News from 1872 Adriatic I Saves the Crew of the Sinking Ship Allan

Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
The New York Times, 23 December 1872

Wreck of the Ship Allan, of Glasgow
Rescue of the Crew by the Adriatic---A Relation of Painful
Experiences---The Injuries to the Adriatic
On the 6th inst. the steam-ship Adriatic, of the White Star line, left
Liverpool for this port, having on board fifty saloon and one hundred
and forty-eight steerage passengers. The Adriatic encountered unusually
severe weather, and was compelled during the first four or five days to
buffet her way against head winds and a heavy sea. On the sixth day out,
at 1 o'clock in the afternoon, while in latitude 49° 32' north, and
longitude 36° 50' west, and in the midst of a terrific gale, the steamer
became partially disabled by the loss of two blades of the flange. No
inconvenience was sustained by the accident other than being compelled
to run at half speed. As the day wore on the violence of the gale
decreased, but the sea was still running very high, when about 7 o'clock
in the evening, the Adriatic being then in latitude 49° 25' north. and
longitude 38° 15' west, a full-rigged ship was descried by the lookout,
showing a large white light. The ship was directly in the course of the
steamer, and was soon discovered to be in a dismantled condition. Capt.
Parry approached near enough to speak the stranger, but to inquiries
addressed through his speaking-trumpet could elicit nothing but the
despairing cry, "For God's sake, take us off." Without further loss of
time, the commander of the Adriatic lowered a boat, into which stepped a
picked crew of six men. The second officer was placed in command. As the
gallant little crew put off from the side of the vessel the cheer given
by their comrades on deck was half suppressed by the fear present to all
that the frail craft would be swallowed up in the fierce boiling waves.
Anxious eyes strained through the darkness striving to trace the course
of the relief-boat. For an instant only it remained in sight, and then
came for those on board the Adriatic, a period of terrible suspense.
Propelled by the vigorous strokes of a lusty crew, the life-boat bounded
over the mountainous waves, and was soon within speaking distance of the
distressed ship. But to approach nearer was impossible. The sea was
running mountains high, and the Allan---for such the officer in command
of the Adriatic's boat learned was the name of the stranger---bending
before the waves rolled over until her gunwale was completely under
water. Several efforts were made to approach her but without success.
After beating about for nearly a half hour, and having once narrowly
escaped being swamped, the Adriatic's boat was compelled to put back
without being able to take off the crew of the Allan. To add to the
difficulty of the undertaking, rain commenced to descend in blinding
torrents and seemed to have the effect of increasing rather than
diminishing the fury of the waves. After about an hour had elapsed, and
a consultation had been held, Capt. Kerry [sic] sent off another boat,
with a crew of six, commanded by the fourth officer, to the aid of the
Allan. This time the expedition was more successful. The boat, because
of the danger of being swamped, could not approach sufficiently near to
permit of the crew of the Allan stepping on board. An expedient was,
however, adopted, which proved eminently successful, and resulted in the
ultimate rescue of the crew. The Adriatic's boat approached the side of
the ship as near as it was possible to go. The crew of the Allan got out
their only remaining boat, on the weather side, and fastening to it a
slack-rope, managed by this means to ferry themselves, one by one, to
the boat sent by the Adriatic. Is this way nine of the crew were taken
safely off and placed on board the steam-ship. The weather being
somewhat moderated, the remaining men---there being twenty in all
composing the crew of the Allan---were enabled to get off, some in the
ship's boat, and some in the Adriatic's. The Allan, at the time she was
thus deserted, had seven feet of water in her hold, and was in a leaking
condition. With the exception of being somewhat overworked, by reason of
having to keep the pumps going constantly, the crew had suffered
comparatively little. Provisions were plenty at the time the ship was
deserted, but the men lost all their effects, having nothing when they
boarded the Adriatic but the clothes then upon their persons.

The Allan was a full-rigged ship of about 900 tons burden, and was owned
in Glasgow by the firm of Rankin & Gilmore. She was at least twenty
years old, and in a very unseaworthy condition. On the 17th November
last the Allan left the port of Bathurst, in the St. Lawrence Gulf,
bound for Liverpool, with a cargo of deals. At the time she left port
her condition was such that it was found necessary to pump her out every
tour hours. When the TIMES reporter, to whom this fact was related by
Mr. Wm. Doig, the second mate of the Allan, in presence of Mr. T. W.
Williams, the chief officer of the Adriatic, remarked on the danger of
going to sea in such a vessel, both gentlemen smiled, and Mr. Williams
said that it was nothing unusual, as he knew of that class of ships
going to sea, when, while in port, it was found necessary to keep the
pumps going six hours a day. Alter the Allan had left Bathurst she
experienced fair winds until about the eighth day out, when, in latitude
51° north, and 45° west, a heavy easterly gale was encountered. In the
gale the Allan lost her rudder. Every effort was made to repair the
disaster, but without avail. No steering apparatus could be contrived,
and the ship from that day until the 12th inst., when the crew was taken
off by the Adriatic, drifted about at the mercy of the waves. An
endeavor was made by keeping set a reefed topsail to steady the ship and
prevent the cargo of deals from breaking her to pieces. This expedient,
however, was of little avail, as the Allan continued to encounter very
stormy weather. In a few days after the loss of the rudder, the
bulwarks, galleys, and deck cargo were swept away by the violence of the
waves. In order to lighten the ship, Capt. Locke ordered the anchors and
chains to be thrown overboard. Fortunately there was a plentiful supply
of provisions, but when the galleys were carried away these were cooked
with difficulty. The men had to work at the pumps constantly, and each
day the condition of the ship was becoming worse. Not once during all
these days of tossing helplessly about did the crew of the Allen sight a
sailing ship. Four times a hope was held out to them by the appearance
on the horizon of steam-ships, but on each occasion they were made to
feel a pang of disappointment that must have been nearly akin to
despair. Capt. Locke stated to the commander of the Adriatic that he was
certain that some, at least, of these steamers had seen his signal of
distress, but had passed on, refusing to make a sign of recognition. A
few days more, and the ill-fated Allan must have gone to the bottom with
all on board. By regular watches the men worked at the pumps in the
first days of the disaster, but, toward the end, all hands were obliged
to work on deck at once, in order to keep the ship from sinking. It is
complained by the officers of the Adriatic that the crew of the Allan,
after being allowed a day or two for rest, refused, with some few
exceptions, to do any work. The men offer, as an excuse,. that, being
provided with no change of clothing, it was impossible to do work which
almost necessarily involved getting wet every day. Whatever the merits
of the case may be it is certain that the saloon passengers hold the
same opinion as the officers of the Adriatic with regard to the crew of
the Allan. It was intended by the passengers to make up a subscription
for the men, but that intention was abandoned for the reasons stated
above. A purse, but of how much could not be ascertained, was made up
and presented by the cabin passengers of the Adriatic to Capt. Locke.

The Adriatic is at present moored at the pier of the White Star line, in
Jersey City. The extent of the injury to her flange is not yet
positively known, but in a few days she will be placed on the dry dock
and the injury remedied. She sails on next Saturday.