Friday, 30 October 2009

Collision in Fog. This sinking of The Empress of Ireland.

RMS Empress of Ireland was an ocean liner built in 1905 by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering at Govan on the Clyde in Scotland for Canadian Pacific Steamships (CP). This Empress was distinguished by the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) prefix in front of her name because the British government and Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) had decades earlier reached agreement on a mail subsidy contract between Britain and Hong Kong via Canada.
While steaming on the Saint Lawrence River in fog, the Empress was struck amidships by the Norwegian collier (coal freighter) SS Storstad; and the fatally damaged vessel sank very quickly in the early morning of 29 May 1914. This accident claimed 1,024 lives, making it the worst maritime disaster in Canadian history.

The Empress of Ireland departed Quebec City for Liverpool at 16:30 local time on 28 May 1914 with 1,477 passengers and crew. Henry George Kendall had just been promoted to captain of the Empress at the beginning of the month; and it was his first trip down the Saint Lawrence River in command of the vessel.

Early the next morning on 29 May 1914, the ship was proceeding down the channel near Pointe-au-Père, Quebec (eastern district of the town of Rimouski) in heavy fog. At 02:00 local time, the Norwegian collier Storstad crashed into the side of the Empress of Ireland. The Storstad did not sink, but Empress of Ireland, with severe damage to her starboard side, listed rapidly, taking on water. Most of the passengers and crew in the lower decks drowned quickly when water poured into the ship from the open portholes, some of which were only a few feet above the water line. However, many passengers and crew in the upper deck cabins, awakened by the collision, made it out onto the boat deck and into some of the lifeboats which were being loaded immediately. Within a few minutes after the collision, the Empress of Ireland had listed so far on its starboard side that it became impossible to launch any more lifeboats than the four that had already been launched.

Ten or eleven minutes after the collision, the ship lurched violently on its starboard side in which as many as 700 passengers and crew crawled out of the portholes and decks onto its side. For a minute or two, the Empress of Ireland lay on its side, while it seemed to the passengers and crew that the ship had run aground. But a few minutes later, about 14 minutes after the collision, the ship's stern rose briefly out of the water, and its hull sank out of sight, throwing the hundreds of people still on its port side into the near-freezing water. Exactly 1,024 people died. Of that number, 840 were passengers, eight more than the Titanic.

There were only 465 survivors, four of whom were children (the other 134 children were lost) and 42 of whom were women (the other 279 women were lost). One of the survivors was the ship's commander, Captain Henry George Kendall, who was on the bridge at the time and quickly ordered the lifeboats to be launched. When the Empress was thrown on its side, Kendall was thrown from the bridge into the water, and was taken down with the ship as it began to go under. Swimming to the surface, Kendall clung to a wooden grating long enough for a nearby lifeboat, with crew members aboard, pulled him in. Immediately, Kendall took command of the lifeboat as well as rescue operations, as he had the lifeboat crew pull as many people from the water into the boat. When the boat was full, Kendall ordered the crewmen to row to the lights of the mysterious vessel that had rammed them to drop off the survivors. After an hour or two of making a few trips back and forth from the nearby Storstad to the wreckage to look for survivors, Kendall gave up when there was no more hope of finding survivors as most had succumbed to drowning or hypothermia.

Amongst the dead were the English dramatist and novelist Laurence Irving. Amongst the survivors, "Lucky" Tower is improbably said to have been one of the few crewmen who survived this shipwreck and the sinking of the Titanic and the sinking of the Lusitania.

The passengers included a large contingent of Canadian members of the Salvation Army. These travellers, all of whom died, were all members of the Canadian Salvation Army Band who were travelling to London for an international conference. At Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, Ontario, there is a monument reading "167 officers and soldiers of the Salvation Army promoted to glory" in the sinking.
Ultimately, the immense loss of life can be attributed to three factors: the location in which Storstad made contact, failure to close her watertight doors, and failure to close all portholes aboard. It was later revealed in testimony from surviving passengers and crew that nearly all of the portholes on the ship were left open by the passengers and crew who craved fresh air from the cramped and poorly ventilated staterooms. Under maritime rules, all portholes on travelling ships were to be closed, but this rule was frequently broken, especially in sheltered waters like the St. Lawrence river.

