Tag Archives: maritime disasaters

Titanic News: Wilhelm Gustloff disaster,RNLI Needs Funds, Bruce Ismay after Titanic

 

Wilhelm Gustloff in Danzig, September 1939.
Photo: German Federal Archives (Bild 183-H27992 )

Largest Maritime Disaster Neither Lusitania, Nor Titanic
Montana Standard, 2 May 2021

Neither the Lusitania nor the Titanic was the largest maritime disaster, not by a long shot. Yet somehow, their fateful journeys remain a source of intrigue for both researchers and curiosity seekers. The largest loss of lives occurred during World War II in the frigid Baltic Sea. On Jan. 30, 1945, a Soviet submarine sunk Germany’s Wilhelm Gustloff. On board the transport ship were thousands of German civilians. It is estimated that 6,000 to 9,000 people perished.

RNLI Launches Mayday Call For Funds As Rescue Figures Highlight Crew’s Lifesaving Work In Pandemic
Belfast Live, 30 April 2021

Funds are needed to ensure the lifesaving service is able to keep everyone safe and the RNLI is asking people to come down to the Maritime Mile and take part in the wonderful experience and complete their very own mile and donate to help raise those vital funds. RNLI lifeboats in Northern Ireland launched 234 times last year and their volunteer lifeboat crews brought 253 people to safety. Eighty-nine of those launches were carried out in the hours of darkness. The charity’s lifeguards responded to 225 incidents last summer on beaches, helping 285 people and saving the lives of six people.

Titanic-Linked Train Carriages Discovered In Yard
BBC, 30 April 2021

Members of the British Titanic Society think the wooden carriages, found in a yard in South Wales, formed part of a train that carried passengers from London to Southampton on 10 April 1912. Five days later the Southampton-based liner sank in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is hoped the carriages, which are due to be scrapped, can be restored.

J. Bruce Ismay, president of the White Star Line, in 1912
Public Domain(Wikipedia)

After The Titanic Sank, The Ship’s Owner Hid Away In Ireland
Irish Central, 29 April 2021

Ismay fully co-operated with the congressional inquiry, but nothing could stop the jeering on the streets in both the US and the UK. London society would have nothing more to do with him and he resigned from all his company positions, hoping to disappear, as the media continued to label him as the biggest coward in history.

With his wife Julia, Ismay was to find comfort in Costello Lodge, however, and among the local people who looked upon the pair as a solid source of employment, although the locals referred to Ismay in Irish as “Brú síos mé” (‘lower me down’ i.e. into a lifeboat ). He was said by the locals to be a kind, warm-hearted man, even inquiring of the fisherman he’d fish with on a Sunday if they had had time to go to Mass. Casla Lodge was burned down by the IRA in 1922, but the home was rebuilt on an even grander scale. Ismay remained a Connemara resident for 25 years before moving back to England after he was diagnosed with diabetes. He died in London in 1937, aged 74.

How DNA Testing Helped Solve One Of The Titanic’s Lingering Mysteries
Irish Central, 26 April 2021

One of the last great mysteries of the Titanic was solved in 2013 thanks to a DNA test which proved a woman who claimed she was a child survivor of the tragic Titanic sinking was a fraud. Two-year-old Loraine Allison is believed to have been the only child from first or second class who died during the sinking of the Titanic. However, in 1940, Helen Loraine Kramer, now styling herself Loraine Kramer, claimed to be the missing child. She told a radio show that she had been saved at the last moment when her father placed her in a lifeboat with a man whom she had always thought was her father.Kramer launched a legal bid to be considered part of the wealthy Allison family and entitled to part of their fortune. Before her death in 1992, she contended that she was entitled to the vast majority of the Allison family’s wealth in Canada. The dispute led to the founding of The Loraine Allison Identification Project by Tracy Oost, a forensic scientist at Laurentian University, Ontario, and Titanic expert. While Woods declined to participate, Oost obtained DNA samples from Deanne Jennings, Woods’ half-sister, and Sally Kirkelie, the great-niece of Bess Allison, Loraine Allison’s mother. No genetic link was found between descendants from both sides of the dispute. The results proved that Helen Loraine Kramer was not the little girl who was lost on the Titanic.

 

Titanic Memorial Lighthouse,South Street Seaport Museum, New York (2008)
Image: Andy C (Wikipedia)

Effort Continues To Restore New York’s Titanic Memorial Lighthouse To Its Original 1913 Condition
6sqft.com, 26 April 2021

The campaign to landmark and restore the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse, a monument in New York City built in 1913 to honor those who died aboard the Titanic, continues. Designed by Warren and Wetmore, the architecture firm behind Grand Central Terminal, the 60-foot-tall lighthouse originally sat atop the roof of the Seamen’s Church Institute and featured a working time ball that dropped down the pole each day, along with a green light. Preservationists are now raising funds that would help restore the lighthouse, currently located at the entrance to the South Street Seaport, to its original condition.

