles with 162 landing passengers and  322 through fares.

Two hours apart, Monterey and Lurline docked at Los Angeles on 5 October 1935, both inbound from Honolulu with 323 and 456 passengers aboard respectively. Lurline, after proceeding to San Francisco, went into dry dock at Hunters Point for hull cleaning and painting and then relieve Monterey for one voyage for overhaul, sailing for the Antipodes on the 15th. Monterey would resume service on 12 November.  

A new record was set in New Zealand to London mail delivery as announced on 16 October 1935: 23 days via Mariposa trans-Pacific and then trans-Atlantic in Normandie

Mariposa left  Honolulu on 28 October 1935 amidst "shouts and cheers from a noisy throng" seeing off the University of Hawaii football team, bound for two games on the Mainland. On her next southbound voyage from Los Angeles on 9 November 1935, Mariposa arrived at Honolulu on the 14th with 80  and 4,938 bags of mail for the port and 594 through passengers 

Monterey came into Auckland from Sydney on 17 December 1935 with 414 passengers for the New Zealand port and 268 through passengers with an additional 110 embarking, including the Viennese Boys Choir. But, owing to a strong northeast wind and flood tide, she was unable to get away from Auckland that evening as described by the New Zealand Herald:

The Matson Line steamer Monterey was delayed at Prince's Wharf late last night owing to the boisterous north-east wind and -the strong flood tide preventing her leaving the wharf. The vessel arrived from Sydney early in the morning and her loading operations during the day were delayed by the wet weather. She did not complete loading until nearly 11 p.m. Shortly afterwards the vessel's mooring lines were cast off and with tho Harbour Board's tug Te Awhina fast on her port quarter an attempt was made to swing the liner's stern toward the wind to enable her to clear the wharf, as she backed out into the stream. To assist the manoeuvre the Monterey's starboard engine was kept going astern and the port engine going ahead. The combined efforts of the tug and the Monterey's engines only resulted in the stern of the vessel being moved about 10 ft. from the wharf. After nearly 30 minutes without any further result the attempt was abandoned, and the vessel's departure was postponed until an early hour this morning. The tide was slack and she was able to get away.

Mariposa, which left Los Angeles on 11 December 1935 with 616 passengers aboard included a special Christmas excursion party which would sail as far as Pago Pago where they would transfer to the northbound Monterey for the return voyage to San Francisco, celebrating Christmas at sea.  She docked at Auckland on the 27th with 414 aboard, 125 landing there and 283 continuing onto Sydney and Melbourne. Among those aboard was novelist Zane Grey bound for a fishing excursion in Australia.
End of the year celebrity comings and goings: 27 December 1935 (left) the Vienna Boys Choir arriving at Honolulu in Monterey and (right) novelist Zane Grey aboard Mariposa at Auckland en route to Australia. 

Cover of Matson-Oceanic's 1936 brochure. Credit: Huntington Museum.


Since the Matson-Oceanic Line's twin $8,000,000 express steamers Mariposa and Monterey entered monthly service over the California-Hawaiian-Australiasia route in 1932 they have enjoyed unprecidented success in both passenger and freight traffic. Their entrance in the trade has also been marked in by a heavy shift of the Antipodes-United Kingdom travel from the traditional Suez route to the opposite way via California and the North Atlantic.
Los Angeles Times, 8 February 1936

Seldom in the annals of the ocean highway have a pair of sister ships more dominated, in such a short span of time, an entire route than did Mariposa and Monterey.  Here, the investment of American taxpayer money reaped immediate reward despite Depression and nowhere else did the Stars and Stripes fly from more potent and popular vessels than on the South Seas. On 20 January 1936, Union Steam Ship Co. announced closure of its U.S. to Antipodes service, operated by Makura (b.1908/8,075grt) and Maunganui (b.1911/7,527grt), simply because they could no longer compete with new American ships.  The route from Vancouver with Aorangi and Niagara continued but here, too, were totally outclassed and  required an immediate investment in new tonnage regain its competitiveness. 

Route Masters: wonderful stylized Oceanic route map from the 1936 brochure. With the withdrawal that year of Union's San Francisco service, Matson-Oceanic enjoyed total dominance of the U.S.-Antipodes route. Credit: Huntington Museum. 

Beginning the New Year, Monterey  which left Los Angeles on 8 January 1936, arrived at Honolulu on the 13th with 143 passengers for the port and 305 for the Antipodes.  She missed the hurricane that pummeled Samoa two days before she arrived there which severely damaged the banana, avoca and coconut plantations while Pago Pago also showed the effects of the storm. The ship was at Suva when news reached of the death of King George V at which the Stars & Stripes were lowered to half mast and the following day at sea a memorial service was conducted in the lounge by Capt. Johanson. Coming into Auckland on the 24th, she left there practically booked to capacity with 626 aboard, 320 embarking for the run to Sydney.  She late leaving owing to a large cargo and as she sailed at 9:30 p.m., "it was beautiful still night when Monterey steamed down the harbour, and with her big hull outlined by hundreds of lights she presented a brilliant spectacle." (Auckland Star, 25 January 1936).  With fine weather in the Tasman, Monterey put in one of her fastest ever passages, maintaining a speed of more than 22 knots. 

Despite a seaman's strike in Hawaii, Mariposa sailed for the Mainland on time on 20 January 1936 after last minute efforts by local maritime unions to call her  crew out failed. Three Matson freighters had been idled by the strike. With 400 passengers, she arrived at Los Angeles on the 25th.

Mariposa, from San Francisco on 4 February 1936, arrived at Auckland on the 20th with 114 passengers landing there and 338 for Australia and another 280 embarking for the trans-Tasman run. 

Emblematic of two ages of romantic ocean travel, the Mariposa, en route, from San Francisco to Sydney, last night passed the full-rigged ship Joseph Conrad, off the coast of New Zealand. White and beautiful, in the trim lines of her 18,000 tons, the Mariposa was cutting fast passage when the square sails of the graceful 146-ton ship were sighted. And then for the passengers was the beautiful sight of the vessels of two ages in contrast —the liner, long, streamlined and graceful, and the tall masts and bellying sails of the round the-world cruiser. They passed and spoke each other in passing. That was one of the few incidents of the Mariposa's crossing of the Pacific on this occasion. Good weather was experienced all the way.
Auckland Star, 21 February 1936

Mariposa at Sydney in 1936. Credit: State Library of Victoria. 

Winter stormy weather returned to the Tasman and Mariposa arrived at Auckland from Sydney on 27 June 1936 after a rough crossing with squalls and heavy seas most of the way across.  As it was, she missed the worst of a cyclone that swept Sydney after her departure.  

With the largest passenger list she had carried to date, Monterey arrived at Honolulu on 30 June 1936 with 690 passengers, 262 landing there.  She still had 535 aboard when she docked at Auckland on 11 July.

Rivals Meet: the new Union greyhound Awatea passes Monterey on her maiden voyage to Sydney, rolling in a heavy swell. Credit: Auckland Star, 22 September 1936

If conceding the field of American-Antipodes competition to Matson-Oceanic, Union Steam Ship was spurred to commission a new vessel to compete with Mariposa and Monterey on the Trans-Tasman run.  This was the brilliant 13,482-grt Awatea, launched at Vickers Armstrong on 25 February 1936.  On her maiden voyage, she arrived at Sydney on 21 September after first voyage from Auckland, taking 2 days 13 hours 15 mins compared to Mariposa's record 2 days 10 hours 7 minutes, but without all her boilers on line. The battle was soon drawn and she and Oceanic sisters thereafter vied for the record in friendly and spirited rivalry.

American competition on the Pacific came to an abrupt and prolonged halt when the Pacific Coast shipping industry strike began 15 October 1936, lasting 98 days. The strike arose from the failure of steamship companies and seven different maritime unions to agree to agreements and arbitration awards stemming from the 1934 strike and set to expire 30 September. Unlike the 1934 strike, there was no violence, but the shutdown was more widespread and effected every U.S.-flag vessel on the coast. For Matson, there was go around via Los Angeles and their passenger and cargo operations shut down with each arrival in port, both the mainland and Hawaii as the crews joined the strike.

As it was, labor problems in Australia resulted in Monterey coming into Honolulu two days later on 30 September 1936.  She got into Los Angeles on 5 October and cut her stay short, sailing for San Francisco that evening.  The ship managed to sail southbound from San Francisco on the 13th and from Los Angeles the next day, a before the strike began.  Of her 600 passengers, more than 200 had originated in Britain showing the market shift toward the Matson-Oceanic route, a promising development that would have to be put on hold for the ensuing three months. 

Mariposa, which had left Auckland on 17 October 1936, called at Honolulu on the 26th and as soon as she docked at Los Angeles on the 31st her crew joined the strike. Of her 366 passengers, 177 were put on a special boat train to continue their journey to San Francisco.  The ship's scheduled 10 November sailing from San Francisco was eventually cancelled. 

Now the last American liner still at sea in the Pacific, Monterey left Sydney on 11 November and Auckland on the 14th where she landed 162 passengers. When she sailed north, there was already concern that she'd get no farther than Honolulu before her crew would join the strike. There were already hundreds of stranded travellers there so when she came in on the 22nd, Monterey anchored four miles off the Ala Moana.  There, her 30 disembarking passengers were taken off by barge and 447 embarked in the same manner. Rough seas delayed the operation until the following day.

Dramatic photo of Monterey anchored off the Ala Moana on 23 November 1936 with two Young Bros. tugs trying to get alongside the liner in rough seas.  The operation of embarking almost 500 passengers was delayed until the next day. Credit: Honolulu Star Bulletin, 23 November 1936

Credit: Honolulu Star Bulletin, 23 November 1936.

The successful embarkation 447 passengers and their luggage (no cargo was loaded) by barge the evening of 23 November 1936 was the largest such operation carried out in Honolulu port history and well described in the local press: 

The sailing was as dramatic  any Honolulu has seen since windjammers took passengers over the side off port. Only by holding the Monterey outside during the whole of a stormy day and half the night was it made possible. Had the ship come to dock in port following her arrival Monday morning from the Antipodes, her crew would have walked off and she would have joined the list of vessels strikebound here. Honolulu residents who saw the Monterey riding gray in the mist offport Monday were looking at the last American merchant marine passenger liner that will call here until the shipping strike comes to an end. In San Francisco she will join other vessels tied up by a strike that has paralyzed mainland shipping.  A leave taking that has no precedent in waterfront records here began at 8:30 when barge, carrying nearly 450 men, women and children passengers, slowly moved away from Pier 9 in tow of the tug Miami. Ashore the indefatigable Royal Hawaiian band, whose players had been tooting since 9:30 that morning, played a last weary aloha. There was a flutter of hands, and cries of farewell, and the barge moved out into the channel.

Honolulu Star Bulletin, 24 November 1936

The scene of the arrival of the pineapple barge with 447 passengers alongside Monterey the evening of 23 November 1936. Credit: Honolulu Star Bulletin, 24 November 1936

Credit: Honolulu Star Bulletin, 24 November 1936

The sailing was as dramatic as any Honolulu has seen since windjammers took passengers over the side off port. Only by holding the Monterey outside during the whole of a stormy day and half the night was it made possible. Had the ship come to dock in port following her arrival Monday morning from the Antipodes, her crew would have walked off and she would have joined the list of vessels strikebound here. Honolulu residents who saw the Monterey riding gray in the mist off port Monday were looking at the last American merchant marine passenger liner that will call here until the shipping strike comes to an end. In San Francisco she will join other vessels tied up by a strike that has paralyzed mainland shipping.  A leave taking that has no precedent in waterfront records here began at 8:30 when barge, carrying nearly 450 men, women and children passengers, slowly moved away from Pier 9 in tow of the tug Miami. Ashore the indefatigable Royal Hawaiian band, whose players had been tooting since 9:30 that morning, played a last weary aloha. There was a flutter of hands, and cries of farewell, and the barge moved out into the channel.

Honolulu Star Bulletin, 24 November 1936

In all, Monterey had 619 passengers aboard and 2,000 tons of Australian cargo, including 10,000 bales of wool when she docked at San Francisco on 28 November 1936, the last American-flag still in service on the Pacific. Her crew immediately signed off and Monterey joined the strikebound fleet of  some 350 American merchantmen in every Pacific coast port. 

Monterey's passengers disembarking at San Francisco on 28 November 1936. Credit: Honolulu Star Bulletin, 12 December 1936.

Meanwhile, in an astonishing if entirely coincidental fashion, Union Steam Ship's long planned withdrawal of its own San Francisco-Antipodes service was effected with the final sailing of R.M.S. Makura on 10 November 1936 which left the entire route unserved.  Only the Vancouver-Antipodes service of Canadian-Australasian by Aorangi and Niagara remained which, as pre-planned, were retimed to coordinate with those of Mariposa and Monterey

Cover of Matson-Oceanic's 1937 brochure. Credit: Huntington Museum.


With the Maritime Strike finally settled on 4 February 1937, Matson-Oceanic announced resumption of sailings starting with Monterey from San Francisco on the 9th to the Antipodes and Mariposa on a special roundtrip to Hawaii from Los Angeles on the 11th and back to San Francisco. 

On 9 February 1937 Monterey sailed on San Francisco's Pier 32 and from Los Angeles the next day  for the Antipodes. She arrived  at Honolulu on the 15th with 603 passengers, 289 landing there. Young Bros. tugs with hula dancers came out to greet the first Matson-Oceanic arrival at the port in four months. Monterey arrived Auckland  on the 26th with 469 passengers, 156 landing there, and sailed the same evening for Sydney with 130 additional passengers for the trans-Tasman crossing. To get back to schedule, she would turnaround there and not call at Melbourne. 

Back to work: crewmen embark on Mariposa at San Pedro on 5 February 1937 after settlement of the four-month maritime strike. Credit: Los Angeles Times, 6 February 1937

Mariposa, laid up at Los Angeles, embarked her crew on 5 February 1937. She sailed direct to Honolulu on the 11th and returned to San Francisco. A gala welcome awaited Mariposa's arrival at Honolulu on the 16th with an off shore reception off Diamond Head with six outrigger canoes, the Royal Hawaiian Band on a tug, lei girls, and, sadly, rough seas and cloudy and rainy weather.  She brought in 607 passengers and a heavy cargo of foodstuffs and merchandise. With 150 aboard, she sailed on the 19th direct to San Francisco where she was drydocked on arrival.  

For the first time in five months, Mariposa sailed for the Antipodes on 4 March 1937 from San Francisco, but with a teamsters strike in Los Angeles, she did not call there and continued direct to Honolulu where she docked on the 8th, landing 390 passengers and continuing south with 150 aboard. "After an absence of five months, the white hull of the Oceanic Shipping Company's liner Mariposa rounded North Head just before seven o'clock to-day with the glory of the morning sunshine behind her." so the Auckland Star of 19 March reported the ship's welcome return to the port. 

Jervis Bay sails from Melbourne 29 March 1937 just before Mariposa, astern, makes the first Matson-Oceanic departure from the port in some five months. Credit: New Zealand Herald, 8 April 1937.

When Capt. E.R. Johanson of Monterey was stricken with appendicitis during the call at Honolulu on 5 April  1937 and rushed to hospital ashore, Capt. C.L. Brocas, master of the Matson freighter Manukai which was in Maui, was urgently detailed to fill-in and take the liner southbound.  He flew to Honolulu that day in time to take Monterey out on schedule. Capt. Johanson underwent a successful appendectomy at Queen's Hospital. Then, a day out from Pago Pago on the 9th, Monterey met the northbound Mariposa almost on the equator. Capt. Brocas was transferred to Mariposa to take her north and Capt. William Meyer went over to Monterey as he was more experienced with the Australian and New Zealand ports.

Arrangements for the captains of the Monterey and the Mariposa to change commands were made in advance by radio. The liners met in the evening about a day's steaming to the north of Pago Pago, and hove-to within a quarter of a mile of each other. So close wore the two liners that members of the crews could exchange shouted greetings across the intervening water. A boat was lowered from the Mariposa, and the master, Captain W. Meyer, was rowed across to take command of the Monterey. Captain Brocas returned in the boat, and took over the Mariposa. The exchange of masters was effected without difficulty, the sea being particularly smooth at the time. Little time was spent in making the exchange; and the two liners continued their voyages after a brief delay.  

New Zealand Herald, 17 April 1937

If this was not sufficiently diverting for the passengers of both sisters, 8 April 1937 also had Monterey cross the equator and the Pan American Sikorsky flying boat Pacific Clipper flying over the ship en route from Pago Pago to Kingman Reef on the return stage of her Pacific survey flight. 

Mariposa left San Francisco on her next voyage south on 28 April 1937  commanded by Capt. L.J. Doepfner, Assistant Port Captain for Matson Line.  

Monterey, Capt. W.R. Meyer, docked at Honolulu from Down Under on 12 May 1937. There, a fully recovered Capt. E.R. Johanson embarked for the trip to the Mainland and would assume command upon arrival, relieving Capt. Meyer for his annual leave after which he returned to MariposaMonterey came into Los Angeles on the 17th with 585 passengers, 437 of whom were from the Antipodes.  Among those landing was Scottish actor Sir Harry Lauder, returning from a fishing holiday in New Zealand and sailing trans-Atlantic from New York on 12 June  to Glasgow in Cameronia.

Monterey entering Sydney Harbour from Auckland on 14 June 1937. Credit: Royal Australian Historical Society.

Setting another passenger carrying record, Mariposa left Los Angeles on 23 June 1937 with 684 aboard, 222 of whom landed at Honolulu on the 27th. And by the time she docked at Auckland on 9 July she had 689 passengers.  A record 200 embarked for the trans-Tasman crossing to Sydney where she docked on the 12th and Melbourne on the 15th. 

When Monterey sailed from Sydney for San Francisco on 25 June 1937, the weather conditions were rather more dramatic as this famous photo, taken by the Sydney Sun launch off the Heads. shows with the liner caught in the trough of a giant swell. Credit: Sydney Sun

Setting yet another passenger record,  Mariposa left Honolulu on 4 August 1937 for the Mainland with 699 aboard… the largest yet taken out of Hawaii on a single liner in regular service. Of the total, 360 were through passengers from the Antipodes and 339 originated from Hawaii. 

Monterey (above) and Awatea (below) at Auckland on 6 August 1937 before they sailed within hours of each other for Sydney to engage in an officially denied trans-Tasman "race". Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collection. 

It was the Great Race, an epic first engagement between the Yankee upstarts and the newest ship of the oldest of the trans-Tasman lines.  It was not even, if one believed their captains and the official "line," a race at all, but when schedules conspired to have Matson-Oceanic's Monterey (Capt. E.R. Johanson) and Union S.S. Co.'s Awatea (Capt. A.H. Davey) depart Auckland within hours of one another on 6 August 1937, it was seen as nothing less by press and public. Neither of whom were disappointed.

R.M.S. Awatea cleared her Auckland berth at 5:20 p.m. and U.S.M.S. Monterey was off at 9:10 p.m., both encountering bad weather at the onset of their crossings which precluded a true record run by either but still preserving the prospect of a bow to bow competition between the two rivals.  Awatea arrived at Sydney at 7:30 a.m. on 9 August and Monterey at 10:18 a.m.  Time for Awatea 2 days 15 hours 40 mins., time for Monterey 2 days 14 hours 25 mins. 

MARIPOSA'S RECORD STANDS AWATEA SLOWER THAN RIVAL By Telegraph—Press Association—Copyright (Received August 9, 7 p.m.) SYDNEY, August 9 The Awatea arrived at Sydney from Auckland at 7.30 a.m. to-day and the Monterey at 10.18 a.m. The Sun reports that the Awatea's passage occupied 2 days 15 hours 40 minutes and the Monterey's 2 days 14 hours 25 minutes. The Monterey's time was beaten by the record of the Mariposa, made in 1935, by 3 hours 5 minutes.

Captain A. H. Davey, of the Awatea, in an interview said: "I was in communication with Captain Johanson of the Monterey many times during the voyage. I never met Captain Johanson. He always signed his messages 'Aloha' Johanson. I was not going to allow him to get away with Hawaiian like that, so .I signed mine 'Kia Ora' Davey and thus gave him a bit of Maori. 5 ' "We had a fast run to North Cape and maintained 22 knots until we turned the corner where we had to fight a severe blow with seas 30 feet high coming across the bows. The storm lasted 16 hours. We gained speed on Sunday when the weather was finer and averaged 20 knots throughout the trip. We slowed down at 4.40 a.m. today as we were not needed at the wharf until 8.10 a.m."

Although the Monterey's steaming time of 2 days 14 hours 25 minutes broke her own record of 2 days 14 hours 35 minutes, established in July, 1932, she did not come within reach of the fast .passage made by the Mariposa in 1935 (2 days 11 hours 20 minutes). The Awatea's time of 2 days 15 hours 40 minutes is about her normal crossing, A Union Steam Ship Company official at Auckland yesterday emphasised the point, made by Captain Davey, that there was no need to maintain the speed of the Awatea into Sydney and to arrive too early. He was confident that when circumstances demanded the Awatea would attempt the record, but added that it was uneconomical to make full speed unnecessarily.