When the Empress began to its list to starboard, the water poured through the open portholes, flooding parts of the ship that were not damaged by the collision, and once that water hit nearly all the decks and compartments, the ship's end was inevitable.
The fact that most passengers at the time of the sinking were asleep, most not even awakened by the collision, also contributed to the loss of life when they were drowned in their cabins, most of them from the starboard side of the ship where the collision happened.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Cut in Half. The sinking of HMS Punjabi

HMS Punjabi was a Tribal Class destroyer of the Royal Navy that saw service in the Second World War, being sunk in a collision with the battleship HMS King George V. She has been the only ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name Punjabi which in common with the other ships of the Tribal class, was named after an ethnic group of the British Empire. In this case, these were the Punjabi people, the inhabitants of the Punjab region between India and Pakistan.

A picture of the mighty battleship HMS King George the 5th. Note the massive damage to her bows after slicing HMS Punjabi in half.

Punjabi was deployed on 26 April as part of the screen providing distant cover for the passage of Convoy PQ-15. They sailed from Hvalfjörður on 29 April. On 1 May she was rammed and sunk in a collision with HMS King George V in foggy conditions. Punjabi was sliced in two by the battleship's bow. 169 of the ship’s company were rescued from the forward section, and another 40 were picked up from the sea by other escorts, including HMS Marne. Those crew left in the after section, which sank very quickly, were killed when her depth charges were detonated. 49 of her crew lost their lives in the accident.

She sank directly in the path of the US battleship USS Washington, which had to sail between the halves of the sinking destroyer. Washington suffered slight damage from the detonation of the depth charges. HMS King George V had sustained serious damage to her bows and was forced to return to port for repairs.

Friday, 2 October 2009

COLLISION AT SEA! The Sinking of the Andrea Doria.

Captain of the Andrea Doria, Piero Calamai, 58, had been 40 years at sea and commanded his luxurious ship on 50 successful crossings of the Atlantic.

Captain Harry Gunnar Nordenson (left) with his third mate, Johan-Ernst Carstens-Johannsen. Nordenson was in his cabin when the young Carstens was in charge of the bridge at the moment of collision.

SS Andrea Doria was an ocean liner for the Italian Line (Società di navigazione Italia) home ported in Genoa, Italy, most famous for its sinking in 1956. Named after the 16th-century Genoese admiral Andrea Doria, the Andrea Doria had a gross register tonnage of 29,100 and a capacity of about 1,200 passengers and 500 crew. For a country attempting to rebuild its economy and reputation after World War II, Andrea Doria was an icon of Italian national pride. Of all Italy's ships at the time, Andrea Doria was the largest, fastest and supposedly safest. Launched on 16 June 1951, the ship undertook its maiden voyage on 14 January 1953.

On 25 July 1956, approaching the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts bound for New York City, Andrea Doria collided with the eastward-bound MS Stockholm of the Swedish American Line in what became one of history's most famous maritime disasters. Struck in the side, Andrea Doria immediately started to list severely to starboard, which left half of her lifeboats unusable. The consequent shortage of lifeboats might have resulted in significant loss of life, but improvements in communications and rapid responses by other ships averted a disaster similar in scale to the Titanic disaster of 1912. 1660 passengers and crew were rescued and survived, while 46 people died as a consequence of the collision. The evacuated luxury liner capsized and sank the following morning.

The incident and its aftermath were heavily covered by the news media. While the rescue efforts were both successful and commendable, the cause of the collision and the loss of Andrea Doria afterward generated much interest in the media and many lawsuits. Largely because of an out-of-court settlement agreement between the two shipping companies during hearings immediately after the disaster, no determination of the cause(s) was ever formally published. Although greater blame appeared initially to fall on the Italian liner, more recent discoveries have indicated that a misreading of radar on the Swedish ship may have initiated the collision course, leading to some errors on both ships and resulting in disaster. However, the news that the crew had abandoned the passengers to their own fate dealt a marketing blow to the Italian Line it found hard to recover from.

Andrea Doria was the last major transatlantic passenger vessel to sink before aircraft became the preferred method of travel.

