The Basenji Club of America African Stock Project

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Stowaway Basenji from West Africa

Arrived on the freighter West Lashaway

Saturday, April 5, 1941

Stowaway found on Ship

 On April 5, 1941, the American-West African Line freighter 
West Lashaway docked in Boston after arriving from Free-
town, Sierra Leone with a load of cocoa beans. When the hold
was opened more than cocoa beans where found down below.
A female Basenji was discovered half-starved after surviving
twenty-one days in the hold.
According to the ship's crew, while they were loading cocoa
beans in Monrovia, Liberia two barkless dogs played about the
ship. The crew thought all the animals had been chased down
the loading runways. Apparently, she had stowed away in the
hold of the ship and when the hatches were battened down
could not escape. During the rest of the journey the hatches
were not removed. She was able to get water by licking conden-
sation and some food by nibbling on cocoa beans.

Boston Animal Rescue League Called In

 Animal Rescue agent Archie McDonald was sent to investi-
gate. He found a sharp-eared dog shivering with fright in the
hold of the ship and in critical condition. Because of her critical
condition, Agent McDonald was able to get permission from
customs officers to remove her from the ship and take to the
Boston Animal Rescue League. When she was weighed she
was found to be only nine pounds. Through feeding of special
solution and placement in a heated box , doctors at the Animal
Rescue League successfully saved her life. Vets estimated that
she was nine to ten months old. She was docile and evidently
pleased to see humans. According to the League this was the
first Basenji to be treated by them. She was given the name
Congo.

Congo at the Animal Rescue League.
(Transcript Photo-Smith)

Malnutrition and homesickness are her troubles, says Joseph
Connaughton of the Animal Rescue League about the barkless
Basenji, a West African stowaway.1
(She's held by Fred Barrett of the Animal Rescue League)



Congo Finds a Home

 Following press coverage of the story, Mr. Alexander 
Phemister, a noted Obedience trainer, went to see her. She was
almost all-white, with brindle on her ears, a brindle patch on
right side and a docked tail, but he pronounced her to be a
Basenji. The natives in Gambia and Sierra Leone used to dock
their Basenjis' tails so that their prey, gorillas, could not get a
hold on the dog and rip them apart.2 She was adopted by the
Phemisters who continued nursing her. Later she was bred
and produced a litter. Because of Congo, the Phemisters went
on to be one of the earliest Basenji breeders in the United
States.

 


Postscript

The West Lashaway was sunk by the German 
U-boat U-66 on August 30, 1942 in the Atlantic
off South America with 38 lives lost.

Congo held by West Lashaway's fireman.
DOG STOWAWAY- Joe Williams, fireman aboard steamer West Lashaway, now at Army Base, with "Congo," a stowaway found on ship en route here from African ports.3


Passengers Report Nazi Activity

 Mr. Harry M. Wright, member of the Christ-
ian and Missionary Alliance of NY, who with
his wife arrived on the ship, said that reports
of the sinking of a British convoy reached the
West Lashaway a day after she had left Free-
town. Had she sailed a day early she would
have been in the vicinity of the convoy. While
off Dakar, Africa, a bomber flew over and circl-
ed the ship, then flew off. The following night,
he said, a big cruiser of unknown nationality
came abreast of the ship and played spotlights
on her, and seeing she was an American
vessel, left immediately.


BOSTON PORT

INCOMING STEAMERS

DUE TODAY

 West Lashaway, Freetown, West Africa. 
Docks forenoon, Berth 4, Army Base, South
Boston.
Primo, (Nor.), Puerto Tarafa, Cuba. Docks
American Sugar Refinery, South Boston.
Yarmouth, St. John, N. B., and Yarmouth,
N. S. with passengers. Docks 8 a. m., India
Wharf.
City of Montgomery, Savannah, via New
York. Docks 7 a. m., pier 42, Hoosac.
Gulftide, Port Arthur, Tex. Docks Socony
Vacuum plant, East Boston.
R. W. Gallagher, Baton Rouge, La. Docks
Colonial Beacon Refinery, Everett.
Lemuel Burrows, Norfolk. Docks Everett
Coke Works.
Hampden, Newport News. Docks Mystic
Coal Pier, later shifts to Sprague's, South
Boston.
New York, New York, with passengers.
Docks 8 a. m., India Wharf.


SS West Lashaway.
American-West African Line freighter
West Lashaway 4

 


 

Compilation by James E. Johannes
 

1 Photo: Boston Evening Transcript, April 9, 1941 p. 9 - Public Domain.
2 Ford, Elspet, The Complete Basenji, 1993 p. 92
3 Photo: Boston Daily Globe, April 8, 1941 p. 4 - Public Domain.
4 West Lashaway's photo courtesy - www.armed-guard.com - Tom Bowerman.
 

Sources: "Incoming Steamers - Due Tomorrow" Boston Post, April 4, 1941. "Ship's Passengers Say Nazis Active 
in Africa" Boston Post, April 6, 1941 p. 21. "Barkless Dog Ship's Stowaway" Boston Post, April 9, 1941 p. 6. "It's
a Dog's Life - Shanghaied; Now U.S. to Kick Her Out!" Boston Evening Transcript, April 9, 1941 p. 9. "Barkless
Dog Arrives Here As Stowaway on Freighter" Boston Traveler, April 9, 1941. "African Barkless Dog, Stowaway,
Boston Ward" The New York Times, April 10, 1941 p.16.

Goto Phemister's Congo Page

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Phemister's Congo Page