News from 1907: Suevic's Grounding

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Mark Baber

Staff member
The New York Times, 18 March 1907

On a Rock Near the Lizard---400 Passengers and a Crew of 160 on Board
Lifeboats Go to the Assistance of the Vessel---Loss of Life Not Anticipated
LONDON, March 17---The White Star Line steamer Suevic struck on a rock
and went ashore near the Lizard in a thick fog at 11:30 P.M.

The vessel is ashore on what is known as the Maentere Rock, under a

Two lifeboats have been launched, and others have been summoned to go to
the assistance of the vessel.

There are 400 passengers and a crew of 160 on board the Suevic, but no
loss of life is anticipated.

The passengers and crew are being landed gradually. No lives have been
lost. The discipline aboard the steamer was splendid.
The Suevic, which is commanded by Capt. Selby, is of 12,500 tons and
plies between London and Australia by way of Cape Town.

The Lizard is the southernmost cape of England. It is a bold headland,
in Cornwall, situated amid picturesque cliff and rock scenery, and is
about sixteen miles southwest of Falmouth. There are two fine
lighthouses there. The Lizard is one of the three best-known marine
sighting stations in the world, the others being Sandy Hook and


Mark Baber

Staff member

Mark Baber

Staff member
The New York Times, 19 March 1907

Women and Children Taken Off First---Vessel Will Probably Be a Total Loss
Those on Board Her Rescued---Four Other Steamers Ashore on the English Coast
LONDON, March 18---Details of the disaster to the White Star Line
steamer Suevic, homeward bound from Sydney, New South Wales, by way of
Cape Town, with nearly 600 passenger and crew on board, show that she
struck the Brandies Rock [sic] close under the Lizard Lighthouse, at
about 10:30 last night, and will probably be a total wreck.

Lifeboats and tugs from the Lizard and Falmouth soon reached the scene
and, together with the Suevic's own boats, commenced landing the
passengers. The women and children were first sent ashore. There were no
fewer than 160 children on board, many of them being infants in arms,
whom the local fisherman and their wives lifted out of the boats and
carried through the surf to near-by cottages.

A fresh wind, rough sea, and fog hampered the landing operations, but
the fog lifted at about 7 in the morning, and from thence forward boats
loaded in quick succession. By 1 P. M. all the passengers had been
landed, but the crew stood by the wreck.

Capt. Jones, commander of the Suevic, had been at sea for thirty-nine
years, and this was to be his last voyage.

The North German Lloyd liner Kaiser Wilhelm II. this morning passed
close astern of the Suevic, which was then thronged with passengers. The
wrecked steamer's ow [sic] was low in the water, her fore compartments
were full, and she seemed to be pinnacled on the rocks. As plenty of
assistance was standing by the White Star liner, the Kaiser Wilhelm II.,
which had been going slow for ten hours owing to the fog, did not stop,
but proceeded for Plymouth.

Almost within sight of the Suevic, the Elder-Dempster Line steamer
Jebba, from Calabar, Lagos, and other West African ports for Plymouth
and Liverpool, ran on the rocks under the cliffs near Prawle Point in
the early hours of the morning. Her seventy passengers, many of whom
were soldiers invalided home from the West Coast of Africa, and her crew
were safely taken ashore by the breeches buoy.

Heavy seas are breaking over the steamer, rendering the lifeboats which
are still standing by her useless. The Jebba will prove a total loss.

Steamers, some of which are described as being large, are ashore near
Rye, Dungeness, Dover, and Cuckmere. The vessel ashore off Cuckmere is
the British steamer Newstead, from Novorossysk, Black Sea. Her position
is serious.


Mark Baber

Staff member
The New York Times, 20 March 1907

Little Hope of Saving Her or the Jebba, Ashore Not Far Off
LONDON, March 19---The White Star Line steamer Suevic, which ran ashore
near the Lizard lighthouse the night of March 17, is still in an
exceedingly dangerous position. She has shifted slightly, and now is
leaning over to the starboard. There appears to be little chance of
refloating the steamer. The seas are running high, and it is thought
that if she remains long in her present position she will break in two.
The work of salvage had to be discontinued.

The Elder-Dempster Line steamer Jebba, which ran aground the morning of
March 18, almost within sight of the Suevic, also is in a dangerous
position, and there is very little hope of saving this vessel.


