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'NEVER HEARD OF.'
TERRIBLE as such a disaster as befell La Bourgogne in the Atlantic two years ago (1898) certainly is, it was not the most appalling the world's greatest ferry has claimed. That a magnificent ship should go down, carrying with her most of those on board, is a great calamity; but there is a melancholy satisfaction in knowing her fate exactly, and where she disappeared.
No such knowledge is, however, obtainable of many vessels which have sailed from English or American ports with every prospect of a safe and speedy voyage across 'the pond,' but which never reached their destination; their only record the words, 'Never heard of.'
The steam service between Great Britain and the States had only been fairly inaugurated when the news came of that appalling disaster to the President, which is remembered by many who are now living. That vessel belonged to the unlucky British and American Steam Navigation Company, and her performances on the Atlantic were anything but successful. She first sailed from Liverpool on 17th July 1840. On 11th March 1841 she left New York with one hundred and thirty-six persons on board. It is known that two days later she encountered a very heavy gale, but after that nothing is known of her. She had disappeared, and all on board went with her. Amongst the passengers were a son of the Duke of Richmond and a well-known comedian of the day, Mr Tyrone Power.
Far more terrible was the fate of the City of Glasgow, one of the steamers of the old Inman Line. This vessel was the first Inman boat, and traded between Glasgow and New York. A beautiful Clyde-built craft of 1600 tons, it was thought she could withstand even the fury of the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to her engines, she could, being barque-rigged, carry an enormous amount of canvas. Her crew numbered seventy, and there was accommodation for over five hundred passengers. the ill-fated vessel left port on 1st March 1854 with four hundred and eighty persons on board, and was never again heard of. For mere numbers, the City of Glasgow holds the Atlantic record amongst steamers which have 'disappeared,' although collision has caused heavier loss of life on the ferry.
In the fifties there was a famous Atlantic organisation known as the Collins Line. Some noble vessels were constructed for that line, amongst them the paddle-steamers Arctic and Pacific, costing nearly two hundred thousand pounds each. On 27th September 1854 the Arctic was run into by a small French steamer off Newfoundland, and three hundred and twenty-two lives were lost, amongst these the managing director of the company, Mr Collins, and his wife, son, and daughter. The shock of this disaster had scarcely passed when the Pacific left port, never again to be seen or heard of. She sailed from Liverpool on 23rd September 1856, and disappeared with the two hundred and forty people who were on board. These catastrophes did much to crush the American firm, which was trying hard to secure the first place in the Atlantic passenger traffic.
Only five months later the steamship Tempest, of the Anchor Line, was added to the increasing list of mysterious disappearances on the Atlantic. She sailed on 26th February 1857, with a crew and passengers numbering one hundred and fifty all told, and was never seen again. It was with the Tempest that the Anchor Line began its service between Glasgow and New York.
Strangely enough, it was an Anchor Liner that furnished the next case of 'never heard of.' This was the steamer United Kingdom, which disappeared with eighty persons. She left port on 17th April 1868.
It then became the turn of the Inman Line again to record the loss of one of its ships. This was the City of Boston, which on 28th January 1870, with one hundred and seventy-seven passengers and crew, left port, well found, and with every prospect of a safe and speedy trip, but utterly vanished from mortal ken.
A vessel called the Scanderia, of the Anglo-Egypterian Line, a British organisation, sailed on 8th October 1872, and nothing was ever heard of her afterwards. She had thirty-eight persons on board on leaving the port.
Once more the Anchor Line suffered. The Ismailia, sailing on 27th September 1873, and carrying fifty-two all told, disappeared and left no trace of the fate which had befallen her. The Anchor Line was indeed hard hit in many periods of its history. Over and above the disasters named as coming under one particular class, there was the Britannia, which was wrecked off the island of Arran early in 1873, but without loss of life; the Anglia, lost at sea in 1880 through collision, without loss of life; the Macedonia, stranded on the Mull of Kintyre in 1881; and the Utopia, ten years later, which collided with a British warship in Gibraltar Bay, with a loss of five hundred and sixty-three lives.
Early in 1877 the Colombo, a Wilson Liner, with forty-four persons on board, commenced the voyage across the Atlantic, but never arrived. The next ferry-boat to meet this fate was a Belgian, the Herman Ludwig, with fifty passengers and crew. That was in September 1878. In December of the same year a British vessel called the Homer, having forty-three persons on board, disappeared completely; so, in 1881, did the City of Limerick, carrying the same number. That was on 8th January, and the line to which the ship belonged was the Ross. On the 13th November 1881 the City of London, another vessel of the same line, and carrying forty-one all told, left port never again to be heard of - two appalling catastrophes to the ships of one firm in less than a year.
A Wilson boat again - the Humber - had to be described in 1885 as 'never heard of.' She sailed on 15th February, having fifty-six persons on board; but between her and the City of London there were the Straits of Dover, which sailed on 3rd January 1883, with twenty-seven on board; and the Coniston, another British ship, carrying twenty-seven persons, which left port on 24th December 1884. Neither of these steamships ever got across the Atlantic, and the particulars of their fate are not exactly known.
The Erin of the National Line, with seventy-two persons on board, was lost in 1889, nothing ever being heard of her after she left port on 31st December. Scarcely a year later the Thanemore, a Johnston Liner, with forty-three passengers and crew, came to the same end; and on 11th February 1893 the Naronic, one of the White Star boats, sailed with seventy-four all told, and was never heard of. The Naronic was a new twin-screw cargo-vessel, so built and fitted as to weather any gale, and ably officered and manned. The disappearance of this steamer created a profound sensation.
As we have seen, 'never heard of' accounts for nineteen fine Atlantic steamers, carrying passengers and cargoes, with a heavy loss of life - not far short of two thousand. Many theories have been put forward as to the causes which led to the destruction of these ships, amongst others that infernal machines must have in more than one case accounted for the loss of both craft, crew, and passengers. Apart from such a supposition, it is quite probable that terrific Atlantic seas have overwhelmed many of these missing steam-ships, and that others have gone down quickly and bodily after colliding with icebergs and submerged derelicts. Master mariners who know well the Atlantic Ocean and its perils have generally attributed the loss of these vessels to the causes last mentioned.
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