The SS Mount Temple was a Canadian Pacific Lines cargo ship that was sunk during the First World War by the German commerce raider SMS Möwe.

Originally a Beaver Line ship, she was purchased by Canadian Pacific in 1903. She was one of the ships that responded to the distress signals of the RMS Titanic in 1912.

In 1916, while crossing the Atlantic with horses for the war effort and carrying a large number of newly collected dinosaur fossils, she was captured and scuttled complete with her cargo.

Early history

Mount Temple was built in 1901 in Walker-on-Tyne, England by Armstrong Whitworth & Company. The ship was launched for the Elder Dempster's Beaver Line on 18 June 1901.

The ship was named for William Francis Cowper (1811–1888), Baron Mount Temple, an English politician, Lord of the Admiralty and chairman of Armstrong-Whitworth. The ship was 8,790 gross tons and was 485 feet long. She had one funnel, four masts, twin screw propellers, and a top speed of 13 knots.

The Mount Temple saw use in November 1901 as a Boer War transport ship.

In 1903, Canadian Pacific Lines purchased the ship, with 14 others, and equipped her with a wireless telegraph. In the early days of wireless telegraphy, the call sign established for the SS Mount Temple was "MLQ."

After two successful Liverpool–Quebec City runs in 1903, the ship ran aground on West Ironbound Island, Nova Scotia in 1907. No lives were lost, but the ship was stranded until 1908, when it was refloated.

Assisting the RMS Titanic

The SS Mount Temple was one of the ships that responded to the Titanic's distress signals on 14 April 1912. The ship's master, Capt. Moore, stopped short of helping Titanic, claiming the ice was too thick to safely pass through. Controversy abounds concerning Moore's recollections of the Mount Temple's true speed on the evening of 14 April 1912, how far away she was from the distress position when she turned to help, and how far she was from Titanic when she stopped. Rumors that Mount Temple under Capt. Moore ignored Titanic's distress rockets abounded at the time and persist to this day. It is said that Mount Temple was the "mystery ship" seen by officers and passengers aboard the Titanic five to ten miles away, rather than the SS Californian as implied by Lord Mersey and the British Board of Trade at the British Inquiry.[1][2] These rumours are strongly contested however, and many continue to firmly believe that the "Californian" must have been the ship seen from the "Titanic", and vice versa.

War service and loss

For use during World War I she had a 3-inch (75 mm) gun mounted on her stern for defensive purposes.

The Mount Temple departed from Montreal on 3 December 1916 for Brest, France, and then Liverpool, England, with Captain Alfred Henry Sargent at the helm. The ship's cargo was 710 horses and 6,250 tons of goods, including 3,000 tons of corn, and 1,400 cases of eggs. Also on board were 22 wooden crates of dinosaur fossils, collected in the Badlands of Alberta by the American paleontologist Charles H. Sternberg. These were en route to Sir Arthur Smith Woodward, keeper of the British Museum's Natural History Department.

The ship was captured roughly half-way between Cape Race and Spain, roughly 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) north of the Azores on 6 December 1916. The SMS Möwe, outwardly a cargo ship, closed with the Mount Temple. After the gun crew of the Mount Temple fired, the Germans fired back and with their superior firepower silenced the gun. Four crew members aboard the Mount Temple were killed in the brief battle. Over a hundred crew and passengers were taken off before explosives were used to help scuttle her. On 12 December 1916, they were brought aboard the captured British ship Yarrowdale and they arrived at Swinemunde, Germany on 31 December. The US citizens among them were released in early March 1917 as the United States was neutral at the time. The others were interned as prisoners of war.

The Mount Temple was the fourth vessel that Canadian Pacific Lines lost during the First World War, and by the war's end, CP Lines would lose a total of 18 ships. Its sister ship (the SS Montezuma) was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine UC-41 on 25 July 1917.


  1. Molony, Senan, Titanic Scandal: The Trial of the Mount Temple, Amberly, 2010
  2. Lord, Walter, A Night to Remember, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1955