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News from 1899: Germanic Sinks in Her Dock at New York

This discussion on "News from 1899: Germanic Sinks in Her Dock at New York" is in the Germanic 1875-1903 section; The New York Times, 12 February 1899 TERRIFIC WEATHER AT SEA --- Overdue Steamships Struggle ...

  1. #1
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    News from 1899: Germanic Sinks in Her Dock at New York

    The New York Times, 12 February 1899

    Overdue Steamships Struggle In Heavily Sheathed in Ice
    Craft Dragged About the Harbor by Tide-Impelled Ice Floes---Ship Unable
    to Leave Port
    Three large vessels, besides some minor craft, went ashore yesterday in
    this vicinity, several came in from sea heavily encrusted with ice, and
    others were dragged hither and thither about the harbor with the ice
    floes, which moved with the ebb and flood of the tide. Sailing craft
    which essayed the harbor found themselves in predicaments.

    [Eight paragraphs, not relevant for present purposes, have been

    The overdue White Star Line steamship Germanic came in yesterday also,
    and she, too, was coated with ice. Hull, rail, boats, bridge, and
    rigging, and far up the masts, all was ice. She looked like a visitor
    from the arctic regions.

    It was estimated that there were at least 500 tons of ice on her, and,
    as she listed a good deal to starboard, the list was attributed to the
    ice. The list, however, was really due to trim. As one went aboard the
    outer gangways were seen to be surrounded with ice, and they looked like
    the entrance to ice grottoes, while enormous icicles hung from the decks
    above. The decks were filled with slush and seamen were busily at work
    clearing away with pick and shovel.

    The time of passage for the Germanic was 9 days 33 minutes. The vessel
    suffered no damage, but the passengers had an exceedingly uncomfortable
    voyage of it. Owing to the ice and the list to starboard, navigating the
    vessel from the bridge was very hazardous, and the officers suffered
    much from the cold.

    [Another 8 irrelevant paragraphs have been omitted.]


  2. #2
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    The New York Times, 14 February 1899

    White Star Liner at Bottom of North River---Careened Under Her Armor of
    The White Star Line steamship Germanic, lying at pier 45, North River,
    shipped a quantity of water at 9:30 o'clock last night and settled to
    the ground with what sailors call an eight degree list.

    The Germanic came into port last Saturday heavy with ice, and when her
    cargo was removed the ship was left topheavy. A large gang of men worked
    all day yesterday coaling the ship. The men were at this task when the
    accident occurred. The men say that most of the coal was on the port or
    north side, making the ship list to that side.

    The heavy wind and the roughness of the river, together with the
    untrimmed cargo of coal and the weight of ice high above the centre of
    gravity, made the ship very unstable and she rocked greatly.

    A small hurricane struck the river at 9:30 o'clock causing the vessel to
    roll away over to port, submerging the open coal holes, and permitting
    her to ship a great quantity of water into her bunkers.

    The tide was low and the vessel grounded. It was said that she is not
    damaged, and will be all right as soon as the water is pumped out. This
    will be accomplished before noon to-day.


  3. #3
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    An interesting article, MAB. It was a good thing this happened in port instead of out to sea. Ice can add a signifigent amount of topweight to a vessel. One has to wonder how many "Mysterious disappearances" happened over the centuries because of ice on the upper works.

  4. #4
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    MAB Note: The following is excerpted from a longer article entitled
    "BELATED LINERS LIMP IN," discussing generally the woes of various
    liners in what was evidently a severe winter storm on the North

    The New York Times, 15 February 1899


    The arriving steamers found this port in most sorry plight; craft
    everywhere clutched in the embrace of ice floes, and some of them making
    unwilling trips with the drifting fields of ice. And as an outcome of
    the ice, also, one big vessel, the Germanic, lay in her berth at the
    White Star Line pier resting easy on an even keel on the mud. Her hold
    was flooded and divers were at work closing the bunker ports, through
    which the water that sank her on Monday night had flowed into her.


  5. #5
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    One has to wonder how many "Mysterious disappearances" happened over the centuries because of ice on the upper works.

