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The Steam Ship London

- 1866

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  • Name The Steam Ship London 
    Gender Unknown 
    Associatn Bef 1865 
    Voyage 30 Dec 1865  Gravesend, England Find all individuals with events at this location 

    • The Shipwreck of the "LONDON" - 1866

      Many years have elapsed since we have had to record a disaster at sea so terrible in it's details, and involving so wholesale a sacrifice of life, as that which we have today to announce. The event will appear the more appalling to our readers from the fact that a brief ten days ago every one of that ill-fated band of men, women, and children, whose corpses now lie far beneath the ocean wave, were living, active, hopeful, and were gazing on the hills that shut in the Plymouth sound.

      Intelligence reached Falmouth yesterday that the fine Australian passenger vessel, the 'London', foundered at sea on Thursday last, and that of her crew and passengers, 289 all told, the only survivors, nineteen in number, had landed at the westermost Channel port. The particulars of the occurrence, as gained from the few who have been left to tell the tale, we proceed to give.

      The 'London' was one of the newest and finest of the Australian passenger ships belonging to Messrs. Money, Wigram, and Co., by which eminent firm she was built at their yard at Blackwall.

      She was of 1,752 tons register, and was fitted with an auxiliary screw, her engines being of '800 horsepower indicated. She was built in pursuance of the plan for steaming to Australia round the Southern Capes, and she has been lost while on her third voyage to Melbourne.

      On her two previous voyages her great excellence as passenger ship has attracted to her a full compliment of passengers- a somewhat greater number even than accompanied her on her present disastrous voyage, and her performances have fully realised the high expectations which were entertained respecting her. Her estimated value, exclusive of a full and valuable cargo was from 70,000 pounds to 80,000 pounds.

      She was commanded by Captain J. Bohun Martin, a gentleman in the prime of life, who not only gained a more than ordinary share of respect from the thousands of passengers that had crossed the ocean under his care, but was reputed to be one of the smartest and most trustworthy of the officers employed in the Australian fleet of Messrs. Wigram, of which he was a senior captain. He had previously for several years been engaged in Colonial trade. He was unmarried, having made his ship his inseparable companion, and receiving in the cordial friendship of the passengers who had sailed with him a reward for that assiduous attention to their comfort and safety to which he had ever displayed.

      On the 30th of December, under the care of Captain Martin, the 'London' left Gravesend, and encountered on her passage down Channel such severe weather that she was compelled for a short time to take shelter at Spithead. She arrived at Plymouth on the 4th instant, and embarked a large number of passengers, an unusually large proportion of whom were old colonists returning to Australia; who had been awaiting her arrival at the various hotels at Plymouth.

      In addition to sixty cabin passengers, she had on board about one hundred and forty second and third-class passengers, which, with the crew of about ninety, made up her compliment of 289 souls on board. The passengers were embarked under the super-intendance of Messrs. J.B. Wilcocks and Co., emigration and shipping agents, of Plymouth. One only, Miss Penny Batchelor, of Union-street, Stonehouse, was from the immediate neighborhood of Plymouth, but there was a large sprinkling of Cornish men and women.
      Thus admirably equipped and fully freighted, the London sailed from Plymouth Sound on Saturday, the 6th inst. On the following day she encountered very heavy weather, with rain; boisterous and unsettled weather continuing on the 8th. This increased next day to a gale, during which a series of minor disasters befell her .

      The jib-boom ,fore-topmast, top-gallantmast and royal-mast were carried away, and the port lifeboat was washed overboard and lost. This was in the morning, and as the storm was giving no signs of abatement she was at three o'clock next morning put about, Captain Martin intending to run back to Plymouth to refit. About this time, a tremendous sea, which terrified even the most hardened seamen, broke on board, doing great damage; the star-board lifeboat was carried away by the wave, and the cutter stove in.

      At noon an observation was taken, the ship being then 46.48 N., and longitude 8.7 West-viz., in the Bay of Biscay, about 200 miles southwest of Land's End. The violent weather continued, and at half-past ten on Wednesday night the ship rolled and pitched fearfully, and shipped such quantities of water on deck as to carry away the engine-room hatch, and the water soon found it's way into the engine-room, putting out the fires, and thus stopping the engines. The pumps were kept incessantly going the whole night, all the passengers who were capable of rendering any help working with the utmost energy to assist the crew to keep the ship afloat, by bailing with buckets in addition to the pumps.

      During that frightful night - it will be remembered when thirty vessels were driven ashore in Torbay- the gale increased, if possible, in violence every hour, until it assumed the character of a hurricane, with a fearful cross sea, which incessantly made clean breaches over the hapless vessel. The utmost efforts were made, but without avail, to secure the engine-room hatch, and about four a.m. the stern ports were stove in by the sea, and the exertions made to close them up again were wholly useless. The passengers and crew this whole time behaved exceedingly well, and worked orderly with an energy which showed it was for their lives they strove. But the wa'er continued to increase and all command of the ship was lost, until it became evident that further effort was hopeless.

