Most horrible shipwreck


Jan 15, 2008
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What do you consider the most horrible shipwreck of all time...Or you could ask yourself this question like this: On what shipwreck would you certainly NOT want to be in?

For me the Estonia sinking, because of the great panic that broke out, people only had about 15 min to leave the listing ferry and there where very few survivors. Also the survivors had a horrible time facing the wild Baltic sea.
I read that some survivors had to leave behind parents,sisters, children to save themselves (no heroes like on the Titanic.) That gets to me every time!

Empress of Ireland as a close second, because of a lot of similarities in the way of sinking.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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The Dona Paz disaster, by a mile. Some 4,000 people died in minutes, many of them incinerated. Given a choice, I'd take drowning before burning any day.
 

John DeLoache

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Jun 3, 2004
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The Wilhelm Gustloff. Imagine the choices: Being one of the nursing cadets blown apart or cut to shreds by the broken tile in the swimming pool or being crushed in the panic of the 9000 others trying to get out of one of the stairways in the hour and half before she sank.
 
Jan 15, 2008
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I agree with you on that one John! The Wilhelm Gustloff slipped my mind, (can you believe that!) Possibly the biggest shipwreck of all. That one is definitley the winner!
 

Mandy Clancey

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May 12, 2006
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These are all awful. The one I remember reading about, I think was called The General Slocum. It was early 1900's and on a church excursion up the river in New York. (Sorry - I haven't read about it in a while). A fire broke out and the captain tried to reach land, but in doing so, fanned the flames and caused the fire to spread. Over 1,000 people dead, many of them children and babies. Just awful.
 

Julie Goebel

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Feb 24, 2007
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Only 191 died when the Portland Gale sank but on the Mississippi in the late 1800s a paddle wheel called Sultana caught on fire and sank killing near 1700 near Memphis. 2400 were saved, it was disgustingly overloaded. This was after the Civil War.
 
May 27, 2007
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True Julie-

I was counting the Portland Steamship plus the folks who died on other ships in the Gale(Storm). They call 'em gales in New England. They named the Storm after the Steamship. Hence the Portland Gale. True that more people have died in other ship wrecks but this one stayed in peoples memories for a while because of all the damage done on the coast and all the lives lost. Actually about 500 people were lost in the storm or gale including all the Portland Crew and Passengers. Most people blamed the Captain for trying to out run the storm. The Portland's sister ship for one didn't try and stayed in port luckily but it made the Portland's Captain look foolhardy and reckless.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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The 'Royal Charter' disaster of 1859, which also had a gale named after it. Called the 'Titanic' of her day, this steamship was just completing her voyage from Australia when she was caught off the coast of Angelsey, Wales, in the hurricane of the century. Although literally metres from the shore, and in full view of the villagers who turned out to watch, hundreds of passengers died as the ship was literally pounded to pieces in mountainous seas. There were only a handful of survivors and every last woman and child aboard died. Nor did many of them drown: the most horrible part of all is that they were dashed to bits on the rocks. And those who DID make it to shore without serious injury were so hampered by their water-logged clothing that they couldn't move inland quickly enough and so were dragged back into the ocean, again and again, until they died. Most of the bodies recovered, laid out in the local church, were simply unidentifiable: headless, limbless, you name it. Ghastly, just ghastly.
 
May 27, 2007
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Martin Yikes! Horrible and Ghastly indeed. Those two words some up that wreck.

With the Portland alas most of the bodies were buried in the sands of the Beach's of New England before they could be recovered because of the storm. The storm reshaped the coastline completely in some areas. I bet it you go to the New England coast and dig deep enough you'll find more then you bargained for.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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The loss of the screw steamer Royal Charter on Moelfre rocks, Anglesey, on the night of 26th-27th October 1859, was certainly shocking to Victorian public opinion, not only because of the loss of around 450 people, but also because none of the women and children were saved. The tragedy was compounded by the fact this large, modern vessel — which was, in effect, a sort of “half-sister” to the SS Great Britain — had safely completed a 16,000 mile voyage and was only a few hours from her home port of Liverpool.

There was a parallel with the Titanic, insofar as it was generally considered that iron steamships were much safer than their wood-and-sail counterparts — though in this case the vessel’s feeble 200 hp engines were no match for an apocalyptic gale with winds gusting to over 100 miles per hour.