    Indeed, MS. I've never really tracked such things, but it seems to me that most of the news articles I've come across over the years involving ships going missing or crews being rescued from ships about to go under involve the North Atlantic in winter. Ice no doubt played a role in more than a few such incidents, I would think.

    Now to display my technical ignorance: Would ice have been a greater danger in terms of stability to large ships with high superstructures, such as Teutonic, than to smaller, lower ones, such as Oceanic I? My layman's understanding of such things tells me the answer should be "Yes," but I am willing to be corrected on this.

  6. #6
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    >>Would ice have been a greater danger in terms of stability to large ships with high superstructures, such as Teutonic, than to smaller, lower ones, such as Oceanic I? My layman's understanding of such things tells me the answer should be "Yes," but I am willing to be corrected on this.<<

    I think it would depend on the ship's stability to begin with, and how it was effected by adding weight in either cargo or weapons. With merchent vessels, a lot of the weight tends to be concentrated low down in the hull itself because of the cargo, but things change if the ship is riding empty, with the consequent rise in the ship's centre of gravity. Large superstructueres in my opinion, would change things very much for the worse since there would be a lot more surface area for ice to cling to, all of which would put all that extra weight exactly where you don't want it if you enjoy breathing. (But if you like being dead, bring it on!)

    In recent times, merchent vessels appear to me at least to have been at far less risk then military vessels in wartime. Notably in the Second World War when weapons fits were added to...often substantially...in response to wartime realities. Any launchers and guns would be added topside and there aren't a lot of places down below where you can store additional weapons like depth charges. It turned into a game of tradeoffs because at some point, the only way anything could be added was to remove systems like torpedo tubes.

    Destroyers for example, particularly those in conoy escort, had their anti-submarine armament added to, either in launchers (Such as depth charge racks or K-guns) and an increased loadout in ammunition. The result was that additional topweight was added and for some classes of ships, this became a serious problem. Especially if they were involved in the brutal Murmansk run. If the ships started accumulating ice, the crew had two choices: Chip it off manually, or accrue so much topweight that they would roll over. With little margin for growth in terms of weight, and often exceedingly overweight, they would have to act fast or end up swimming in freezing water.

    As a little tangent, the non-existant margin for growth is the reason why a lot of fairly new ships were decommissioned post war and never again brought back into service. Already seriously overweight and with no margin for growth, they were of little real use.

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    The New York Times, 16 February 1899

    An Open Porthole Discovered Which Allows the Water to Pour In
    The tides rose and fell throughout the interior of the Germanic
    yesterday, but the boat is still deeper in the mud at the stern. At high
    tide the water rose above the main deck, and reached the level of the
    promenade deck. The wreckers worked all night at the pumps, but
    yesterday morning it was discovered that the porthole amidships, on the
    starboard side, was open, and consequently the water kept pouring in as
    fast as it was pumped out. How this porthole came to be open no one
    seems to know. Mr. Lee, the agent, said he had understood that the
    portholes in both sides of the ship had been closed, and that the bolts
    of the starboard porthole had some how become loosened.

    All the persons that had engaged passage on the Germanic for the outward
    passage have had their money returned to them, and the Cymric will be
    run in the place of the sunken steamer.

    The investigation into the accident to the Germanic, it is said, will be
    made at the offices of the White Star Company in Liverpool when Capt.
    McKinstry and his crew reach the other side.


  8. #8
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    >>An Open Porthole Discovered Which Allows the Water to Pour In <<

    One little mistake...but often as not, that's all it takes.

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    The New York Times, 17 February 1899

    Porthole Has Been Closed, Though, and Pumping Will Soon Begin
    The condition of the White Star Line steamship Germanic, which sank at
    her pier on Monday night, has become steadily worse since that time. It
    was said yesterday that the vessel had settled at least thirteen feet
    since she sank. The water yesterday at high tide was flush with her hawse
    holes and she was awash aft.

    Manager Lee said that the divers had succeeded in closing the open
    porthole on the starboard side. The wreckers got to work yesterday
    building coffer dams around the hatchways. This was an undertaking that
    would not have been necessary had not the water reached her decks, and
    this probably would not have occurred had she not continued to take in
    water through the open porthole on the starboard side, which was not
    known to be open till Wednesday, thus preventing the pumping of her out
    after the bunker ports on the port side had been closed. It was expected
    that the coffer dams would be in place during the night and the work of
    pumping out begun today. Eight pumps have been set up, capable of
    pumping, between them, 120 tons of water a minute.

