News from 1881 The Misfortunes of Britannic I

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MAB Note: On 4 July 1881, Britannic I went aground near the end of a New York-Liverpool sailing, the beginning of an unfortunate ten-day span for her. This is the first of about a dozen articles that appeared during the course of July 1881; the last will be dated 30 July

The New-York Times, 5 July 1881

A WHITE STAR STEAMER ASHORE
---
THE BRITANNIC GROUNDED ON THE COAST OF IRELAND
---
The White Star Line steam-ship Britannic, which sailed from this port
June 25, for Liverpool, is reported to have gone ashore near Milmore,
County Wexford, on the Irish coast. The London dispatch, dated
yesterday, announcing her mishap says efforts are making to lighten the
vessel, that she is making no water, and that a steam-tug
has gone to her aid. The offices of the White Star Line were closed all
day yesterday, and but little was known of the accident at the company's
pier, at the foot of West Tenth-street. The Superintendent in charge
there seemed positive that had the stranding of the Britannic been of a
very serious nature he would have known it. The passengers and crew were
all safe on board, and after a portion of her cargo had been discharged
the vessel herself would get off and proceed to Liverpool. The cargo was
a general one, consisting of grain, cheese, manufactured articles, &c.,
shipped from different parts of the country to a number of different
consignees in Liverpool. It was thought at the White Star pier that
nearly all of the freight would be saved. The Britannic was launched at
the yard of Harland & Wolff, at Belfast, Ireland, in February, 1874. She
was built of iron, with eight water-tight bulkheads and three decks. Her
dimensions are: length, 455 feet; breadth of beam, 45 1-6 feet, and
depth of hold, 33 1/2 feet. Her net tonnage is 3,152, and her gross
measurement is about 5,000 tons. She has two large boilers and compound
engines, with cylinders 48 and 83 inches in diameter, and a
piston-stroke of five feet. She is a screw propeller, with four masts,
three of which are square rigged. She has, like the other vessels of
this line, a whale-back deck forward, and a turtle-back deck at the
extreme after end. The saloon, which has accommodation for nearly 200
passengers, is amidships. The Britannic is one of the crack vessels of
the White Star fleet, and has become so popular that it has been
difficult to obtain passage in her unless application is made a long
time before her sailing day. She took out on her recent voyage a full
saloon list, and had on board quite a number of steerage passengers. The
Rev. Dr. O. H. Tiffany, the Rev. C. C. Tiffany, Gen. Clinton B. Fiske,
the Hon. Isaac H. Bailey, the Hon. A. C. Cattell, and other well-known
persons are among the passengers.

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MAB Note: In the last paragraph, "this City" refers to New York.

The New-York Times, 6 July 1881

THE GROUNDED STEAM-SHIP
---
HOPES OF SAFELY FLOATING THE BRITANNIC---AN UNVERIFIED REPORT

---
LONDON, July 5---The steamer Britannic, of the White Star Line, still
lies thumping on the rocks off the coast of Kilmore Island. She has a
hole in her No. 2 compartment, which causes her to list 12 degrees to
port at low water. The weather and the position of the steamer continue
favorable to her ultimate safe removal. The Salvage Association of
Liverpool sent steam-pumps and divers to the wrecked vessel to-day. A
quantity of her cargo has been jettisoned, and fishing boats have saved
and landed at Kilmore 700 packages of lard, cheese, and butter.

The Waterford correspondent of the Press Association reports that one of
the small boats on leaving the Britannic last evening capsized, and that
11 persons were drowned. He adds that "there is not much chance of
floating the vessel." The report of the capsizing of the small boat is
undoubtedly false, as Lloyds' agent reported that all the passengers of
the Britannic were landed at Waterford at 8 o'clock P. M. yesterday.
Lloyds' dispatches from the steamer to-day contain no reference to any
such accident, and nothing has been heard of such a casualty in the
London office of the White Star Steam-ship Company. On the contrary, the
agents at the latter office stated to-day that "all of the passengers
were safely landed at Waterford, and that the chances of floating the
wrecked steamer are good." Similar advises were received to-day from
Messrs. Ismay, Imrie & Co., the Liverpool agents of the White Star Line.

LONDON, July 5---The Press Association announces that the master of the
Britannic reports that the statement that 11 of the passengers of that
vessel were drowned is untrue.
----------
At the White Star offices in this City, yesterday, Mr. R J Cortis, the
agent, received the following private dispatch: "Passengers all landed
last night; Britannic still ashore; fine weather, but foggy; portion of
cargo jettisoned; tugs and assistance sent; expect steamer to come off
if fine weather continues."