      It was then, at ten o'clock on the morning of that fatal Thursday, that Captain Martin had the terrible task of making known to the 200 passengers that the ship was sinking, and they must prepare for the worst. She was then as low in the water as the main chains. An effort was then made to lower the boats, and the starboard iron pinnance was lowered, with five men aboard her, one of them being a passenger from Penzance. In the terrific sea prevailing she was quickly swamped, and went down, but the five men in her were got on board the ship. This catastrophe had the effect of intimidating the crew from attempting to launch the three remaining boats, and all on board began to realise the dreadful fate which impended.

      The whole of the passengers and crew gathered as with one consent to the chief saloon, and having been told calmly by Captain Martin that there was no hope left, a remarkable and unanimous spirit of resignation came over them at once. There was no screaming or shrieking by women or men, no rushing on deck, or frantic cries, all calmly resorted to the saloon, where the Rev. Mr. Draper, one of the passengers, prayed aloud, and exhorted the unhappy creatures by whom he was surrounded. Dismay was present to every heart but disorder to none. Mothers were weeping sadly over the little ones about with them to be engulfed, and the children, ignorant of their coming death, were pitifully enquiring the cause of so much woe. Friends were taking leave of friends, as if preparing for a long journey, others were crouched down with Bibles in their hands, endeavoring to snatch consolation from passages long known or long neglected.

      Incredible, we are told, was the composure which, under such circumstances, reigned around. Captain Martin stationed himself in the poop, going occasionally forward, or into the saloon; but to none could he offer a word of comfort, by telling then that their safety was even probable. He joined now and then for a few moments in the public devotions, but his place to the last was on the deck.

      About two o'clock in the afternoon, the water gaining fast on the ship, and no signs of the storm subsiding being apparent, a small band of men determined to trust themselves to the mercy of the waves in a boat rather that go down without a struggle. Leaving the saloon, therefore, they got out and lowered the port cutter, into which sixteen of the crew and 3 of the passengers succeeded in getting, and in launching her clear of the ship. These nineteen men shouted to the captain to come with them, but with that heroic courage which was his chief characteristic, he declined to go with them, saying, " No, I will go down with the passengers; but I wish you God speed and safe to land."

      The boat then pulled away, tossing about helplessly on the crests of the gigantic waves. Scarcely had they gone eighty yards, or been five minutes off the deck, when the fine steamer went down stern foremost with her crowd of human beings, from whom one confused cry of helpless terror arose, and all was silent forever.

      Mention was made on Wednesday of the Rev. Mr. Draper's exhortations to the unhappy people in the chief saloon. The women sat around him reading Bibles with the children, and occasionally some man or woman would step up to Mr. Draper and say, "Pray with me Mr. Draper," -a request that was always complied with. Up to the time the ship went down the reverend gentlemen ministered to those among whom he moved constantly. He was heard to say repeatedly, "Oh, God, may those that are not converted be converted now- hundreds of them!"
      After the pinnace had got away from the 'London', and in a brief interval before she foundered, a rush was seen to be made to the two remaining boats, but the efforts to launch them were ineffectual, and the suddenness of the foundering at last- the 'London' being an iron ship- prevented what might have been a successful second attempt to save a few more lives. The nineteen survivors, in their little life boat, were driven before the gale in the Bay of Biscay all that Thursday afternoon, and evening, and night, tossed on the back of tremendous seas, and when daylight on Friday morning came there was still no rescue, nor much hope of living out the gale. At about eleven a.m. on Friday, the 12th, however, a vessel hove in sight, and the attention of it's crew being attracted to the boat were picked up, after twenty hours' exposure to the pitiless winds and waves.

      The vessel proved to be the 'Marianople', Captain Carasa, an Italian barque, on board which the survivors received the utmost attention and kindness, and from which they were put ashore at Falmouth yesterday afternoon, the chief engineer and three passengers at once proceeded on to London by the small train.

      Some hair-breadth escapes in connection with this disaster are already known. A lady who was desirous of proceeding from Plymouth with her family to Melbourne by the 'London' had made repeated pressing applications to the owners agents at Plymouth, and the captain had been consulted, but, fortunately for the applicant, had declared that his cabins were so full that he could not possibly accommodate her, a result that, at that time, caused her much disappointment. A second-class male passenger was so alarmed at the rough weather which the 'London' encountered on her way down to Plymouth, that immediately on her arrival to that port he came ashore, resigned his passage, and went back to his home, thus unwittingly saving his life. A young man, as the result of some family quarrel, left his home, and took a passage by the London. He was advertised for the times, and importuned to return, his friends being unaware of his whereabouts. Messengers were sent down to Plymouth , and an influential shipbroker in the town was employed to intercept him should he attempt to sail thence. Fortunately he was detected amongst the passengers of the London, and his family communicated with by the broker, the result of which that a brother of the young man came down to Plymouth, and persuaded the would-be emigrant to forego his voyage.

      From the The Belfast Gazette.1866
    Died 11 Jan 1866  The Bay of Biscay Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • sank about 2pm
    Person ID I20659  Mote/McInnes
    Last Modified 19 Jul 2011 

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