New Zealand Herald, 10 August 1937

Finally meeting in person, Capt. A.H. Davey of Awatea paid a call on Capt. Meyer of Mariposa when the two liners were Auckland on 3 September 1937.  The two later repaired to Awatea for lunch together. Mariposa's sailing for Sydney was delayed until the next afternoon to permit the rain delayed unloading of a valuable perishable cargo of 5,968 chests of California grapes. This also ended speculation that Mariposa and Awatea, to have sailed on the 3rd, would have the chance at another "race." Seventeen hours late Mariposa departed the afternoon of the 4th.  Awatea had a splendid crossing and on the 6th it was reported that she had clocked 555 nautical miles in the 24 hours ending at noon the previous day, besting Mariposa's mark of 515 miles.  The Union liner had averaged 22.65 knots despite a westerly wind and high seas. Capt. Meyer sent Capt. Davey congratulations whilst his Mariposa was maintaining her usual 20.19 knots across. Making it official, Awatea entered Sydney Heads at 7:20 a.m. on the 6th, doing the crossing in 57 hours and 32 minutes at an average of 22.07 knots and breaking Mariposa's record set in January 1936 of 57 hours 53 minutes by 22 minutes despite less than ideal weather.  

On 4 September 1937 Matson announced that they would rebuild the crew quarters of all four express liners.  Improvements had already been effected aboard Mariposa and included better accommodation for female crew members. This anticipated new regulations and standards set down by the new U.S. Maritime Commission which replaced the U.S. Shipping Board under the 1936 Merchant Marine Act.

Monterey came into Honolulu on 20 September 1937 with a record for the time of year of 113 passengers for Honolulu and 554 for the Antipodes. When she docked at Auckland on 1 October her list comprised 687 passengers of whom 198 landed there and more would embark for the trans-Tasman run. Many of the passengers landing were returning from the Coronation.  Her cargo was also the largest carried for sometime and included 280 tons of California grapes, with altogether 1,232 tons landed at Auckland. She and Awatea sailed that early evening but there was talk or effort to "race."  It was remarked by the Auckland Star that day that Monterey had 12 boilers and never sailed with more than 10 lit and was said to capable of 25 knots with all 12.

Business was booming it seemed and on 14 October 1937 Mariposa sailed from Los Angeles with 675 passengers of whom no fewer than 511 were ticketed through to the Antipodes and of those, 363 were booked from the London office. She landed 2,069 bags of mail on arrival at Honolulu on the 18th. 

Mariposa at Auckland. It was said that it always rained when Mariposa called there.  Credit: Auckland Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 1370-523-01

Mark the date: Mariposa at Auckland (unusually berthed at King's Wharf West) on 15 November 1937 in glorious sunshine!  Rangitiki (left) outbound for Wellington and the Oceanic liner will soon follow, San Francisco-bound. Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 1370-523-06

Monterey arrived at Honolulu on 15 November 1937 with 134 landing passengers (including actor Pat O'Brien and his wife) and 539 through passengers for the Antipodes. She docked at Auckland on the 26th after a voyage which was enjoyed in "glorious weather" and landed 193 passengers. Returning, northbound, to Auckland on 13 December 1937 Monterey figured in a new port record for gross merchant tonnage of 167,462 tons and all berths occupied. 

From the 1938 Matson-Oceanic brochure. Credit: Huntington Museum. 


Beginning the New Year, Monterey came into Honolulu on 10 January 1938 from San Francisco (4th) and Los Angeles with 230 passengers and 3,500 bags of mail for the port and 306 through passengers many of whom were bound for the celebrations commemorating the 150th anniversary of Sydney's founding.  Monterey would arrive there two days before the day Captain Cook landed at Sydney Cove. 

With the evolving plans for the expansion and reform of the U.S. Merchant Marine under the new U.S. Maritime Commission,  it was  reported in early January 1938 that Matson-Oceanic were contemplating two new, larger and faster liners for the Antipodes run in response to plans by Canadian Pacific/Canadian Australasian Line for two new ships of their own to replace Aorangi and Niagara. The North America-Antipodes was the one international route completely dominated by an American line and ships and there was apparently every desire it remain so.  In the event, even when the Dominion governments tentatively agreed to subsidize the new Canadian-Australasian ships, the project had to be postponed and eventually abandoned when British shipyards were suddenly overwhelmed with urgent naval construction. For Matson-Oceanic, too, its plans were at odds with the prevailing initial Maritime Commission's newbuilding program that initially stressed standardized cargo and "combi" vessels rather than large express liners, America of 1940 being the one exception. Meanwhile, Mariposa and Monterey remained supreme on their route. 

Youthful admirers watching Monterey back away from Station Pier, Melbourne, 28 March 1938. Credit: The Age, 29 March 1938.

Sailing from San Francisco a day early to avoid arrival at Auckland on Good Friday, Mariposa cast off from Pier 32 at noon on 28 March 1938. By the time she left Los Angeles 17 hours late, her small passenger list (74 for Honolulu and 191 through)  included  director John Ford and the famed American opera singer Lawrence Tibbett. Spencer Tracy was a last minute cancellation. The ship put in a good passage south to make up five hours and came into Honolulu at 9:00 p.m. on the evening of 4 April.  Mr. Tibbett was rushed ashore by tug when the liner was off the harbour to make it to McKinley Auditorium to perform a concert there and Mariposa sailed at 1:00 a.m. Mid April 1938 was a memorable time for Auckland when Empress of Britain called there for four days on a world cruise, the largest ship yet to call at New Zealand, and the HAPAG liner, Reliance, also on a world cruise, and on 14 April they were joined by Mariposa, the largest liner regularly calling at the port. 

Auckland, 14 April 1938: Mariposa (left), with Monterey, the largest regular callers to the port, and Empress of Britain (right), the largest vessel yet to call at New Zealand, on her round-the-world cruise. Credit: Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs. Ref: WA-03485-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. 

The northbound Mariposa had 63 passengers to land  and 481 through passengers when she docked at Honolulu on 10 May 1938.  But on her next southbound trip, she had yet another very small list of only 173 through passengers and 107 for Honolulu.  When she came into Auckland on 10 June she had 244 aboard. Mooring on the opposite side of Queen's wharf to Awatea, the Auckland Star observed "officers of the Mariposa admired the sleek greyhound on the truck of the foremast of the Awatea, and the suggestion was made that a gilded hare would be fitting in a similar position on the Mariposa."   Among her cargo was 15,000 tons of heavy machinery and oil drilling rig accompanied by three American oil experts engaged by the New Zealand Petroleum Co.'s oil exploration project near Gisborne. 

Artist W.W. Stewart's depiction of R.M.S. Awatea beating U.S.M.S. Mariposa past Sydney Heads 13 June 1938.  The American liner, however, put in the faster elapsed time for the trans-Tasman crossing. And did so without "M"s on her funnels.  Credit: Huntington Museum. 

As it was, the two ships sailed with five hours of each other for Sydney on 10 June 1938, with Awatea off at 5:00 p.m. and Mariposa at 11:10 p.m. Indeed, all of the trans-Tasman flyers... Awatea, Mariposa and Wanganella (from Wellington) arrived at Sydney within 15 minutes of each other on the 13th, all late owing to encountering "terrific head seas" all the way across in the teeth of a 50 mph gale. Awatea was down to 9 knots at one point and the American liner reduced to 15. Even if she had left six hours earlier, Awatea was caught up by Mariposa and the last day the two were within sight of one another to the delight of their passengers.  To satisfy those in need of the racing results, the Auckland Star published the crossing times of each:  Mariposa 66 hours 15 minutes, Awatea 71 hours 40 minutes and Wanganella 93 hours 20 minutes.  Both captains firmly discounted any notion of a race, of course.

Cover of the Matson-Oceanic summer 1938 brochure. Credit: Huntington Library.

Under the 1936 Merchant Marine Act, the old mail contract system was scrapped and in its place, an  "operational differential subsidy" was awarded to lines maintaining essential overseas routes and the aid designed to offset the extra costs incurred, especially in labour costs, by maintaining an American crew (under the new regulations, 80% of the officers and crew had to be native or naturalized American citizens).  At the end of May 1938, Matson-Oceanic application for a subsidy for Mariposa and Monterey on the San Francisco-Antipodes run which was granted.

Living up to the images of the romance of the South Seas, one of the Matson-Oceanic sister ships at Pago Pago.  

On 2 July 1938 between Pago Pago and Honolulu,  George Wright, age 57, Mayor of Honolulu, died aboard Mariposa.  He had taken the trip for his health, sailing from Honolulu on 30 May  and was making the round trip, when he became very ill when the ship arrived at Auckland on 10 June and taken to hospital and re-embarked on a stretcher when she returned to Auckland on the run north.  When she came into Honolulu on the 6th, Mariposa had her flags flying at half mast, greeted in solemn and bareheaded silence by 5,000 residents at Pier 9. 

The Mariposa slowly moved through the channel with the union jack, national colors, the Australian and the house flag of the Matson Steam Navigation Co. at half mast. A score of diving boys who had been swimming around the liner's hull farther out in the harbor disappeared as she drew nearer the dock. Royal Hawaiian bandsmen, who are customarily seated at ship arrivals, stood to play Aloha Oe, then Na Lei o Hawaii. Men uncovered. Many persons dabbed at their eyes with handkerchiefs.

Honolulu Star Bulletin, 6 July 1938

A well patronized Mariposa docked at Honolulu on 25 July 1938 from Los Angeles with 236 for Hawaii and 432 through passengers. H.E. Pippin, Assistant General Passenger Manager for Matson-Oceanic, who was aboard for the San Francisco-Los Angeles leg, predicted that 1937's travel record to the Antipodes would be broken that year. On 5 August the line's newly appointed General Passenger Manager, Richard Walton, arrived in Los Angeles aboard Lurline and revealed that the port was now handling more than 60 per cent of all its passenger traffic compared with 35 per cent four years ago and was responsible for more than 75 per cent of all the traffic to the Antipodes. 

That the 1930s were a true heyday of the ocean liner was shown in a single day at the Port of Honolulu on 3 August 1938 when President Coolidge, Orient-bound, Matsonia for the Mainland and the also West Coast-bound  Monterey called within two hours of each other. The Matson-Oceanic liner landed 128 passengers and sailed with 377 for Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Northbound, Monterey had 170 to disembark at Honolulu on 22 August and 499 through passengers.   During the Matson liners stay in port, their respective basketball and baseball teams had matches with Matsonia claiming victories in both games.   

With a record for the largest number of passengers yet to sail in a single vessel for the Antipodes via the Pacific, Monterey left Los Angeles on 19 August 1938 with 550 through passengers among the 670 aboard. When she docked at Auckland she had 696 aboard, with 234 landing there. This exceeded the mark of 687 passengers set in October  by Monterey and every berth was taken when she left Suva for Auckland.

In addition to a record passenger list, Monterey discharged 1,500 tons of cargo at Auckland on 2-3 September 1938. So heavy was the cargo, that lighters had to be used.  She was two hours late in sailing for Sydney and Capt. Johanson was very critical of the port's inadequate labour.  Credit: New Zealand Herald, 3 September 1938. 

When Mariposa docked at Auckland on 31 September 1938 a thrilling rescue at sea was revealed when the liner was between Hawaii and Samoa:

Rescued after an hour's struggle to keep afloat in shark-infested waters, a bell-boy, aged 17 years, who fell from the stern of the Matson liner Mariposa between Hawaii and Samoa owes his life to the keen eyes of an officer on the bridge. The boy was picked up in an exhausted condition by an emergency boat crew, and, when the Mariposa arrived at Pago Pago last Saturday, he was transferred to hospital to receive recuperative treatment. The drama of a sudden emergency at, sea was described when the liner reached Auckland yesterday. The vessel was steaming at over 20 knots when a member of the crew saw the bell-boy fall from the rail at the stern and disappear in the wake of the ship. After throwing out a life-buoy, he immediately reported the incident to the watch on the bridge. 

Many of the passengers were at breakfast when the emergency whistle was sounded and the vessel was felt to list as the helm was put hard over to bring her about. Within a few minutes the emergency boat was manned and swung out from the davits, and a search that extended for nearly an hour was commenced. The life-buoy was found floating in tho wake of the ship, but the anxious search of the boat crew yielded no trace of the missing lad. Some equipping themselves with binoculars, hundreds of passengers lined the rails, but hopes of a rescue diminished when sharks were seen in the warm tropical waters. Fifty-five minutes after the cry of "Man overboard" had been given, the missing boy was seen to rise on the crest of the swell by an officer on the bridge. 'With the lad obviously exhausted and the emergency boat too far away to offer immediate assistance, a second boat was launched and the rescue was effected. "Seemed a Miracle" After being taken on board the liner, the boy, who was making his first trip in the Mariposa, was placed in the sick bay. From here he was transferred to hospital at Pago Pago, and, as his condition is not serious, it is expected that he will rejoin the ship when she makes her return journey north to San Francisco.

'If ever a person was fortunate to be alive it is that bell-boy,' one of the passengers said. 'Of all of us who anxiously lined the rails, I don t suppose there was one who had not given up hope of a rescue when nothing had been seen of the lad for nearly an hour. It seemed a miracle that anyone could evade the sharks and remain afloat in the rather choppy sea for so long.' 

New Zealand Herald, 1 October 1938

With the record number of through passengers for 1938, Mariposa docked at Honolulu on 19 September with 120 landing passengers and 568 for the south.  When she came into Auckland on the 30th, she had 683 aboard, 173 landing there and upon sailing for Sydney, she was absolutely full again and indeed some prospective passengers were turned away. On arrival at  Sydney on 8 October she had almost 700 aboard and a crowd of 2,000 to meet them on the pier, such was the crowd that a melee broke out as people tried to embark and several women were knocked down and injured. 

Monterey, cargo booms already swung out, coming into Station Pier, Melbourne. Credit: Allan C. Green photo, State Library of Victoria. 

In a sensational case, a 23-year-old messboy aboard Monterey, was arrested and convicted of stealing $43,393 in jewelry belonging to Mrs. Lawrence Tibbett, wife of the famous opera singer, shortly before  the ship arrived at Los Angeles from the south on 4 October. The messboy confessed to the crime and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment, but $24,000 of the loot was never discovered being hurriedly stashed throughout the vessel and some of it doubtless being found by others. 

Getting her share of buoyant autumn traffic, Monterey disembarked 81 passengers at Honolulu on 17 October 1938 and proceeded south with 587 still aboard, including Australia's victorious Davis Cup tennis team.  It was remarked many were leaving Europe over war scares during the Munich conference.  Breaking her own record of 696 passengers set just on her previous arrival, Monterey docked at Auckland on the 29th with 699 aboard, the largest yet carried southbound by the company. Every berth was occupied when she left Suva and although 186 got off in Auckland, an equal number embarked for the run to Sydney. 

After a northbound voyage enjoyed in perfect conditions, Monterey ran into headwinds for two days after departing Pago Pago which slowed her down.  As soon as conditions moderated, Capt. Johanson put on all speed and making 22 knots, Monterey docked at Honolulu on schedule on 23 November 1938.  She had only 24 of the small total number of 183 aboard to land there. 

More than satisfying the concept of the working liner, Mariposa came alongside Pier 11 at Honolulu  on 14 November 1938 from Los Angeles and San Francisco to land 80 passengers, one ton of cargo, no fewer than 4,938 bags of mail and was off that early evening with 594 through passengers for the Antipodes including H.N. Thomas, Passenger Traffic Manager for Matson-Oceanic. Mariposa arrived at Auckland on the 25th with 479 passengers, 214 landing there and another 160 embarking. 

That is merely a rumour and has no foundation whatsoever in fact," said Mr. H. N. Thomas, passenger manager of the Matson Line, when interviewed aboard the Mariposa this morning on the published reports of the intention of the company to replace the Mariposa and the Monterey with new and larger vessels. "That rumour has reached the States, and I have no hesitation in denying it," he added. "The present two ships are adequate for the business offering, and larger ones are not required. When they become necessary we will build them." Amplifying this statement, Mr. Thomas said that business had progressed continuously since the line had inaugurated the New Zealand link. This had been accentuated recently, the passenger accommodation during the last four trips in particular being heavily taxed. "While this is gratifying to the company we have by no "means reached absorption point yet and can carry more passengers without overtaxing the accommodation,"  he said. "The Pacific route has proved popular to travellers owing to the favourable geographic situation and the climate. There is no reason why the number of passengers carried should not continue to grow." It was learned from another source that all accommodation in the Mariposa, which arrived from San Francisco this morning, was sold. There were 479 through passengers and 214 landed at Auckland. When the ship sails for Sydney this evening 100 passengers will embark. The full passenger accommodation is 709, and as several passengers had purchased double berths there were no vacancies on the trip to New Zealand.

Auckland Star, 25 November 1938

Two icons of Sydney Harbour.  Credit: Library of New South Wales.

Mariposa came into Auckland on 12 December 1938 from Sydney after a trans-Tasman crossing which began with two days of northerly gales. Of the 563 aboard, 325 landed there and another 120 embarked. After celebrating Christmas at sea off the California coast, Capt. William Meyer brought his Mariposa alongside Pier 32 at San Francisco  on the 27th to conclude the last voyage of another busy year for the Oceanic sisters.  She would sail south again on 3 January 1939.

Cover of the 1939 Matson-Oceanic brochure. Credit: Huntington Museum. 


The New Year began with yet more labor unrest. When waterfront cargo checkers at Los Angeles went out, Matson-Oceanic took no chances with Mariposa's scheduled sailing from San Francisco on 3 January 1939. The Los Angeles call was cancelled and the liner's departure  delayed to the 5th to permit a special overnight sleeper train to be laid on to convey the 225 intending L.A. passengers to the Bay city. With 377 through passengers  and 113 for Honolulu aboard, she sailed at noon, followed an hour later by Lurline: "Both liners dipped, rolled a wee bit and ploughed undaunted through clouds of mist and spray as they passed over the San Francisco bar at its roughest stage for the year." (San Francisco Examiner, 6 January 1939). Then, when outside the Golden Gate to drop the pilot, she encountered a heavy swell, rolling suddenly and violently, breaking a considerable quantity of crockery and making it difficult for passengers to keep their footing, although most had already retired to their cabins for the night. 

So, now 14 hours behind schedule, Mariposa had to make up time and reached Honolulu at 6:00 p.m. instead of the morning of the 9th, still nine and a half hours late, sailing at midnight, and was just four hours late coming into Pago Pago and back on schedule by the time she arrived at Suva.  Among her passengers for Australia was the Premier of Ontario, Mr. Mitchell Heppurn, Australia's High Commissioner in London, S.M. Bruce, and Mr. Zane Grey and a party of scientists from the American Museum of Natural History en route to study fish in Australian waters.  Mariposa arrived at Auckland on the 20th with 202 landing there and 361 through travellers and another 300 joining her for the Tasman crossing.  She docked at Sydney on the 23rd and at Melbourne on the 27th.

Another superb photographic study by The Argus of Mariposa ending a most eventful first voyage of 1939 as she comes into Station Pier, Melbourne on 27 January. Credit: The Argus, 28 January 1939.

It did not happen often, but the Tasman was described as "like a millpond" when Monterey arrived at Auckland from Sydney on 9 January 1939 where she landed 338 passengers, had 275 through voyagers aboard and embarked another 105. Also aboard was a remarkable collection of 110 Australian birds and animals to be a highlight of the Australian Court at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco and then donated to the San Francisco zoo. These included 22 members of the kangaroo family including six wallaroos, 10 wallabies and six wombats and among the birds, six kookaburras, the first ever seen in the United States. Monterey arrived at San Francisco on the 24th. 

Noel Coward, bound for Pago Pago, was among the 482 passengers aboard Monterey sailing from Los Angeles  on 1 February 1939.  Prior to sailing, Mr. Coward was a guest at Gary Grant's house and was seen off  aboard in his suite by Mr. Grant, Ray Bolger, Marlene Dietrich and Vivian Leigh.

Reviving discussion of new ships, Frazier Bailey, Matson-Oceanic Executive Vice President, revealed negotiations on 4 February 1939 were underway with the U.S. Maritime Commission towards the construction  of  ships  to "larger, more streamlined, more luxurious and faster than the Mariposa and Monterey…  if we complete the negotiations we'll build a pair of sister ships rather than a single vessel. We have found that travellers prefer twin ships on a route rather than getting accustomed to one liner one way and boarding a small or larger ship, as the case may be, on the next trip."  The ships would be "several knots faster" than the existing 22-knot pair. 

Almost 4,000 saw Monterey off when she sailed from Sydney for America on 3 March 1939, eclipsing the best crowd of the previous year and causing considerable traffic congestion around Darling Harbour.  With every cabin booked, she left with 650 passengers aboard. 

The bent and battered lifeboat which fell from Mariposa during a drill. Credit: Daily Telegraph, 30 March 1939.

