What other seafaring and maritime disasters interest you?


Adam Went

Member
Apr 28, 2003
1,194
14
233
Hi all,

The topic for this month:

What other examples of seafaring and maritime disasters are of the most interest to you? Are there other ships that have been lost, be they in war or peacetime, which you feel are deserving of more attention? Do you feel, perhaps, that these have been overshadowed by bigger names such as that of Titanic?

Enjoy!

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,585
1,361
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
If I'm not barred, I'll have a go Adam.

In September, 1957, I was 3rd Officer of a vessel names SS Gleddoch.We were heading southward for the Canary Islands. The weather was foul; gigantic seas, so high that we were looking down on the decks of a liberty ship which passed too close to us for comfort. Our sparks received an SOS from the four masted barque Pamir. She was a German sailing ship which carried cargo but also doubled as a cadet training vessel. Her location was somewhere near the Azores and she was sinking in hurricane conditions. We and other ships in the area turned for her last known location but the weather was so bad that many of us sustained damage. We lost our only engine and drifted beam-on for hours until our gallant lads below manged to get them going again. We were out of the rescue attempt. Unfortunately the Pamir overturned and sank. Of the 86 souls on board, only 6 survived. many of the dead were very young cadets. These 6 were the only ones who made it to a lifeboat and there were very many sharks in the area. The Pamir was arguably the very last ocean going 4 masted barque to carry cargo on a commercial basis.

We and others eventually limped into Las Palmas. It was a miracle that many more seamen didn't loose their lives in that storm.

Jim C.
 
Nov 13, 2014
337
40
93
Belgium
A few years ago, I saw a YouTube video where the 10 biggest ship disasters were listed based on their number of fatalities. In that list, Titanic is No. 5 with 1506 deaths, while No. 1 is the Wilhelm Gustloff with 9343 deaths, more than 6 times as many as on Titanic. But that was the very first time I ever heard about the Wilhelm Gustloff disaster!
And in the comments, people express their disbelief that Titanic isn't number 1.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs2-npJYgbE
 

B-rad

Member
Jul 1, 2015
608
210
108
39
Tacoma, WA
The Wilhelm Gustloff was a Nazi transport ship. I'm thinking it is due to this fact that history tends to ignore it. At the same time, there is a uncertainty as to how many people were on board, as apparently many civilians who were fleeing (the passengers where fleeing the advancing Russian army) were not counted. It was a rush job on the German part to evacuate as many people as possible. Overall though, there is no denying that this was most likely the highest loss of life at sea. Though numbers vary. The fact that it was a war loss ship, done in war like conditions, and not just a single event crossing under normal circumstances (like Titanic), make many place it in the war casualties category and and not in the maritime commercial disaster category. There are several books on the subject, and I highly recommend reading up on it.
 

B-rad

Member
Jul 1, 2015
608
210
108
39
Tacoma, WA
PS... also since the ship sank close to when Nazi Germany fell. With the Nazi goverment in shambles, with many fleeing or focusing on the last ressistance, there was very little effort in looking into the disaster, and what there was would not be completed before the fall of Germany. So this didn't help the story of the Gustloff. I'm sure that if it happened in the earlier stages of the war it would have been used with great porpaganda by the Nazi.
 

Adam Went

Member
Apr 28, 2003
1,194
14
233
Very interesting, thanks for your thoughts so far everyone. In terms of warships, I would have to agree that they perhaps don't get the same attention as commercial ships when it comes to disasters as that sort of thing is kind of 'expected' during wartime. Regardless of the casualties, war news moves at such a rapid rate that it is quickly moved from the headlines - unlike other disasters such as the Titanic, during peacetime.

Another one that I would add to the list is the Princess Alice disaster in 1878. She sunk in just 4 minutes in the Thames river after being basically split in half, and the vast majority of those on board (the number still isn't clear) died in those murky, sewage-filled waters. Google it if you get the chance, it's actually a very interesting and sad story.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Apr 18, 2014
80
2
58
Czech Republic
My other maritime disasters, which are of interest to me, are: sinking of the Lusitania, Britannic sinking, and also the Republic disaster... and the Dona Paz story, which is mysterious and chilling....
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,585
1,361
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Hello there Sam.

