The above plans show the complete layout of the three upper decks of the Yarmouth and Yarmouth Castle. On Yarmouth the cabins were numbered 100-400, and on Yarmouth Castle were numbered 500-800.
I've blacked out the cabins in which the occupants died- all but one of the people lost died in the same general region of the ship (a woman travelling in one of the "500" cabins at the stern on D Deck died) but HOW they died seems puzzling.
If you look at the area around cabin 610 (210 on these plans) where the fire started, very few people died. Possibly they were awakened by the commotion earlier in the event than others. The pattern of death on 6 deck was random, as it was on the Morro Castle.
One deck up, on 7 deck, the people in the cabins first reached by the fire escaped, save for those in one outboard cabin. Aft, there was a cluster of deaths, and forward for some reason there was a 50% fatality rate among those in the luxury suites built on the site of the former first class lounge- these seemingly lethal cabins could be exited by both interior doors and exterior windows. How the majority of those in the midship portion of 7 deck escaped, while the cluster of those aft and the suite occupants forward did not was not addressed in the various post fire reports. Perhaps dutiful stewards or stewardesses made an effort in that part of the ship to rouse their passengers, or perhaps some defect in the air circulating system rendered those lost incapable of fleeing before the fire reached them.
The Boat Deck was the most lethal part of the ship, with fatalities occurring almost equally in outside and inside cabins. One assumes that smoke, gas and heat must have rendered the occupants unconscious long before fire reached this high in the vessel. Depressing to notice that the block of cabins directly behind the lifeboat in which Captain Voutsinas fled to safety suffered 100% fatality.
Beautfully coiffed women ca 1964 aboard the Yarmouth Castle bravely smile, in deep denial of the sad fact that their husbands have treated them to a $59 vacation- laughably cheap, even in Johnson-era dollars. Note the Marion Lorne lookalike in the background, and the Louise Tate lookalike foreground right.
With as much dignity and elegance as one can muster on a cruise that costs less per day than a land based stay at Motel 6, a chic passenger shakes hands with the officers who- one day in the not too distant future- will steal the lifeboats and leave her to die of smoke inhalation in her cabin.
>>One assumes that smoke, gas and heat must have rendered the occupants unconscious long before fire reached this high in the vessel.<<
I would hope so. I shudder to think about what they would have suffered had they been fully councious when the flames reached them. The dynamics of this casualty make an interesting study. Looking at one of those photos, I can't help but notice all the wood that was used on that ship. Since it was a cut rate cruise, my bet is that a lot of deficiencies were covered up by thick coats of paint, and that stuff always burns like fun!
I can't help but notice that "Grand Staircase" up forward which must have made for a wonderful chimney!
The twelve passengers who died in the cluster of cabins somewhat aft of the fire on 7 deck had one of the closed-off ventilation shafts at their core. I suspect that played a role.
The 'luxury suites' were constructed late in the liner's life, and I'd be willing to bet that they were built on the cheap- to a lesser standard than the original interiors which although old and tinder dry were at least the remnants of a vessel constructed to first class standards. I know that in at least one case, luxury suite passengers were hampered in their escape by a window that refused to open.
I was thinking about this, and am now convinced that it was the combination of gas and heat that killed the passengers. On the Morro Castle, where people died in a random pattern and nearly everyone either drowned or died of a broken neck, the fire (equally fast moving) began high in the ship and worked its way aft and downward. So although the passengers were in an unimaginably horrible position they were at least given the opportunity to escape since, for the first 20 minutes or so, the smoke was venting upward and outward through the lounge well. 6 passengers and a whippet dog died in cabins over the point of origin, but eveyone else had time to flee aft.
On Yarmouth, the deaths were not random, and since passengers died in cabins with multiple means of exit, it seems thta they were probably incapable of escape.
>I can't help but notice that "Grand Staircase" up forward which must have made for a wonderful chimney!
It did- yet somehow those closest to it on 7 deck were neither trapped nor killed, which has me puzzled.