During a routine lifeboat drill for passengers and crew aboard Mariposa, en route from Melbourne to Sydney, off Gabo Island, on 28 March 1939, a 70-person lifeboat which was being swung out from its davits, fell into the sea when one of the wire falls broke.  The boat fell clear of the ship and although it was soon a mile distant before the liner could stop and return, it was recovered, badly damaged and hoisted onto the fore deck. 

Both delayed by the worst fog experienced in Auckland Harbor in years, Aorangi (left) and Monterey (right) finally docking on 17 April 1939; the American liner was already three days late. Credit: New Zealand Herald, 18 April 1939.

Two days late owing to labor issues with Matson regarding crew accommodation and picketing of the line's piers, Monterey was finally off from San Francisco on 30 March 1939. Among her passengers was the Vienna Boys Choir. This time there was no making up the delay on a difficult voyage and additionally delayed by dense fog when reaching Auckland on 17 April, she was then three days late and further detained  by cargo offloading there. She did not sail for Sydney until 18 April and docked there four days late,  "an exceptional departure from the strict programme maintained by the American company in the Pacific service." (New Zealand Herald, 19 April 1939). To get her back on schedule,  the call at Sydney was reduced to two days and a fast turnaround at Melbourne had her back at Auckland on 1 May northbound as per her original timetable. 

Mariposa at Pago Pago, Samoa, on 2 May 1939, with USS Bushnell (AS-2) and USS Pelican (AVP-6) alongside, fueling. Credit: U.S. National Archives. 

With 216 passengers landing there and 225 embarking to join the 423 through travellers, a well patronised Mariposa docked at Auckland from Sydney en route to San Francisco on 29 May 1939 with Matson President W.P. Roth and his twin daughters, Zane Grey and the Australian Davis Cup Team aboard. Mariposa came into Honolulu on 7 June, still well booked with 554 through passengers and 78 to land there and another 100 embarking. When she came into Los Angeles on 12 June, she had 702 aboard. 
Monterey ships a heavy sea whilst crossing the Tasman en route from Auckland to Sydney 11 June 1939. Credit: Daily News, 13 June 1939
Hitting a heavy south-westerly gale in the Tasman that had seas breaking over her bows, Monterey was three hours late arriving at Sydney on 12 June 1939. When she sailed northbound she had among her passenger the 15-strong Australian surf team bound for the Pacific Surfing Games at Honolulu. 

More labor troubles at San Francisco did not delay Mariposa sailing on 20 June 1939, but she had to leave cargo behind. On departure from  Los Angeles on the 22nd she had 709 passengers, "the ship's filled right up to the ceilings" said an agent, beating the previous 701 mark. When she called at Honolulu on the 26th, 269 disembarked but another 66 boarded for the trip south. She also landed 3,267 mail bags.  In a heavy westerly gale after departing Suva, three portholes were broken on a lower deck, and she was an hour late docking at Auckland on 7 July.  Landing 138 there, Mariposa left for Sydney that evening with another 170 added to her 399 through passengers.

An interesting perspective of Monterey alongside Prince's Wharf at Auckland from inside the control cab of a quayside crane. Credit: New Zealand Herald, 27 June 1939. 

Business remained brisk that summer. Monterey sailed from Los Angeles 19 July 1939 with 707 passengers, the largest number yet carried. Of these 187 disembarked at Honolulu on the 24th and there were 520 remaining through passengers and another 80 embarks.  The ship's previous best was from 698 from Honolulu to the coast in September 1937.

A busy Mariposa arrived at Honolulu from the Antipodes on 2 August 1939 with 81 passengers landing there, 200 embarking and 421 through passengers. Docking at Los Angeles five days later, she proceeded to San Francisco. There, in a bizarre and tragic accident, a ship fitter working inside one of her funnels on the 9th lost his footing and plunged 75 ft. inside the stack  onto a boiler and died an hour later in hospital. It was a sad beginning to what was to have been a happy occasion for the ship and line for she shifted that same morning to Treasure Island's Port of the Trade Winds, the site of the Golden Gate Exposition (celebrating the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and be the focal point of Matson Day at the fair featuring Hawaiian dancers, displays and a travel agent luncheon aboard Mariposa

Mariposa off the Golden Gate Exposition on Treasure Island 9 August 1939 and with the newly painted  Ms on her funnels. Credit: OpenSFHistory / wnp37.01151

Mariposa looked different that day, too: she had regained the distinctive blue Ms on her funnels that she initially wore on her delivery and maiden cruise.  This time they were painted on rather the welded-on letters, and Monterey, too, was so attired but she appears to have welded-on Ms. Oddly, all this was accomplished with no announcement or mention in the press at the time and whilst it is oft stated it was done when the company had paid off the original Shipping Board loan for the vessels, it seems to have been more prompted by the Matson Day celebrations. 

Rare photograph of Monterey with M's on her funnels but before neutrality markings were painted on her hull. Credit: Mariner's Museum, William B. Taylor Collection. 

Whilst Americans were enjoying Lena Machado, "the Songbird of Hawaii," the Samoan Knife Dance and the Honolulu Glee Club at Matson Day, Europeans were, once again, about to plunge the world into another war. By mid summer, when hostilities would begin was the only question, not whether. Even if the United States was initially steadfast in its neutrality should war break out, Matson-Oceanic's route to the Antipodes would be effected given only two ports along the route were American... Hawaii and American Samoa and the rest-- Fiji, New Zealand and Australia-- were not only part of the British Empire but steadfastly so.  Any continental war would instantly become a world war as a result. 

Fully booked, Mariposa sailed from San Francisco on voyage 48  on 15 August 1939 and after delays loading cargo, left Los Angeles late on the 17th.  Calling at Honolulu on the 21st, she landed 124, embarked 70 and had 575 through passengers. After stopping at Auckland on 1 September, she sailed at 10:00 p.m. and was most of the way across a rough Tasman when news that Great Britain and The British Empire, including New Zealand and Australia, were at war with Germany, was received aboard following quickly by the reports that the British liner Athenia had been torpedoed and sunk off the Irish coast by a German submarine.  

Credit: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 23 September 1939.

The arrival of the Mariposa, the first passenger ship to reach Sydney since the declaration of war, was in sharp contrast with the usual gay welcome given her. As the ship was delayed by heavy seas it was already dusk when the sailed up the almost deserted Harbor, which is generally dotted with launches filled with friends greeting passengers. 
Daily Telegraph 5 September 1939

Mariposa came into Sydney on 4 September 1939, first ship to arrive since declaration of war. "The Mariposa was given a rousing welcome by hundreds of passengers on a Manly ferry, which passed close to the liner off Fort Macquarie. Ferry passengers cheered and whistled and Americans on the liner cheered back." (The Daily Telegraph, 5 September 1939). All public access to the piers was cut off and all radio sets aboard were confiscated and locked away during the stay in port. She sailed for Melbourne on the 6th and arrived on the 8th.   During her Australian turnaround, Mariposa acquired large American flags on her sides amidships, her stern and on the deck tennis court between her funnels to proclaim her nationality and neutrality. Northbound, Mariposa left Melbourne on the 11th and Sydney on the 15th to arrive at Auckland three days later to land 182 passengers and had 199 through travellers. 
Mariposa's Stars & Stripes neutrality markings on her sides and atop her deck tennis court were the talk of the town when she called at Auckland on 18 September 1939. 

The northbound Monterey docked at Los Angeles with 600 aboard  on 4 September 1939, one of 20 vessels arriving that Labor Day. Soon after arrival at San Francisco, she was, like her sister, painted with huge American flags on her flanks, stern and sun deck.  

Ordered home by war decree by the Australian Government, Australian nationals, especially reservists, flooded Matson-Oceanic with bookings for Monterey's southbound sailing on 12 September 1939  with a sell-out announced on the 5th.  Under the terms of the Neutrality Act announced by President Roosevelt on the 5th, a considerable amount of war related cargo for Australia and New Zealand, especially aircraft parts, was not loaded aboard. Visitors, too, were barred from the vessel as she sailed from San Francisco at noon on the 12th and from Los Angeles two days later with 690 passengers, among them Vice Admiral Ragmar Colvin, Royal Navy, en route to assume command of all British Empire naval activities in Australia. When the ship left Honolulu on the 18th, she was full up with 716 aboard. On account of Vice Admiral Colvin being aboard, upon departure from Suva on the 21st, the Australian cruiser HMAS Perth escorted Monterey up to her arrival in Sydney. Thick fog greeted Monterey's arrival at Auckland, delaying her docking until 11 on the 29th.  She had 723 passengers aboard, only 14 of whom were Americans, and then proceeded to Sydney where she docked on 3 October.

Such was the crowd aboard Monterey on her first southbound wartime crossing that additional berths in the form of cot beds in the First Class writing room accommodated the overflow. Credit: New Zealand Herald, 30 September 1939. 

On 7 October 1939 Matson-Oceanic announced that Mariposa's San Francisco sailing on the 9th would be put back to the 13th to allow time for rudder repairs. Among the 676  aboard was Australia's victorious Davis Cup team, winning the trophy for the first time since 1914. She called at Honolulu on the 19th and left there with 715 aboard, the largest number she had yet carried out of the port. By the time she reached Auckland on the 30th, there were 725 aboard with 535 through passengers and an equal number of new embarks to those landing.  This was just ten from her maximum certificated number.  Her docking there was extremely difficult with a strong incoming tide and fierce southwesterly wind and it took two attempts to get her alongside.  Mariposa docked at Sydney on 3 November.

Mariposa left Melbourne 8 November 1939 and came into Auckland on the 13th with 288 passengers, 166 landing there and 60 embarking. When she called at Honolulu on the 22nd,  the Honolulu Advertiser reported: "Rumors of German raiders and possible submarine in the Pacific failed to worry passengers aboard the big white Oceanic liner Mariposa during her trip up from Australia, travelers aboard said yesterday when she docked here en route to the coast. Such reports may cause concerns on British ships, they said, but the Mariposa, like her sister ship the Monterey, 'just keeps rolling along,' as one passenger put it, without the annoyances of zig-zag courses, blackouts, camouflage and special boat drill." 

Matson-Oceanic's South Pacific/Antipodes route map from the 1939 brochure. Credit: Huntington Museum. 

Also still peacetime "normal" were San Francisco waterfront strikes and owing to another one, Mariposa omitted the port and turnaround at Los Angeles, sailing south from there on 6 December 1939.  Her 300 San Francisco passengers travelled by two special boat trains to the Wilmington piers.  As before, most of the 600 aboard were returning New Zealanders and Australians.  This was memorable voyage in its own right, being the ship's 50th voyage and on her return to San Francisco she would have clocked 750,000 total miles since entering service.  On this, she was commanded by the first time by Capt. Konrad Hubbette, formerly of Lurline and Matsonia, to relieve Capt. Meyer who was on leave. 

Auckland was reached on 22 December 1939 where 176 of the 523 aboard disembarked and Mariposa took on another 190 for Sydney.  The otherwise routine crossing was enlivened by the spotting of the new American submarine U.S.S. Swordfish north of Pago Pago on a shakedown cruise from Hawaii. To avoid arriving at Sydney on Christmas Day, Mariposa overnighted at Auckland, her passengers enjoying the holiday at sea and reaching Australia on Boxing Day. "The Christmas spirit was well in evidence on the ship. Christmas trees, brightly decorated, have been placed in the first and cabin-class public rooms, and the quarters of the crew and stewards were gaily festooned. Christmas Day will be marked in typical fashion and a large amount of extra delicacies for the tables is being taken on board in Auckland." (New Zealand Herald, 23 December 1939).  

It has been a record year for Matson-Oceanic with 58,000 passengers carried on their Hawaii and Antipodes services, 30,000 southbound and 28,000 northbound. 

Cover of Matson's 1940 brochure. Credit: Huntington Museum. 


Having derived much of their business from the once booming U.K.-Antipodes traffic via California as well as that originating from the Antipodes to the U.S., Matson-Oceanic was faced with its almost complete dislocation at the onset of the war.  Australia imposed a restriction of travel  on travellers who could only take the equivalent of $50 outside the country as well as import restrictions which drastically curtailed American exports of cars and other machined goods.  

The record carryings of 1939 already seemed a distant memory with Mariposa and Monterey now seldom carrying more than 400 passengers to/from the Antipodes.  Opening the 1940 season, Monterey left Los Angeles on 3 January for the south with 173 passengers for the Antipodes and another 237 for Hawaii.  Making her first arrival there in the New Year, Mariposa had 333 aboard when she came into Auckland on 8 January 1940 from Sydney, but 211 of those were only aboard for the Tasman crossing and only 60 more embarked for the passage to the U.S.

As a consequence, the line announced on 11 January 1940 that during the early summer rush season to Hawaii, one trade that flourished as a "neutral" destination from the U.S. mainland, that Mariposa and Monterey would each make a round voyage to Honolulu from San Francisco only. Arriving from the Antipodes on 11 June, Monterey would turnaround immediately, sailing for Honolulu the next day, arriving there on the 17th and return to San Francisco in time for her departure for the Antipodes on the 26th.  Mariposa would repeat the pattern, sailing from San Francisco on 10 July and back before setting out for New Zealand and Australia. 

Advertisement for Mariposa's extra summer sailings to Hawaii. Credit: San Francisco Examiner, 22 April 1940. 

Despite prevailing market conditions, it was reported on 25 January 1940 by the Los Angeles Times that Matson-Oceanic was now contemplating not two but four new superliners for the U.S.-Antipodes route and that no decision had been made to shelve the line's own existing plans and instead accept the Maritime Commission's own new "P-4" design, already developed for the New York-South America run (four vessels) and American President Lines' Far East service (two ships).  The P-4s would be 759 ft. x 99.8 ft.,  35,000 grt, 24 knots, 1,000 passengers and 535,000 cu. ft. cargo.  

When longshoremen there refused to work past nine o'clock at night, Mariposa was late departing San Francisco, getting away on 31 January 1940 and despite cutting a full 10 hours off her usual run from Suva to Auckland, was still more than 12 hours late arriving, arriving at 9:45 p.m. on 16 February. She embarked 175 the next day for the run to Sydney. 

An important milestone was observed when Monterey sailed from San Francisco on 27 February 1940 on her 50th voyage upon the completion of which she would chalked up 750,000 miles in almost  eight years in service.  Rough weather made her three hours late arriving at Honolulu on 4 March, bringing in 64 passengers for that port and 146 through passengers.  Upon her arrival at Auckland on 15 March, the Auckland Star noted that  "with the exception of periods when she was laid up for overhaul has maintained a constant and remarkably punctual schedule." 

Upon arrival at San Francisco from Honolulu aboard Lurline on 12 March 1940, Matson President W.P. Roth announced the line was proceeding with its own plans for two "super-express steamers" for the California-Antipodes trade, despite disagreement with the U.S. Maritime Commission over the suitability of the Commission's "P-4" liner-cum-aircraft carrier design.  Tenders for the two P-4s for American President Lines were to be invited on 7 May, but Matson informed the Commission the type would not be suitable for the Antipodes trade. "The flight-deck superstructure of these President vessels so sharply restricts the amount of passenger space that such vessels simply could not be adapted to our needs," Mr. Roth explained. "We need space for about 900 passengers, in first and second-class quarters, exclusively, while these flight-deck ships will have accommodation for less than 600 such passengers."   If the new ships were built, Mariposa and Monterey would join Lurline on the Hawaiian trade and Matsonia possibly used as a cruise ship. 

When Mariposa sailed from Los Angeles on 28 March 1940 she was laden with 300 tons of drilling machinery for a new oil field near New Plymouth, New Zealand, some of the equipment weighing as much as seven tons.  She had a very rough crossing to Honolulu which, coupled with a late departure from Los Angeles, made her many hours behind schedule when she came into Honolulu in 1 April to land 41 passengers. Among her 127 through passengers was Yehudi Menuhin travelling to Sydney  with his Australian wife and his six month old daughter.   Mr. Menuhin  performed a concert that afternoon during the Honolulu call.  Mariposa also landed 3,042 bags of mail before proceeding south that evening.

Advertisement for Mariposa/Monterey's unique Hawaii/Tahiti cruise in July 1940. Credit: New York Times, 21 April 1940. 

To stimulate passenger traffic, Matson-Oceanic announced on 11 April 1940 a unique excursion for both Americans and Antipodeans to Tahiti.  For those originating from the Antipodes, Monterey would depart Sydney on 24 July (two days earlier than her original sailing date), call at Auckland on the 27th, Suva (30), Pago Pago (31) and reach Tahiti on 3 August.  The southbound Mariposa from the U.S. (from San Francisco 23 July and Los Angeles 24th)  would arrive at Tahiti on the same day with American passengers.  Both would remain in Papeete for three days before the ships "swapped" passengers, Australians and New Zealanders sailing south 5 August on Mariposa whilst their American counterparts embarked in Monterey to return to the U.S. Both ships would accommodate regular line voyagers as well and disrupt the schedules by only four days.   These would also fill in the gap left when Union S.S. Co., owing to the war, did not offer its traditional winter cruises that season. The U.S. originating cruise was sold-out (a maximum of 400 berths offered for sale) by 12 May and was truly one of the highlights of an admittedly war constrained travel season. 

Among those sailing aboard Monterey  sailing from San Francisco on 25 April 1940 was actress Betty Davis bound for a vacation in Hawaii and Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of the Tarzan novels. 

Mariposa in Sydney Harbour in April 1940 is passed by the ferry Kirrule taking Australian troops to one of the many troopships packing the port. Credit: City of Sydney Archives Graeme Andrews Working Harbour Photograph Collection. 

On arriving at Honolulu from the Antipodes in Mariposa on 8 May 1940, her passengers and crew told the press how Sydney was packed with the British troopships including Mauretania, Queen Mary, Aquitania, Empress of Canada, Empress of Britain and Empress of Japan when they sailed on 26 April.  Mariposa came into Los Angeles on the 13th with a pretty good list of 418 passengers, of whom 167 originated in the Antipodes. 

On her special direct voyage from San Francisco to Honolulu, Monterey had 501 passengers aboard when she came in on 17 June 1940 as well as 3,393 bags of mail. She departed the same day for San Francisco with 315 aboard.

Australian market advertisement for Monterey/Mariposa's Tahiti cruise from Melbourne and Tahiti shows no sailing date (publication thereof prohibited under wartime restrictions) "Under Normal Pre-War Conditions" was published in the Melbourne Argus on 18 June 1940, the day before Niagara was sink by a mine shortly after leaving Auckland. 

Mariposa, which left Melbourne on 18 June 1940, was en route to Sydney when her radio officer picked up the first of two S.O.S. calls from the Union S.S. Co.'s Niagara, 1,300 miles away: "Engines disabled explosion number two hold full of water going down by head. Marotirii islands 27 degrees six miles." The ship had, shortly after departing Auckland for Vancouver, hit a mine laid by the German raider  Orion, and sank although all aboard were saved.  The seemingly far off and distance war had finally come to the Antipodes in a shocking fashion and the realization that mines do not distinguish between belligerent or neutral flag vessels.

Mariposa proceeded to Sydney for Auckland where she was to have docked on the 24th. When she was off Three Kings Island she was halted for several hours while Capt. Meyer ascertained information as to safely navigating in New Zealand waters. Learning that minesweepers had already picked up several mines in the northern approaches to Auckland, he bypassed the port and instead proceeded directly to Suva and Honolulu.  Mariposa arrived at the later port on  3 July, high out of the water without her New Zealand cargo, with 227 passengers, 20 of who disembarked.   Among those aboard were 31 crew members of the stranded American freighter Admiral Wiley which grounded off Kitava Island on the east coast of New Guinea on 13 June and eventually picked up by an Australian auxiliary cruiser Manoora and taken to Sydney where they embarked on Mariposa

More than 80 Hawaiians booked the Tahiti cruise roundtrip from Honolulu 29 July-10 August 1940. Credit: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 4 July 1940. 

After her radio operators walked off the ship in a pay dispute and were replaced by three others, Monterey was able to sail, a day late from San Francisco on 26 June 1940. She arrived at Honolulu a day before the northbound Mariposa, with 398 landing passengers and 307 through, mostly returning Australians, through passengers with another 25 embarking.  Capt. E.R. Johanson told reporters the ship would call as usual at Auckland. 

Actor Robert Young and family were among those aboard Mariposa's special roundtrip to Hawaii in early July 1940. Credit: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 15 July 1940. 

Mariposa finally departed San Francisco on 23 July 1940, four hours late owing to a labor dispute which delayed signing on her full crew, on her special Tahiti cruise. She left the pier on schedule at noon and anchored in the stream for the paperwork to be finished before being off her way.  She left Los Angeles two hours early to make up some of the time, by which she had 679 passengers aboard, 343 boarding there, and some 300 booked on the special roundtrip excursion.  Aboard the ship, but only on the coastal run to Los Angeles, was Matson President William P. Roth and his twin daughters Lurline and Berenice.  