A collision course
On the evening of Wednesday, 25 July 1956, Andrea Doria, commanded by Captain Piero Calamai, carrying 1,134 passengers and 572 crew members, was heading west toward New York. It was the last night out of a transatlantic crossing from Genoa that began on 17 July. The ship was expected to dock in New York the next morning. At the same time, MS Stockholm, a smaller passenger liner of the Swedish American Line, had departed New York about midday, heading east across the North Atlantic Ocean toward Gothenburg, Sweden. Stockholm was commanded by Captain Harry Gunnar Nordenson, though Third Officer Johan-Ernst Carstens-Johannsen was in command on the bridge at the time. Stockholm was following its usual course east to Nantucket Lightship, making about 18 knots (33 km/h) with clear skies. Carstens estimated visibility at 6 nautical miles (11 km).
As Stockholm and Andrea Doria were approaching each other head-on, in the heavily-used shipping corridor, the westbound Andrea Doria had been traveling in heavy fog for hours. The captain had reduced speed slightly from 23.0 to 21.8 knots (42.6 to 40.4 km/h), activated the ship's fog-warning whistle, and had closed the watertight doors, all customary precautions while sailing in such conditions. However, the eastbound Stockholm had yet to enter what was apparently the edge of a fog bank and was apparently unaware of it. (The waters of the North Atlantic south of Nantucket Island are frequently the site of intermittent fog as the cold Labrador Current encounters the Gulf Stream.)

As the two ships approached each other, at a combined speed of 40 knots (74 km/h), each was aware of the presence of another ship but was guided only by radar; they apparently misinterpreted each others' courses. There was no radio communication between the two ships.

The original inquiry established that in the critical minutes before the collision, Andrea Doria gradually steered to port, attempting a starboard-to-starboard passing, while Stockholm turned about 20 degrees to its starboard, an action intended to widen the passing distance of a port-to-port passing. In fact, they were actually steering towards each other — narrowing, rather than widening, the passing distance. Compounded by the extremely thick fog that enveloped the Doria as the ships approached each other, the ships were quite close by the time visual contact had been established. By then, the crews realized that they were on a collision course, but despite last-minute manoeuvres, they were unable to avoid the collision.
In the last moments before impact, Stockholm turned hard to the starboard and was in the process of reversing its propellers attempting to stop. The Doria, remaining at its cruising speed of almost 22 knots (41 km/h) engaged in a hard turn to port, its Captain hoping to outrun the collision. At approximately 11:10 PM, the two ships collided.

Impact and penetration

When Andrea Doria and Stockholm collided at almost a 90-degree angle, Stockholm's sharply raked ice breaking prow pierced Andrea Doria's port side approximately midway of its length. It penetrated three passenger cabins, numbered 52, 54, and 56 to a depth of nearly 40 feet (12 m), and the keel. The collision smashed many occupied passenger cabins and, at the lower levels, ripped open several of Andrea Doria's watertight compartments. The gash pierced five fuel tanks on Andrea Doria's starboard side and filled them with 500 tons of seawater. Meanwhile, air was trapped in the empty tanks on the port side, contributing to a severe, uncorrectable list. The ship's large fuel tanks were mostly empty at the time of the collision, since the ship was nearing the end of its voyage.

Meanwhile, on the bridge of Stockholm, immediately after the impact, engines were placed at ALL STOP, and all watertight doors were closed. The ships were intertwined for about 30 seconds. As they separated, the smashed bow of the stationary Stockholm was dragged aft along the starboard side of the Doria, which was still moving forward, adding more gashes along the side. The two ships then separated, and the Doria moved away into the heavy fog. Initial radio distress calls were sent out by each ship, and in that manner, they learned each others' identities.

The world soon became aware that two large ocean liners had collided.

This was the SOS sent by Andrea Doria:


KNIGHT OF THE SEA, Admiral Miguel Grau Seminario of PERU and the Ironclad Huascar.

Miguel María Grau Seminario (b. Paita, Peru, 27 July 1834 - d. Punta Angamos, Bolivia, 8 October 1879) was a renowned Peruvian naval officer and hero of the Naval Battle of Angamos during the War of the Pacific (1879-1884). He was known as the el Caballero de los Mares (Spanish for "Knight of the Seas") for his chivalry and is esteemed by both Peruvians and Chileans.

He is an iconic figure for the Peruvian Navy, and one of the most famous military leaders of the Americas.

