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The following extract from the New York Daily Times of 1854
Wreck of the Steamer City of Philadelphia
On the 24th of September, only three days before the Arctic disaster, the steamer City of
Philadelphia was wrecked only a few miles from the spot where the Arctic met her fate. In
connection with her destruction, the following narrative from a passenger on the Philadelphia
steamer will be read with interest:
But I could not help observing that, amid the general hilarity, our commander, though prompt and unceasing in his attention to his onerous duties, was evidently troubled about some matter of grave moment. He rarely retired to his stateroom, even for an hour’s repose, but paced the deck night and day, ever and anon peering into the compass boxes, and then consulting with his officers. At length I closely examined those objects of his particular solicitude, the compasses. We had six of them on board, all of which, it is said, were duly adjusted in Glasgow and Liverpool, but I discovered that no two of them agreed; some of them varied between five and six points, and the two steering compasses in the wheel-house differed from a point to a point and a half.
This sad state of things was undoubtedly to be attributed to the person pretending to regulate the compasses, for in my opinion, with properly isolated compasses, an iron vessel is as easily worked as would be one of wood. On the morning of the 24th of September a heavy rain began to fall, and the atmosphere became so densely clouded that no observation could be taken that day. The same kind of weather prevailed throughout the next day, and again no observation was practicable, [sic] About 4 o’clock in the afternoon, if I recollect aright, on casting the log, the steamer was said to be making 12 knots an hour.
About 11 ½ P.M., when nearly all the passengers were in their berths, and the ship was going at the rate of over ten knots an hour, she ran against a sunken rock, with a frightful concussion. Instantly the ship was alive; from every hatchway the passengers–men, women and children–poured over the deck, in the wildest confusion and distress, and many of them in an almost primitive state of nudity, rending the air with their shrieks, and manifesting every symptom of mortal terror.
Now the seamanship of our Captain, and the discipline of the crew came into requisition. The engines were reversed, and on taking soundings it was found that the ship was in deep water on both sides, and that she had struck a rock on the port side near the cutwater. A man was stationed at the well to see how fast the water gained, while the carpenter and his crew, with oakum and blankets, sought to stop the hole. But the latter was found to be impossible, as the orifice was some six feet long by four broad, through which the water poured in a cataract, soon filling the forward compartment of the hold to the water-line.
It was ascertained that the point upon which the vessel had struck was off Cape Race, so having taken in all sail, the steamer was backed off and headed for Chance Cove, about 7 ½ miles to the northward. This Cove she reached, however. She had hardly got into shallow water ere the second compartment was flooded and the fires extinguished. During all this time the sea was calm as a mirror, but the fog was so dense that objects could not be distinguished a ship’s length distant. Boats were launched and a party sent to survey the beach: they reported it good, with a fine sandy bottom, whereupon the vessel was run aground as far up as possible, and but about three quarters of a mile from the shore, and the anchors let go.
The boats were then hoisted out, and the passengers having by this time mostly come to something like their senses, the work of getting them ashore was commenced. The ladies and children were first debarked, and after them the male passengers. During the performance of this arduous duty, the utmost care was taken to prevent accident, by keeping in check he excited crowd, who would otherwise have rushed into the boats and swamped them. Fortunately but little surf was on at the time, so that the whole of the passengers were got on shore by 4 ½ A.M., without the slightest accident.
The shelter and provision for so large a number of people thus thrown upon a desolate shore, some sixty miles from the nearest village or town, was the next consideration. Spars, sails, provisions and fuel were sent ashore, tents rigged, fires lighted, food cooked, and everything possible under the circumstances was done for the comfort of the castaways. By night, mattresses and bedding enough for the ladies were got ashore; for the men large fires and close quarters had to suffice.
Qn [sic] the next day most of the passengers’ luggage was got out and conveyed ashore; but in doing this some confusion occurred, from the fact that a part of the crew broke open some of the trunks and abstracted their most valuable contents. These fellows were arrested and put in irons.
On the day following the beaching of the steamer, the wreck was surrounded by a fleet of fishing smacks, the crews of every one of which watched every opportunity to steal property, and I am informed that they did carry off considerable. Some few of the more audacious got broken heads, and a treat to some scalding soup, from the cook and his crew, for their pains.
A large quantity of the ship’s plate, as also many valuables belonging to the passengers, were subsequently found in the forecastle of the steamer where they had been secreted by some of the delinquent crew.
After the effects of the passengers had been got safely ashore, the work of breaking out the cargo
commenced, but this was necessarily slow work, as most of it was submerged in water.
New York Daily Times Oct 23, 1854. p. 1
Arrival of Passengers and Cargo of the
PHILADELPHIA, Saturday, Oct. 21
The American steamer Osprey, with passengers, passed Wilmington Creek at 10 o'clock this morning.
The steamer Keystone State, from Savannah, arrived this morning reports : Passed in the Savannah River barks Maria Norton, of New York, and Ellen, of Liverpool, bound up. Off Frying Pan Shoals passed bark Sarah, bound south. On Thursday night passed a steamship, supposed to be the Alabama.
The Osprey brings 165 of the passengers of the City of Philadelphia, and will return almost immediately to St. John's for the balance. She also brought 14 of the Arctic's crew and a few if the saved passengers, whose names have been given before.
She also has on board the metallic life-boat belonging to the Arctic, which was taken to St. John's by the surviving passengers.
Mr. GEIB, the purser of the Arctic, was landed at Holmes' Hole, from the Osprey, on Thursday.
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