>>The 'luxury suites' were constructed late in the liner's life, and I'd be willing to bet that they were built on the cheap<<
Cheap cruises offered on an old ship equal a low cash flow to keep the thing up. I can't even conceive of a modern vessel being built that way. Nobody would certify it and any fire safety types would be horrified at the prospect.
>>It did- yet somehow those closest to it on 7 deck were neither trapped nor killed, which has me puzzled.<<
Agreed... but then anyone near there may have recognized the blast furnace for what it was an beat feet outta there at flank speed. That's what I would have done. I'd dearly love to see the working drawings which show the layout of the HVAC system. I'll bet it would explain quite a bit. The people who died may well have found themselves in a gas chamber long befor the flames ever reached them.
Here's a long extract from a soon-to-appear article of mine, which goes into some detail about what can happen aboard a burning liner if the crew makes a concerted effort to save the ship and the passengers are given clear, and quick, direction. The combination of a huge midwinter storm, fire, and a large passenger compliment would seem to guarantee an unpleasant outcome, but.....
On January 2, 1925, Clyde Line’s original Mohawk was destroyed by fire at the height of a once-in-a-decade storm off the New Jersey coast. The crew battled overwhelming odds to contain the fire long enough for the ship to enter sheltered waters, and succeeded: she was scuttled in 40 feet of water inside of the Delaware Breakwater after her passengers and crew were safely evacuated. This dramatic, and charming, account was written by Margaret Mattingly, one of the stewardesses. It details one of the most amazing victories at sea ever won along the East Coast of the US.
The Mohawk was a lucky ship. She never had any mishaps and always made good time. All the Clyde Line crews liked to sail on her, and she was lucky to the last.
Just think of her burning in the water in a storm and every single one getting off safely! I surely did hate to leave her and think I’d never sail her again.
The sea began to toss us terribly as soon as we got past Sandy Hook. The wind was blowing right into our teeth. It was cold and raining and sleeting and nobody could think of anything but the storm. By evening hardly a passenger was able to be up.
They didn’t care much whether she burned or sank or kept afloat. They were too sick. If they had been feeling better there might have been a panic.
The blaze was discovered less than 12 hours after leaving New York. It was in the hold directly under stateroom J.
It was just after midnight. I slipped on my kimono in a hurry and went down the cabin knocking on all the doors and telling the passengers to get up. Then I went back and gave the women smelling salts and helped get them into their clothes. Most of them just groaned a little more and began grabbing their things.
We led the passengers to the forward Social Hall on the upper deck away from the fire. I didn‘t see any crying and didn’t hear any of them praying out loud. One man played the piano a while and a doctor helped me and the other stewardess, Mrs. Gladys Stanton, take care of the sick. Mostly they just sat around or stretched out on the floor. It was cold, but smoke drifted in so we had to open a window every now and then. The stewards made coffee in the pantry and passed it around several times.
We just waited and waited. Captain Staples ran the engines as long as he could. Flames drove the stokers from the furnace room and he cast anchor.
Daylight certainly did look good. It was just about the worst winter weather you ever saw, with the sea pitching us two or three different ways at once. But we saw the Coast Guard cutter Kickapoo, and a tug, and a Merchants and Miners Liner and a freighter all there to help us.
The Kickapoo came in first, and all the women were put aboard her. I was the last woman to leave. The Mohawk then was listed to port at a steep angle, and the decks were slick as glass with ice. But somehow everyone got into the cutter without falling. It was terribly crowed there and most of us had to stand up.
Then when we landed at Lewes Delaware it was raining and we had to walk through the mud to the train. There wasn’t a dry stitch of clothing in the crowd.
On the train going up to Wilmington one of the stewards who was in the last boat load taken off told me the Mohawk made a grand sight at the last when she was a solid flame from bow to stern.
The destruction of the Mohawk stands in stark
contrast to the similar situation that arose aboard the Morro Castle nearly nine years later. The crew functioned efficiently; the fire was kept at bay long enough to effect a rescue, and none on board panicked as survival options seemed to run out.