The Pacific Steam Navigation Co. – Compañía de Vapores del Pacífico


10 picture postcards from the fleet of The Pacific Steam Navigation Co. The collection includes images of the ships: Potosi, Cotopaxi, Salamanca, Flamenco, Reina del Mar, Salinas, Pizarro, Antander Reina del Pacifico and Kenuta

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The Pacific Steam Navigation Company (Spanish: Compañía de Vapores del Pacífico) was a commercial shipping company that operated along the Pacific coast of South America, and was the first to use steam ships for commercial traffic in the Pacific Ocean.The company was founded by William Wheelwright in London in 1838 and began operations in 1840 when two steam ships Chile and Peru were commissioned to carry mail. Early ports of call were Valparaíso, Coquimbo, Huasco, Copiapó, Cobija, Iquique, Arica, Islay, Pisco and Callao. In 1846 the company expanded its routes to include Huanchaco, Lambayeque, Paita, Guayaquil, Buenaventura and Panama City. In 1852 the company gained a contract for British Government mail to posts in western South America. Two direct routes were also established – Liverpool to Callao in 1868 and London to Sydney in 1877. In common with its contemporaries, the company lost a number of ships in its early decades. They included Tacna, which exploded in 1874 killing 19 people, and Atacama, which ran aground in 1877 killing 102 people. In 1905 the company sold its London – Sydney route to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, which bought the entire company in 1910.Pacific Steam continued to lose ships at sea. In 1902 Arequipa was wrecked in a gale, killing 63 people. In 1907 Santiago met a similar fate, killing 45 people. In 1911 Taboga ran aground, killing 60 people. In the First World War ten of the company’s ships were sunk, but at the relatively light cost of only 15 lives. In the Second World War a German submarine torpedoed a Pacific Steam passenger liner, Oropesa, sinking her and killing 106 people. RMSP’s name and routes were retained until Furness Withy bought Royal Mail in 1965.Following the purchase the separate Pacific Steam Navigation Company structure was abolished and the vessels rebranded, effectively signalling the end of the Company. In 1919, the company began a house magazine called Sea Breezes. The journal outlived the company and it still exists, with a focus on international shipping matters.



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