In many ways, the excursion took on a surreal quality coming, as it did, a month after a dismal June of total and now global war including the sinking of Niagara and the Fall of France especially given the destination was the French colony of Tahiti, itself suddenly a bit lost in the upheaval surrounding the Armistice.  As it was, by intent or coincidence, Mariposa enjoyed the informal escort of two American destroyers as far as Honolulu were she docked on 29 July 1940, landing 217 passengers and embarking 123 locals for the cruise, her sailing at 3:30 p.m. "marked by a profusion of leis and sports clothing; seers-offers were not allowed aboard and alohas were said on the wharf." (Honolulu Advertiser, 30 July 1940). In all, there were 465 on the cruise package with more than even Matson's usual fair share of society, film and business figures aboard. 

Imperial Echoes: the northbound Monterey at Pago Pago, American Samoa, 1 August 1940, ready to embark Capt. E.W. Hanson, U.S.N., the retiring Governor of the Territory, and Mrs. Hanson, for Hawaii, via Tahiti, where would assume command of the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Indianapolis. Credit: Auckland War Memorial Museum.

The Fall of France and the signing of the French Armistice on 22 June 1940 effectively ended the active promotion of Monterey's part in the Tahiti excursion to the Australian and New Zealand market  as being a French colony it was, under the terms of the Armistice, placed under the de facto administration of the Vichy Republic, now a belligerent against Great Britain and the British Empire.  Advertising for the trip ended in mid July and no mention of it was made in the Australian or New Zealand press.  

Head seas and a heavy swell in the Tasman prompted Capt. Johanson to reduce speed for 10 hours to minimize the effects on his passengers but much of the delay was made up coming down the New Zealand coast and Monterey was only three hours late in docking at Auckland on 27 July 1940 from Sydney. Longshoremen there refused to work after 6:00 p.m. causing some of her outbound cargo to be left on the dock.  Calling first at Suva and Pago Pago (1 August), she arrived at Papeete on 3 August and met Mariposa there as planned. Upon arrival there, a baby boy was delivered to a passenger, one month early, in the ship's hospital.  With 398 passengers, Monterey came into Honolulu on 11 August 1940 where she landed 259 passengers. She returned to San Francisco on the 17th.

A Banner Day in Matson-Oceanic history: 4 August 1940, Monterey (from the Antipodes) and aft, Mariposa (from the U.S.), rendezvous at Papeete, Tahiti.  Credit: Tudor Washington Collins photograph, Auckland War Memorial Museum. 

'Turn 2,000 Americans-- 1,200 passengers and 800 crew members-- loose in the port of Lahaina for two nights and three days and mix 'em up with a war-weary population and tell 'em to go ahead and whoopee, not stinting on the wine, women and song, and you've got a vague idea of what happened to Papeete,' a returning Honolulan said yesterday after disembarking from the Oceanic liner Monterey, which arrived from Tahiti. 

The French South sea port went in for unprecedented festivities, round-tripped who made the special cruise by the liners Monterey and Mariposa declared. Both ships lay in the harbor there while crews and passengers got 60 francs for a dollar and spend several thousand dollars on champagne (at $1.10 a bottle), the dance halls, lauhala hats and baskets, pareus and curios. The tourists, so far as the Papeete shopkeepers were concerned, were like a long cold drink of water to a man about to die of thirst, as one tripped put it. 

'The town was just about cleaned out of souvenirs and beer,' a ship's officer reported. 'The last big liner to call at Papeete was the Kungsholm in February and the Chinese merchants, who practically own Papeete now, reaped a rich harvest.'

The cruisers all reported yesterday that they had a fine trip and enjoyed themselves in Papeete. Capt. E.R. Johanson of the Monterey said that Matson officials had sent an 'advance man' to Papeete some months previous to the cruise to prepare the way, and as result arrangements worked smoothly, the French officials cooperating fully with the shipping company. Both passengers and crew of the two big ships behave surprisingly well ashore, he said, and no incidents marred the visit. 

Honolulu Advertiser, 12 August 1940

Matchless Matching Pair: one of the series of simply splendid photos  by Tudor Washington Collins, of Mariposa (nearest camera) and Monterey together at Papeete, Tahiti, August 1940. Credit: Auckland War Memorial Museum. 

The cruise was sufficiently popular and successful to spur rumors that it would be repeated either in the autumn or in 1941 and that Matson-Oceanic was even considering adding Tahiti to the regular service, slotted in between Honolulu and Pago Pago, thus recreating the former Union S.S. Co. service from San Francisco.

The Oceanic Sisters framed by the bow of the French light cruiser Dumont d'Urville. Credit: Tudor Washington Collins photograph, Auckland War Memorial Museum. 

South Seas & Stars & Stripes: Mariposa and Monterey enjoying one of the great occasions of their combined 108 years afloat. Credit: Tudor Washington Collins photograph, Auckland War Memorial Museum. 

The northbound Mariposa docked at Honolulu on 5 September 1940 with 32 passengers (landing) and 248 (in transit) to which were augmented by an impressive  number of embarks for the Mainland. When she returned to Los Angeles on the 10th, there were  686 passengers aboard, 337 disembarking there. 

Ending what had already been a incredibly fulsome year, the Oceanic sisters would, after the idyll of their Tahiti cruise, be plunged into the ever deteriorating global situation when, in October 1940, the United States Government ordered the evacuation of military dependents and encouraged American civilians to leave war ravaged China as well as Japan and Korea.  Both Monterey and Mariposa would be deviated from their regular route to Japanese and Chinese ports for one voyage each and miss their November trips to the Antipodes. 

The San Francisco Examiner (12 November 1940) recounted the conversion process:

The arrival yesterday in Shanghai of the Matson liner Mariposa, all ready to take on a ready shipment of American refugees from the Orient, climaxes the story of how the Mariposa and her sister liner, the Monterey, were metamorphosed from luxury liner naval reserve refugee ships-- with the grim threat of indefinable danger lending impetus to the work.

The story is one of superb and co-ordination between the ship line and the Government. It begins here in San Francisco, a few days before the official order commandeering the two vessels.

Advised in advance, Matson officials swung their organization into top activity. The Monterey was drydocked at Hunters Point, overhauled, repainted, officially inspected and okehed.

Her officers and crew were ordered to Yerba Buena Island where Lieut. Comdr. P.W. Northcroft of the Navy put the men through naval training as Naval Reserve officers and men. Matson Capt. Harold R. Gillespie received his commission as lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve.

The personel of the ships went through intensive tactical training-- lifeboat drilled, ordinance study, convoy signals and naval tactics.

The Matson Port Building on the waterfront, near Pier 30, was a hive of activity. The building has a complete machine shop, butcher shop, laundry for ship's linens and bedding, repair shop and food warehouse for vital emergency supplies.

An example of the work of the stewards' department alone is given by the Monterey's food loading list for the refugee journey-- 4,000 tons cans of baby food; fifteen tons of flour; twelve tons of meat and and five tons of poultry; four tons of sugar; ten tons of fresh vegetables; a ton and half of butter-- and 5,000 packages of breakfast food. Too, 500 cots were placed aboard the ship-- to care for the oversized passenger list she is meant bring back from war menaced Asia.

And so, in a few days, the liners were transformed from vacation luxury liners, fitted for lazy pleasure cruises between cruises between here and the Hawaiian isles of romance, into units of America's defense organization-- and they were off on their ominous mission.

Monterey, which had arrived at San Francisco from the Antipodes on 8 October 1940, was the first "called up."  Anticipating as many as 1,200 passengers,  600  extra cots, mattresses and bedding, 500 more life preservers as well as provisions for 250,000 meals were loaded aboard, and 100 extra crew signed on.  She was to sail to Hawaii normally and thence to the Far East.  Monterey left San Francisco on the 15th and Los Angeles two days later with 421 passengers for Honolulu (where she docked on the 21st) and 112 passengers, who already holding reservations, still sailed to the Antipodes not minding the very long detour and a real bargain for ship travellers. Among them was Noel Coward, bound for Sydney as a guest of the Australian Government, and travelling there for a lecture tour. Two passengers from Hawaii, booked for Suva, 2,900 miles distant, sailed at the same fare instead 12,000 miles via the Orient and Antipodes to eventually reach their destination. 

The same day that Monterey left San Francisco, Mariposa sailed from Sydney for Honolulu where all her commercial passengers would disembark, those bound for the U.S. would transfer to the northbound Lurline.  After loading some of the extra supplies dropped by Lurline, Mariposa would sail to China.  

There was some indignation among the evacuees at being charged a minimum of $395 per person for passage to the U.S. although it was pointed out that was prevailing minimum rate charged by American President Lines aboard the comparable President Coolidge.   As a concession, Cabin Class accommodation would be offered at a min. rate of $240 per person but the First Class rate remained as announced. In the end, far fewer took advantage of the evacuation sailings than anticipated and planned for.

On 20 October 1940 the U.S. State Dept. announced the outward schedule of both ships. Monterey would sail to Yokohama (arriving 29th) and Shanghai (1 November) with an anticipated 425 embarked at each port and Mariposa would leave Honolulu on 30 October and arrive Shanghai on 9 November. 

Monterey arrived at Yokohama on 29 October 1940 and  proceeded to Shanghai where she docked on 3 November and sailed the following day by which time she had 502 passengers aboard (58 from Japan and 325 from China and her through commercial travellers). 


The Monterey sailed at 10 a.m. today with over 300 Americans, mostly women and children evacuees from China and Japan, after the battleship-gray Empress of Asia with an additional 300 Anglo-Americans, making this the largest single day's evacuation thus far.

It was estimate that 5,000 Shanghailanders, predominantly British and American men but including some Chinese, tearfully but bravely said farewell to families and friends at the customs jetty from which tenders conveyed passengers to the Monterey and Empress of Asia,  both of which were anchored downstream. 

Neither the Monterey nor the Empress of Asia permitted visitors aboard due to emergency precautions.

The Monterey's passengers included 220 navy and marine dependents and 58 American evacuees from Japan. There were 150 other passengers from San Francisco en route to Australia where the Monterey will stop en route to the United States.

The predominance of navy and marine families indicated that except for service families Americans this far have taken state department evacuation advice as anything but urgent.  Although several hundred navy and marine dependents are scheduled to board the ship at Manila, apparently cots and other emergency provisions which the Monterey is carrying will not be necessary.

Americans aboard the Empress of Asia will experience British naval wartime blackout restrictions and most it will be their first trip on an armed ship.

Passengers aboard the Monterey will, without extra cost, enjoy an lengthy tropical cruise, visiting Manila, Sydney, Auckland, Suva, Pago Pago and Honolulu before arriving at Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The crowed customs jetty was a scene of huge piles of luggage and scores of embracing American couples as many uniformed navy and marine officers and men came to bid farewell to wives to children.

I saw several Chinese amahs with tears streaming down the cheeks as they handed mothers babies for whom the amahs had cared since birth.

Aboard the tenders babies screamed with fright when the whistles blew. Husbands and wives signalled last messages as the tenders slowly floated away from  the jetty.

Mrs. William A. Glassford, wife of Rear Admiral Glassford, commander of the U.S. Navy Yangtze Patrol, The Honolulu Advertiser, 4 November 1940

In a change of plans, Monterey additionally stopped at Manila to evacuate U.S. Navy families, docking there on the morning of  7  November 1940.  During the call, Noel Coward presented a talk "Democracy Cannot Fail" on radio KZRH that evening. After embarking 285 women and children dependents, Monterey departed for Sydney at 10:00 pm. with a total of 758 passengers aboard, 251 of whom were children.

The Manila Tribune highlighted some of Monterey's more prominent evacuees who arrived at the port on 7 November 1940 as well as "regular" passenger Noel Coward en route to Australia on a wartime lecture visit. 

Noel Coward broadcasting over Manila radio station KZRH 7 November 1940 during Monterey's overnight call there. Credit: Manila Tribune, 8 November 1940

Manila, Nov. 7

Reinforced by 256 American evacuations from the Philippines, most of whom are families of naval officers, 502 evacuees from Shanghai, including more than 100 children of all ages, embarked on the Monterey at midnight feeling they were on a palatial tropical cruise rather than obeying an order to evacuate the Far East.

Probably never before in history has there been such a luxurious evacuation as this. The spacious, snow-white Monterey's two swimming pools are filled all day and passengers participate in deck sports and bridge tournaments. Service is excellent, food marvelous and accommodations comfortable.

There are fewer than 40 male passengers-- many of whom are accompanied by their wives-- including playwright Noel Coward. It would be untruthful to deny at least 300 women have been hopeful of meeting Coward. However, Coward spends the entire day in his cabin-- not because he is frightened by so many women-- he is busy preparing speeches on behalf of the British war effort, for delivery in Australia.

Everyone is anticipating an enjoyable 50 days of tropical cruising from Manila to San Francisco, visiting Sydney, Auckland, Suva, Pago Pago and Honolulu.

Mrs. William A. Glassford, wife of Rear Admiral Glassford, commander of the U.S. Navy Yangtze Patrol, The Honolulu Advertiser, 4 November 1940

After leaving Manila, Monterey sailed through the Celebes Sea to  the remote Thursday Island in Torres Strait, to take on a pilot for the passage through the Great Barrier Reef and then down to Sydney where she docked at 16 November 1940 where the long suffering Noel Coward finally disembarked. At Sydney, 16 survivors of the first American merchantman sunk in the war, the 5,883-ton freighter City of Rayville, which sank after hitting a mine off the Australian coast on the 9th embarked for the trip home.  The remainder of the crew returned in Aorangi. The Third Engineer drowned when he leapt into the sea without a lifejacket. 

Noel Coward meets the press in his suite on arrival on Sydney.  Credit: Australian War Memorial.

The passengers were welcomed at Sydney, Auckland and Pago Pago with special tours laid on in what the Honolulu Advertiser described as "an evacuee voyage more like a pleasure yacht cruise than a grim mass migration from the Orient..."The evacuees brought along their household furniture, which practically overflowed the baggage room, and their pets, which were housed on the after deck and formed a virtual menagery, dogs and cats predominating. Decks were stacked with tarpaulin-covered trunks and cots were set up in many cabins to care for the overflow of passengers. There were three sittings at meals daily and evacuees said service and food were excellent." 
The 251 children evacuees had the time of their lives aboard Monterey during the 50-day voyage but parents organised a "Junior Police Force" to keep some semblance of order aboard and there was also a "Monterey School." so it was not all fun and games. 

Monterey arrived at Honolulu on 4 December. In addition to her evacuees, she had 122 regular passengers from Sydney. She landed 39 at Honolulu but took on no more passengers and sailed that afternoon for Los Angeles and San Francisco.  The 31,000-mile voyage ended at Los Angeles on the 9th and the following day Monterey finally returned home to San Francisco. There, she would be drydocked at Hunter's Point before resuming normal sailings on 8 January 1941.

Her sister's evacuation voyage was rather shorter and less involved. Mariposa came into Honolulu on 30 October 1940 from the Antipodes and her Mainland-bound passengers, mail and cargo were transferred to Lurline which left Honolulu on 1 November for Los Angeles and San Francisco (8th).  Mariposa then sailed, empty, on 1 November to reach Shanghai on the 11th. There, she  embarked 78 evacuees, sailing the next day for Chingwangtao where 125 evacuees travelled to from Peking on the 18th and an additional 150 from Tientsin to embark there. She took on an additional 500 passengers from Jinsen (Inchôn), Korea on 15-16 November:

On November 15, 1940, the Mariposa crossed the Yellow Sea and anchored at Inch'ôn.... For the Americans on shore, the next morning brought Evacuation Day. From all parts of Seoul by car, Korean kuruma cart, and on foot, more than two hundred Americans converged on the railroad station for the 22-mile trip to Inch'ôn. Porters carried trunks on chigye A-frames, enough to create a mountain of baggage on the platform. Korean friends braved police surveillance to come and say good-bye, and there were enough empty seats on the special evacuation train to permit many of them to travel all the way to Inch'ôn for their last farewells....

Toward dusk, the Mariposa weighed anchor and headed for the open sea, the Americans aboard feeling reassured by a rumor that the cruiser USS Augusta was out in the darkness standing watch. Life on the Mariposa then took shape as people settled into their cabins. The ship was not full, so the captain did away with the class system--after making sure that the Foreign Service families had the best cabins. The crew organized games and parties for the 196 children on board. Religious services were organized and a room was set aside for daily meditation. And there were the ship's usual amusements: tea dances, movies, and band concerts. On Thanksgiving Day there was a turkey feast. In fact, everything wonderful about America seemed to be contained on the Mariposa. "The Mariposa is a little bit of Heaven," wrote one evacuee. A tea dance menu carefully preserved by another bore the notation "This boat is a luxury ship, and no mistake--everything about it is superb."

 Living Dangerously in Korea: The Western Experience 1900-1950, by Donald N. Clark

Mariposa called at Kobe next before sailing for San Francisco where she docked on 30 November 1940. After drydocking at Hunter's Point, she resumed her regular Antipodes run with her 10 December sailing.

After their drydocking, Mariposa and Monterey had their total capacity increased from 709 to 776. How this was accomplished is obscure but most likely in Cabin Class. 

Cover of the special brochure for the 1941 Tahiti cruise by Mariposa/Monterey. Credit: Huntington Museum.


Resuming service to the Antipodes, Monterey sailed from San Francisco on 7 January 1941 and from Los Angeles the following evening with 108 for the Antipodes and 99 who landed at Honolulu where she docked several hours late owing to bad weather en route on the 12th.  More bad weather was encountered approaching New Zealand, a strong easterly storm with 58 mph winds, high seas and heavy rain and on the 24th she had to anchored in the Rangitoto Channel off Cheltenham Beach for the night as the pilot boat could not reach here. Twenty-hours late, she finally docked at Auckland on the 25th with 68 of her 186 passenger landing there.  A team of 160 longshoremen was able to unload all 1,000 tons of cargo and have her on way by 10:00 p.m. that evening. Northbound, poor weather (this time, heavy fog off the Three Kings) caused her to be seven hours late arriving at Auckland on 10 February.  

Monterey could (barely) berth alongside at Pago Pago, Samoa. Note the American flag painted on her stern. Credit: eBay auction photo.

The northbound Mariposa docked at Honolulu on 22 January 1941 with 179 through passengers and 29 for the post and embarked 60 more.  When she came into San Francisco on the 28th, her most celebrated passenger was Beau Pere, "the equine idol of the Antipodes," purchased for breeding by Louis B. Mayer.  In her holds were 10,000 bales of Australian wool, the first consignment of 250,000,000 pounds to be shipped from Australia to Britain, via the United States.

In view of the war diminished Antipodes traffic and the urgent need for berths on the Hawaiian run owing to the build up of defense preparations there as well as the summer holiday season, it was announced on 27 January 1941 that Mariposa would be withdrawn from the Antipodes run in summer and instead sail to Hawaii, but exclusively from San Francisco starting on 11 July with succeeding departures on 23 July, 6, 20 August and 1 September.  Her last voyage on the Antipodes service would be from Melbourne on 17 June for the U.S. and would resume the route on 13 October.  During this period Monterey maintained the run single-handled.

Given the ever encroaching war, it was somewhat incongruously reported on 6 February 1941 that the proposed two new Matson liners would be included in the U.S, Maritime Commission building programme for 1941. Each vessel, of 23,000 grt and capacity for 1,100 passengers, would cost an estimated $20 mn. each.

Matson announced on 27 February 1941 that owing to the success of the Tahiti cruise, it would be repeated with Mariposa sailing from San Francisco on 23 May and Los Angeles the next day, arriving at Honolulu 29th and Pago Pago 3 June.  There, passengers for the excursion, would transfer to the northbound Monterey from Australia, which would arrive at Tahiti on 6 June for a three days and nights and proceed directly to Los Angeles with no call at Honolulu with 24 days for the 11,000 miles

The war continued to loom and when Union S.S. Co.'s Aorangi and Awatea were rumored to being taken up for war service in March 1941 (which in fact occurred that August) thus ending the Antipodes-Vancouver service, it was speculated that Matson might place Matsonia on a San Francisco-Honolulu-Vanouver run  in September and be replaced on the direct Hawaii run by Mariposa or Monterey.

On 17 March 1941 Matson announced that Melbourne had been dropped from the itinerary, "the omission, according to the the line, is the permit the ships to maintain their schedule despite delays occasioned by loading wool for delivery to the Defense Supplies commission here and at San Francisco." (News-Pilot, 17 March 1941).  The rather drastic fall-off in passenger traffic on the route was also cited, as evidenced when the southbound Monterey called at Honolulu on the 10th with only 96 through passengers aboard and nine days later the northbound Mariposa came in with but 145 passengers from the Antipodes. Their holds, however, were fairly bursting at the seams in both directions, including between New Zealand and Australia when on the 24th New Zealand longshoremen finally relented in their blacklisting of non British ships carrying cargo trans-Tasman.   In advance of this, Monterey sailed from Auckland on the 22nd with the first shipment of New Zealand butter for an American possession, 1,250 boxes destined for Manila with transhippment at Sydney. 

First commercial liner so fitted, Mariposa shows off her newly installed (but yet activated) anti magnetic mine degaussing belt installed inside her B Deck promenade deck.  Credit: Honolulu Advertiser, 8 April 1941.

