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"Lost Liners"

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"Lost Liners"

Postby John Coker » Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:06 am

This is WAY off topic, but it is the 100th anniversary of the "Titanic" disaster. One of my favorite books is "Lost Liners"by Robert Ballard. The book is not only about the famous disasters; it is a good history of the transatlantic passenger trade from the 1830s to the 1960s. What makes the book are the incredible illustrations by Ken Marschall. What was shocking was how fast some liners like the "Lusitania" and the CPR's "Empress of Ireland" sank-literally in minutes! The most beautiful of the transatlantic liners was the "Normandy" , with lots of photos of its sumptous rooms and grand halls. Truly a triumph in art deco design. If you like big steam-powered machinery and a legendary form of transport, take a look at this book.
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Re: "Lost Liners"

Postby Brian Norden » Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:40 pm

There have been a couple of books written about the Empress of Ireland. One I read about 30 years ago that was titled Fourteen Minutes (if I recall correctly) -- that being the time it took to sink.

That was a particular bad disaster. Will the total number lost was only about 2/3 of the loss from the Titanic -- but the number of passengers lost was more than the Titanic.
Total lost on the Titanic was 1,514 of which 828 were passengers.
Total lost on the Empress of Ireland was 1,012 of which 840 were passengers.

But this happened in 1914 just months before the First World War, the passengers were typically middle class Canadians and mid-west Americans -- not the high class of the Titanic.

The cabin portholes were to be closed up at night; but if a passenger protested they were allowed to remain open. Once the ship was hit mid-ship by an ice-breaking collier it began rolling over and the open portholes let in more water. The hand-cranked water-tight bulkhead doors were outboard of the openings and once the ship rolled they could not be worked against gravity to close.

But, we should not forget the disasters of the Eastland, the Sultana and the General Slocum. These on American inland waters had major numbers of causalities.
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Re: "Lost Liners"

Postby John Coker » Sat Apr 14, 2012 1:50 pm

Brian, yes there were some inland ship tragedies in North America . The burning of the overloaded "General Slocum" cost 1000 lives, making it comperable the Titanic, Lusitania and Empress of Ireland. And this happened in the Hudson River, not far from NYC.

The "Empress" went down in icy St Lawrence water, in a frightening 14 minutes. Skeletons still populate this well preserved wreck. The Lusitania sank within sight of the Irish coast in only 18 minutes. That sinking is still controversial on account that there was a second explosion that hastened its sinking. Official reports that the boilers exploded when cold water entered the engine room. However, there is nagging speculation that Cunard was carrying munitions. According to this book, the way the ship settled on the bottom of the Irish Sea the hull damage cannot be viewed. My father sailed to England in the last of the three sister Cunarders (The"Mauretania" was scrapped in 1935), the "Aquetania" in 1943.

The most staggering loss of life in maritime tragedies has been only in the last 25 years, with a several overloaded inter-island ferries capsizing and quickly sinking in Southeast Asia . One Phillipines steamer went down with over 4000 aboard in the early 1990s.

The Pacific Coast Steamship Company(It also owned severl railroads) had a terrible safety record with its many steamers that plied the west coast. A number of their ships ran aground with serious loss of life. One went down in the Inside Passage with all aboard. Reading the fate of its individual ships at the back of Jerry Best's "Ships and Narrow Gauge Rails" is an eye-opener.
Last edited by John Coker on Sun Apr 29, 2012 9:31 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: "Lost Liners"

Postby Brian Norden » Sat Apr 14, 2012 11:14 pm

For those that wonder.

The Eastland was a steamer operating on Lake Michigan that was loading passengers for Western Electirc's fifth annual employee picnic outing in July 1915. She was top heavy with extra life saving equipment with a high meta-center and no way of redistributing water ballast. When another ship passed carrying other workers of the same factory going to the picnic, the passengers surged to the outboard side and the ship still tied to the dock rolled over in the Chicago River. 800 employees and family (including 22 complete families) drowned. Many of these were of central Europe origin.

