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Frigorifique & Rumney

Discussion in 'Other Ships and Shipwrecks' started by Arun Vajpey, May 15, 2009.

  1. Arun Vajpey

    Arun Vajpey Member

    I have been trying to find details of what some unsubstantiated accounts claim as the most bizarre collision in shipping history. One foggy morning somewhere off the French coast on 19th March 1884, the French steamer FRIGORIFIQUE was sailing along when the crew spotted another ship heading towards them broadside on a collision course. This was the British steamer RUMNEY and despite efforts by both captains, a collision could not be avoided. The Rumney struck the Frigorifique amidships on the starboard side and the French ship seemed to start sink almost immediately. The crew abandoned ship and all were safely picked up by the Rumney, which, limped forward in the fog not sure where it was going. Hours later, the crew of the Rumney saw another ship heading towards THEM on a collision course. To the surprise of everyone on board, it was the empty Frigorifique; it was believed that her boilers were still operating and with the rudder jammed by the collision, she had gone around in a huge circle to come back and smash into the Rumney. A second collision between the two ships within a few hours had thus occurred and both sank this time, though all hands from both ships managed to get onto the Rumney's lifeboats.

    I have seen this story a few times on the web but cannot find the link now. Does anyone know more about this?
  2. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator

    The Times, 21 March 1884

    Lloyd's agent at Audierne telegraphed yesterday that the British steamer
    Rumney, Captain Davis, from Cardiff for Rochefort, with coals, and the
    steamer Frigorifique, Captain Le Dre, from Passages for Rouen, with wine,
    came into collision off Ile de Seine, and both vessels foundered. The crews
    were saved. The Rumney was an iron screw steamer of 523 tons gross, built at
    Sunderland in 1879, and owned by Mr. J. Cory of Cardiff. The Frigorifique
    was steamer of 715 tons gross, built at Liverpool, and owned by Messrs.
    Worms, Josse, and Co., of Bordeaux.


    The Times, 22 May 1884

    This was an action brought by the owners of the steamer Rumney against the
    owners of the Frigorifique in respect of a collision which occurred in the
    Bay of Biscay on the 19th of March last. There was a thick fog prevailing at
    the time, and the collision, the circumstances of which were of an
    extraordinary character, resulted in the loss of both vessels. The
    plaintiffs' case was that the Rumney was steering S.E. by S. 1/4 S., with
    her engines working slow and her steam whistle sounding at regular
    intervals, when a noise resembling the sound of breakers was heard on the
    port bow. The engines were at once reversed full speed astern, but almost
    immediately afterwards the Frigorifique, which was going at considerable
    speed, was seen at a very short distance crossing the tows of the Rumney
    from port to starboard, and though the helm of the latter was put hard
    a-starboard, the collision immediately afterwards occurred, the stem of the
    Rumney coming in contact with the starboard quarter of the Frigorifique. The
    two vessels remained in collision for a short time, during which the crew of
    the French steamer jumped on board the Rumney, and the Frigorifique, whose
    engines were still going ahead, disappeared in the fog. The boats of the
    Rumney were then lowered and while they were still alongside, the
    Frigorifique, which had made a circuit in the fog, again hove in sight, and
    before any steps could be taken to get out of her way, she ran into the
    starboard quarter of the Rumney, causing her to sink almost immediately. The
    two crews in the boats of the Rumney then gave chase to the Frigorifique,
    which, the fog having lifted, was seen to be steaming round and round in a
    circle. After some time they succeeded in boarding her, and her engines were
    stopped, but shortly afterwards she also sank from the injuries she had

    The defendants' case was that the Frigorifique, which was on a westerly
    course, was going as slowly as possible, sounding her whistle at frequent
    intervals, when the loom of the Rumney was seen about a ship's length off on
    the starboard beam. The helm was immediately ordered hard a-starboard, but
    before the order could be carried out the Rumney, coming at great speed,
    struck the Frigorifique on the starboard quarter, cutting half way across
    her deck. In the collision the helm of the Frigorifique was forced and
    jammed hard a port, the man at the wheel being thereby thrown completely
    over the wheel.

    Mr. Phillimore and Mr. Baden Powell appeared for the plaintiffs; Mr.
    Webster, Q.C., and Mr. Bucknill for the defendants.

    The President, in giving judgment, said that the evidence was very
    conflicting, the demeanour of the witnesses being of no assistance to the
    Court in determining which story was the true one. The Elder Brethren were
    unable to say, as a matter of seamanship, that there was negligence on
    either side. He (the learned Justice) found that neither side had discharged
    the onus of proving negligence in the other, and he therefore pronounced
    against both the claim and counter-claim, leaving each party to bear their
    own costs.

  3. Arun Vajpey

    Arun Vajpey Member

    Thank you very much for this. Amazing story.