When she came into Honolulu on 7 April 1941, Mariposa was sporting her newly installed degaussing belt to protect her from magnetic mines which had been installed during her San Francisco turnaround. This was, not however, activated as final connections had to be completed during her next turnaround. As described by the Honolulu Advertiser: "The de-gaussing belt is a set of thick cables that encircle the ship carrying specially charged wired. The belt runs from bow to stern on both side, and on the Mariposa is encased in metal conduits laid inside the hull along B Deck, instead of outside the hull, as on some British liners where this equipment was first tried out successfully about the time the war started." She brought in 150 landing passengers, including the famed Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti, but only 75 for the south.

When Monterey arrived at Los Angeles on 21 April 1941, some of her crew related to the Los Angeles Times that she was escorted in Australian waters by Australian and British warships, mostly minesweepers, as the ports are now heavily mined. A British destroyer met Monterey several days out of Sydney and followed her into harbor and then accompanied her to Auckland. Had 10,000 tons of wool aboard when came into Los Angeles day early and would also sail south from San Francisco four days ahead of schedule to synchronize her arrival northbound at Pago Pago to rendezvous with the southbound Mariposa for the Tahiti excursions. 

Mariposa, northbound, at Pago Pago in early May 1941. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The northbound Mariposa tested her new degaussing cable equipment on 12 May 1941 on the U.S. Navy trial range in Maalaea Bay near Lahaina Roads in Maui for two hours before coming into Honolulu.  There, she landed 25 passengers with 150 transit passengers also aboard.  She, too, was carrying another heavy consignment of Australian wool and a large cargo of Samoan copra. Mariposa docked at San Francisco on the 19th and readied for her Tahiti cruise departing on the 23rd.

The route and itinerary of the last great cruise of the classic ocean liner era: Mariposa and Monterey's Tahiti excursion 23 May-18 June 1941. Credit: Huntington Museum. 

When the Mariposa goes south at the end of next month, a number of Honolulans will be aboard for the second round-Pacific cruise via Tahiti in a year. The very fact that people can go on long Pacific pleasure cruises in these parlous times speaks for the confidence of Americans in their own ships and safety on the open sea lanes.

Honolulu Advertiser, 1 May 1941

On a busy 23 May 1941 along San Francisco's Embarcadero, Matsonia arrived that morning from Honolulu with 300 passengers and sailed that evening with 500 aboard and Mariposa was off at noon on her Tahiti cruise.  She had 315 passengers for Honolulu and 305 through passengers. Among those on the Tahiti excursion were James Norman Hall, co-author of Mutiny on the Bounty, and family, returning to the island where they lived, Gene Fowler, author and movie script writer, Broadway actress Yvonne Castle and actress Joan Fontaine who had just completed filming of what was then called Before the Fact (and released as Suspicion) who was quoted: "I kind of have a feeling this is the last time any of use will have a chance to go any place for a long time." 

Taking a vacation after filming Hitchcock's Suspicion, Joan Fontaine was aboard Mariposa/Monterey for the Tahiti cruise. Here, she is photographed aboard with Life magazine's writer John Thorne and photographer William Shrout.  Credit: Honolulu Advertiser, 29 May 1941. 

What may very well be a cruise to end all cruises, since peaceful cruising areas have practically vanished in the last couple of years, left Honolulu Thursday night [29 May] when some 450 passengers sailed for the South Seas aboard the Matson liner Mariposa. About 320 of these were bound for Tahiti, the rest for the Antipodes.

Honolulu Advertiser, 31 May 1941

Mariposa docked at Honolulu on 29 May 1941 where she embarked 189 through passengers for the Antipodes and another 61 for the Tahiti trip including Matson President W.P. Roth and family.  On 7 June  the captain of Monterey reported that Miss Yvonne Castle had disappeared from the ship between Pago Pago and Tahiti. The message said Miss Castle "was believed to have suffered an attack of dizziness and fallen into the sea." Aged 27, Miss Castle had appeared in several Broadway plays.  

The Tahiti that the Monterey revisited on 6-9 June 1941 was quite changed from that a year previously, having voted the previous autumn to join the Free French rather than continue under the Vichy regime. Just days before the Matson liners arrived, there was an attempted coup by about 40 Petain loyalists in the government which was thwarted, and some of the suspect conspirators even attempting to escape the island aboard Monterey. Author Gene Fowler told reporters: "Feeling was still tense in Papeete when we arrived there, the town was full of rumors and apparently many more those who were thrown in jail had been involved. The attempted revolution was put down without bloodshed, however." Mariposa continued south on her "regular occasions" and without her celebrities, arriving at Auckland on 9 June with 380 passengers and sailed for Auckland the next day with 402 aboard. 

Mariposa at Pago Pago.

That the Tahiti cruise was to be the "last hurrah" for the foreseeable and most uncertain future was driven home on 27 May 1941 by President Franklin Roosevelt's proclamation of an unlimited National Emergency that put much of the United States on a war footing.  Already the character of Matson sailings to and from Hawaii had changed with an increasing proportion of passengers being defense works and their families: "the construction workers who sailed in these ships in those hectic days did not add to the luxury atmosphere expected by vacation travelers. The purser's log were filled with complains of rudeness and drunken episodes. The ship's personnel deserved a great deal of credit in extending themselves on those difficult voyages to make the five-day cruise as pleasant as possible." (Matson's Century of Ships, Fred A. Stindt).

Honolulu Star Bulletin, 19 July 1941

Now alone on the Antipodes run that summer, Monterey left Los Angeles on 25 June 1941 with a near capacity list of 741 passengers, 351 who embarked there.  Among those aboard was James Dole, Chairman of the Board of the Hawaiian Pineapple Co.  When she docked at Honolulu on the 30th, the Star-Bulletin reported: "Resembling an army transport with her decks speckled with khaki-clad officers" as she numbered 150 new U.S. Army Air Corps fliers among the 592 landing there and 169 through passengers including U.S. Navy officers for Samoa.  She also landed 4,613 bags of mail before proceeding south. She docked at Auckland on 12 July with 203 passengers, 32 landing there.

On her last arrival from the Antipodes for the summer, Mariposa docked at Los Angeles on 7 July 1941 with 385 passengers, 211 of them landing there and then proceeded to San Francisco from where she would be based for her new Hawaiian sailings.

The demand that prompted placing Mariposa on the Hawaii run was aptly evidenced over 22-23 July 1941. Lurline arrived the morning of the 22nd with 500 aboard and Mariposa came in that same afternoon with 500 more.  Lurline left the next afternoon with 764 and Mariposa that evening with 638.  Among those aboard were 26 Army nurses bound for duty at Tipler Hospital at Schofield Barracks. Both ships, too, carried capacity cargoes. Overall, Matson's cargo carryings to Hawaii were three times the normal volume.  Mariposa arrived at Honolulu on the 16th and sailed that day at 4:00 p.m. for the Mainland with 350 aboard. 

On her next Honolulu arrival on 28 July 1941, Mariposa brought in 736 passengers and sailed that afternoon north with 318 aboard. Many of her arriving passengers were families of the defense workers on the island taking advantage of a government 80 per cent subsidy on their fare.  

Summer 1941 and the last carefree season on the Hawaiian-Antipodes run as these "Debs" arriving at Honolulu aboard Mariposa are enjoying.  Credit: Honolulu Advertiser, 12 August 1941.

A matched pair, 20 August 1941 saw Monterey, from Los Angeles, and Mariposa, from San Francisco, sail for Honolulu where both arrived together five days later.  Mariposa, which had a rough crossing when she encountered a storm centered right on the shipping lane from San Francisco, brought in 398 passengers, and Monterey, with 329 landing and another 180 through for the Antipodes. Together, they also brought a total of 5,161 bags of mail. 

Mariposa came into Honolulu on 7 September 1941 on her final shuttle from San Francisco with 369 passengers, a fourth of whom were civilian defense workers and a half of the total passenger list were service families. She sailed the next 8th with 410 passengers.

Back on the Antipodes run, Mariposa next called at Honolulu on 24 September 1941 with 233 First Class and 180 Cabin Class landing passengers and 116 through travellers.  She arrived at Sydney on 9 October. On what proved to be her final such arrival "for the duration," Monterey docked at Sydney on 4 November.

From October 1941 the the Oceanic Sisters were increasingly transporting, northbound, capacity loads, but as commercial passengers, ANZAC military forces, especially airmen to the U.S. for flight training in Canada or en route to Britain for deployment.  Already, almost all coverage of them including, sailings and arrivals vanished from Antipodean newspapers.

Arrival of ANZAC airmen aboard Mariposa upon arrival at Honolulu on 29 October 1941. Credit Honululu Advertiser, 30 October 1941.

Mariposa came into Honolulu on 29 October 1941 from the Antipodes with 700 ANZAC airmen, she was escorted as far as Pago Pago by an Australian cruiser.  Aboard was General Sir Guy Williams who had been in New Zealand reorganizing its army.  A picnic ashore during the call was organised for the airmen with opportunity for swimming and also Hawaiian entertainment in the company "of attractive Hawaiian ladies, member of the women's volunteer motor corps."

'They're bonny lads,' observed a Scotch steward on the Mariposa Wednesday as some 700 young Anzac fliers aboard cheered the liner into port, 'and they're making the most of a grand trip to the wars. They don't seem to realize that few of them may ever see these island-- or their own country-- again.'

But the exuberant Australian and New Zealand pilots and airmen who crowded the American liner were not aware of their destiny.

'We've finished training,' one shorts-clad boy from Melbourne said, gazing over the rail as the Royal Hawaiian band roared an aloha, 'and we won't tarry long in Canada. We're bound for England, and we hope they'll let us fly our own planes across. But, a lot of us won't be coming back, I doubt.'

ANZAC airmen celebrating their arrival at San Francisco aboard Mariposa.

NEARLY 700 ANZAC AIRMEN MARIPOSA'S VALUABLE PASSENGER LIST  SAN FRANCISCO, November 5. Nearly 700 Australian and New Zealand Air Force men arrived on the Mariposa, and entrained immediately for the east coast, also Canada. Many already had silver wings, indicating they were ready for assignment to Britain’s Fighter and Bomber Commands. The decks were lined solidly with the dark blue uniforms of the Australians and the grey of the New Zealanders as the ship drew alongside the pier. Not all were pilots. Many were observers and air gunners. There were several sections of leading-aircraftmen, enroute to Canada for more training. The Mariposa also brought Governor-Gen-eral Richard Brunot, General de Gaulle’s chief of Tahiti and New Caledonia, who is en route to London to report to Free French headquarters; also General Sir Guy Williams, imperial military advisor to New Zealand, who is returning to England for a new assignment.

Evening Star, 6 November 1941

Matson Rumors

The rumors persist that it won't be long now before the government requisitions one or more of the Matson White Fleet. These rumors are routinely denied by company officials. Some have the entire fleet of four big ships being taken over; most report have only one or two. Most likely, it is said, are either the Lurline or Matsonia, or both. The company would then withdraw the Mariposa and Monterey from the South Seas service and put them in the Hawaiian shuttle run.

The Mariposa and Monterey are not carrying many paying passengers to and from Australia anymore, except Aussie troops on the homeward voyages, and the amount of freight they are hauling has also decreased since a number of Matson freighters were diverted to the Auckland-Sydney route. Thus the ships appear to be serving primarily as British troop transports. 

… So far the Matson Line has not yet lost any of its huge white fleet, and its executives should feel lucky."

Honolulu Advertiser, 12 November 1941

Even their passengers assumed a decided military character in the final weeks of Mariposa and Monterey in commercial service including 300 Australian veterans of the Battle of the Atlantic en route home in Mariposa. Credit: Honolulu Advertiser, 21 November 1941.

With the largest number of commercial passengers she ever carried and the most to arrive at the port in one vessel, Mariposa arrived at Honolulu on 20 November 1941 from Los Angeles (sailed 15th)  with 274 landing of the 855 aboard including 300 Australian seamen who had been serving in British ships and 100 British merchant navy men. She also had aboard American defense workers bound for Pacific island bases. 

The U.S. Government requisitioned both Matsonia and Monterey on 18 November 1941 with the intention of using both to transport troop reinforcements at once to the Philippines. Initially, it was planned that Matsonia do one round voyage and that Monterey sail one way with troops and then be diverted to Australia and presumably resume her schedule from there. Indeed, on the 21st Matson's Honolulu agents, Castle & Cooke, received a radiogram from the San Francisco office stating: "On account of the national defense program, Matsonia round voyages 97, 98 and 99 are cancelled. Matsonia will resumed regular schedule from San Francisco January 30 and Los Angeles January 31. The Monterey from San Francisco December 9 has been cancelled." In reporting the news, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that "It was certain, however, that the Mariposa, sister ship to the Monterey, would continue on the run."  

Monterey called at Honolulu on 26 November 1941 and on the 29th it was announced she could skip her call at Los Angeles on the 31st and proceed directly to San Francisco. "Although no plans for stripping the Monterey of her fittings has been announced here, it was considered possible she also might be stripped and diverted for a longer period time then originally expected." (Los Angeles Times, 29 November 1941).  True enough, on 3 December Monterey was chartered to the U.S. Maritime Commission and initially assigned to the U.S. Army's Transportation Corps while Matsonia went to the U.S. Navy.

In the gathering dusk of the last days of an America at peace, Mariposa was 12,000 miles away from home, arriving at Sydney on 5 December 1941. Due to sail northbound on the 11th, upon the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor on the 7th, her crew set immediately to work and the gleaming white ship was cloaked in a coat of naval grey. She sailed on the 16th, in secrecy, and taking a circuitous route, avoiding her usual waystops, safely arrived at San Francisco the morning of the 30th. She did the run in just 13 days, 15 hours and 47 minutes at an average speed of 20.24 knots.  It was the fastest such passage in Oceanic Steamship Co. history.

It was a fitting but abrupt end to nine years of service, success and style achieved by an American line and pair of ships, all the more memorable as it would never be duplicated.  Whilst there would, some 15 years later, be another Mariposa and Monterey to revive, for one last time, the storied Oceanic route to the Antipodes, the real heyday ended when U.S.M.S. Mariposa made her fast and furtive run home to go join her sister, at war. 

An interrupted idyll: one of the Oceanic Sisters coming into  Suva, Fiji.  

Matson advertisement, 1942.

Four big passenger liners constituted the Matson fleet that served as troop carriers through the war. Within a few days after Pearl Harbor, they were so transformed for war duty that only the seafaring men, as familiar with their silhouettes as with the faces of old friends, could know them for the Lurline, the Matsonia, the Monterey, and the Mariposa as they put out to sea, burdened to the Plimsolls with the men and the munitions of war so desperately needed in the war area far distance from America's shores.

Although at one time or another these ships ventured into nearly theatre of war, European as well as Pacific, by great good luck they suffered no casualties. Yet they had excitement and adventure, they made a great contribution to the war effort-- and they worked hard! These luxury liners of the days of peace had a wartime passenger list more than three quarters of a million names long... and they traveled on war duty for a distance equal to sixty-two trips around the equator. 

Ships in Gray, Matson Line publication, 1946

Of all American shipping lines, none was more at the epicenter of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the early hours of 7 December 1941, than Matson-Oceanic.  Six of its ships were in Hawaiian waters, but none were damaged and of the White Ships, fortunately, Lurline had sailed from Honolulu for the Mainland just two days before, and Mariposa had just arrived at Sydney from Auckland.  So Matson went to war, its ships and personnel having a particular score to settle. No other line did more to contribute to victory and justly proud of its record and sacrifice, the company published an extensive account,  Ships in Gray, in 1946 detailing the wartime service of Matson ships and men which forms the basis for this brief resume of Mariposa and Monterey at war.


Making it official, Matson-Oceanic announced in Honolulu on 16 December 1941 that "All present passenger bookings on all Matson steamships on all sailings have been cancelled because of the emergency." 


On 31 December 1941, the day after she arrived at San Francisco from Sydney, Mariposa was chartered to the U.S. Maritime Commission which then sub-chartered her to the U.S. Army Transportation Service.  To say that was "hastily converted" into a troop transport with 3,851 berths, was an understatement for on 12 January 1942 she sailed for Melbourne with no fewer than 4,550 troops aboard in company with President Coolidge and President Monroe in the "Australian-Suva" convoy escorted by two destroyers and the light cruiser USS Phoenix. Aboard Mariposa were U.S. Army personnel, 13 officers who would join General MacArthur headquarters and crated P-40 fighter planes. The ship reached Melbourne on 1 February and proceeded to Fremantle where cargo and men were transferred to the Australian troopships Duntroon and Katoomba for India. She returned to San Francisco from Brisbane, with 14,756 bales of wool.  

A second voyage to Australia began from San Francisco on 19 March and she returned from Melbourne on 18 April with 690 evacuees from the Dutch East Indies, most Army and Air Force men and their families, bound for the U.S. for training as the nucleus for a revived Netherlands Air Force and arrived at San Francisco on 3 May. 

Mariposa at San Francisco, c. 1942. Credit: Naval History & Heritage Command.

This, being a world war, soon diverted Mariposa and her sister away from their familiar waters.  On 8 May 1942 she left San Francisco (not returning until December 1943) for Charleston, S.C., via the Panama Canal.  There, she embarked 3,813 troops on a wide ranging voyage.  Sailing with Santa Paula, Chateau Thierry and Mormacsun escorted by U.S.S. Texas and four destroyers to Hamilton, Bermuda, and on to Freetown, Sierra Leone, reached on 9 June. There, the American warships turned over their duties to British warships (including the battleships H.M.S. Rodney and H.M.S. Nelson) and on the 19th Mariposa joined a large 24-vessel convoy. Despite numerous submarine alerts en route, Cape Town was safely reached.  She left there on 4 July for Karachi where she arrived on the 26th. With 700 cases of tungsten and mica in her holds, Bombay was her next destination.  There, she embarked an eclectic compliment of 344 passengers-- 77 "Flying Tiger" American Volunteer pilots from China/Burma, 88 missionaries and 54 Chinese aviation cadets-- for New York via Cape Town.  From the South African port, Mariposa ran unescorted, clocking an average speed of 20.09 knots for the run. 

Destined for North Africa in the wake of the American landings in Morocco and Algeria, Mariposa first sailed from New York on 20 October 1942 with 4,068 troops for Liverpool on her first North Atlantic crossing.  After they disembarked, she took on 3,987 men for Oran, sailing in a 18-ship convoy escorted by a dozen warships. Their necessity was shown on the passage to Gibraltar with near continuous submarine alerts and depth charging, one on 20 November, nearing The Rock, was just 250 ft. from the ship and close enough to cause her to shudder from the shock. The U-boat threat was replaced by that from German and Italian bombers, and shortly after Mariposa safely landed her troops at Mers-El-Kebir, four planes raided the harbour in the moonlight, dropping their bombs within a quarter of a mile away.  In fact, they were returning from an earlier attack on Algiers and disposing of their remaining bombs.  The continued risk of air attack did not invite long stays in North African ports and Mariposa was off on the 25th, originally destined to return to Liverpool, but instead diverted once past the Straits to Norfolk, Virginia where she docked on 9 December.  

First Convoy: Monterey and Lurline as seen from Matsonia  en route to or from Hawaii, December 1941. Credit: Matson Line. 


Originally scheduled to sail to Manila on 8 December 1941, Monterey was mostly converted for troop transport use except for C Deck, with total berths for 2,950 men, and loaded with cargo for the Philippines and Australia when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Instead, she was reloaded with aircraft parts and other war material and sailed for Honolulu on the 16th in company with Lurline and Matsonia, with 3,349 men crammed aboard.  On the return voyage to San Francisco, she carried 804 Army casualties and military dependents, including 240 children.   Monterey embarked Marines at San Diego on 6 January 1942 for Samoa. 

Before her next voyage, additional conversion was undertaken at San Francisco to give Monterey a total capacity of 3,841 troops.  With 3,674 Army personnel aboard, including 39 war correspondents, she sailed on 18 February 1942 in company with Matsonia and Mormacsea for Brisbane, Fremantle, Adelaide and Melbourne. When she returned to San Francisco, Monterey had carried a total of 5,695 passengers on the 62-day voyage. 

Monterey at New York mid 1942 getting repainted and before liferafts covered her promenade deck. Credit: Troopships of  World War II

Bidding what would be a farewell to her homeport that would last more than a year, Monterey left San Francisco on 22 April 1942 again bound for Australia. After landing her troops at Adelaide, she crossed the Pacific as far as Panama, transited the Canal for the first time in a decade, and after calling at Key West, arrived at New York. From there, via Halifax, she would make two shuttle trips across the unfamiliar North Atlantic to Scotland on 1 July and 9 August carrying a total some 12,000 passengers on the eastbound crossings. This remarkable number was accomplished by the new policy of "hot bunking" whereby two men shared one berth in rotation with half sleeping or occupying quarters and the others half on deck with round the clock meal service (two a day) and the catering crew managing to feed 5,660 enlisted men in two and a half hours or 37 men a minute.  The Grand Manner of Matson receded into ever more distant memory.

Monterey, date and location unknown. Credit: Mariners Museum.

Even more strange and distance shores occupied the rest of the year and into the next when Monterey was assigned to support the North African campaign. Sailing from New York on 2 November 1942 she made the first of five shuttle voyage to Casablanca, arriving there on the 18th, ten days after the initial Operation Torch landings. 

