Painted an Elephant Blue

May 6, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

 

 

In my research I’ve come across many stories that have led me to wonder what really happened. This one is about the crew of a German steamer, Barenfels S.S. (which would  be torpedoed and sunk by a British submarine on April 14th, 1944, at Takseraag, Norway, thirty-eight years after the events described below).

This story was published in The Washington Post of May 2, 1906

 

Painted An Elephant Blue

Then the Sacred Brute Died and Lascars were Scared

Besides this Tale, the Steamer Barenfels Brought Snakes and Another Yarn of Sailor and Python

 

New York, May 1, 1906

Fear of a terrible punishment because they covered a sacred white elephant with paint has stirred the fifty-three Lascars in the crew of the steamer Barenfels, which arrived here today. The animal that was the victim of a prank died at sea, as did two other elephants aboard, but it was exposure to cold weather that killed them.

 

 

Steamer 'Barenfels' (from shipspotting.com)

Steamer ‘Barenfels’ (from shipspotting.com)

The Barenfels took aboard the three elephants at Calcutta on March 10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each elephant was over six feet high. Bill and Alice were white. The third was called Joe. He was of the ordinary variety.

One afternoon while coming through the Indian Ocean one of the Lascars got a pot of blue paint and went into the forehold, where the elephants were. He beckoned to another Lascar, and this one beckoned to a third. Presently all the Lascars in the ship surrounded the two white elephants salaaming.

 

Lascars onboard 'Dunera' (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich)

Lascars onboard ‘Dunera’ (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich)

On the left quarter of one of the elephants the Lascar who led the way painted a rising sun in blue. Then the others fell to and dashed off artistic symbols of a religious nature. The Lascars do not know why they did it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the man in charge of the elephants found the sacred beast outrageously painted he drove the Lascars away and got soapsuds to wash the paint off. Three days later Alice died. Bill followed the next day. Then the Lascars went almost insane with sorrow, and their prayers were loud and fervent.

They laid it to the paint, but it was only a cold draught and pneumonia. The third elephant proved as delicate as the white ones and died the day after Bill did. All three were dropped into the sea.

The Barenfels brought 500 snakes. According to shore talk, one of them, a python, of course, got loose, and, of course this python coiled around a sailor, and just as naturally, the rest of the crew had an awful time killing the python without killing the sailor.

The sailor had his ribs crushed, so the yarn goes, and was put ashore at Port Said. He didn’t leave his card for the officers of the Barenfels to pass over to the marine reporters when the ship got here. Hence his name is unknown.

 

 


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