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MAB Note: Again, the last paragraph refers to New York

The New-York Times, 7 July 1881

THE VANDALIA AND BRITANNIC
---
LONDON, July 6---Two tenders and a steamer with a large quantity of
provisions have left the Clyde to search for the disabled steamer
Vandalia.

The reports from the steam-ship Britannic this morning afford hopes
that, if the weather continues favorable, she will be floated tomorrow.
Six steam-tugs are now employed in taking off the cargo. The divers
report that there are three holes in the starboard side of the vessel,
and that they can be stopped. The steam pumps from Liverpool arrived
yesterday. There is now every hope of saving the ship.
----------
Mr. R. J. Cortis, agent of the White Star Line, has received a cable
dispatch referring to the stranding of the steamer Britannic, stating
that she is "fast discharging her cargo. The weather is fine. The rumor
yesterday of a loss of life is untrue. We expect to get her off
to-morrow."

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The New-York Times, 8 July 1881

ACCIDENTS TO OCEAN STEAM-SHIPS
---
LONDON, July 7---A dispatch from Wexford, Ireland, dated at 1:30 o'clock
this afternoon, says: "The pumps dried the forward compartment of the
steamer Britannic in two hours. The other compartments are expected to
be dried by the time of high water, when it is hoped the vessel will
float. The weather Is calm and fine."

A Berlin dispatch announces that the Admiralty intends to send the
German ship Falcke to assist In the search for the disabled steamer
Vandalia.

A telegram received at Glasgow from Stornoway announces that a vessel
supposed to be the Vandalia has been seen in the Minch.

The Wilson Line steamer Basaano, Capt. Douglas, outward bound, from Hull
for Boston, grounded below the Victoria dock. She floated on the
following tide and entered the dock again, but is believed to be
uninjured.

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The New-York Times, 9 July 1881

THE BRITANNIC AND VANDALIA SAFE
---
LONDON, July 8---A dispatch from Wexford, Ireland, announces that the
White Star steam-ship Britannic was successfully floated at 1 o'clock
this afternoon.

The steam-ship Vandalia, of the Hamburg-American Line, from Hamburg June
21, for New-York, which was reported on the 28th as having broken her
shaft, arrived last night at Stornoway. Scotland, in tow of two
steam-tugs. Capt. Petzold reports all well on board. The steamer was
found 13 miles distant from the Island of Lewis by a local mail-boat,
which towed her within four miles of Stornoway, where the tugs took her
in tow for Glasgow for repairs.

LONDON, July 9---Two of the steamer Britannic's compartments are full of
water. About half the cargo has been taken out of her.

The Vandalia will be repaired on the Clyde. Her passengers will be sent
thence to New-York on board of one of the Atlantic liners.

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The New-York Times, 10 July 1881

A NEW LEAK IN THE BRITANNIC
---
LONDON, July 9---The White Star steamship Britannic, which was floated
yesterday off Kilmore, while towing out sprang a fresh leak in her
engine-room, which filled with water in an hour. She was towed into the
South Bay of Wexford and beached in five fathoms, in a sheltered
position and on a smooth, sandy bottom.

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The New-York Times, 11 July 1881

THE STEAMER BRITANNIC
---
LONDON, July 11---The prospects of floating the White Star steamer
Britannic are most favorable.

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The New-York Times, 12 July 1881

THE BRITANNIC SUNK IN THE SAND
---
WEXFORD, July 11---The repairs to the bottom of the White Star Line
steamer Britannic progress rapidly and favorably, and the ship is likely
to float with one or two tides.

LONDON, July 12---Later---The steam-ship Britannic has sunk in the sand
so that only her masts are visible.

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The New-York Times, 13 July 1881

THE STEAMER BRITANNIC AFLOAT
---
LONDON, July 12---The report that the steam-ship Britannic had sunk in
the sand, and that only her masts were visible, published in the Daily
News
, the Standard, and the Daily Telegraph, without credit or
qualification, is an absolute falsehood. The underwriters' telegram,
dated Wexford, Ireland, at 10:40 P.M. to-day, says: "The Britannic is
floating high out of water, and is now leaving Wexford Bay with two tugs
aft and one forward. She has her own steam on."

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The New-York Times, 15 July 1881

THE BRITANNIC IN HER DOCK
---
Mr. R. J. Cortis, agent of the White Star Line received a dispatch from
Liverpool yesterday saying: "The steam-ship Britannic arrived in the
Mersey at 1 A.M., and was docked safely. Her injuries are local. There
is an entire absence of signs of straining."