Thanks for the heads-up on the article. I enjoyed it very much. I suppose you have noticed the following:

Andria Doria turned onto 264 True when Nantucket Light bore 351True x 1 mile:40-32'North,69-27.8'West.

By calculation, the SOS position is just over 24.5 miles from the position where Andria Doria is alleged to have turned onto her final course for Ambrose Lt. V/L at 2220 hrs that night. If she did turn at that time and was making 21.8 knots then at the moment of impact 2311hrs (51 minutes after the turn), she would have only have covered a distance of about 18.5 miles, not 24.5 miles.

I made the same calculation using the position of the wreck.

The wreck position is 17.8 miles x 264 True from the turn position. At 21.8 knots, it would have taken "A D" 49 minutes to reach that spot, not 51 minutes as the timing suggests. However, if she sank close to the place of impact then her average speed from the time of turn was closer to 21 knots. All of which fits nicely.

I would have expected "A D" radar to be have a "north-up" display since she would have the Nantucket light ship and her variable range-ring to navigate by. Since she was well withing the 20 mile range at time of impact; I wonder how she got her SOS position so wrong?

Another mystery: why do you think there was an 11 degree difference between her course recorder and her gyro heading? Normally the gyro would have a very small error.. 1 or 2 degrees at most.

Cheers!

Jim C.
 
Mar 22, 2003
6,481
1,745
383
Chicago, IL, USA
www.titanicology.com
All is good with the analysis. You had me double checking my work, which isn't a bad thing. At 21.8 knots, the DR distance covered in 51 minutes is 18.5 miles which would place the vessel between the SOS and wreck positions. Those two positions are only 1.6 miles apart.

Nantucket Shoals lightship 1957: 40° 33'N, 69°28'W
Andrea Doria SOS position: 40° 30'N, 69° 53'W
Andrea Doria wrecksite position: 40° 29' 30" N, 69° 51' 00" W

You asked: "why do you think there was an 11 degree difference between her course recorder and her gyro heading?"
The reason for that 11 degree difference between the two is that the day before the collision, Andrea Doria's First Officer Oneto moved the recorder pen about 10° ahead to avoid recording near the edge of the paper. This same question came up during the hearings. I mentioned this in the endnotes (#8) in the detailed analysis report: http://www.titanicology.com/AndreaDoria/Stockholm-Andrea_Doria_Collision_Analysis.pdf.
 

Adam Went

Member
Apr 28, 2003
1,194
14
233
Speaking of the Andrea Doria, does anyone know of any recent expeditions to the wreck? I know there were some going back a few years now, but haven't heard of anything in more recent times.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Doug Criner

Member
Dec 2, 2009
447
68
133
USA
Several years ago, we encountered the Stockholm sailing in a Norwegian fjord. The original bow had been replaced, of course. The ship's name had been changed, too - but I forget the current name.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,585
1,361
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Thanks for that Sam. Some very strange goings-on on these two ships! Course line going of the edge of the course recorder chart... really?

That year of 1956, was the year that I completed the UK B.o.T Radar Observer's Course at Leith breakwater and a Sperry Gyroscope course at what is now Strathclyde University. Your remarks:

"According to Captain Raoul De Beaudean of the
rescue ship Ile de France, radar readings on scopes in the1950’s had an uncertainty of about 4 to
5 degrees. This can explain some of the reporting error in Stockhlom’s radar bearings,
especially when coupled with the fact that the third officer depended on his helmsman to give
him his ship’s precise course heading, a helmsman who was not very reliable in keeping to a
steady course.


Did not sit well with some practical memories of those far-off days.

First, I do not agree with the French captains' remarks. I certainly never found any such problem with our Sperry, Kelvin Hughs, Decca or Marconi equipment and I used it very often as a check using actually sighting targets during coastal navigation. Did the same thing with our Decca Navigators.

As for good and bad steering... this would not be an issue. In reality, when taking a bearing with the then radar equipment, the officer would activate the curser and the variable range marker. He would then engage the target. This went on a great deal when coasting and navigating in busy waterways. The helmsman would be anticipating the next move and would already be steadying her head on the course. Then the officer would give the order "let me know when she is right-on quartermaster". When the QM reported "right-on now sir", a bearing and range of the target would be taken. This might be done more than once. In fact use of RDF stations was more of a hit and a miss in those days. I know for a fact that the Nantucket Light ship had a very well defined radar signature. It was usually the only target that wasn't moving. I wonder if Stockolm ever saw it on her radar?

