SS Hsin Wah

SS Hsin Wah, now also known as the SS Xinhua, was a steamship owned by China Merchants Steam Navigation Company, navigating between Canton City, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.[3] She was built in 1921 by Napier & Miller in Glasgow. The ship was once seized by pirates of Bias Bay in 1928 and saved by the SS Zhongshan (then written Chung Shan). She sunk in 1929 when grounded on northern rocks of Waglan, an island southeast of Hong Kong Island in Hong Kong, with a loss of between 300 and 400 lives.[4][3]

SS Hsin Wah
Hong Kong
Name: Hsin Wah[1]
Owner: China Merchants Steam Navigation Company
Builder: Napier and Miller
Yard number: 235[2]
Launched: 1921[2]
Completed: 1921[2]
Fate: Sank 1929
Notes: 401 fatalities, 20 rescued[2]
General characteristics
Type: Steamship
Tonnage: 1940 grt[2]
Length: 82.3 meters[1]
Height: 6.4 meters[1]
Depth: 12.2 meters[1]
Installed power: 162 nhp[2]
Propulsion: triple expansion engine[2]
Speed: 10 knots[2]
Capacity: 329 passengers[2]
Crew: 100[2]
Notes: UKHO Wreck number 46569
SS Hsin Wah
Traditional Chinese新華
Simplified Chinese新华
PostalSS Hsin Wah
Literal meaningNew China warship

Construction and commissioning

Hsin Wah was built in 1921 by Napier & Miller of Glasgow under commission by the China Merchants Steam Navigation Company. She had a triple expansion engine capable of a top speed of around 10 knots.[1]


Hsin Wah was on approach to Hong Kong after journeying from Shanghai under the command of Captain N. R. Jensen, a Dane, when she struck rocks in the early morning of 16 January 1929 off Waglan Island.[5] Jensen thereafter managed to free the vessel by moving the ship astern, however Hsin Wah began to take on water and list developed. In the chaos, only one lifeboat was able to successfully launch from the ship but the lifeboat capsized in due to the weather almost immediately.[5] The ship sank as a result around an hour after the initial crash. Of the ship's complement, only around 20 people were able to be saved by Chinese fishermen in the area with the survivors recounting the horrific scramble to escape the foundering vessel.[5]

Hsin Wah lies at a depth of 23 meters below the waters off northern Waglan Island at 22.19 Latitude, 114.3 Longitude where the wreckage remains visible as of the Hong Kong Marine Department survey of 15 October 2008.[1]


  1. "852128: HSIN WAH". Hong Kong Underwater Heritage Group. 27 July 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  2. "SS Hsin Wah [+1929]". Wrecksite. 2019. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  3. "Ship Sink Off Waglan". The Hongkong Telegraph. 16 January 1929.
  4. 300 die on Chinese ship, The New York Times (17 January 1929)
  5. Hervé, Levano, ed. (17 January 1929). "Hsin Wah, Loss of 340 Lives" (jpeg). Adelaide, South Africa: The Advertiser. Retrieved 22 October 2019 via Boats are still searching for possible survivors from the wreck of the Chinese coaster, Hsin Wah, which struck some rocks and sank outside Hongkong yesterday with a loss of life of 340. The steamer grounded early in the morning in a heavy sea. Captain Jensen, a Dane, managed to get her off the rocks by going astern, but an hour later his ship sank in deep water with great suddenness. It was possible to launch only one lifeboat, which immediately capsized. Twenty persons were picked up by Chinese fishermen. One officer, a Russian named Jacobsen, was saved. Many women and children were among the drowned and two British officers were lost. Patrick Campbell, Chief Engineer, and Harold Beveridge, Second Engineer, two of the survivors, declared that the scene aboard was one of utter confusion. Frenzied passengers fighting the crew and one another in the dark for the possession of lifebelts. So far no further survivors have been found. A later message states that all four foreign members of the crew, including the captain, are still missing. The latter was last seen on the bridge giving a distress signal. The survivors recount stories of a fierce panic in terrific seas, which prevented the successful launching of the lifeboats. The bodies of scores of dead have been recovered.
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