Matson advertisement, 1943.



In the last week of 1942, Mariposa embarked on her longest transport voyage, leaving Newport News on 21 December on an epic journey to Rio de Janeiro, Aden, Massawa, Suez, Djibouti, Port Sudan, Bombay, Cape Town, Freetown, Glasgow and New York, encompassing 41,000 miles and 110 days. To avoid the submarine infested South Atlantic, her course took her very far south, even to approaching ice and fog and not another ship was sighted en route.  The most dangerous part of the voyage was Egypt where the Afrika Korps was barely 80 miles to the west of Alexandria.  At Suez, Mariposa and other ships in harbour had their own barrage balloon.  At Djibouti, Senegalese Free French troops embarked for Egypt. She embarked 2,763 passengers for home, proceeding to Bombay, Cape Town, Freetown, Glasgow and finally New York on 9 April 1943.

Mariposa sailed to Casablanca from New York on 16 April 1943 and on the return she carried the widow of the assassinated French Admiral François Darlan and his son to the United States for political asylum. Alain Darlan, who was stricken with polio, was specifically invited by President Roosevelt to undergo treatment at his Warm Springs clinic.  Other crossings ensued  to Liverpool on 23 May and from Norfolk on 17 June to Casablanca and Boston to Casablanca 10 July.  On the return crossing, she brought some 7,000 German and Italian POWs from the North African Theater to the United States. 

A superb aerial view of Mariposa off the U.S. Coast, en route to New York from Casablanca, on 7 May 1943. Credit: U.S. National Archives. 

Mariposa coming into Newport News, Pier 5, 12 June 1943. Credit: Mariners Museum.

Mariposa at Newport News, 15 June 1943. Credit: Mariners Museum.

It was on a crossing from Boston to Glasgow on 7 August 1943 with 5,507 men aboard and, embarking another 90 at  Reykjavik en route, that Mariposa set her own record for 5,597 passengers on a single voyage. On the return trip, she again carried 2,000 POWs among the total of 4,000 aboard.  Mariposa was off on 9 September from New York with 4,277 passengers on another far ranging voyage to Rio de Janeiro and Bombay where she arrived on 12 October. She then continued to Fremantle and Sydney. There, she embarked 2,209 troops for... San Francisco. After an absence of one year, six months and 11 days, the Oceanic liner Mariposa was finally "going home."  On 6 December she cleared the Golden Gate for Hobart, Fremantle and Bombay with 4,223 U.S. Army personnel, most of them U.S. Army Military Railroad men.  She reached Hobart on the 26th.


Definitely "On the Road to Morocco," Monterey spent the first quarter of 1943  as she had ended 1942: shuttling between New York and Casablanca with four round voyages on the route departing 14 January, 5 March, 2 and 29 April.

A change of pace ensured with she sailed from New York on 2 June 1943 for Panama, transited the Canal and renewed her acquaintance with once familiar San Francisco where she docked on the 15th.  After a period of refitting, she passed out of the Golden Gate, bound once again for Down Under, calling at Brisbane.  Plans for her to return to the West Coast were changed at the last minute and, instead, Monterey was diverted back, via the Panama Canal, to New York. There, she embarked her largest ever passenger list-- 6,855-- and was off again on 21 August to North Africa, this time, Oran.  Returning to New York, she departed there on 8 October with 6,747 aboard for Liverpool, Gibraltar and Naples.  

Credit: Ships In Gray.

At Liverpool, Monterey joined Convoy KME-25A, composed of 15 American and eight British transports with a heavy escort of seven American, three British and two Greek destroyers, bound for Naples to reinforce the Allied occupation force there.  

It was en route to Naples, between Algiers and Philippeville, off Cape Bougaroun, Algeria, that Monterey found herself in the thick of combat when at 6:11 p.m. on 6 November 1943, 25 JU-88 bombers attacked with airborne torpedoes and glider rocket bombs in two waves.  The American destroyer U.S.S. Beatty was immediately hit by a torpedo and sunk. One plane came so low off Monterey's port beam that it almost hit the ship, and raising altitude just nearly missed, still carrying away the radio antenna between the masts, and exposing its underside to a fusillade of antiaircraft fire from the ships 20 mm guns on the former tennis court, was shot down, crashing into the ocean. 

Painted by Lt. Hunter Wood, USMS, "Rescue by the United States Troopship SS Monterey", the son of the famous marine artist Worden Wood and graduate of the New York Merchant Marine Academy. The painting hangs in Matson Hall of the U.S. Marine Cadet Basic school, San Mateo, California. 

The covering smoke screen laid down by the convoy's escorts and the gathering moonlit darkness did not completely obscure all of the ships and two aerial torpedoes hit the former Nederland liner Marnix van St. Aldegonde and the Grace liner Santa Elena, the latter quickly settling by the stern and her 1,675 Canadian troops began scrambling down nets to rafts and lifeboats. Monterey and two destroyers were tasked by the convoy commander to stay behind to rescue the survivors. Capt. Elis Johanson ordered Monterey's starboard lifeboats immediately launched but not those on the portside, opposite the sinking transport, to keep her side with its scrambling nets and ropes clear for those already in the water. The Matson liner, still fending off continued air attacks, stayed on the scene from 8:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. the following morning and with the two destroyers, managed to rescue all but four of Santa Elena's compliment. The Grace liner stayed afloat long enough for an attempted tow, but later foundered. Monterey almost lingered too long and after one of her escorts had a torpedo cross her bows, she was ordered to make immediately for Philippeville but the weather was too rough to land survivors and she made for Naples to land her survivors. She then sailed for New York. 

Capt. Johanson was awarded a commendation from the Commander of Destroyer Squadron 16 and later also received the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal for his part in the rescue operation which reflected, too, the high credit on all of Monterey's ship's company. 

The heroic Monterey in dry dock, possibly at Newport News. Credit: Mariners Museum. 

By 1944, Matson advertising, if initially still in monochrome, assumed a less grim, more aspirational tone, offering fanciful images of the post-war Matson liner.



Beginning the New Year in the Indian Ocean, Mariposa returned from Bombay to Australia with 1,000 Italian POWs for disembarkation at Melbourne and then took on a full compliment of New Zealand troops for Wellington, her first return to New Zealand since the war, and then sailed to Los Angeles. This was followed by another voyage to Antipodes and India beginning on 9 March which took her to Fremantle and Bombay and then back to Melbourne.  Leaving the Pacific for the duration, Mariposa coursed northwards to Panama, through the Canal and to the East Coast. 

Mariposa photographed on 28 March 1944. Credit: U.S. National Archives.

For the balance of the year, and indeed the war, Mariposa regularly plied the North Atlantic Ferry supporting the post D-Day Allied liberation of Western Europe and the Mediterranean. This began from Boston 3 June with a crossing to the Clyde followed by voyages on 15 July from Norfolk to Oran and from Boston to the Mersey on 6 August, 30 August and 22 September.

Mariposa soon after sailing from Boston for Liverpool, 5 August 1944. Credit: U.S. National Archives.

And another view taken the same day. Credit: U.S. National Archives.

An autumn in the Med ensued with sailings from New York to Marseilles, Naples and Gibraltar on 27 October and from Boston to Gibraltar and Marseilles on 1 December. 


Leaving the excitement of the Mediterranean behind, Monterey began the New Year, quite literally, sailing on 31 December 1943, from New Orleans for Panama and back to her old South Pacific stomping grounds. She landed 4,082 soldiers at Honolulu and then set off with another full compliment for Espiritu Santo, Noumea and Milne Bay, New Guinea. Returning to San Francisco after a long absence, Monterey departed there on 8 March 1944 for another run to Milne Bay, the homeward voyage concluding at Seattle whence on 22 April she set off again for Honolulu, Langemak and Milne Bay. From the rest of the year she homeported at San Francisco beginning with an unusally short and simple round voyage to Honolulu beginning 15 June. 

Monterey's ensuing voyage on 3 July 1944 from San Francisco to Honolulu and Milne Bay was both longer and more eventful when, steaming between Milne Bay toward Oro Bay, Monterey suddenly found herself in a cloud of ash, a veritable dust storm which day into a murky dust and caused by a volcanic explosion some 30 miles distant. At 6:00 p.m., whilst seeking a safe anchorage, Monterey went aground with a 10 deg. list. Not going anywhere, her 3,900 troops were transferred to two "Liberty" ships nearby and the following morning two seagoing tugs arrived, one of them managing to go around as well.  After lightening the ship by pumping out 2,500 barrels of oil and 466 tons of water, Monterey was freed at 11:55 p.m. that day.  Proceeding into Oro Bay, she was inspected by divers who reported only two dents in her keel and she took on no water. Sailing for home via Guadalcanal, she was drydocked at San Francisco for a complete inspection and her tough Bethlehem-built hull was found to be otherwise undamaged. 

After a roundtrip to Honolulu beginning on 29 August 1944, Monterey return to Australia for the first time in two and half years, sailing from San Francisco on 21 September for Brisbane and then Oro Bay, Finschhafen, Hollandia, Leyte and Lagemak which was followed by a voyage on 19 November to Noumea, Brisbane and Hollandia. 

The Matson Liner of a confident post-war era as seen in a 1945 advertisement.



Mariposa remained mostly Boston-based and Atlantic and Mediterranean-bound into the New Year.  On 8 January she left Boston with support elements of the 70th Infantry Division for Marseilles (arriving 18th) and Oran.  After refit, she sailed from New York on 18 February for the Mersey and then from Norfolk on 17 March for Gibraltar, Oran and Naples.  Thereafter, she was based on Boston whence she sailed on 21 April for Marseilles, Naples and Gibraltar and was passing through the Straits when V-E Day was proclaimed on 8 May.  

An immaculate Mariposa shortly after sailing from New York for the Mersey, 18 February 1945. Credit: U.S. National Archives.

Another photograph taken the same day. 

And another... even in wartime paint, showing her handsome profile to advantage!

Detailed to Operation Magic Carpet, the repatriation of American personnel from the European Theatre, Mariposa was a busy and popular vessel for balance of the year. From Boston, she sailed on 21 May 1945 to Cherbourg and Le Havre and 13 June to Le Havre.  Embarking 6,216 men of the 95th Division (the most she ever carried), Mariposa returned to Boston on  the 29th. 

Mariposa coming into Boston with members of the 95th Div. Credit: Pacific Marine Review.

Local boys among the 6,213 returning servicemen aboard Mariposa as she docked at Boston on 29 June 1945. Credit: Boston Globe, 25 June 1945. 

On 3 July 1945, Mariposa left Boston to return to Le Havre and Cherbourg and became the first to carry civilian passengers since the war began, 400 in all. "A great gray ship camouflaged so that her bulk would be merged with the ocean mists and ringed with life rafts used in her recent troop-carrying voyage moved out of Boston Harbor in the late afternoon sunlight yesterday to inaugurate the post-war program of civilian travel to Europe. " (Boston Globe, 4 July 1945). United States Lines acted as the agent for civilian bookings on behalf of the War Shipping Administration. Mariposa returned to Boston on the 20th with 2,833 returning servicemen and on her next eastbound crossing on the 30th had 28 civilian passengers which took her on a roundabout route to Naples, Rio de Janeiro and back to Marseilles.  On her next arrival at Boston, on 15 September, 6,147 men belonging to the 17th, 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions disembarked and eastbound on 9 October, she had 27 commercial passengers including Baron Elie de Rothschild, youngest of the famous banking family, returning to Paris. Mariposa docked  at Boston with 5,133 aboard including a large group of returning nurses. She   sailed from Boston on 1 November to Naples and from Norfolk on the 27th to Naples with 4,161 troops and return from Marseilles on 22 December.


Continuing her transport duties in the South Pacific, based on San Francisco, Monterey sailed on 20 January for Finnschhafen, Hollandia, Tacloban, Leyte and Langemak.  At Tacloban, she embarked 437 American POWs liberated from the horrors of Japanese prison camps.  Beaten, starved and malnourished, they enjoyed special diets aboard ship on the voyage home, some gaining 40 lbs. which was impressive even by Matson standards. 

Monterey made another Pacific voyage commencing 31 March 1945 that took her to New Guinea, Leyte, a devastated Manila, Honolulu and back to San Francisco.  Such was the need for transports to repatriate servicemen from Europe, that she was dispatched there on 4 June, departing San Francisco, through the Canal and to Le Havre.  There, she embarked 6,493 men, mostly from the 413th Infantry Regiment, who were landed at Pier 15, Staten Island, New York on 3 July.  

On 11 July 1945 Monterey sailed on a wide ranging voyage that took her to Gibraltar, Marseilles, then westbound to Panama, through the canal and across the Pacific to Ulithi, the Philippines and Honolulu. It was en route to the Philippines that news of V-J Day was received aboard and Monterey, too, would join her sister on "Magic Carpet" repatriation voyages, only based instead in the Pacific. She finally returned to San Francisco on 21 September with 4,200 men aboard comprised of 3,709 soldiers, 181 Army patients and 262 repatriatees from the Philippines including 163 liberated prisoners who were "met by tooting harbor boats, jive banks and hundreds of civilian relatives of the returnees." (San Francisco Examiner, 22 September 1945).  

Monterey alongside her Honolulu pier. Credit: Pacific Marine Review.

On 6 October 1945 she sailed from San Francisco to Honolulu where she docked on the 11th with 610 passengers "to the strains of 'Aloha Oe,' as played by the Royal Hawaiian Band, and were bedecked by leis by welcoming relatives and friends." (Honolulu Advertiser).  And for the first time, Capt. Elis R. Johanson could give details of the heroic rescue of Santa Elena and show the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal awarded him. Monterey returned to San Francisco on the 19th as part of a remarkable armada of 17 warships, including the 'carriers Yorktown and Bon Homme Richard, packed with no fewer 22,800 men, women and children coming home from all part of the Pacific Theatre. 

Capt. Elis Johanson shows his Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal during Monterey's call at Honolulu on 11 October 1945. 

Some of the 1,000 war workers and 200 WACs and SPARs ready to embark for the Mainland aboard Monterey 13 October 1945. Credit: Honolulu Advertiser, 14 October 1945.

Departing San Francisco on 31 October 1945, Monterey arrived at Honolulu on 5 November, landing 966 passengers. "Passengers were accorded a colorful aloha. The Royal Hawaiian band played familiar Hawaiian airs. Leis were plentiful and a huge crowd thronged the entrance to the pier." (Honolulu Star-Bulletin).

Home for a burger, Monterey at Pier 30, San Francisco, 24 October 1945. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Monterey with 1,412 ( 212 cabin and 1,200 troop class) aboard including 1,000 former defense workers, sailed from Honolulu with U.S.S. Hornet on 8 November 1945. She left for Manila on the 21st and when she returned on  22 December from Manila and Honolulu with some 4,000 civilians and servicemen aboard, it was revealed that some of her navy crew had been made to do "KP" duty owing to the inadequate number of stewards aboard, numbering about 200. 

Leaving Marseilles on 12 December 1945, Mariposa arrived at Newport News on the 22nd.

First to go to war of the American lines, Matson-Oceanic's record was second to none and that of the "White Fleet"-- Lurline, Mariposa, Monterey and Mariposa-- especially so.  Their size, speed and cruising range made them invaluable, and they were among the select group of transports with the capability to operate independently, outside of convoys whose average speed was far less than theirs. In all, they steamed 1,460,227 miles and carried 736,521 passengers on 119 wartime voyages.  In miles steamed and passengers carried, Mariposa was the greatest of them all and the Oceanic twins together more than "did their bit":

A Wartime Record
(Pearl Harbor to V-J Day)

                               voyages  miles steamed      passengers carried      meals served
Mariposa                 29          414,589                     202,689                              10,571,670
                                                   14,296 average          6,989 average                    364,540 average            
Monterey                 26          328,490                      170,240                              8,663,471
                                                    12,634 average          6,547 average                   333,210 average   

A post-war vision that by 1946 when it was published was already not to be realized.

Matson Navigation Company's return to normal steamship operations after World War II proved to be one of the most difficult periods in the company's history.

Matson's Century of Ships, Fred A. Stindt.

It was ironic indeed that Matson which, in the last two years of a global war, presaged in its advertising a confident post-war age of progress-- streamlined visions of the ocean liner of the future, literally borne on mythical wings-- never again laid down a single new passenger liner after Lurline of 1933.  Indeed, Matson in 1948-1956 emulated Oceanic Steamship Co. in 1907-1912 in just abandoning the U.S.-Antipodes run entirely in a post-war environment that proved no less challenging than that in wartime.  For Mariposa and Monterey, their pre-war glories would never be recreated and of their extraordinary careers, the first post-war decade of the post-war era represented a desultory red-lead painted idleness following an extraordinarily busy first year of peace.  

It is telling that on 24 January 1945 Matson, on behalf of the Oceanic Steamship Co., with the United States Civil Aviation Board to "conduct an air service from the west coast to Australia by way of Honolulu" from San Francisco, Los Angeles to Honolulu, Palmyra, American Samoa, Fiji and Auckland" and had also applied for rights to fly from the U.S. West Coast to Hawaii.  The astonishing advances in aviation transport during the war and the flood of war surplus "giant four-motor transports" (the Douglas C-54 or DC-4) already vied with revival of the steamship routes to Hawaii and Antipodes in corporate post-war planning. And whilst the CAB held firm in refusing to grant steamship lines rights to operate schedule commercial air services, Matson went ahead with its own unscheduled air service to Hawaii 1946-48.  

Meanwhile, there was no revival of the 1941 plans for new and larger ships for the Antipodes run.  Instead, it was planned, as soon as she was released by the War Shipping Administration (WSA), to give Matsonia a modest refit to commercial standards and resume the Hawaii run whilst Lurline, Monterey and Mariposa underwent major refitting.  There was early commitment to provide the same weekly service to Honolulu as before the war, but, tellingly, no firm plans as to the Antipodes run. 

Matson entered the post-war era under new leadership when on 16 March 1945 President William P. Roth stepped down after an extraordinary 18 years, and Fraser Bailey, Senior Executive President, was appointed President.

Australian and New Zealand war brides arriving at San Francisco aboard Monterey.


Six years of global war had wrought unprecedented upheaval in everyday lives with millions of displaced persons, refugees, former political prisoners, stateless persons and, on a happier note, tens of thousands of trans-ocean relationships and marriages between Allied servicemen and overseas women that spanned a world at war and now with the coming of peace, establishing new lives in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and other countries. Over one million American servicemen passed through Australia during the war with 80,000 stationed in Brisbane and another 15,000-40,000 posted in New Zealand.  During the course of the war, some 15,000 Antipodean women married American servicemen and now faced the prospect of settling down to married life, many already with newborn children, in a new country 6,000 miles distant.

So came about The Diaper Run, Matson-Oceanic's six-month long operation from the Antipodes to America, as tasked by the WSA, to reunite these families.  All three of the Matson-Oceanic sisters would be assigned to the movement with Monterey running from Auckland and Sydney whilst Mariposa ran from Brisbane, both usually calling at Honolulu, mainly for water, to San Francisco. Southbound, the two also carried Canadian brides of Australian servicemen as well as American dependents of U.S. servicemen still stationed in Australia. And, as space permitted,  "high priority" commercial passengers in both directions, a modest first step in restoring a passenger service on the route. 

The decision was made in some haste, the WSA  only announcing on 9 January 1946 that instead of sailing from San Francisco on the 12th for Manila, Monterey would instead depart on the 16th for Honolulu, Auckland, Sydney and Brisbane and, with Mariposa and Lurline, be deployed with the aim of repatriating all 3,000 war brides, children and dependents of American servicemen to the United States within four months of the first sailing from the Antipodes on 24 February. This was confirmed on 5 February by Earl D. Walker of Matson, and now with the WSA. 

Mariposa, in Newport News, and Monterey in San Francisco, were quickly adapted from carrying 6,500 troops to the carriage of 850 women and babies. This  included 65,000 disposal diapers per voyage, 18,000 safety pins, 2,000 gallons of milk,500 toys, the First Class dining room restored with original chairs, tables and high chairs;  the Cabin Class smoking rooms converted into a library and beauty parlour and nursery with swings, sandpits and rocking horses, with four Red Cross nurses in attendance.  Lounge and smoking room furniture stored ashore was brought back aboard, but many of the public room ceilings and walls still bore graffiti written or carved by GI's. 

Symbolically, the most important change to the ships was the repainting of their funnels in full Matson colors, the gleaming buff-yellow, deep blue and the big Ms were as much a harbinger of peace as their new passengers of new brides, mothers and their babies and young children bound for new lives in America. 

On 17 January 1946 the WSA announced that Monterey would now depart San Francisco on the 24th.  She had some 800 passengers including 53 Canadian wives and fiancees of Australian servicemen and five American wives of US servicemen who intended to live in Australia. Of these, 300 would be landing at Auckland on 8 February where she embarked  200 brides for America before continuing to Sydney.  

