Christmas News from 1905: Celtic II is Boarded by a Huge Wave

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Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 31 December 1905

Comber Boarded the Celtic and Frightens Passengers
The White Star liner Celtic, one day overdue, reached her pier yesterday considerably damaged and bringing a tale of a giant wave, which interrupted the Christmas night entertainment and roughly scattered the group of children and women around the Christmas tree.

According to Miss Gertrude Holinquist, a nurse on the ship, at least fifteen women fainted when the monster wave struck the ship. The big comber was followed by lesser shocks, which tore away twenty feet of the ship's rail, broke several ports in the second cabin and smoking room, and snapped off halt a dozen stanchions. Both the second cabin and the steerage were flooded.

The big wave struck the ship at 7:30 o'clock on Christmas night. A Christmas tree had been fastened to one of the tables in the saloon, and the children on board had already received their gifts. The programme included an entertainment of the usual kind, and a solo was just being sung by R. W. Mathews, with R. W. Cody at the piano.

In an instant the group of Christmas merrymakers were thrown into confusion. Those who were standing up were toppled over, and those who were sitting where they could not grab something stationary were hurled from their seats. The spurt of water through the broken ports made it appear as though the worst possible thing had happened, and the women began to scream.

Some one suggested that the two musicians resume their work, and they did so, but were only partially successful in allaying the excitement. With the assistance of the nurse, Miss Holinquist, the ship's physician got the fainting and hysterical women to their staterooms, where they grew calmer.

Meanwhile the water rushed along the engineer's gangway, three feet deep, smashing in doors and flooding about fifteen staterooms. One assistant engineer, who was standing in his stateroom, averred that he suddenly found himself standing in water breast high.

In the second cabin smoking room a trio were celebrating Christmas, and one of them was just merging the pleasure of anticipation into realization when the shock came. The bottle was smashed into smithereens the next minute, and all three men were thrown in a heap on the floor.

The steerage passengers were locked in when the storm came on, but still a large amount of water got into their quarters through the breaking of several port-hole glasses. Practically the whole voyage of the Celtic was a stormy one. It is believed, however, that the damage to the ship can be repaired by Jan. 6, which is her schedule day for sailing again.

Among the passengers who arrived on the Celtic was Wasili Safonoff, the Director of the Moscow Conservatory of Music. He comes here to lead six concerts of the Philharmonic Society.

Alexander Winton, the Cleveland automobile manufacturer, also arrived on the ship with his bride. She was Miss Labelle MacGlashen of Glasgow. The couple were married at the home of the bride on Dec. 12. A day or two later Mr. Winton sent the news to his business associates.

Others on the ship were Prof. Nordenskjöld of Gothenburg University, Sweden; Baron de Fersen of Russia, and Capt. Harris, Military Attaché to the American Embassy at Vienna.


Bob Godfrey

Nov 22, 2002
Neither Celtic nor Christmas, but maybe of interest here:

New York Times, Friday Mar 1, 1901

White Star Liner S/S Teutonic

The steamer reported a calm trip across the Atlantic from Liverpool to NYC with the exception of a few minutes last Sunday morning, when she was almost swamped by a huge wave, causing considerable material damage to the vessel and injury to passengers. 1st Officer Bartlett was on the bridge when the wave broke, the Captain being at breakfast. The sea was unusually placid for the winter season and a look at the instruments indicated that the weather would get calmer. The sun was shining its brightest and the mild WNW wind prevailing made the weather very pleasant. It was about 9 am and the officer, as he walked the bridge, had not the slightest premonition of the impending danger. The wave came over the bow from nobody seems to know where and broke in all its fury, damaging the deck fittings and catching 2 unsuspecting men passengers, striking them with volcanic fury, cutting off the foot of one and fracturing the jaw of the other.

As Bartlett tells the story, the Teutonic suddenly sank deep down into the water, and before she could recover, the sea swept in directly from ahead. It swept over the crows nest, which is from 55' to 60' above the water, and threw the 2 lookouts down onto the deck, cutting an ugly gash on one and severely shaking up the other. The passengers were inclined to think that the wave was the result of volcanic phenomenon, or of a tidal wave, although the Teutonic officers disagreed.
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