    The interior fittings of the steamer have, of course, been ruined, and
    the work of refitting will be costly and take a long time. The
    passengers booked to sail on the Germanic last Wednesday will be
    transferred to the Cymric, which arrived yesterday and will sail next

    The company's steamer Teutonic, which was due Wednesday, had not been
    reported up to a late hour last night, but, allowing for delay by storm,
    it is expected that she will arrive this morning.


  10. #10
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    The New York Times, 18 February 1899

    The Liner Sank Two Feet Yesterday---Pumping May Begin To-Day
    The White Star Line steamship Germanic settled two feet deeper yesterday
    into the mud at the bottom of her dock. The water was up to within two
    feet of the bridge deck. The saloon deck is entirely submerged. She has
    a slight list to starboard. All of the side ports had been closed, and
    the wrecking company's men were still at work building a coffer dam over
    the after-hatchway, which had been open. Two divers were also working
    forward on a very tedious job. On each side forward there are eighteeen
    [sic] ventilators connecting with staterooms below by means of syphon
    pipes. The tops of the ventilators are beneath the water. It was not
    deemed feasible to stop up these ventilators at the tops, and the divers
    are therefore plugging up the pipes within the staterooms. It was
    believed that this work would be completed by to-day, and if it is the
    pumps will be set to work To lessen weight all of the boats were removed
    yesterday. A rotary pump was put in position, which will pump from the
    engine room. It has a twelve-inch outlet pipe.

    Manager Lee said that the report that the Germanic would probably not be
    restored for passenger-carrying business, but would probably be fitted
    simply as a cargo ship, was ridiculous. He believed that she could be
    made ready to take her place on the line in ten days after she is
    floated. Mr. Lee said that he could make no estimate yet of the
    damage. Some of the Germanic's inbound cargo was in her when she sank
    and some outbound cargo had been stowed. Of coal and cargo she has
    aboard about 1,000 tons.


  11. #11
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    The New York Times, 19 February 1899

    She Is Still Stuck in the Mud and Cannot Be Moved
    No progress was made yesterday toward raising the White Star Line
    steamship Germanic. She now lies in her dock almost completely
    submerged. The only portion of her hull visible at high tide yesterday
    was the forward turtle back. She had, in fact, settled several inches
    since the preceding day.

    The eight powerful pumps were set to work yesterday morning, but,
    although all openings into the hull had been closed by the divers---that
    is, so far as they we known to be open---the vessel did not rise an

    It is now said that she has settled eighteen feet since the wreckers
    began work on her, and, as all the settling is in the mud, the raising
    of her presents a constantly more difficult problem because of the
    suction that must be overcome. What the prospects are the officials do
    not attempt to say. It is admitted, however, that some anxiety is now
    felt about her.


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    The New York Times, 20 February 1899

    Capt. Kivlin Will Start His Pumps and Expects Quick Results
    The White Star Line steamship Germanic remained sunk at her dock
    yesterday and appeared somewhat deeper in the mud than she had been. At
    high tide in the afternoon she lay with her promenade deck a foot under
    water on the starboard side and awash on the port side. Of the hull
    proper the only portion above water was the forward turtle-back.
    The bridge was several feet above water, as was the top of the promenade
    deck deckhouse. Thousands of persons watched the work of the wreckers,
    and cameras were constantly in evidence. The sunken steamer was for the
    day one of the sights of the city. It was difficult at times to get near
    the bulkhead because of the Sunday crowd gathered there, and Christopher
    Street was alive with persons going to and from the water front

    The wreckers believe that they have now closed every vent, and they are
    at work finishing the coffer dam around the after hatch. Bulkheads have
    been constructed across the wells at the three hatches forward, and all
    the pipes and pumping machinery have been installed. Capt. Kivlin, who
    is in charge of the work for the wrecking company, said yesterday that
    he expected to be in readiness to start all the pumps going Tuesday
    morning, When asked if there was any question of eventually raising
    vessel, the Captain said that there was no question at all as to that,
    but he admitted that he could not say just when the work was likely to
    be completed. He hoped and expected that she would come up with
    Tuesday's attempt and in short order.