The Sultana was a Mississippi River steamer operating at the end of the Civil War. it was overloaded with more than 2400 passengers (rated capacity being about 375) -- many of these recently freed Union POWs returning north -- when it had a nighttime boiler explosion and fire. Some died in the fire, some drowned, some survivors soon died of burns -- the official causality count is 1,547.
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Re: "Lost Liners"

Postby John Coker » Sun Apr 15, 2012 9:18 am

The "Sultana" tragedy was the result of a violent boiler explosion and fire. The Mississippi riverboat was overloaded with Union soldiers heading home to muster out. Accounts say it sank in minutes. The shallow-keeled craft may have broken in two, dumping its passengers in the river at flood stage. Compounding the tragedy was the Mississippi and the other great central rivers were experiencing a (then) record runoff the spring of 1865. A surprising statistic was how few 19th Century Americans knew how to swim-some estimates as small as 35%. There are lots of Civil War-era tales of returning soldiers drowning. This includes an ancestor, a Confederate soldier who was returning home to Texas when he drowned attempting to cross the Sabine river.
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Re: "Lost Liners"

Postby Randy Hees » Fri Apr 27, 2012 8:14 pm

There are more modern losses...

The Titanic was the first ship to broadcast an "SOS"

The last to broadcast an "SOS" was the Holland American Prisendam in 1982 in the gulf of Alaska... She was the victim of an engine room fire which couldn't be controlled without flooding the space, then, without power, they couldn't save the ship. They went to the life boats, but all survived.

My wife likes to cruise... sometimes she takes me... we have been on two ships which have since sunk, The Britannius, sailing for Chandris, previously the Matson Line Masonia, later Lurline, which sank off Africa under tow, and the Regent sea, previously the Swedish American line MS Gripsholm... also sank off Africa under tow.

Of course, in the last year or so, there have been a couple of high profile engine room fires, and one ship (Costa Concordia) that hit rocks and turned turtle...

To close the circle... tomorrow, the lovely wife and I are attending a Titanic party, in costume (I am in tails and white vest and tie.) Our hosts are both board members of a local standard gauge railroad museum... It might be a celebration of her birthday.

Randy
Randy Hees

Director, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City
Railway Preservation News http://www.rypn.org
Chasing old trains where ever I may find them...
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Re: "Lost Liners"

Postby John Coker » Sun Apr 29, 2012 9:57 am

Randy, thanks for the interesting post. I don't want to belabor this, but I have yet another circle to add. One of my earliest memories was my mother driving my dad to board the SS Lurline (a Matson regular on the LA to Honolulu run) at Terminal Island on a foggy morning in 1957. Little Johnny was only 4. Before freeways, there were traffic jams everywhere and the Matson terminal was no exception. We were on some r.r. tracks when an 0-6-0 came up and stopped. I asked my mom if they were going to hit us, and she casually noted they stopped. It took me nearly 50 years to finally find out that this ex-SP 0-6-0 was the last operating steam locomotive in the LA Basin! The LA Harbor Belt had one of their two GE switchers break down (no surprise there) and the rented the steamer, which still had flue time, from a huge scrapping operation on Terminal Island. A new switcher was delivered later that year and the 0-6-0 went back into the scrap line behind the GS and AC classes.

Kent Cochrane, who left a comprehensive record of railroads on the Hawaiian Islands, was a steward on the Lurline.

I always wondered what happened to the SS Lurline. 55 years later I find out today, online, that she found a watery grave. A customer of mine was in shipping. He said a lot of ships are lost in the heavy seas of the "roaring 40s", around the 40th latitude.
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Re: "Lost Liners"

Postby Randy Hees » Sat Sep 08, 2012 8:13 pm

John,

I was with my parents when we went with my grandparents, for them (the Grand Parents) to board the Lurline in San Pedro, they headed to Hawaii, flying back, likely 1960 +or- a couple of years... No steam in my memory unfortunately...

The cruise terminal in San Francisco still uses a gang way, with"Matson" visible under white paint... The old fades slowly...

Later, the Grand Parents took the brother and I on the SS Catalina, 26 miles across the sea to meet the parents, who had sailed over with a friend... I encountered the SS Catalina several years ago, sunk in Ensanada harbor... housing sea lions... It would be better to have been lost in deep water...

Randy
Randy Hees

Director, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City
Railway Preservation News http://www.rypn.org
Chasing old trains where ever I may find them...
http://randyhees.blogspot.com/
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Re: "Lost Liners"

Postby John Coker » Wed Sep 19, 2012 8:34 am

I sailed on the SS Catalina when I was a booger-eater..I think it was steam. Am very sad to hear the fate of this beautiful old seagoing ferry. It was anchored for years at Long Beach. :cry:
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