Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mystery Monday - Deaths on Duchess of Atholl

Was it sunstroke, malaria, or a mysterious plague that killed four passengers of the Canadian Pacific’s cruise ship Duchess of Atholl?

What began as a pleasurable four-month world cruise for Edward and Lulu Hardenbrook, turned to tragedy for Dr. Edward Hardenbrook and three of his fellow travelers. The first reports coming from passengers and officials of the ship were confusing. Was it ten, seven, or six who died?  Each report varied as to number of deaths as well as the official diagnosis. Doctors were mystified if the cause of death was from sunstroke, malaria, or some mysterious plague. The number was further confused by the fact that two crewmembers had died previously, one of heart disease and the other of liver disease.

4 World Tourists Die on Ship Board;
2 Members of Crew of Duchess of Atholl also dead, Officials Reveal
Reported the Associated Press headline in the Amsterdam Evening Recorder, Wednesday, April 24, 1929.

“We first thought it was sunstroke,” stated the ship’s commander, Captain E.  Griffiths, “but it turned out to be very malignant malaria, contracted in the interior.”

Apparently the four passengers died following being stranded 18 hours without food or water in Krueger National Park during a monsoon.  The tourists told of climbing trees at night to escape roving animals, and then having to walk miles out of the park because their vehicle was stuck in the mud. 

Back on the ship, they left Durban on March 10 with temperatures soaring to 136 degrees in the shade.  Shortly thereafter, several passengers became ill with high fevers, and four finally succumbed. One of those was Dr. Edward Hardenbrook of Rochester, NY.  

In late April when Dr. Hardenbrook’s body arrived back in Rochester, his son Frederick Hardenbrook stated the family was satisfied with the diagnosis and held the Canadian Pacific Line blameless in their father’s death.  Mystery resolved.


  1. Quite a story! What did Lulu say about all this, I wonder...and did she get sick? Anyway, thank you so much for sharing this unusual story from your family history.

  2. Marian: I am glad you enjoyed the story. I am not sure whether Lulu was on the excursion into Krueger National Park, but I don' believe she was ill. The next year she gave an illustrated lecture at the Grace Methodist Church in Rochester, NY on Africa and her trip around the world, sharing photos she and her late husband took.