 


Titanic Chronology-U.S. Senate Hearing into Titanic sinking begins

With Titanic’s sinking, U.S. Senator William Alden Smith saw this as an opportunity to investigate marine safety issues. Smith, a Republican Senator from Michigan, had experience in investigating railroad safety issues. Smith believed due to the sensational nature of this disaster that rapid action was needed. Another concern was that many of the witnesses-surviving passengers and crew-would disperse and return home. On 17 April 1912, Smith proposed that a hearing be done to investigate the sinking. President Taft, who lost his friend and military advisor Archibald Butt in the sinking, concurred. A U.S. naval escort was set up for Carpathia to make sure no one left before it docked.

Senator William Alden Smith of Michigan
Unknown date (between 1905 and 1945)
Public Domain

Smith, accompanied by Francis G. Newlands and other officials traveled to New York and were there when Carpathia docked in New York. They boarded the ship and served subpoenas on J.Bruce Ismay and on surviving officers and crew. The hearings began on 19 April 1912 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York and later moved to Washington D.C. The hearings, with many recesses in-between, would run for 18 days till May 25, 1912.

Sources:

Books

Behe, George TITANIC: SAFETY, SPEED AND SACRIFICE, Transportation Trails, Polo, IL 1997

Eaton John P. & Haas Charles, TITANIC TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY, SECOND EDITION, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, New York, 1995 First American Edition

Lord, Walter, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, Holt Rinehart and Winston, New York, New York, 1955. Multiple revisions and reprints, notably Illustrated editions (1976,1977,1978 etc)

Lord, Walter, THE NIGHT LIVES ON, Willian Morrow and Company, New York, New York, 1986 (First Edition)

Lynch, Don & Marshall Ken, TITANIC AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY, Madison Press Books, Toronto, Ontario Canada, 1992

Internet

Britannica.com
Cobh Heritage Center
Encyclopedia Titanica
History.com

,,,

Remembering the Sinking of RMS Republic (II)

SS Republic (date unknown)
Original source: White Star Line
Public Domain (via Wikimedia)

On 23 January 1909, RMS Republic collided early in the morning with the SS Florida in heavy fog off Nantucket, Massachusetts. Built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast and launched in 1903, it was originally christened SS Columbusand sailed for the Dominion line. The Dominion line was a sister company of the White Star Line and owned by International Mercantile Marine. It had two voyages with the line and then, along with three other Dominion liners, were sold to White Star. It was renamed Republic (the second White Star ship to bear that name) to sail the Liverpool-Boston route. In November 1904 the ship became part of the Mediterranean-New York service.

This route was for wealthy American passengers who would travel in the ships spacious accommodations for first and second class passengers. This gave the ship the nickname “The Millionaires Ship.” The other reason was to take advantage of the westbound Italian immigrant trade to America. With space for 2,000 in third class, this would become a very lucrative route. Third class was often booked to capacity for the westbound voyage.

Collision with SS Florida

The Republic departed New York on 22 January 1909 for Naples. The next morning the ship encountered heavy fog and began sounding her horn at regular intervals to announce her presence in the outbound shipping  lane. At around 5:47 a.m., another whistle was heard. Republic reversed her engines and the helm was turned hard to port. Then out of the fog the Lloyd Italian liner Florida came into view. The 5,018 ton liner on route to New York rammed the Republicamidships on her portside. Two passengers on the Republic were killed in their cabin when Florida sliced through the hull. Three crew aboard Florida were crushed when the bow was crushed back.

Both the engine and boiler rooms began to flood. Captain Sealby ordered an evacuation of the Republic and passengers were brought on deck. Thanks to the new Marconi wireless, a CQD message was sent (the first ship to use this signal). The Florida assisted as well as the Gresham, a U.S. revenue cutter. The White Star liner Baltic responded as well but did not arrive, due to the fog and the drifting Republic, until the evening. Both the Florida and Gresham had to split the passengers rescued but Florida was overcrowded. With the arrival of the Baltic, those rescued were all transferred to Baltic.

Captain Sealby and a skeleton crew stayed aboard Republic in the hopes of saving her. However this proved futile and the ship sank stern first on 24 January. At that time with her tonnage of 15,378 it was the largest ship to sink.

Aftermath

Republic was carrying money and valuables, including a reputed $3,000,000 in US gold Double Eagles. There was no formal inquiry by the British Board of Trade. According to rms-republic.com, it was brought up in the British House of Commons:

Mr. SUMMERBELL asked the reason why there has been no public inquiry into the wreck of the s.s. “Republic” early this year?

The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Tennant) The “Republic” sank after collision with the Italian steamer “Florida” in American waters on 23rd January last.  Formal investigation was not ordered in this country, as the Board of Trade had no power to compel the attendance of witnesses from the Italian vessel, and any public inquiry that might have been held in their absence would necessarily have been of an ex parte character and possibly prejudicial to the interests of the English vessel.  Actions were entered in the United States District Court, and are, I am informed, still pending.  It was reported that the “Florida” had been arrested by a United States marshal and subsequently sold by auction. (House of Commons, 30 June 1909)

So, no formal investigation was held but perhaps an informal inquiry was made, but that is pure speculation and no proof that it happened. However White Star Line sued the owners of the Florida, the Lloyd Line, in U.S. federal court. They were found at fault and ordered to pay damages. The ship was apparently sold to pay the damages. Captain Sealby was considered a hero by many for his actions in saving the passengers of Republic. Afterwards he would go to law school and become an expert on maritime law. He would next command a ship in 1917. Due to his experience, he was called upon to give his perspective on the Titanic disaster that occurred three years later.