Mark Baber

Staff member
At this point, The New York Times dropped the ball on the Suevic story for about a month; the next article that appeared was on 21 April. In the meantime, Suevic's bow remained hard aground and the forward holds were flooded. Her stern, however, remained afloat and undamaged. The decision was made to salvage the rear portion of the ship and on 28 March the first dynamite charges were set off in the hull in an attempt to sever the bow from the stern. The blasting was successful and on 2 April the stern floated free from the bow. Since the engines were still intact, Suevic's stern was able to proceed to Southampton on its own power, arriving there on 4 April.

This series will resume on 21 April, with the Times' article of that date in 1907.

Mark Baber

Staff member


Mark Baber

Staff member

In the papers today, The Royal National Lifeboat Institution's biggest rescue is being remembered in Britain today. 456 people were rescued from the white Star Liner 'Suevic' when it was wrecked on rocks off Lizard Point Cornwall. Capt. Smith was not at the helm, was he?

Mark Baber

Staff member
[MAB Notes: Here, after several years' delay, is the 21 April 1907 article I mentioned 5 messages up from this one. This article appeared in the Sunday Magazine section of The New York Times, and was accompanied by several illustrations of Suevic before her accident, of the severed stern backing away of the still-grounded bow,
and of the stern at Southampton.]

The New York Times, 21 April 1907

White Star Liner Suevic Reaches Port Under Her Own Steam with 100 Feet
of Her Bow Missing
Dynamite Used to Cut the Loaded Vessel Apart in Order to Save a Portion
of the Hull and Cargo
The accompanying pictures tell the story even more graphically than
could the pen of what has been described as one of the most wonderful of
salving feats ever accomplished. The big White Star liner Suevic went
ashore on Stag Rock, near the Lizard, on March 17. She was steaming at
a 13.14 knot speed on her way to London, and she grounded so hard and
fast that all efforts to free her were useless. Her passengers were
landed in safety and a part of her cargo was removed.

It became apparent to the officials the Salvage Association and the
management of the White Star Line that only a part of the Suevic could
be salved. An examination showed that the after part, containing the
engines, was practically undamaged, as the watertight bulkheads had been

It was decided to cut off the bow of the stranded craft and try to save
the best part of her hull. Not only was this accomplished successfully
by the use of dynamite, but the Suevic, with engines throbbing, backed
away from the rocks on which she had been fast, leaving a hundred odd
feet of her bow behind her. With the aid of four powerful tugs she
reached Southampton in safety, and she is now in dry dock there. A new
bow will be fastened on to her, when, it is expected, she will be as
good as ever.

On March 21 a salvage steamer got alongside the Suevic and began taking
off cargo. Investigation showed the vessel was fast in the grip of the
rocks from her No. 3 hatch to her prow. The cutting operations were
begun on the 28th. The break was made through at No. 3 hatch, just aft of
the jagged hole made by the rocks. The task required large quantities of
explosives and necessitated not only extreme care, but the engineering
ideas of experts.

A blast was placed in position, and after it had been exploded an
examination of the hull had to be made and careful calculations made
before the next charge could be put into position.

This process involved the greatest risk to the divers, who were
frequently washed from their feet against the ship's side. They worked
at a depth of forty feet and stood at times on fragments of two other

In the uncertain light they saw ghastly evidence of the treacherous
nature of the Cornish coast.

Owing to the vessel being loaded, they had to break her up from the
outside, and this increased the difficulty of the undertaking. As holes
were blasted in the Suevic's hull, carcasses of mutton kept washing out
and dropping down upon them. The divers stuck to their task with a
courage nothing short of heroism.

At 6 A. M. on April 2 the last charge of dynamite was exploded, and,
with the breaking out of a number of plates on the starboard side, the
Suevic's hull was parted. Soon after the vessel's engines began to work
and she backed aft into deep water minus her bow. Tugs were waiting, and
under their guidance she successfully made the trip to Southampton, a
distance of 170 miles, and entered the harbor at 9 o'clock on the
morning of April 4.

The length of the ship that has been salved is about 400 feet, leaving
about 184 feet still on the rocks. This includes No. 1 hold, which was
submerged, containing copra, wool, and general cargo. The contents of
holds Nos. 2 and 3, consisting chiefly of food supplies, have been also
lost. So far as can be ascertained, the cargo that has been actually
salved amounts to about $10,000.

The portion of the hull of the Suevic salved is computed to be worth at
least $750,000, while the salvage operations are expected to cost
something like $250,000.

The salving of the ship, therefore, represents a saving to the
underwriters of half a million dollars.

It is interesting to note that this process of salving, which is of such
great importance to owners and insurance people, originated In Liverpool
some years ago. Its first successful application was in the case of the
Milwaukee, which subsequently had a new bow built and attached, and went
into active service again. This task was carried out by the Liverpool
Salvage Association. The next successful instance was that of the
Highland Fling.


