ATHENIAN was built in 1881 by Aitken & Mansel at Glasgow with a tonnage of 3877grt, a length of 365ft, a beam of 45ft 9in and a service speed of 12 knots.
In October 1882 she was the first ship to use Cape Town's new Robinson Graving Dock. She was re-engined with a triple expansion engine in 1886 and reduced the passage time to Cape Town to 17days 9hrs and in 1896 reduced the homeward record on two occasions .
On 29th December 1897 she was sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway Co. for use out of Vancouver on the Klondike gold rush route, sailing from Southampton via Cape Horn on 12th February 1898. After six voyages on the Vancouver - Skagway - Wrangel route she was laid up until deployed on the trans-Pacific route in 1900, during which she made one call at Vladivostock, before being laid up again.
In 1904 she was chartered to Osaka Shosen K.K. and used as a supply ship following the Russo-Japanese war. She inaugurated the Osaka - Darien service in January 1905 and was finally delivered to K. Kishimoto at Osaka for breaking up on 14th September 1907