Miguel Grau was born in Paita on 27 July 1834 in the house of Dr. Alexander Diamont Newel with the assistance of the midwife Tadea Castillo, also known as "The Morito," both prominent figures in Paita. His father was Don Juan Manuel Grau y Berrío, a former lieutenant colonel in the Colombian army who came to Peru with Bolivar in the fight for independence from Spain. Later, Don Juan bought property in Paita and worked at the Customs Office. His mother, Luisa Seminario y del Castillo, motivated Grau to love the sea from his youth. He entered the Paita Nautical School. He first went to sea when he was nine years old, going to Fortune, Colombia, aboard a merchant schooner.

The the schooner sank and he returned to Paita. Grau later went on various merchant ships to ports in Oceania, Asia, America and Europe. These voyages gave Grau strong the seagoing experience for his brilliant career as a naval officer.
In 1853, at the age of 19, he left the merchant marine and became an officer candidate of the Peruvian Navy, where he developed an outstanding professional reputation. In 1854, he was Alferez de Fragata of the steamer Rimac. His career was rapid and brilliant. In 1863, he was promoted to Teniente 2• and to Teniente 1• a year later.

In 1864, he was sent to Europe to oversee the construction of ships for the Peruvian fleet. Among these ships was the ironclad Huáscar, launched in 1865 by Laird at Birkenhead. Upon his return, Chile and Peru joined together in a binational fleet against Spainish attempts to reclaim their American colonies. In 1865, he was promoted to Capitán de Fragata. He left the navy briefly to serve as a member of congress representing Paita. In 1868, he was recalled to the Navy and was named commander of the Huáscar with the rank of Capitán de Navio. In 1876 he was again elected a congressman for Paita.

War of the Pacific

When the War of the Pacific against Chile began on 5 April 1879, Miguel Grau was a Capitán de Navio in the Peruvian Navy, in command of the ironclad Huáscar. Capitán Grau played an important role by interdicting Chilean lines of communication and supply, damaging, capturing or destroying several enemy vessels, and bombarding port installations. Grau's Huáscar became famed for moving stealthily, striking by surprise and then disappearing. These actions put off a Chilean invasion by sea for six months and resulted in his promotion to the rank of Contra-Almirante (Rear Admiral).

The Knight of the Seas

At the Battle of Iquique, after Huáscar sank the chilean corvette Esmeralda, Grau ordered the rescue of the surviving crew from the waters. When landed, the chileans survivors shouted in recognition to Grau "¡Viva el Perú generoso!" ("Viva the generous Peru!"). Grau also wrote condolences to the widow of his opponent Arturo Prat, returning his sword and personal effects.

Letter to Carmela Carvajal de Prat (Prat's widow)

Dear Madam:
I have a sacred duty that authorizes me to write you, despite knowing that this letter will deepen your profound pain, by reminding you of recent battles.

During the naval combat that took place in the waters of Iquique, between the Chilean and Peruvian ships, on the 21st day of the last month, your worthy and valiant husband Captain Mr. Arturo Prat, Commander of the Esmeralda, was, like you would not ignore any longer, victim of his reckless valor in defense and glory of his country’s flag.

While sincerely deploring this unfortunate event and sharing your sorrow, I comply with the sad duty of sending you some of his belongings, invaluable for you, which I list at the end of this letter. Undoubtedly, they will serve of small consolation in the middle of your misfortune, and I have hurried in remitting them to you.

Reiterating my feelings of condolence, I take the opportunity of offering you my services, considerations and respects and I render myself at your disposal.

At the port of Antofagasta, after sneaking up on an enemy ship, he courteously asked the crew to abandon ship before opening fire. These and other gestures earned him the nickname of el Caballero de los Mares ("Knight of the Seas" or "Gentleman of the Seas") from his Chilean opponents, acknowledging an extraordinary sense of chivalry and his gentlemanly behaviour, combined with his highly-efficient and brave combat career.

Death at Battle of Angamos

Almirante Grau was killed by an armour-piercing shell during the Naval Battle of Angamos on 8 October 1879. Huáscar was captured by the Chileans after incurring severe casualties in the close-range artillery duel. Although most of Grau's body was not recovered, his remains were buried with military honours in Chile, which were returned to Peru in 1958. For many years after his death, his name was called in a ceremonial roll-call of the Peruvian Navy. He posthumously received the rank of Gran Almirante del Perú (Grand Admiral of Peru) in 1967 by order of the Peruvian Congress. A portrait of Almirante Grau is on
display in the museum ship Huáscar.


In the year 2000, Miguel Grau was recognized as the "Peruvian of the Millennium" by popular vote.