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The New-York Times, 21 July 1881

THE BRITANNIC'S MISHAP
---
HOW SHE WENT ASHORE IN A DENSE FOG
---
INTERESTING DESCRIPTION BY THE REV. DR. O. H. TIFFANY, OF
PHILADELPHIA---THE CAPTAIN LOSES HIS BEARINGS AND MANY OF THE PASSENGERS
COURAGE
---
Correspondence of the Philadelphia Times
---
LIVERPOOL, July 6---When you asked me to write you letters from abroad
this season I had no thought to say anything about the ocean
passage---it has been so often described and the particulars of
sea-sickness detailed ad nauseam. But the sad ending of our trip on the
Britannic puts the voyage among the memorable ones. I telegraphed, or,
as they say here, "cabled" you of our safety, from Waterford,
immediately on our arrival. There were so many Philadelphians on board
besides my own family that I knew the interest would be intense. We had
just reached Liverpool, by way of Dublin, and I propose to catch the
first mail for your readers. We left New-York on Saturday, 25th, and had
an excellent run until Sunday, July 3; the sea smooth, winds light, but
favorable, and the passengers all at table every day. There was more
than the usual amount of petty gambling in the smoking-room, driving
those of us who did not enter "pools on the run" or take hands at
draw-poker into other and less pleasant quarters for our quiet whiffs,
and some of the players were not content without their jokes about
parsons, &c., who afterward were not so jolly, but the most frightened
persons on board.

On Saturday, July 1, the fog obscured the sun, so that Capt. Perry could
get no observation. We had, however, made 2,390 miles by observation up
to noon the previous day, and 377 more by dead reckoning at noon on the
2d. On Sunday, 3d, just as we were closing a religious service, at which
my brother, the Rev. C. C. Tiffany, of New-York, had read prayers, and I
had made the address or brief sermon, we barely escaped collision with a
steamer bound westward, and her proximity indicated that we were very
much out of our course. Still we were encouraged to believe that we
should reach Queenstown in the evening or before midnight, yet there was
evident disquietude on the part of some old travelers, and the
statement, made later in the day, that we had passed Fastnet light
without seeing it, added to our anxiety. Still there was no feeling of
alarm on the part of any. Mrs. Tiffany's suffering from cold and
headache caused me to be up later than usual, and I lay on the sofa of
my room without undressing. The ship was often stopped for sounding,
and several times I went on deck, but could hear of no light having been
seen. The fog-whistle was continually howling its dismal wail over the
waters, and when 4 o'clock was sounded I went up and staid [sic] on deck
till nearly 6. I saw the sun rise from what had been the westerly side
of the vessel, and know our course had been changed to a south-easterly
one. No light had been yet seen, but we were told that we had long
passed Queenstown and were in the Channel. Capt. Perry left the bridge,
where he had been all night on duty, and coming near where I stood
leaned over the ship's rail, seeming despondent. I stood beside him
watching his face; all in a moment, as the sound of a gun was heard, he
brightened up and said to me: "Now I know where I am." He exchanged
nods with the second officer, W. H. Clarke, who was still on the bridge
and said: "Tuskar" A second gun was heard and the second officer, who I
think had his watch in his hand, nodded in reply. "How do you know it is
Tuskar?" I asked. "Because," said Capt. Perry, "it is the only place on
the coast where fog-bombs are exploded." He then said to me: "It is a
very unusual thing to do, but if you will come into my room I will show
you the ship's course and position on the chart." I went with him into
the room back of the steering-room and had the matter explained as he
believed it.

But, also for us, it was not Tuskar, but Tower Hook from which the bombs
were fired. "Now," said the Captain. "I have ordered this course to be
run seven miles to the east until we reach 45 fathoms water, and then to
be set north-east, which will be direct for Hollyhead." [sic] The order
was exactly obeyed; but as we were seven or more miles west of where he
thought he was, it brought us up at Killmore instead of Hollyhead, [sic]
and at 6:30 the noble vessel slowly grounded, gliding up upon the reef
with so little jar that those who were in their berths asleep ware not
awakened by the shock, but slept on until the gong sounded for
breakfast, an hour later. About 8 the fog lifted, and we saw the land
about a quarter of a mile from the ship's bow. Killmore looked as though
no accident could happen there; it was a land-locked harbor, but rocky,
and with no depth of water sufficient for large ships. The Britannic was
fast on the bottom. Immediate orders were given for lightening the bow
by throwing cargo overboard and soon the sea all around us was covered
with floating cheese boxes. It was not long before boats from the shore
came out and saving the cheese began. We were so still, there being no
sea running, that there was no panic or alarm, except among the men who
had been loudest in their sneers at the "parsons" (there were but four
of us on board) and the "hymn-singers" who had sung at the evening hour
on deck. Some of these, frightened out of all propriety, rushed to the
deck, embarrassed by the life-preservers they had tied around them,
demanding to be saved on the first boats and when reasoned with could
not be persuaded into propriety, one man, especially, crying out: "I
must be saved. My God, I can't shwim!" [sic] They were allowed to go off
on the first boat.