  13. #13
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    MAB Note: As this article anticipated, litigation did, in fact, ensue
    over the damaged cargo, and eventually reached the Supreme Court of the
    United States, which affirmed lower court findings that the sinking
    resulted from hurried and imprudent loading, and not "from faults or
    errors in navigation or in the management" of a ship, which would have
    immunized White Star under a federal law known as the Harter Act. The
    , 196 U.S. 589, 25 S.Ct. 317, 49 L.Ed. 610 (1905).

    The New York Times, 21 February 1899

    The Germanic Still in the Mud
    There was nothing new in the situation of the sunken White Star Line
    steamer Germanic yesterday. Additional pumps have been installed, and
    when pumping commences to-day there will be fourteen pumps engaged. A
    dock builder said yesterday that the bottom of the North River where the
    Germanic lies consists of a strata of mud fifteen feet thick, and
    beneath this there is a silt of uncertain depth. If the steamer sinks
    below the mud she will go out of sight. It was said yesterday that a
    board of British experts will investigate the sinking of the Germanic,
    and also that litigation will grow out of the Germanic case in
    connection with insurance adjustment, on the assumption that the sinking
    of the vessel was due to carelessness.


  14. #14
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    The New York Times, 22 February 1899

    The Bow Has Been Brought Up 12 Feet---Pumps Are Now in Working Order
    That the White Star Line steamship Germanic is to be saved despite fears
    to the contrary was proved yesterday, when after two hours of pumping
    the big hull forward began to show buoyancy. The raising of the Germanic
    is the biggest job of the kind that the wreckers of this port have ever

    The Merritt & Chapman Derrick and Wrecking Company and the Baxter
    Wrecking Company have been engaged for days in closing up all vents
    below, and yesterday found them in readiness to begin the pumping under
    favorable conditions of tide and weather. The two attempts made last
    week proved that pumps capable of raising at least 60,000 gallons of
    water a minute were necessary to free the steamer between low and high

    By yesterday eighteen pumps had been installed. Two of them were
    situated on the forward turtle back and a third on the deckhouse near
    the mizzenmast. The others were on various wrecking craft The Hustler
    had four pumps, the Ellen three, the Dunderberg two, and the Fuller,
    Sheppard, Louise, and Cornell one pump each. Eight divers
    yesterday morning went below the main deck, which was submerged seven
    feet, and after careful examination inside and out reported that so far
    as they could determine every opening had been closed.

    At 10:35 A. M. the pumps were started. There were three suctions in each
    of the cofferdams over holds Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, which are aft,
    and a like number in holds Nos. 1 and 2. The remaining suction pipes
    were placed in the amidships section, where are the main saloon, engine
    and fire rooms, and the coal bunkers. The bow began to rise, and after
    two hours, when nearly 5,000,000 gallons of water had been pumped out of
    her, she had lifted forward about twelve feet, placing her bow at its
    ordinary drought. [sic] She was still, however, deeply submerged aft,
    and was about awash admidships. A great crowd stood at the bulkhead and
    cheered lustily as.the bow rose and displayed the steamers name.

    There still appeared to be something wrong aft, however, and after seven
    hours' pumping the stern remained below the surface. With the rising
    tide the water overflowed the cofferdam around the afterhatch, and it
    became necessary to increase its height. In hold No. 4 the water was
    lessened somewhat, and three pumps were kept going there to take up
    any in-flow. Additional pumps were being rigged near the stern last
    night, and it was expected that the work of the divers would be rewarded
    to-day with the successful floating of the vessel.


  15. #15
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    The New York Times, 23 February 1899

    The Germanic's Position Unchanged
    But little progress was apparent yesterday in the work of raising the
    White Star liner Germanic, which lies sunk at her pier in the North
    River. The twenty-foot mark on the bow of the steamship was on a line
    with the surface of the river, but her after turtle back was fully ten
    feet below water. The pumping out of the forward compartments of the
    vessel has apparently forced the stern deeper in the muddy bottom. The
    officers in charge of the work were unable yesterday to state how long
    it would require to float the Germanic, and practically intimated that
    they had little hopes of raising her by the methods thus far devised.