Mark Baber

Staff member
The New York Times, 6 October 1907

New Forward Part for the Suevic to be Joined to Salvage of Wreck
BELFAST, Ireland, Oct. 5. A most remarkable launch occurred here this
morning, when the new bow built for the White Star Line steamer Suevic,
to replace the one left on Stag Rock, near the Lizard, on March 17 last,
slid into the water. The Suevic ran on the rocks in a fog, and after
long and ineffectual attempts to refloat her, the salvers cut away her
forepart, refloated the rest of the ship and towed it to Southampton,
where it is now in dock and ready to receive the new bow.

The latter, which is 200 feet long, much longer than the old bow, is
fitted with deckhouses, Captain's bridge, and a spur, will be towed to
Southampton, where it will be placed in the same dock as the other
portion, and the two sections will be connected, not as two clean-cut
parts, but almost in the same shape as when they were separated, the
jagged ends of the iron works the bent pipes, and splintered woodwork
having been prepared for accurately joining the two portions of the

There was no loss of life when the Suevic struck the rocks. The 400
passengers and 160 members of the crew were all safely landed, owing to
the splendid discipline which was maintained on board.

At the time of the accident the Suevic, which was a vessel of 12,500
tens, plying between London and Austraia, [sic] by way of Cape Town, was
commanded by Capt. Jones, who on that occasion was to have completed his
last voyage at sea. The inquiry into the accident made by the Board of
Trade resulted in finding that it was due to an error on the part of the
Captain in maintaining full speed while heading toward land in thick
weather. His certificate was suspended for three months.


Mark Baber

Staff member
The New York Times, 26 October 1907

Shipbuilding Wonder Has a Perilous Voyage to Southampton
SOUTHAMPTON, Oct. 25---The new bow, built for the White Star Line
steamer Suevic, to replace the one left on Stag Rock, near the Lizard,
last March, docked here to-day, after a perilous voyage of six days from

It was launched at that port Oct. 5.


Mark Baber

Staff member
The Times, 20 April 1907

At Liverpool, yesterday, a Board of Trade inquiry was opened before Mr.
STEWART, the stipendiary, and assessors as to the stranding of the White
Star Company's steamship Suevic on March 17 on the coast of Cornwall, while
on a voyage from Melbourne to London and Liverpool, via Plymouth. The
Suevic, which was the largest British vessel engaged in the Australian
trade, on her homeward voyage, left Teneriffe for Plymouth on March 13 with
382 passengers on board, a stowaway, and a crew of 141 hands all told. She
had a cargo of about 1,000 tons, composed largely of meat, rabbits, and
butter. On Sunday, March 17, about 10 25 p.m., during hazy weather and with
a moderate wind blowing, the vessel stranded. No lives were lost.

Mr. Paxton, for the Board of Trade, stated that the real point in the
inquiry was as to the cause of the disaster. There was no doubt that the
primary cause was under-estimating the vessel's speed, because at the time
she struck the log registered 127 1/2 knots, and, if that had been correct,
so far as the distance she had ran was concerned, she would have been ten
miles off the Lizard. The sound signals from the Lizard were heard before
the stranding. The question was-"Was the weather around the ship such as
justified the master in proceeding as he had done?"

Evidence was given by lifeboat men and lighthouse men on the Cornish coast
as to the state of the weather at the time of the stranding of the Suevic,
and the distance at which the Lizard light could be seen when fog prevailed.
One witness stated that he had known occasions when the light could not be
seen from the sea a quarter of a mile away. Richard Green, a pilot at
Falmouth, considered the Lizard light a bad one in any weather. It was too
fierce, and it was difficult to judge the distance from it. Alfred Vingoe, a
pilot and coxswain of the Penzance lifeboat, expressed the opinion that they
could pick up the loom of the present strong electric light at a greater
distance than the old light.

Captain Thomas Johnson Jones, master of the Suevic, described the course
which he set, and said that just before the stranding there was nothing in
the weather to indicate that there was any danger. The first suggestion he
got that they were near land was from the second officer on the bridge. This
was a minute and a half before the vessel struck. The light appeared high
up, and that showed they were close in. He gave the order "Hard a-port," but
too late. He thought a strong current was the cause of his overrunning his
distance. There must have been a current he did not allow for. The weather
was not thick at the time the Suevic struck. The witness had received a
letter from the captain of the Golconda to the effect that he was carried
out of his course 11 miles by the current on the date the Suevic was

The inquiry was adjourned until Monday.

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