As I see it the universal instruction: if the bearing of another vessel [obtained by whatever means]does not appreciably change then the danger of collision must be deemed to exist".was completely ignored by both captains in this sad saga.

Jim C.
 
Mar 22, 2003
6,481
1,745
383
Chicago, IL, USA
www.titanicology.com
>>As I see it the universal instruction: if the bearing of another vessel [obtained by whatever means]does not appreciably change then the danger of collision must be deemed to exist".was completely ignored by both captains in this sad saga.<<

I agree! Worse yet, the Doria's officers never bothered to plot the radar picture, and they were in fog so thick that they could not even see the bow of their own vessel from the bridge.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,585
1,361
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
To be fair to the officers on both bridges, the use of plotting sheets was not mandatory in 1956 although the practice was followed by a few from 1948 onward. It would be another year before the British MN made it compulsory for all officers above 3rd Mate to hold a Radar 'ticket'. However, even that did not prevent mis or careless use of radar equipment. Consider the following:

"In this case neither the Master or the OOW carried out a series of proper compass bearings.
Neither the Master or OOW have been able to provide factual evidence from the radar as to the
target’s displayed data. Therefore it is difficult to ascertain with certainty the actions of the
approaching ship. Furthermore it is recognised that assumptions should not be made on scanty
information and in particular scanty radar information which may be misleading. Accuracy of the
radar plot will depend upon the accurate input of own ship’s course and / or speed, in this
particular case the speed input, during the plotting interval. Inaccurate speed inputs into the radar
will reduce the accuracy of the calculated target vectors. A change in the vectors of the target
may not be immediately detected. It is highly probable the approaching target was itself
increasing to full sea speed having left an anchorage area.
In respect of the radar information displayed, a greater awareness should have made by the
Officers of the “British Vigilance’s” own increasing speed"


That from the finding of an Inquiry in 2002. Note the name of the vessel::rolleyes:

20 years before that, I carried out an accident investigation following a Radar-assisted collision between a vessel and an anchored Semi-submersible. In that instance the name of the culprit was, believe it or not..."Alert";)

Jim C.
 

Doug Criner

Member
Dec 2, 2009
447
68
133
USA
Plotting (manually, with paper and pencil) radar data, range and bearing, for nearby ships was SOP in the U.S. Navy in 1961 and probably much earlier. All "other" ships, within certain ranges and bearings, were plotted to determine the closest-point-of-approach to "own ship." Sometimes, six or more ships would be continuously plotted. But, by merchant-marine standards, warships had plenty of crew for such luxuries. I can imagine merchant ship deck officers, in those days, just glancing at the radar display in poor visibility, and concluding that another ship was no danger.

Nowadays, everything is automatically done by computer?
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,585
1,361
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Plotting (manually, with paper and pencil) radar data, range and bearing, for nearby ships was SOP in the U.S. Navy in 1961 and probably much earlier. All "other" ships, within certain ranges and bearings, were plotted to determine the closest-point-of-approach to "own ship." Sometimes, six or more ships would be continuously plotted. But, by merchant-marine standards, warships had plenty of crew for such luxuries. I can imagine merchant ship deck officers, in those days, just glancing at the radar display in poor visibility, and concluding that another ship was no danger.

Nowadays, everything is automatically done by computer?

Hello Doug!

Yep! Remember those heady days very well... working with the RN on blacked-out convoy of 50+ ships in close order... a bloody nightmare... particularly when the word "execute" [convoy simultaneous turn] was received...red signal via aldis lamp. We of course were observing radio and radar "silence" as well. Radars were only to be switched-on briefly otherwise the enemy woulds see the tell-tale sporadic dotted lines on the PPI.
Compare the foregoing to 30 years later, in the 80s.
Left Bergen Fjiord on total automatic systems.. Differential Sat Nav hooked to radar hooked to auto pilot hooked to 360 azimuthing thrusters (and therefore steering). Touching not a control, or button and hitting a moored buoy 350 odd miles away in the middle of the North Sea.
That was 30 years ago. Just think what they are capable of now.

Jim C.
 

Similar threads

Similar threads