Monterey at Auckland on 8 February 1946. Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 1370-525-11 

Few Aucklanders would have recognised the liner Monterey had her coming this morning been unannounced. The once familiar ship still wears her wartime garb except that her twin funnels have been painted a deep cream and bear the letter "M" indicating her to be a unit of the Matson Line.

In all other ways, inside and out, the liner is exactly the same as when she was converted for the grim business of war. She is still operated by the U.S. War Shipping Administration, though today she brought 834 service and civilian passengers from San Francisco for the Dominion and Australia.

The 18,000-ton liner is painted battleship grey and the darkened windows on the promenade deck are a mute reminder of the days when blackout at sea were necessary. 

The liner's interiors fittings, which were stripped to make the ship suitable for troop-carrying, are not yet replaced, and in many ways, she an austerity ship.

Northern Advocate, 8 February 1946

Monterey alongside her Auckland pier showing the newly restored Matson livery on the funnels, otherwise the ship remained in troopship garb. Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 1370-525-08

Seen off by 1,000 wellwishers, Monterey left Auckland on 9 February 1946 with 163 New Zealand brides and 68 children among those aboard, some of who had waited as long as two years for passage to America.  On the 12th she came into at Sydney, docking at No. 22 Wharf, Pyrmont with huge crowds on the pier welcoming the arriving Canadian and American wives of Australian servicemen. In all she came in with 813 passengers including 150 former American soldiers and 61 Canadian wives, children and fiancees of Australian servicemen who are settling in Australia. 

Happy Return: Monterey's first visit to Sydney since the war. 

Monterey sailed from Sydney 16 February 1946, via Suva, Fiji and Honolulu, for San Francisco, among her 813 passengers, the 583 Australians included 305 wives and 131 babies came from Western Australia who came via a special train dubbed  "The Perth Perambulator"

Australian war brides collecting their babies' food rations in what was the First Class bar after embarking aboard Monterey. Credit: Daily Telegraph, 16 February 1946.

Monterey coming alongside at Suva, Fiji on her northbound voyage. 

Another "snap" of Monterey during her brief call at Suva. Owing to an outbreak of measles and chickenpox aboard,  her passengers were not allowed ashore. 

Monterey arrived at Honolulu on 27 February 1946 with 813 wives and children of American service men, nine days out from Sydney, "everyone on board including the transport commander and the wives had nothing but compliments for the conduct of the voyage. (Honolulu Star-Bulletin).  She sailed at 11:00 p.m. "This was the first all war bride ship to come from 'down under' and though the trip was started 'with fear and trepidation,' there was good weather and complete cooperation between the passenger and the crew.'  Lt. Col. John P. McGuinness, transport commander, complimented the passengers on the behavior during the trip. 'We are carrying a fine representation body of citizens of whom we are proud, and of whom we are sure their friends and neighbors to be will be equally proud,' he said. 'We will land the passengers in San Francisco in the highest degree of comfort, morale and health that can be expected."

On her current voyage, the Monterey is literally a 'women's world.' Every effort has been made to make the voyage a comfortable and pleasant one and, at same time, to prepare the future U.S. citizens for adjustment to their new home surroundings. Thousands of disposable diapers and large stores of baby foods were put aboard the vessel at the onset of her voyage to meet the needs of the small fry. Red Cross workers and registered nurses are aboard to help mothers in caring for their children. There is a WAC liason officers to act as go-between for the women passengers and the ship's captain and other officials.  A series of orientation lectures covering U.S. history, geography and other subjects is part of the voyage schedule. Also, where necessary, women are being taught the proper use of make-up and how to dress in American for certain occasions.  Motion pictures are shown regularly. These movies have been selected to give the Australian women a 'preview' of large American cities, some of the national parks, popular American sports and pastimes and national characteristics.

Honolulu Advertiser, 26 February 1946

Monterey arriving at San Francisco, 4 March 1946. Credit: Naval History & Heritage Command

As the ship steamed in through the Golden Gate, every porthole and every spot of deck space was filled with wives and children, their costumes bright splotches against the drab wartime gray paint. Just inside the gate the Monterey was met by the Army welcoming boat, the Cavanaugh. Aboard were a few lucky husbands and father and a WAC band. As the band's jazz tunes blared over a public address system, the arriving wives danced and sang. Said one New Zealand wife, Mrs. Vida Parker of Auckland, "This is a wonderful welcome; even the music's so springly. Why, back home they'd be playing 'God Save the King' or something like that. Finally the Monterey docked alongside Pier 45, the Army's flag-bedecked debarkation center. Husbands and relatives stretched the length of the pier, necks craned upward, yelling and waving.

Aboard the Monterey, it was a like a combination of maternity ward and a giant kindergarten. Infant wails wafted from every corridor, children of all sizes and shapes crawled underfoot or toddled about the decks.

San Francisco Examiner, 4 March 1946

Described as the  the brightest event in the lives of waterfront writers and photographers since the war," Monterey came into San Francisco on 4 March 1946, met and escorted into the harbour by two welcome ships aboard which were 200 "anxious" husbands.  

Meanwhile, Mariposa was just days behind, having left San Francisco on 16 January 1946 for Brisbane. On 18 February she began embarking the first of 883 brides and children, 185 of whom came from Sydney by special train. 
Scenes of departure as Mariposa sails from Brisbane on 20 February 1946.

Brisbane saw one of the most colourful and emotional scenes in years today when the Mariposa carrying nearly 900 brides of Americans and their babies, drew out of Brett's Wharf on her long voyage to America. The big grey ship pulling into midstream fluttered like something on a line with flags and coloured handkerchiefs waved from the deck and port-holes. Thousands of relatives on the wharf waved back, wept, and sent said coo-ees echoing across the river, while a band played 'Auld Lang Syne' and the Mariposa herself grunts cock-adoodle-doos in reply. 

The Telegraph (Brisbane), 20 February 1946

Mariposa on her first warbride voyage. 

It's been a long, long time, to borrow the title of a current hit parader, since Honolulu had its last glimpse of the SS Mariposa. Nevertheless, the big luxury liner-that-was seemed perfectly at home as she passed Aloha Tower yesterday and edged into her old berth at Pier 11 with a feminine and juvenile cargo.

Honolulu Advertiser, 2 March 1946. 

Making her first visit to the port since 19 November 1941, Mariposa came into Honolulu on 1 March 1946 with 611 war brides and 271 children aboard. Col. William E. Burr, transport commander, told reporters that the 15-day voyage from Brisbane was "exceedingly pleasant" and the passengers had five hours ashore during the call at Suva 24 February.  The only initial problem being that the passengers could not understand the American accented announcements so several wives volunteered to make the broadcasts.

Mariposa  arrived at San Francisco on 6 March 1946 with 884 war brides. 

Before setting out on her next voyage, Monterey underwent extensive additional refurbishment with the Promenade Deck restored, deck chairs re-instated and liferafts removed.  Most of the public rooms were refitted with their original furnishings including both dining rooms.  She was repainted, too, and the superstructure front and bridge painted in Matson buff and the rest of the ship in a darker slate gray. 

Looking more her pre-war self with the liferafts removed and her promenade decks restored, Monterey sails from Auckland with New Zealand war brides on 1 April 1946. Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 1370-525-16

With 120 Canadian dependents of Australian servicemen among her passengers, Monterey left San Francisco on 15 March 1946 direct for Auckland, doing the passage nonstop in 11 days at an average 20 knots, one of her fastest crossing. There, she embarked 230 New Zealand war brides and departed on 1 April, seen off by 2,000 people,  "the sailing being reminiscent of the pre-war heyday of sea voyages." (Otago Daily Times). 4 April 1946. Monterey arrived Sydney on the 4th with 56 Canadian brides and 17 children among the total 360 landing there.  She left Sydney on the 8th with 761 brides and children and 100 high priority passengers, 534 brides embarking there. 

Monterey arrived at San Francisco on 23 April 1946 with 754 war brides and also 93 commercial passengers, the largest number of passengers from Australia in one ship since the war. One day out of Suva, chicken pox and measles broke out aboard and the ship came in under the Yellow Flag and 16 infants taken off for quarantine. "Despite the illnesses, the consensus of opinion among the passengers was that the trip had been extremely pleasant. The sea was smooth throughout, the meals were first-rate, the Army and Navy personnel were most considerate and regimentation was kept to a minimum." (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 April 1946)

The First Class dining rooms of Lurline, Monterey and Mariposa were remarkably largely restored to their pre-war comfort and appearance during their Diaper Run voyages. Credit: Matson Line.

Brisbane-bound again, Mariposa (Capt. William R. Meyer) sailed from San Francisco on 18 March 1946, and after a rough passage, arrived at Honolulu on the 23rd with 769 mostly civilian passengers, among them were 75 Japanese-American families returning to Hawaii after internment in the Mainland.  When she docked at Brisbane on 6 April, the Brisbane Telegraph noting that "The Mariposa has been luxuriously appointed since its last trip. The main lounge has been redecorated and every possible comfort has been provided. The vessel is almost as she was before the outbreak of war." She sailed on the 10th with 790 warbrides and children, seen off by 500 even at the early hour. It had been announced on the 8th that Lurline would be withdrawn from The Diaper Run and would be the first to be begin complete rebuilding and Mariposa and Monterey would make three more voyages.  Mariposa came into Honolulu on the 20th and San Francisco on the 26th. 

Mariposa sails from Brisbane, 10 April 1946 with 790 warbrides and children. Credit: State Library of Queensland. 

During the annual stockholders meeting on 2 May 1946, Matson President F.A. Bailey detailed post-war plans: "The Hawaiian post-war passenger service will consist of weekly sailings in each direction conforming to prewar schedule. We have yet to work out details of how the Australian passenger trade will be cared for and as what additional equipment will be required, if any." He added that it would cost  $18 mn to reconvert and modernize Lurline, Mariposa and Monterey. It was expected that Lurline would be returned to Matson  within 30 days "but the Mariposa and Monterey probably will be held in government service for several months more." 

When Monterey sailed from San Francisco on her third Diaper Run voyage on 2 May 1946, her southbound passenger list was an eclectic one, the 529 aboard including 302 commercial travellers, seven army personnel, 123 army and 62 navy dependents and 35 war department employees. She also had 45 disillusioned returning war brides, their marriages broken by divorce or annulment. She called at Honolulu on the 7th and sailed the following day for Pago Pago, Auckland and Sydney-- the first voyage along the full route since the war.  After calling at Auckland on the 18th, Monterey carried on to Sydney on the 23rd. 

Seen off by 2,000 people, Monterey sailed from Sydney on 28 May 1946 with 425 brides and 184 children.  The trip north took on a note of urgency with the looming threat of an American seafarers strike on the U.S. Pacific Coast with the vote scheduled on 5 June for a possible walk-out on the 15th. It was hoped that if all speed were put on and skipping the planned call at Auckland and Suva, Monterey could be turned around at San Francisco and sent south just before any strike might began.  Capt. E.R. Johanson told reporters on arrival at Honolulu on 4 June, just 8 days 12 hours after leaving Sydney, it was "the fastest passage I've made in 11½ years on the Monterey." When she sailed for San Francisco, she had 778 war brides and 57 commercial travellers aboard. She arrived at San Francisco on the 8th. 

Mariposa, which left Brisbane on 31 May 1946 with 802 dependents, docked at San Francisco on 14 June, commanded by Capt. William H. Turnquist, in relief of Capt. Meyer.  Monterery joined her sister together in the port.

Although 250 stewards, firemen and ships engineers walked off Monterey just before sailing on 14 June 1946, they were replaced and she was able to get away at noon the following day.   She put into another fast passage, arriving at Auckland on the 28th with 419 passengers, among those landing there were 12 Canadian fiancees of New Zealand service personnel.  Embarking 214 passengers, including 49 brides of American servicemen, Monterey continued on to Sydney. 

Mariposa departed San Francisco on 17 June 1946 and called at Honolulu on the 23rd where she landed 275 passengers before continuing to Auckland where she made her first arrival since 1941 on 4 July. 

Mariposa at Auckland on 7 July 1946, her final voyage as a war bride ship and her final call at New Zealand. Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 1370-523-05.

The final bride ship to leave New Zealand, Mariposa sailed from Auckland on 7 July 1946 with 194 passengers but only 6,300 cases of New Zealand butter, out of a planned first 16,000-box shipment, as she sailed early. The next day Monterey left Sydney and it was announced she would make an extra trip to Honolulu in the first week of August before entering a shipyard for complete rebuilding and expect to re-enter service on 1 April 1947. It was also announced that Mariposa will make two trips to Orient from Seattle with servicemen families.

A beautifully composed farewell portrait by the New Zealand Herald of Mariposa on what would prove to be her final visit to Auckland. Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 1370-523-04 

On 10 July 1946 Matson-Oceanic announced, instead, that Mariposa would make two extra sailings from San Francisco to Honolulu in place of the one extra trip previously announced for Monterey and augment sailings of Matsonia. This first would depart 7 August, call Honolulu 12-14th and return on the 19th and the second on the 21st, call Honolulu 26-27th and return to San Francisco. "Troopship type accommodation" at a set one-class fare would be offered. 

Delayed a few hours by bad weather, Monterey docked at Honolulu on 14 July 1946. Ending a 21-day voyage, she arrived at San Francisco on the 20th where she landed 213 wives and children and 523 commercial passengers.

Bidding what would be a final farewell to Australia, Mariposa steamed out of Sydney two hours late on 11 July 1946 with 850 passengers, including 276 war brides and children. She called at Honolulu on the 20th and ending her final voyage on the Diaper Run, came into San Francisco on the 26th. She was then released by the WSA on 2 August back to Matson and prepared for her first wholly commercial voyage since December 1941, to Honolulu on 7 August. 

Two of the U.S. 8th Army families reunited upon Monterey's 9 September 1946 voyage, the second of two, from Seattle to Yokohama. 

As announced on 3 July 1946, Monterey would undertake the two voyages to Japan originally envisaged for her sister, with dependents of U.S. 8th Army personnel stationed there on occupation duty. These would be made from Seattle to Yokohama with the first voyage departing 31 July 1946 (arrivin Yokohama 10 August) and the second on 30 August, arriving Yokohama on 9 September with 840 dependents.  

On the first of her two special trips to Honolulu, Mariposa (Capt. B.V. White) had 908 passengers, 2,748 tons of cargo and 4,010 bags of mail to land there on 12 August 1946. "The battery of stationary washtubs in the main foyer and other reminders of her Operation Diaper assignment were missing from the liner Mariposa when she steamed into Honolulu Monday morning on her first postwar run for the Matson Navigation Co. Despite the fact that her accommodation are still of the "emergency" type and many of the prewar entertainment features now restored aboard her sister liner SS Matsonia are still lacking, the Mariposa's 908 passengers seemed agreed their was 'a swell trip.'" (Honolulu Advertiser 13 August 1946). With 904 aboard, she sailed back to San Francisco on the 14th. 

Mariposa at San Francisco. Credit: eBay auction photo, courtesy Paolo Mestre. 

On what would be her final voyage for Matson Line, Mariposa left San Francisco on 21 August 1946 with 899 passengers for Honolulu where she arrived on the 26th. There were 50-75 still on the waiting list when she sailed the next day with 904 aboard.  "She will be a new ship next arrival" a local paper reported. Mariposa came into San Francisco on 3 September.  It was reported she would resume service on 1 June 1947, with  Lurline predicted to be completed by 1 April. 

Matson-Oceanic announced on 2 September that upon Monterey's return from her second and final voyage to Yokohama, she would make one more roundtrip to the Antipodes, from San Francisco on the 28th before beginning her rebuilding.  She was released by the WSA back to Matson on the 27th. Monterey was replacing the suddenly notorious Marine Falcon, a C4 troop transport, that had been chartered from the WSA to fill-in as an austerity class passenger carrier during the absence of Mariposa/Monterey, and whose first voyage was a disaster, the vessel being pilloried by passengers and press as "The Floating Flophouse."

Departing San Francisco on 28 September 1946, Monterey was embarking on what would prove her final voyage to the Antipodes, until 21 February 1971 on her maiden voyage as Chandris' R.H.M.S. Britanis.  She did not call at Honolulu in either direction and proceeded direct to Pago Pago, Suva, Auckland and Sydney. When she came into Auckland on 14 October, she had 889 passengers aboard, landing 200 there. Monterey's arrival at Sydney on the 19th, was right in the middle of one of the near constant strikes that plagued Australian ports in the immediate post-war period. Beginning on the 16th, the latest one idled 64 ships at Sydney and Melbourne and while Monterey could berth, her crew had to unload passenger's baggage.  Unable to unload her 800-ton cargo, Monterey left Sydney on the 25th with 902 passengers, among whom were 230 remaining war brides, 250 fiancees and the last of the U.S. Navy personnel based in Australia.  Monterey arrived at San Francisco on 14 November, berthing at Pier 30, in the middle of... another dock strike. 

Marine Phoenix at Auckland, the C4 transport chartered to maintain the Antipodes service while Mariposa and Monterey were being rebuilt. Credit: Naval History & Heritage Command. 

On 3 December 1946 Matson-Oceanic announced the charter from the WSA of another C4 transport, Marine Phoenix, to maintain an austerity service while Mariposa and Monterey were rebuilding. Beginning on the 13th from San Francisco, she continued in service (12 round voyages) until her arrival at San Francisco  on 17 August 1947 ended The Oceanic Steamship Co. passenger service until the maiden voyage of Mariposa (III) on 26 October 1956.

The long anticipated rebuilding of Lurline, Monterey and Mariposa would illuminate all of the post-war challenges confronting American passenger steamship lines, retire Matson's President and consign Monterey and Mariposa to a dismal, redleaded purgatory.

Matson expanded into the ship repair business when it acquired 80% of the United Engineering Company's yard at Alameda on 1 January 1945 and the remaining 20% on 1 October.  After the yard completed a successful $453,000, 50-day conversion of Matsonia to "austerity" service in April-May 1946, Matson decided it could do the same, "in house" and cheaper than the initial estimates (for Mariposa) of $8,250,000 (Newport News) and $8,990,000  (Bethlehem).  United "quoted" $6,881,500 for the project on a "no profit" basis.  Already, the financing of the project was challenging when in March 1946 the WSA set compensation to Matson for each vessel at $5,200,976 and $453,000 based on "charter cost" for the six-month duration of the rebuilding.  On 25 June this was further refined to $5,654,936 for Mariposa and $5,653,316 for Monterey to be paid in three installments: one third when work commenced, one third when 50 per cent complete and one third when completed. 
Staring in 1946, Matson mounted a comprehensive "Glimpses Ahead" advertising giving tantalizing peeks at the all-new accommodation and features of the rebuilt Lurline, Mariposa and Monterey

Here, it should be mentioned that any American liner rebuilt after the war had to be completely compliant with the fire safety and crew accommodation regulations imposed by the 1936 Merchant Marine Act.  Whereas Matsonia operated "as is" under a two-year "waiver, Lurline, Monterey and Mariposa would have to be completely gutted inside and all accommodation rebuilt to the latest 1948 regulations including fireproof materials, firescreen doors, enclosed stair towers and new wiring. The intermediate pressure turbines were removed and shipped to Bethlehem Shipbuilding at Quincy for complete rebuilding including new casings of cast steel instead of cast iron, reboring and reblading. The forward well deck was removed and wooden deckhouses above Boat Deck were replaced by steel framed aluminum. 

Full air-conditioning, private bath or shower and toilet for all First Class cabins, the latest Pullman-type "convertible" cabins designed to transform into day sitting rooms and all new public rooms (to be designed by Raymond Loewy) would, in effect, result in virtually new ships. Such were the daunting prospects of converting the surviving Jones-White Act ships to such standards that very few actually were in the end, other than the Matson ships, only Grace Line's Santa Paula and Santa Rosa and the Moore-MacCormack Uruguay, Brasil and Argentina and Borinquen were so rebuilt. 

The all new accommodation featured full air-conditioning and more medium priced First accommodation.

At first, Matson-Oceanic's plans brimmed with confidence and on 11 December 1946 announced that Mariposa and Lurline would be completed by May 1947 and "would enter the Pacific-Hawaii-New Zealand-Australia service." The liners would accommodate 700 passengers instead of 550 before the war. It was forecast that  Monterey would probably not be ready until October, 1947.

The Alameda yard could only accommodate two of the vessels at a time so Lurline and Monterey were converted there and Mariposa alongside Pier 32 at San Francisco.  All three were essentially gutted and exterior alterations included plating-in of the B Deck promenade decks, and removal of the funnel cowls  and aft cargo holds and handling gear. It was, by any standard, a daunting task as indicated by the figures cited in Matson-Oceanic's press releases: 55,000 man hours per week per vessel, 50 carloads of electrical cable, 310,000 sq. ft.of rubber tile, 90,000 ft. of tile trim, 4,500 metal doors, 3,500 tons of steel, 984 telephones, 35 carloads of cork slab and 1.5 mn. sq. ft. of Marinite fireproof sheeting. 

Monterey, very early into her rebuilding at Alameda with Lurline well into hers astern. Credit: Pacific Marine Review

Monterey and Lurline (astern) undergoing rebuilding at United Engineering Co.'s Alameda yards in March 1947. Credit: Honolulu Advertiser, 27 March 1947.


