News from 1885: Germanic Struck by Huge Waves Returns to Queenstown

Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
[On 5 April 1885, Germanic encountered heavy seas which resulted
in one death, numerous injuries and significant damge to the ship; as a
result, she became the first White Star steamer to return to port because of
a weather-related incident. This article appeared two weeks later.]

The New-York Times, 19 April 1885

The Inman steamship City of Berlin, which arrived late Friday evening from
Liverpool, brought several of the passengers of the White Star steamship
Germanic, which put back to Queenstown in distress on April 7. One of the
passengers said yesterday that the Germanic left Liverpool on April 3, and
called at Queenstown on the following day. The weather was pleasant until
the afternoon of April 4, when it began to blow heavily. The storm increased
during the night, and the sea ran very high. The next morning a heavy sea
boarded the steamship, carrying a lifeboat and a number of passengers'
chairs from the decks. A little later a huge sea rolled up. The Germanic
rode this sea gallantly, but when she was rising over its top a still more
enormous sea, which was believed to be a tidal wave, broke over the vessel.
The ship shook like a leaf from stem to stern, and volumes of water engulfed
the decks. One sailor was washed overboard and 13 others were knocked down
and injured. Six large lifeboats were swept from their davits, and one of
the steam winches was dashed against the iron wall of the ladies' reading
room over the saloon. A hole was knocked in the side of the reading room and
through this the water poured in torrents. Several passengers were thrown to
the floor, and some were seriously hurt. One gentleman sustained concussion
of the brain, and another had three ribs broken and his forehead badly cut.
A lady was thrown against one of the ventilators, where her clothing caught.
She hung over the saloon by her clothing until she was cut down from her
perilous and disagreeable position. All of the passengers were drenched. The
alarm among the passengers was greatly increased by the bursting of the
heating pipes, which filled the room with steam.

In the meantime, the chart room and wheel house were stove in. Capt.
Kennedy, who was in the chart room, was knocked down and wedged under a
sofa. As soon as he had puled himself from the débris he was informed that
water had poured into the engine room in such quantities that it was within
one foot of the fires. A large hole had been knocked in one of the smoke
stacks, and the mizzen rigging had been badly damaged. All but three of the
caps of the air shaft had been washed away, the railing on both sides was
badly torn, and everything movable had been swept from the decks.

Capt. Kennedy decided to return to Queenstown. The work of putting the ship
about in the sea then running was very trying, but it was accomplished after
all the dead lights had been securely battened down.

The passengers all spoke very highly of the conduct of Capt. Kennedy and his
officers and men during the storm, and raised a purse of £80 for the members
of the crew. Queenstown was reached on April 7. The balance of the
Germanic's passengers sailed on the Adriatic, which is due this evening or
to-morrow morning.


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