Capt. Perry assembled the passengers in the saloon and in a few words
explained the situation. He said there was no immediate danger, but if
any chose to leave on the ship's boats they could do so, taking only
their valuables. Luggage would be landed on tugs, which would arrive in
the course of the day and be sufficient to land all safely. About half
the saloon passengers took the ship's boat and boats of the Coast Guard
Service and landed to go to Wexford, 14 miles, by land. The rest of us
stayed by the ship and were taken off about 6 P.M. in a tug to Wexford,
and proceeded thence by rail to Dublin and thence to Liverpool. No
accident occurred, and the report of 11 lives lost, which we heard in
Dublin, is a baseless fabrication. It looked somewhat perilous to see
the ladies swing in chairs from the ship's side into the dancing boats,
but all was safely done. As the tide went down the ship careened
slightly, but not enough to cause any difficulty in walking on the decks
and the officers were courteous and attentive.

Poor Capt. Perry seemed heart-broken. He has had 30 years' experience
without an accident and was to be pitied rather than blamed, from a
seaman's point of view. But as a landsman I have this criticism to make:
He did not know where the ship was on Sunday at 11 A. M., and he might
have ascertained by hailing or signaling the steamer we nearly ran down.
Again, on Monday morning, between 4 and 5 o'clock, we were within
hailing distance of a fishing craft, a two-masted vessel, and lay hove
to in sight of her while we took soundings. He might have learned his
whereabouts from her crew and though it might have been undignified for
the Captain of the finest steamer afloat to ask information of smaller
craft it would have saved his ship and secured his passengers. In this
view our lives were put in peril by the pride of the service and to
maintain the dignity of a ship's officer. Capt. Perry certainly told me
Tuskar was the only point from which fog-bombs were exploded. Did he not
know till afterward that they were also fired from Tower Hook, the
difference being that one had an interval of five, the other of ten
minutes? If we had been, as he supposed, off Tuskar, his course would
have brought us round the south-east coast of Ireland safely. As !t was,
it stranded us in Kilmore [sic] Bay. It is greatly to be feared that the
Britannic is very seriously injured, though the officers were very
reticent and their statements very vague. The company volunteer to
refund all expenses incurred by the disaster, but as they propose to put
on the Baltic, a much smaller vessel, in the Britannic's place, very
many of us who had secured return passages on the Britannic will have to
wait for a later vessel. As for myself, the best I have been able to do
to-day is to secure return passage on the Germanic two weeks later than
I proposed. With extreme haste, but entire accuracy, I am, very truly
yours, O. H. TIFFANY.

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MAB Note: This article concludes this series.

The New-York Times, 30 July 1881

THE STRANDING OF THE BRITANNIC
---
LIVERPOOL, July 29---The Maritime Court of Inquiry into the stranding of
the steamer Britannic, of the White Star Line, which went ashore on the
Irish coast on the 4th inst., found that the speed of the Britannic was
not excessive; that the Captain would not have been justified in
anchoring; that the fog-signals from the shore station at Hook Point
were not fired at regular intervals; that prudence should have induced
continued soundings, but that, on the whole, the case was one of an
unfortunate mistaken judgment. The court would not take any steps in
regard to the Captain's certificate. It may be stated that the evidence
showed that the glasses for timing the firing of fog signals at Hook
Point were out of order, and the irregularity of the firing caused the
Hook to be mistaken for Tuskar.
----------
Mr. R J. Cortis, agent of the white Star Line, received the following
dispatch from Liverpool yesterday: "The verdict of the Board of Trade
inquiry into the recent stranding of the steamer Britannic is as
follows: 'The Britannic was prudently navigated. The fog-signals were
blamable. The Captain and officers are exonerated. Capt. Perry retains
command.' "

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