It is also worth mentioning that, although mid-Victorian steamships carried boats, they were not equipped with “lifeboats”, as such, because it was recognised that in the circumstances which prevailed at that time such boats would have served no useful purpose. It is true that the women and children aboard the troopship Birkenhead had been safely evacuated in the ship’s boats when that vessel was wrecked off the Cape of Good Hope while en route to South Africa in 1852, but the Royal Charter’s boats were useless in the great gale of 1859, which meant that it was probably safer to remain in the wrecked hull (broken in two and wedged on the rocks) and pray for the tempest to subside. In the event, there were only 39 survivors, comprising 16 passengers and 23 crew members.
 
May 27, 2007
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Hi Martin and Stanley,

The loss of the loss of the Royal Charter reminds me of Artic
Here in U.S.A we had The Artic which sank in 1854 after a collision. No women and children survived in this sinking and supposedly the crew stole a boat. There was a book I read in High School about this sinking called Women and Children last: The loss of the steamship 'Artic' by Alexander Crosby Brown. Walter Lord made a brief mention of The Artic in TNLO.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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The loss of the Collins line paddle steamer Arctic after a collision with the French steamer Vesta off Cape Race in September 1854 resulted in the loss of over 300 lives, among them the wife and children of E.K.Collins, the founder of the line. Reports in The Times make no mention of the crew “stealing”￾ a boat, although there was some criticism regarding the construction of the four Collins Line steamers — which were said to have been built of soft pinewood rather than oak. The captain was however praised for going down with his ship.

On a footnote, those interested in the minutiae of 19th century steamer design may be able to add further comments about the Collins Line steamers Arctic, Atlantic, Baltic and Pacific, which must have been the first steamships to feature straight (albeit slightly raked) stems. The Pacific was lost without trace in July 1856, less than two years after the sinking of the Arctic.
 
May 27, 2007
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Hey Stanley

I remember hearing about the Pacific. Mr Brown mentions that as well in his book. Read Women and Children last: The loss of the steamship 'Artic'. Mr. Brown lost family- Ancestors from the wreck seemed to be good read. I recommend it.
 
The Cap Arcona is one of my favorites as far as most horrible. First, the Nazis were planning to sink this along with two other ships full of concentration camp prisoners in the Baltic. Instead, the ships are bombed by the very people that were rescuing them. Then to have Nazi officers gunning down the survivors on the beach!
 
It's fascinating, George. Here are a couple of overviews:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cap_Arcona
http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v19/v19n4p-2_Weber.html
http://compunews.com/gus/arcona2.htm
http://www1.uni-hamburg.de/rz3a035//arcona.html

And this book is hands-down the best on the subject. Written by a survivor.

http://www.amazon.com/100-Year-Secret-Britains-Hidden-Massacre/dp/1592285325/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1200841175&sr=8-1

Interesting thing about the ship is that it used in the German Titanic film in 1943.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hmmm...in terms of horror, Portland beats Gustloff hands down, simply because those who were aboard the Portland had more almost a day to ponder their non-survival, on a small ship being thrown about in a hurricane.

Batavia is far worse. Officers sail off to get help, and crew sets up a Lord of the Flies society in which an orgy of murder and rape sees most of the men and all but three of the women killed over a period of weeks.

Hoboken Pier Fire, and those 400 passengers and crew trapped below decks on ships with portholes too small to climb out of.

Valencia infinitely worse, in terms of horror, than Gustloff. Imagine being stranded 45 feet from shore, at the base of a 100 foot cliff, on a ship that is slowly breaking up. With people watching from the cliff top but offering no help, and the 'rescue vessels' departing and leaving you to die.

Arctic. Officer stole a boat. Panicked crew and passengers overwhelmed the raft that was a being constructed during the 4 hrs the Arctic took to sink. Rather fittingly, the officer who stole the boat rowed the wrong way into the fog, ne'er to be seen alive again.

Valbanera. Small Spanish ship with 2000 aboard, arrives in Cuba ahead of hurricane. 1500+ forfeit their passage and disembark at Santiago de Cuba to finish their journey to Havana by train. 499 remain aboard, as massive storm blows the liner clear to Key West where she stikes a reef and sinks, in 40 feet of water, with no survivors.

San Juan. Ancient liner sinks in two minutes after collision, with nearly 90 lost and 42 survivors.

The 'other' Pacific, which claimed as many as 500 lives and left but two survivors, was FAR worse than Gustloff, in that those who did not die of exposure survived, in some cases for days, adrift before being thrown ashore on Vancouver Island and being killed.
 

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