The sinking in some ways proved the logic of not having enough lifeboats for all. The assumption with so many ships in the North Atlantic shipping lanes, that you only needed lifeboats to ferry passengers to other ships. While the evacuation of Republic went smoothly by all accounts, the question of what would happen if ships could not respond fast enough or were near enough was not considered. It would take the tragic demise of Titanic in 1912 to correct this line of thinking. Then quite suddenly shipowners had no problem adding lifeboats for everyone aboard the ship.

Sources

Rsearch.uk: SS Columbus (Republic II)
WhiteStarHistory.com: RMS Republic (II)
Treasure of the RMS Republic

Hat tip to Mark Baber whose White Star History emails alerted me to this incident.


Arthur Anderson Master Salute to Edmund Fitzgerald

Edmund Fitzgerald(1971)
Photo: Greenmars(Wikipedia)

On Tuesday, November 10, 2020 the Arthur Anderson, which was the ship following the Edmund Fitzgerald on the same night in 1975, made its way through a snowstorm to Duluth, Minnesota. Visibility was poor but they were able to make it safely in. Since this was the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a master salute was given by the Arthur Anderson. A master salute is 3 long blasts (or follows) followed by two short blasts of the ships horn.

The arrival was carried live from the Duluth Harbor Cam (there might have been a news crew there as well) but people did brave the cold to see it arrive (there were people on the other side you cannot see in the video below).

Remembering the SS Eastland

SS Eastland circa 1911 Photo: public domain (Library of Congress)
SS Eastland circa 1911
Photo: public domain (Library of Congress)

On this date in 1915, the passenger ship SS Eastland rolled over while docked in the Chicago River. 844 passengers and crew were killed making it the largest loss of life from a shipwreck on the Great Lakes.

The SS Eastland was owned by St. Joseph-Chicago Steamship Company and was launched in May 1903 . Problems were discovered from the start. Design flaws made it top heavy and its center of gravity was too high. When lots of passengers congregated on top deck, the ship would list. While some modifications fixed issues, there were still listing problems. SS Eastland also achieved notoriety in August 1903 for a mutiny by the ships firemen. On 14 Aug, while traversing between Chicago to South Haven, Michigan some fireman refused to stoke the fires because they had not received their potatoes. The captain ordered the men arrested. Two firemen who did not participate in the mutiny had to stoke the fires until they docked. The six men were arrested by the police and later the captain was replaced.

Source:The Tacoma Times (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88085187/1915-07-27/ed-1/seq-7/) This image is now in public domain.
Source:The Tacoma Times (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88085187/1915-07-27/ed-1/seq-7/)
This image is now in public domain.

On 24 Jul 1915 the Eastland and two other passenger steamers were chartered to take employees of Western Electric to a picnic in Michigan City, Indiana. For the workers, it was a major event since many did not take holidays. Boarding began at 0630 and by 0710, the ship had reached its capacity of 2,572. The ship was packed and passengers filled every possible place on the upper decks. The ship had already begun to list to port and the crew tried to balance the ship using the ballast tanks. That did not work. Numerous passengers passengers apparently rushed to the port side making it worse. At 0728, the ship lurched sharply to port and rolled over to rest on the river bottom twenty feet below the surface. Because so many were below decks to keep warm, they were trapped by the sudden rollover. Heavy furniture-pianos, bookcases, tables-crushed many inside.

The Kenosha responded immediately and came aside to allow those stranded on top to jump aboard. But for those trapped below, there was no rescue. The bodies were retrieved and taken to temporary morgues.

The president and three officers of  St. Joseph-Chicago Steamship Company were indicted for manslaughter. The ship’s captain and engineer where charged with criminal carelessness as well. However during an extradition hearing (all six were in Michigan and had to be extradited to Illinois to stand trial) the federal judge believed there was not enough probable cause citing lack of evidence and refused to extradite. He further said the captain and engineer were merely doing their jobs.

Ironically because of the 1915 Seamen’s Act passed after Titanic’s demise, the additional weight of the lifeboats probably worsened the top-heavy issues of the ship.

A historical marker along the Chicago River marks the event. Plans are also underway to construct an outdoor exhibit where Eastland sank.

Eastland Goes Navy
The Eastland was raised and sold to the Illinois Naval Reserve and commissioned USS Wilmette . She was reconfigured as a gun boat and primarily used for training. Her only action came after the war when she was tasked with sinking a captured German U-Boat in 1921. Most of her career after that was training naval reservists. In 1941, her training duty was altered to train naval armed crews on merchant ships. Her most prestigious task was to take President Roosevelt and others to Whitefish Bay to plan war strategies in 1943.  She was decommissioned in 1945 and sold for scrap in 1946.

Sources:
1. SS Eastland (Wikipedia)
2. Eastland Memorial Society
3.Eastland Disaster Historical Society

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