Almirante Sunk in Collision
By James Donahue
The steamship Almirante was carrying a cargo of fruit, mail and seven passengers when it was sunk
in a collision with a U.S. Navy tanker off the New Jersey coast during the early morning hours of September 6, 1918. All of
the passengers and all but five members of the crew miraculously escaped even though the 378-foot ship sank in just four minutes.
The accident happened in heavy seas and fog at about 2 a.m. The Almirante, under the command of Captain
Farquhar Grant, was steaming from New York City to Colon, Panama when it was struck broadside by the 15,000-ton Navy tanker
USS Hisko. The Hisko hove to and lowered boats, plus quick response by the local Live Savers were credited for the low loss
The Hisko limped into New York harbor with its bow crushed, but the tanker remained afloat.
The steamer sank in only 70 feet of water which made it a danger to other ships. Thus the wreck was
blown up twice and bombed once during World War II after aircraft thought it was a possible German U-boat.
The wreck was commonly called the "Flour Wreck" because of white substance that washed ashore after
the sinking. People thought the foam was caused by a cargo of flour, although the ship’s manifest showed that it was
carrying a cargo of fruit. No one could explain the doughy, frothy substance emitted from the wreck during the days after
The cargo also included china, tiles, kerosene lanterns, milk bottles and brass fittings.
The Almirante was a passenger and cargo vessel launched in Ireland in 1909 for the United Fruit Company.
It sailed under the British flag but maintained a home port at New York at the time of the wreck.