'African Queen' Counterpart with a Mission on Lake Malawi

By George Backwell at October 01, 2011 21:48
Filed Under: General

Centenarian African ship, Chauncy Maples, is being renovated and refitted as a primary health-care clinic capable of routinely visiting poverty-stricken villagers on the shores of landlocked Lake Malawi. Lead corporate sponsor of the charitable ‘Chauncy Maples Malawi Trust’ is London-based mutual insurance company, Thomas Miller Ltd., whose Chairman Hugo Wynn-Williams explained:  “... we sought a way to celebrate this [his company’s 125th anniversary] which would be imaginative, have the potential to do good and be of universal interest …”

Last week Thomas Miller announced that work at the lakeside shipyard was already under way, secure in the knowledge that the Portuguese charitable isntitution, Manuel Antonio da Mota Foundation, had pledged to finance €2million of the running costs over the next ten years; nevertheless, further help in cash or in kind for the outfitting of the vessel was still needed.

Chauncy Maples in 1904: Photo courtesy of Thomas Miller/Dunelm Public Relations Ltd

‘African Queen’ Counterpart –  Chauncy Maples

The steel steamship was ordered in 1898 by the British Universities’ Mission to Central Africa from the Alley & McClellan shipyard in Glasgow. The vessel was then disassembled and parcelled into more than three-thousand parts for shipping across the oceans, then up the River Zambesi, to be lugged the last lap by tribesmen for assembly on Lake Nyasa (now Lake Malawi).

Fitted with traction wheels, the heaviest single item, the 11-ton wood-burning boiler was manhandled through the wilderness by Ngoni tribesmen. (Steam propulsion was replaced by a Crossley ERL six-cylinder 330 hp diesel engine almost seventy years later).

In 1901 the 250-ton displacement, LOA 38.4 metres (126 ft), Chauncy Maples (named for a pioneering Anglican bishop of the day) was launched to serve for the next fifty years or so as a combined school and hospital ship, then for almost as long again, as a Lake Malawi passenger and cargo ferry under government ownership before final lay-up in 1992.

Renovation, Refitting and Commission

Two years ago, marine surveyor Peter Volschenk reported to the Trust that many items needed replacement but noted, “The vessel hull and superstructure is in remarkably good condition and shows very little, if any, signs of decay or structural fatigue.”

To be ordered, according to the sponsor’s ‘Shopping List’ (available for download as a .PDF file at the Thomas Miller web site) is a  Caterpillar 3406C DITA main propulsion engine, which will drive the single propellor via  ZF manufactured W350-1 reduction gearing.

Malawi is listed the fifth poorest country in the world with thousands of people living in isolated villages along the lakeside on an income of less than one USD a day and without direct access to medical help; the clock will be turned back when the renovated Chauncy Maples gives a toot on the whistle to let them know she's coming in.


Chauncy Maples – September 2011: Photo courtesy of Thomas Miller/Dunelm Public Relations Ltd.

Comments (1) -

Chauncy Maples, what a marvelous project. Renovated and refitted, she will bring health care to so many worthy people on the shores of Lake Malawi. God Speed and sucess with the mission.

Commander Nick Messinger |     10/11/2011 1:59:23 PM #

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