News from 1922 Pittsburgh Rescues the Crew of Monte Grappa


Mark Baber

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Here in the eastern United States it's still 14 November, the anniversary of Pittsburgh's rescuing the crew of the Italian freighter Monte Grappa. What follows is The New York Times' coverage of that event.

The New York Times, 3 December 1922

TELLS RESCUE OF 45 FROM SINKING SHIP
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White Star Liner Pittsburgh Answered Radio Appeal of Italian Steamer Monte Crappa [sic]
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BATTLED HEAVY SEAS
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Passengers Crowded Rails Watching Small Boats on Life-Saving
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The first detailed report to reach New York of the rescue of the Monte Grappa's crew of forty-five men in mid-Atlantic by the White Star liner Pittsburgh, Captain Thomas Jones, has just been received at the White Star Line office from an officer of the steamship, which is now at Bremen.

The Monte Grappa was a new ship of 10,000 tons, belonging to the Navigazione Liberia Triestina. She was under the command of Captain Stefano Bartoli, and was bound from Montreal to Venice with a cargo of 9,200 tons of grain. She left Montreal on Nov. 5, and made good time until she ran into a heavy southerly gale on Sunday, Nov. 12. She labored for forty-eight hours, and on Tuesday morning the shifting boards which kept the grain in position were carried away.

The ship immediately took a heavy list to port, until her port rail was under water. The starboard ballast tanks were filled in the hope of righting the vessel, but their capacity was only 500 tons and they had no effect on the ship's stability. The two port boilers were then pumped out, but without effect.

Throughout Tuesday the gale continued to range, [sic] and the Monte Grappa's crew worked feverishly endeavoring to shift and jettison cargo. The decks started, and water made its way into the stokehold until the firemen were working in it up to their waists. Both port lifeboats were carried away and the starboard boats could not be lowered.

Send Call for Help

Fearing his ship would roll over or sink, Captain Bartoli had ordered an S O S call sent out at 7 A. M. Tuesday. His position was given, 43 degrees 18 minutes north 41 degrees 55 minutes west.

This call was picked up by the Pittsburgh. Plotting the position of the two ships, Captain Jones found he was 185 miles from the Monte Grappa. He informed Captain Bartoli that he was proceeding to his aid at sixteen knots an hour.

Throughout the day the two ships kept in communication as the Pittsburgh was pressed through a heavy sea toward the vessel in distress. At 8:59 P. M. the watchers on the Pittsburgh saw a rocket slightly off the starboard bow and made for it. Everything had been made ready for a rescue, and two emergency boats, with their crows aboard, were ready to be lowered. Captain Jones had waived seniority among his officers in choosing commanders for the boats; and they were chosen by lot.

The Monte Grappa's lights were soon seen, and then, dimly, the vessel itself. The Pittsburgh was manoeuvred to a position to windward of the Monte Grappa, and her first boat, commanded by J. Law, fourth officer, was got away smartly in a rough sea, and laboriously made its way toward the doomed vessel. At 9:30 the second boat was sent away in charge of W. W. Pearson, fifth officer, and was soon lost to sight in the rough seas and black night.

Passengers Watch Rescue

Captain Jones now dropped the Pittsburgh down to leeward of the Monte Grappa and waited the return of the boats. The passengers on the Pittsburgh held to the rails spellbound, watching the slowly swinging lights of the Monte Grappa. Every time the distressed ship rolled to port the red light under the end of her bridge, touched the water. The passengers with each roll held their breath, expecting the ship to roll over.

After what seemed an interminable time to the watchers on the Pittsburgh, No. 1 boat came alongside bringing twenty benumbed, wornout men of the Italian ship's crew. They were tenderly helped aboard and in a few minutes were comforted with hot food and dry clothing. The second boat, bringing twenty-two more, was alongside in a few minutes.

The captain, mate and chief engineer of the Monte Grappa were still on their ship, and after the men in No. 1 boat had been relieved by a fresh crew, Mr. Law again took his boat across the tumbling water, and shortly returned with these three officers.

The Pittsburgh then turned from the rolling hulk of the doomed steamship, which seemed ready to sink, and resumed her voyage to Southampton and Bremen. The rescued men were landed at the English port.

In his report on the rescue Captain Jones gives credit to chief officer W. S. Quinn of the Pittsburgh for the smart manner in which the boats were lowered and the rescued men taken aboard the liner. The Pittsburgh is equipped with a new type of davit for lowering boats, and these proved wonderfully efficient in their first trial in actual service at sea.

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