  16. #16
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    The New York Times, 24 February 1899

    Wreckers Raise the White Star Liner, Sunk at Her Pier
    The White Star Line steamship Germanic is afloat. The wreckers
    experienced great trouble in releasing the stern from the mud's grip.
    Divers were again sent down to look for openings, into which it was
    feared water was entering as fast as the pumps were drawing it out, and
    the big derrick Monarch was placed in position at the stern to give a

    Big bubbles commenced to come up from the bottom in the afternoon. This
    indicated that there was a disturbance of the mud and then the stern
    began slowly to rise. As the stern came up the bow dropped a little
    bringing the vessel more nearly to an even keel.

    Finally the after turtleback came into view. It became necessary to cut
    down the cofferdam which had been constructed around the after hatch,
    and finally, as the main deck arose above water, it was removed.

    The vessel was soon afloat, and then all that remained to be done was to
    free her of water.

    Those who went into her cabins said that there was no mud in her. The
    upholstering was simply wet. Still, it was their opinion that most of
    her fittings would have to be renewed. The wreckers worked all last
    night on her. Her bow at a late hour was drawing 26 feet 6 inches, while
    aft she was drawing about 6 feet more than her ordinary draught. There
    was then 8 or 10 feet of water in hold No. 4, while hold No. 5 was still
    full of water. It was expected that the vessel would be fully cleared
    during the night. It is expected that she will go into dry dock to-day
    or to-morrow and be put in condition for a trip to the other side of the
    Atlantic, where she will undergo renovation preparatory to resuming her
    place in the passenger service of the line. No estimates have as yet
    been made as to the amount of the damage.


  17. #17
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    The New York Times, 26 February 1899

    The Germanic in Dry Dock
    The White Star Line steamer Germanic, having come out of her mud bath at
    the bottom of her berth, foot of Christopher Street, in the North River,
    was yesterday towed to the Erie Basin to be placed in dry dock. Until a
    thorough examination is made it was said that it could not be estimated
    what the damage to her has been nor how long she will have to remain in
    dock. It was believed, however, that only a scraping and painting would
    be necessary, other repairs being of a kind that would be made after she
    had come out of the dock.


  18. #18
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    [MAB Note: This routine listing in the shipping column's listing of
    departures is the only reference to Germanic's departure to appear in

    The New York Times, 8 March 1899

    S.S. Germanic, (Br.,) for Belfast


  19. #19
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    [MAB Note: I was away the weekend before last, and quite forgot about
    these two items. Sorry for the delay.]

    The New York Times, 17 March 1899

    The Germanic Arrives at Queenstown
    QUEENSTOWN, March 16---The White Star Line steamer Germanic, Capt.
    McKinstry, from New York on March 7, has arrived here and will await the
    White Star Line steamer Cymric, which is expected here from Liverpool
    with Mr. J. Bruce Ismay and several White Star Line officials on board.
    They will proceed in the Germanic to Belfast, where she is to be
    overhauled as a result of her sinking at her dock in New York Harbor.

    The New York Times, 18 March 1899

    The Germanic at Belfast
    BELFAST, March 17---The White Star Line steamer Germanic, Capt.
    McKinstry, which arrived at Queenstown yesterday from New York March 7,
    has arrived here to be overhauled after her experiences at New York,
    where she sank at her dock and remained partly under water for a number
    of days.


  20. #20
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    The New York Times, 16 June 1899

    The Germanic Again in Port
    The White Star steamer Germanic, from Liverpool, arrived at this port
    late yesterday afternoon. This is the first trip the vessel has made
    since she sank alongside her pier on the North River last Winter from
    the weight of snow and ice piled upon her. The vessel made an unusually
    slow trip, and anchored for the night at Quarantine. Among her
    passengers was J. Pierpont Morgan, who is returning from a visit to the
    Continent. Mr. Morgan was taken on board his yacht at Quarantine.




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