On 14 February 1947 an explosion "of unknown origin" aboard Mariposa at Pier 32 at Francisco, severely injured a shipyard worker, who lost his leg, while testing air conditioning units. 

The Wilmington Daily Press Journal on 12 March 1947 reported that: "The rebuilding and modernization of the Matson Lines' three luxury passenger liners, the SS Lurline, SS Mariposa and SS Monterey, is well under at the San Francisco and Alameda yards of United Engineering Company. This is the most extensive merchant ship reconversion project in U.S. maritime history, according to marine authorities. When completed, the SS Lurline, SS Mariposa and SS Monterey will comprise the finest and most modern passenger fleet under the American flag. Each ship will be the equivalent of a brand new liner, unexceled by any ship under any flag in modern design and equipment and in passenger comfort."  It was stated that the new passenger capacity would 726 with 488 First Class and 238 Cabin Class and a crew of 437.  

Monterey at Alameda before her B Deck promenade was plated-in. Credit: Pacific Marine Review.

Before a 'white ship' becomes white, it is red. Literally, this means that before the Lurline, Mariposa and Monterey are painted gleaming white again, they are first dressed with protective coat of orange-red colored lead paint to retard corrosion. Today the Lurline and Mariposa have already donned their undergarments.

Figuritively, it means that before Hawaii welcomes the trio back from trooper service, they will be almost completely rebuilt. Their smokestacks, like the hat of a young sailor, will be tipped astern at a streamlined angle.

Even the least observant passenger who arrives in San Francisco on the Matsonia notices the bright red ship just two piers east of Pier 32. From the same direction comes the loud clang of steel on steel.

There, at a United Engineering Co. outfitting dock, the Mariposa, her innards torn out, swarms daily with more than 1,200 welders, burners, electricians, plumbers and shipfitters.  From the upper decks of the Mariposa, if you look directly north across the bay, you may locate two dark shapes huddled together at UE Co. outfitting docks at Alameda. The one with the reddish tinge is the Lurline; the other, the Monterey

Neither Matson Navigation Co. nor UE Co. officials will give a definite date other than 'early September' when the first 'white ship,' the Lurline.  Is expected to be back in service. They are thinking of the bottlenecks and shortages of materials which must constantly be overcome. 'Copper and chrome fitting and plumbing may be hard to get, but boiler fittings are impossible, said Robert Duffy, UE Co. ship supervisor for the Mariposa. 'We've even set up a special expediting department to do nothing but obtain materials.'

When the Lurline is completed, most of the reconversion 'kinks' will have been straightened out, and the work on the other two liners is expected to go ahead at a faster pace.

When the 'white ships' come back to Hawaii, they'll sport not only greater comfort and passenger capacity, but they'll look a little more like those ads of super streamlined liners. When the black [sic] Matson "Ms" on the buff stacks will be at the angle to best enhance a streamlined effect.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 10 April 1947

Matson press releases in March-April 1947 were keeping up a positive take on what had already become something of a logistical and financial disaster. 

The Matson Annual Report of 14 April 1947 told stockholders that "the restoration and modernization of the Lurline, Monterey and Mariposa is proceeding, but due to a number of conditions, including labor interruptions and shortage of required materials, these vessels will not be ready for recommissioning until the later part of 1947… When the three liners return to service, and Matsonia is withdrawn, Matson-Oceanic would maintain 52 voyages a years to Hawaii, combined with 65 before the war, and 11 to Australia and and New Zealand, compared with 13."

Mariposa at Union's facility at Pier 32, San Francisco where she was refitted. Credit: U.S. National Park Service.

By then, the project had already become a nightmare for Matson-Oceanic planners and accountants, the epic task of totally rebuilding three liners simultaneously rendered almost impossible with rampant post-war inflation, persistent shortages of skilled labor and especially of materials.  Every completion forecast was pushed forward, first by months then by seasons.  And as the months dragged on, the need for the ships themselves-- Mariposa and Monterey in particular on a revived Antipodes route-- was seen as less urgent given new and more potent post-war air competition, a development that Matson not only anticipated and actively wished to be part of; a severe economic crisis in Britain and currency restrictions on travellers all clouding the future of the route.  Moreover, the immediate need for berths to the Antipodes was catered to by low cost, government subsidized migrant ships not the sort of high class operation envisaged by Matson. 

Matson President Frazer A. Bailey. Credit: Pacific Marine Review

The costs spiraled out of control: from the original $6.5 mn. per vessel, then $8 mn.  to $12 mn. by the end of 1946, then to $16 mn. by mid 1947. Worse, as an "in house" project with no fixed price contract or binding completion date, it simply bled cash reserves:

'They put three big passenger ships into a small yard to convert them,' said Wright [Matson Vice President Fulton W. Wright]. 'Bailey [Matson President Frazer A. Bailey] was talked into it by the man who was running the shipyard. He came up to headquarters and told Bailey, 'Sure, Boss, we can do anything.' It couldn't possibly work. Even the big yards wouldn't take all three of them... and didn't even bid on the jobs. The government gave a $2 million allowance for refurbishing each ship but that was just a drop in the bucket. 

'This was a serious mistake, all right, and... it just got away from them, literally. Initially, I used to make up these cash projections for Bailey. We'd go around and find out from everybody what cash they would need for a fiscal period. We'd put down $2.5 million for each of the ships as Matson's portion of the expected cost. Every time... I'd say [to Bailey], 'Now this isn't goin to work. This isn't enough cash. The boys in the shipyard tell me this isn't half enough.'

'Bailey would look at me, disgusted, and say, 'Put it in anyway.' So I'd put it in. Finally, this just caught up with him. Bailey took the beating and was more or less forced out.

Cargoes, Matson's First Century in the Pacific, William L. Worden.

Matson President Fraser Bailey resigned on 31 March 1947 with effect on 4 April, and replaced by John E. Cushing on 8 May.  In the last reassuring statement re. the liners rebuilding, Sydney G. Walton, Vice President of Matson, said in Honolulu on 2 July: "We are hopeful now that the main engineering and supply problems have been licked. If present work schedules can be met, the Lurline will leave the Alameda yards by the end of the year. The Mariposa, it is believed, will come along about two or three months about two or three months behind the Lurline." But the new management was about to apply the brakes to a runaway train that was going nowhere. 

Suspension of work on two Matson passenger liners is a step of the widest significance for Hawaii… Should these ships not return to the Pacific run, it may mark the end of a great era in transportation. Perhaps, as the picture clears, Matson will be able to take up it plans again, and make available to the Pacific regions the steamship service they have known in the past.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 17 July 1947

On 12 July 1947, The Oceanic Steamship Co. announced suspension of work on Mariposa and Monterey… "We regret this action must be taken but feel it is the wisest move at this time… development of unforeseen conditions such as have hampered realization of many postwar plans make the future so cloudy that, pending re-examination of our of post-war passenger steamship program, it seems advisable  to move ahead.  The upward spiral of labor and material costs and the uncertainties as the effect of rapidly increasing air competition are principal contributing factors."  Work, however, continued on Lurline which was some 75 per cent complete at the time. 

There followed a flurry of hopeful signs of an eventual revival. On 20 July 1947 the Honolulu Advertiser reported that George G. Sharp had been engaged by Matson to "resurvey reconstruction of the liners Lurline, Mariposa and Monterey… the resurvey is planned with a view toward recommendations to both the Matson and Oceanic boards in regard to future steps in the passenger ship program." As well as rumors including American President Lines taking them over. The San Francisco Examiner reported on 19 September 1947 that "the Matson Navigation Company is reported to be going ahead with the reconditioning of the Mariposa, one of its three great white Pacific liners."  This was refuted by the Associated Press on the 27th, stating that Matson advised it "is not planning to resume work either on the Mariposa or Monterey in the near future." On 5 October Matson announced the indefinite postponement of the conversion of both ships and the report by George Sharp due 20 November. 

Matson President John E. Cushing announced on 17 December 1947 that "modernization of the liners Monterey and Mariposa will be resumed, probably on the east coast."  Bids were due  by the 31st, with expectation the contract might go to Bethlehem Steel at Fore River. 

Sisters reunited in limbo: Mariposa (left) and Monterey (right) laid up at the Union shipyard in Alameda.  When Lurline was finally completed in April 1948, Mariposa was shifted from Pier 32 in San Francisco to join Monterey at Alameda where they remained  together for four years.


Any realistic hope that both Mariposa and Monterey might eventually return to service ended on 27 February 1948 when, after the bids for their completion were opened, Matson President  Cushing announced that "completion of conversion work on the liners Monterey and Mariposa is not financially feasible at this time." For the record, the bids (for Monterey) were Newport News: $8,350,000 and 300 days (to completion), Bethlehem, Quincy: $9,443,800 and 335 days; and Bethlehem, San Francisco $9,733,000, 365 days.

With the completion, almost a year late and at a staggering cost of $18.5 mn. of Lurline, which sailed her first post-war voyage to Honolulu on 15 April 1948, Matson-Oceanic began to seek buyers for Monterey and Mariposa.

On 4 June 1948 The Oceanic Steamship Co. announced it was abandoning its service to the Antipodes upon the conclusion of Marine Phoenix's final voyage Down Under beginning on 7 July.  Currency restrictions were cited as the reason, the vessel sailing almost empty on northbound runs.   In doing so, it was conceding the North America-Antipodes trade to its old rivals, the Canadian Australasian Line, which was finally resuming its service from Vancouver with the venerable Aorangi on 16 September. 

Matson began to lobby the U.S. Maritime Commission to buy Monterey and Mariposa. On 1 July 1948 it was reported that Adm. W.W. Smith, Commission Chairman, stated that the only potential use for the ships commercially was on the New York-South America run. 

Marine Phoenix making the final Auckland sailing on the Oceanic service, 4 August 1948. Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 1370-520-03 

When the grey war-time-built steamer Marine Phoenix drew away from Queen's wharf this afternoon the last link was severed for an indefinite period with American passenger liners which have served the South Pacific trade for many years on charter to the Matson Line since the end of 1946. The Marine Phoenix will be handed back to the United States Maritime Commission at the completion of her present voyage to San Francisco. The company has no plans as yet for a future service. “There is no likelihood of the  of the liners Mariposa and Monterey returning to the service to New Zealand and Australia,” said Mr Earl D. Walker, passenger traffic manager of the Oceanic Steamship Company in Sydney, who passed through Auckland in the Marine Phoenix. Both vessels were now 16 years old, and increasing costs had made their reconstruction an uneconomic proposition. They had now been offered to the Maritime Commission, he said.

Otago Daily Times, 4 August 1948

At a press conference on 27 November 1948, Chairman Smith stated that Matson-Oceanic had proposed completion just of the 60 per cent completed Mariposa for the Antipodes run except during the peak Hawaii season when she would join Lurline on the Honolulu run and added "the only reason we haven't taken over the Monterey is that don't what to do with her." Return of Mariposa to service was, however, contingent on the sale of Monterey to the Maritime Commission.

On 1 December 1948 Matson-Oceanic announced it had received three bids from Newport News Shipbuilding, Bethlehem, San Francisco, and Todd-Pacific, Alameda, towards the possible completion of Mariposa and aid in negotiating the sale of Monterey to the Maritime Commission with Todd being the lowest bid.  On Christmas Day, it was reported that American President Lines might take over the partially completed Monterey and complete her for its trans-Pacific run. 

A new crop of speculation and rumor kept Mariposa and Monterey in the shipping news through 1949 and kept them tethered to their piers at Alameda. 


The Honolulu Star-Bulletin started the New Year with a bold prediction: "During the year the Matson liner Mariposa is to return to regular service."  Towards that end, Matson President Cushing travelled to Washington, D.C. at the end of January 1949 for discussions with the Maritime Commission and Chairman of the Board, W.P. Roth said Matson still "hopes to put the Mariposa on the California-Australia run part of the year and on the California-Hawaii during the height of the tourist traffic to the islands."  The Honolulu Advertiser on 1 February added that "It is understood that the cost of finishing reconversion of the Mariposa could run well into the millions. Cushing's mission is to get the maritime commission to underwrite a portion of the cost large enough to induce private owners to invest in returning the ship to service."  

On 15 March 1949, dismissing another flurry of rumors that Mariposa would be back in service by late December, President Cushion told the Advertiser: "I'm afraid that such a surmise is over-optimistic."  It was still hoped that the Maritime Commission might purchase Monterey and Matson would use that money and reserve funds from Oceanic Steamship to complete the conversion of Mariposa.  On 15 April President Cushing said, during the annual stockholders meeting that  a decision may be made by the Commission "possibly within the next two weeks." 

Maritime Commissioner David J. Coddaire announced on 9 May 1949 that the Commission was considering the purchase of both ships, "reconverting them and chartering them to private operators for the Pacific trade." On 17 June Capt. J.L. McGuigan, chief of the Commission's bureau of engineering, arrived at San Francisco to inspect both vessels while the shipfitters union said the purchase would proved 700-1,000 immediate jobs.  The Commission came back with an offer of $5,650,000 to complete conversion of Mariposa on the proviso she was returned to the Antipodes trade.   Three Republican Senators.. Sen. George D. Aiken (VT), Sen. John J. Williams (DE) and Sen. Homer Ferguson (MI) wanted a guarantee that the Commission would not "make a $10 million gift to the Oceanic Steamship Co." That was as far as the proposal got and on 21 November it was reported that: "a decision by Matson on completion of the liner Mariposa may not be reached for several months."


Having outlived one Maritime Commission Chairman already during their lay-up, Mariposa and Monterey now occupied the new one, Maj. Gen. Philip B. Fleming, who announced on 18 January 1950 that the Commission "is preparing a plan to submit to congress to permit reconversion of the Matson liner Mariposa to be completed." He also said he doubted the Commission would permit the sale of Monterey to a foreign owner. 

Not surprisingly, the outbreak of the Korean War on 25 June 1950, elicited speculation that Mariposa and Monterey might be taken over by the government for hasty conversion into troop transports. It was suggested in the press that each could be converted for the purpose in about three months for a total of $6 mn. and capable of carrying as many 7,000 men. As the Honolulu Star-Bulletin observed, "Today the liners sit at Alameda, coated with red lead, their insides of cold, bare steel deserted. Barnacles form a firm crust over the two hulls… Machinery, piping and all underwater work on the Mariposa with the exception of a final coat of pain has been completed. The Monterey has yet to have its underwater work completed." 

On 22 August 1950 the Honululu Star-Bulletin reported that "the navy has formally requested the commerce department to acquire the Matson liners Monterey and Mariposa and convert them to troopships immediately."  A bill was introduced in Congress by Rep. John Allen (R-CA) to authorize the government to acquire both vessels.  However, the urgency of the situation in Korea precluded the move owing to the time entailed for even a quick conversion. Instead, on 16 September it was announced that four liners under construction would be completed as troopships… "the four ships are the 48,000-ton United States, being built for U.S. Lines, and the three American President round the world liners, the President Jackson, Hayes and Adams."

The U.S. Senate on 15 December 1950 refused to give the government authority to purchase Mariposa and Monterey for use as troop transports, one Senator citing a "danger of fraud and collusion" in the transaction, citing the long standing dispute involving the government and the steamship line stemming from reconversion of the ships after World War II.  


Matson's annual report for 1950, released in March 1951, showed a loss of $1,822,458 including $1,089,445  for carrying charges and depreciation on the laid-up liners Mariposa and Monterey. A further $400,000 expense was recorded for the first quarter of the new year.

On 6 July 1951, the Honolulu Advisor reported "apparently there is little hope that Matson will reconvert the Mariposa and Monterey, sister ships of the Lurline, into passenger service when and if they are released by the U.S. government, Mr. Servier (Matson President), 'Shipyard conditions being what they today, there's little hope that we could recondition the ships if we had them. Our hope is to operate new ships on the west coast-Australian run someday. Matson and the government are going over the needs and specifications now, but it takes years to develop anything like that."


At long last, on 10 July 1952, there was settlement between the Maritime Commission and Matson-Oceanic with Monterey purchased by the government for $3,097,000  and the Oceanic Steamship Co. retaining Mariposa. The terms of the settlement included  a $2,826,778 payment for their wartime service. Oceanic said that after paying off its debt, the surplus would go into its capital reserve funds with the idea of eventually moving ahead with new tonnage to resume the Australia-New Zealand passenger trade.  

It was still anticipated that "conversion of the ship to a first-rate passenger liner would be completed and the Mariposa would be put into Hawaii-to-West Coast service." By 15 July 1952, the notion that Mariposa was to join Lurline on the Hawaiian run was already being discounted given the $10 mn. cost estimated to complete her and there were even the first rumors she "might even be sold for scrap, Matson-Oceanic having most likely written it off over the years since its construction." On 19 September President Rudolph Servier told shareholders that "The Matson Navigation Co. does not plan to put the Mariposa into operation the Lurline under present circumstances."  That proved to be truly the last word on any Matson future for the vessel.

On 2 August 1952 Mariposa was "sold" by The Oceanic Steamship Co. to Matson and four days later  Monterey was officially turned over  to the U.S. Maritime Commission.  She was towed from Alameda to the government lay up fleet in Suisun Bay.


Fittingly, two decades after she had entered service as the pride and joy of The Oceanic Steamship Co. and the U.S. Merchant Marine, the now forlorn Mariposa started a new phase in her long life under a foreign flag.  

On 24 February 1953, the Honolulu Advertiser's Ray Coll, Jr, reported that "Mike Cropley, assistant to the president of Matson Navigation Co. who had been here two weeks and leaves on the Lurline Wednesday for San Francisco, informs me Matson is making every effort to sell the steamer Mariposa instead of refurbishing her for service. " This was followed on 13 March by a statement in the company's Annual Report by President Randolph Servier: "Extensive research and study has led to the decision that it would not be economically feasible to complete the conversion of the Mariposa to run in the Hawaii service." On 8 July the Maritime Administration granted permission for Matson to sell the vessel to "foreign owners" under the stipulation she could be made available in case of national emergency and would refrain from calling or trading to U.S. ports except on cruises for a three-year period.  

The "foreign owner" was Home Lines (which had, of course, previously purchased Matsonia in 1948) and after negotiations began in earnest in September 1953, Matson Lines and Home Lines made a joint announcement on 20 November that Mariposa had been sold and would be renamed Homeric for the company's Europe-St. Lawrence service and cruises.  On the 24th, already renamed, she was shifted to Bethlehem's shipyard for survey. In a brief ceremony at Home Line's New York offices, a representative from Matson handed a bill of sale to his Home Line counterpart on 18 December. 

So ended but one phase of the remarkable saga of two ships which, as it turned out, had about 75 more collective years of life left.  Mariposa went on to be one of the most popular liners and cruise ships of the 1950s-60s as Homeric.  Monterey, amazingly, not only returned to the Matson fleet in 1956 as Matsonia (II) but renamed Lurline (IV) in 1963 went on to bring down the curtain on the big White Ships and the Grand Manner of Matson with her final voyage in June 1970. And had another full three decades left to go as Britanis, remarkably reunited with Lurline (III), under Chandris.  What a remarkable record these three ships achieved between them!

Mariposa, 15 July 1931
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Of all  the liners that flew the Stars & Stripes, none will quite match the record of Monterey and Mariposa whose heyday was 1932-1941 when they were indeed The Sovereigns of the Pacific and the pride of the American Merchant Marine.  On this, the 90th anniversary of the launching of U.S.M.S. Mariposa at Quincy, Massachusetts, pause to remember two special Yankee sisters, Bethlehem-built, steaming out of the Golden Gate and Antipodes-bound.

Bound for the South Seas, U.S.M.S. Monterey sails from Los Angeles.  

Built by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Quincy, Massachusetts, Yards nos. 1140 (Mariposa) & 1441 (Monterey)
Gross tonnage       18,017                                 
Length: (o.a.)        632 ft.
              (b.p.)         605 ft. 
Beam:                     79.4 ft. 
Machinery: twin three-stage single-reduction turbines, 12 watertube boilers 375 psi, 28,450 shp
Speed:                    20.5 knots service
                                22.843 knots trials (Mariposa)
                                23.004 knots trials (Monterey)
Passengers             475 First Class 222 Cabin Class                                
Officers & Crew   359     

Across the Pacific, Liners from Australia and New Zealand to North America, Peter Plowman, 2010
Cargoes, Matson's First Century in the Pacific, William L. Worden, 1981
Matson's Century of Ships, Fred A. Stindt, 1982
North Star to Southern Cross, John M. Maber, 1967
Ships In Gray, Matson Line publication, 1946
Ships that Passed, Scott Baty, 1984
The White Ships, Duncan O'Brien, 2008
Troopships of World War II, Roland W. Charles, 1947

Pacific Marine Review

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A special note of appreciation for the Huntington Museum's outstanding John Haskell Kemble Collection of Matson and Oceanic material. 

Waiting for the early morning fog to clear, U.S.M.S. Mariposa sounds her impatience to weigh anchor and land her passengers, mails and cargo at Auckland. Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 1370-523-02

© Peter C. Kohler