News from 1878 Adriatic I Sinks a Brigantine

Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 29 July 1878

The steam-ship Adriatic, Capt. Jennings, of the White Star Line, arrived at this port yesterday afternoon. She left Liverpool on Thursday, July 18, at 10 o'clock P. M. She had scarcely cleared the river and got into the Channel than she glided into a thick, white fog. For a time she floated without incident, and the constant bellowings of her fog-whistle seemed useless expenditure of caution. But at about 4 o'clock in the morning at her bow suddenly came an object seemingly as huge and black as herself, and it was, indeed, a ship almost as large. A sudden wrench of the bow of the Adriatic to the larboard a few inches saved the two ships from striking each other head on, and those few inches of space thus secured, as it were, in the twinkling of an eye, alone prevented a terrible maritime accident. As it was, the two vessels came in contact some few feet behind the stern of each, and merely scraped each other hard their entire length. The noise awakened many of the passengers, and each, no doubt, accounting for the strange sounds in his own way went to sleep again, and none knew until hours afterward in what peril, they had been. After this collision the Adriatic drifted slowly on. Capt. Jennings, with two of his officers, were constantly on the bridge, and away forward on the poop-deck were two of the sailors trying to cut a way with their eyes into the white veil before them. To all these watchers suddenly appeared the dim outline of a vessel right under the sharp iron prow of the Adriatic. Instantly the signals were given to stop and to reverse the engines, and instantly they were obeyed, but it was too late. Up to this point the impending accident was commonplace enough, but here it became marvelous. The passengers who were on deck thought that with the little momentum the Adriatic had nothing more could happen than to push the ship gently out of the steamer's path. To the great astonishment and dismay of every one, the vessel seemed to be cut in two, and in less than a minute sank beneath the water. The order to lower the boats was hastily given, and as hastily obeyed, on the Adriatic, and by the time portions of the wreck appeared on the surface of the water the boats were among them, and from one portion a man was taken. After rowing about until hope of further rescues was futile, the boats returned to the steamer, which then proceeded on her way. From the man rescued it was learned that the lost vessel was the brigantine J. A. Pike, loaded with cement, and bound from London to Dublin, and that, having a crew of six men, five had been lost. The man rescued was taken to Queenstown, where, in the evening, at his own request, he was put ashore. During the day a subscription was taken up for him among the passengers of the Adriatic, which netted quite a handsome sum. The accident will, of course, be investigated rigorously by the Liverpool Board of Trade.


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