The night of 31 July 1917 was a tranquil one. A German cargo ship, the S/S Ingrid Horn, was bound for Germany from Luleå with a cargo of iron ore. To save on kerosene, the ship lights were left unlit. As a result, another cargo ship on the fairway outside Dalarö suddenly smashed right into her.
German able seaman Heinrich Kalms was the sole survivor of a maritime accident outside Dalarö in 1917. Two Swedish pilots and 17 German crew members perished.
The steamer Ingrid Horn, nearly 90 metres long, was launched in Rostock in 1901. During World War I, the steamer travelled between Luleå and Germany carrying iron ore for the German war industry. To avoid hostile submarines in the Baltic Sea, the ship often took protected inshore routes.
Under hazy weather conditions, the ship collided with the Swedish steamer Bergvik in 1917 outside the island of Tuklo, south of Dalarö. Ingrid Horn sank swiftly and 19 men, including two Swedish pilots, died.
Fog envelops Dalarö
It is a dark and unusually foggy night. Just south of Dalarö, as the Swedish cargo steamer Bergvik travels at full speed ahead toward Dalarö, a white light is suddenly sighted from the navigation bridge. The pilot gives immediate orders to reduce the speed to half ahead. After both the pilot and the captain study the light using their binoculars, they determine that it is coming from a ship at anchor. The ship’s speed is slowed even more. As Bergvik approaches the white glow, the pilot suddenly sees a faint red light. He then realizes that a ship is approaching and there is an immediate risk of collision.
The captain orders full astern – but it’s too late. Bergvik’s pointy prow strikes Ingrid Horn’s port side, just fore of the bridge, making a nearly three-metre deep gash in the side of the ship. Bergvik manages to quickly free itself but
sustains substantial damage to the bow. However, Ingrid Horn sinks almost immediately. Bergvik anchors at the scene of the accident and launches its lifeboats to search for survivors. Only one crewman, 20-year-old Heinrich Kalms, is found. He had been sleeping but was awakened in the nick of time by the cries of a comrade warning of the imminent collision.
A sole survivor
Dressed only in his long johns, Kalms managed to rush up on deck to the starboard lifeboat where the captain, a pilot, the mate and two seamen had gathered. The group of men tried to launch the lifeboat but failed, leaving it hanging on the ship’s rail. Kalms was ordered to jump down into the lifeboat and try to keep it away from the side of the ship, but the move was unsuccessful. Ingrid Horn sank immediately, and Kalms plunged into the water in an attempt to get away from the ship. He swam as fast as he could, but was dragged down beneath the surface by the pull of the sinking ship.
After a short time under water, Kalms surfaced and found a drifting hatch that he crawled up onto. After 15 minutes, he was rescued by one of Bergvik’s lifeboats.
Even keel and intact
Today the ship rests upright on an even keel and remains relatively intact on the steeply sloping seabed, almost right in the middle of the fairway towards Stockholm. The stern lies at the most shallow depth, with its upper sections at 24 metres, while the bow rests at nearly 40 metres’ depth. On the port side fore of the bridge is a hole about two metres wide where Bergvik’s bow was struck. Since the ship’s discovery, some objects have been salvaged including the ship clock and the binnacle. At Dalarö Cemetery there is a memorial stone commemorating the dead, erected by the shipping company that owned Ingrid Horn.