seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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The Wreck of the “Stephen Whitney”

The passenger-carrying sailing ship Stephen Whitney is wrecked on West Calf Island off the southern coast of Ireland on November 10, 1847 with the loss of 92 of the 110 passengers and crew aboard.

The Stephen Whitney is a packet ship in Robert Kermit‘s Red Star Line. The ship is named after a Kermit investor, New York City merchant Stephen Whitney.

The 1,034-ton ship leaves New York City on October 18 for Liverpool, England, carrying passengers and a cargo which includes corn, raw cotton, cheese, resin, and twenty boxes of clocks. On November 10 in thick fog, the captain, C.W. Popham, mistakes the Crookhaven lighthouse for the one at the Old Head of Kinsale and the lighthouse on Cape Clear Island is obscured by fog compounding the error in navigation. At around 10:00 p.m., the ship strikes the western tip of West Calf Island, completely breaking up within about ten minutes. Conditions in the area are distressing as it is the height of the Great Famine.

The loss of the ship triggers the decision to replace the Cape Clear Island lighthouse with one on Fastnet Rock. This decision is also because the lighthouse on Cape Clear is often shrouded in fog or low level clouds, which make it hard or at times impossible to see.

(Pictured: West Calf Island, the most westerly of the three Calf Islands that lie at the heart of Roaring Water Bay, West Cork)


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The Shipwrecks of the Trevor and Nonpareil

Two hundred passengers are lost in the shipwrecks of the brigs Trevor and Nonpareil on October 20, 1775. Among the casualties are The Hononorable Major Francis Caulfield, Member of Parliament (MP) for Charlemont, his wife, and daughters. Also lost is John French, Member for Roscommon County.

On Thursday, October 19, 1775, the brig Trevor, with Captain William Totty at the helm, and the brig Nonpareil, with Capatin Samuel Davies, sail from Parkgate for Dublin. That evening, as the vessels are near Holyhead, the wind shifts about from the south southwest to the west, and so violent a hurricane arises that they cannot carry any sail, but are obliged to lie to, and drive before the wind. In this situation, the Trevor drives upon the banks near the Lancashire shore, and is totally lost.

Everyone on board perishes, except Samuel Fairclough, a mariner, who miraculously saves his life by leaping aboard another vessel named the Charming Molly, under Captain Joseph Holloway, which is transporting coal from Chester to Newry. The Charming Molly accidentally runs foul of the Trevor and carries away the Trevor‘s fore-topmast and, at the instant the two vessels come together, Fairclough makes his leap. He was the only survivor of the 30 to 40 passengers and crew aboard the Trevor.

Captain Holloway states that his vessel and the Trevor came together at some distance from the coast. They parted at the time Fairclough jumped across, and the Trevor subsequently went to pieces. A great many chests, boxes, some of which are broken, and quantities of East India goods are strewn along the shore, all wet with salt water. These items are in the custody of Mrs. Hesketh, Lady of the Manor of this coast, secured by Mr. Standen of Rossall Hall. The East India goods had arrived by land from London. The cargo and coins aboard the Trevor are estimated to be worth £15,000.

The Charming Mary runs ashore at Blackpool with most of her sails carried away, but otherwise with little damage.

The Nonpareil is lost in the storm between Parkgate and Dublin, driven on shore near Hoyle-sands and lost. There are no survivors. The wife of Captain Davies states that her husband sailed from Parkgate with very low spirits as he did not like the appearance of the weather. He is pressured to put to sea, which he does, and is turned back twice, but gets off on the third attempt, and is never seen again.

Between them, the Trevor and the Nonpareil reportedly carry nearly 200 passengers, the majority being on the Nonpareil. They carry cargo valued at £15,000.

On Tuesday evening, October 24, the Collector of the port of Chester receives the melancholy account of the loss of the Trevor by a letter from the Collector of Poulton, in Lancashire. This is immediately communicated to the Merchants, who are concerned in shipping the cargo, and they set out as soon as possible to give assistance and to secure each part of the cargo as might come ashore.

The merchants from Chester reach Poulton late on Wednesday night, October 25. The following morning they set out along the shore from Blackpool, where the Charming Mary is stranded. The greatest part of the hull of the Trevor lay scattered along the shore at a great distance. On their arrival at Rossall Hall, about six miles from Blackpool, they have the satisfaction to find that Mr. Standen, who is Steward of the Manor of Bold Fleetwood Hesketh, now a minor and son to the deceased Fleetwood Hesketh, on whose estate the wreck is taken up, has taken all possible care of everything that can be saved from plunderers.


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Commissioning of the LÉ Deirdre (P20)

The Deirdre (P20), an offshore patrol vessel in the Irish Naval Service, is commissioned by Lt. Cdr. Liam Brett on June 19, 1972. The building of LÉ Deirdre marks a milestone in the development of the Naval Service, being the first ship purpose-built in Ireland to patrol in Irish waters. She is named after Deirdre, a tragic heroine from Irish mythology who committed suicide after her lover’s murder.

In 1971, a contract is signed with Verlome Cork Dockyard (VCD) to build an offshore patrol vessel for the Naval Service. Built in 1972, LÉ Deirdre is built as a replacement for the Ton-class minesweepers, and one of the first vessels custom-built for the Irish Naval Service. She has a longer range and is a more seaworthy ship for work in the Atlantic. LÉ Deirdre becomes the prototype for the later Emer-type vessels.

Deirdre undertakes a number of search and rescue operations throughout her career. For example, LÉ Deirdre is one of the vessels involved in the 1979 Fastnet race rescue operations, assisting the crews of two yachts. In 1990, during the rescue of a Spanish trawler crew in Bantry Bay, a member of LÉ Deirdre‘s crew dies and is posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and Spanish Cross of Naval Merit.

By the time of the vessel’s naval decommissioning in early 2001, LÉ Deirdre has travelled approximately 450,000 nautical miles. She is replaced by a Róisín-class patrol vessel.

Deirdre is sold at public auction for IR£190,000 to the English yacht chartering company Seastream International for conversion into the luxury charter yacht Tosca IV for the company’s owner, businessman Christopher Matthews. Speaking on the radio, a Seastream spokesman appears pleased with their bargain as they had been prepared to bid up to IR£500,000. The auction starting price had been IR£60,000.

The conversion in a Polish shipyard is not completed as the English owner is killed while piloting a Eurocopter EC130 helicopter which crashes at Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin after hitting power lines over Lake Wisconsin on August 6, 2004. In 2007 LÉ Deirdre is towed to Brazil for further refit and completion. Substantially complete, she arrives at Jacksonville, Florida in September 2012 for final outfitting as Santa Rita I. However, in August 2014, Santa Rita I is towed to Green Cove Springs, Florida, for breaking.


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Commissioning of the Second USS The Sullivans

The United States Navy commissions USS The Sullivans (DDG-68), an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided-missile destroyer, on April 19, 1997. She is the second ship to be named for the five Sullivan brothers who perished on the USS Juneau (CL-52) when it was sunk by a Japanese submarine in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942. This is the greatest military loss by any one American family during World War II. The Sullivans are descendants of Irish immigrants.

The first ship named for the brothers is the Fletcher-class destroyer USS The Sullivans (DD-537), now a museum ship in Buffalo, New York.

The contract to build USS The Sullivans is awarded to Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine on April 8, 1992 and her keel is laid down on July 27, 1994. She is launched on August 12, 1995 and sponsored by Kelly Ann Sullivan Loughren, granddaughter of Albert Sullivan. The ship is commissioned on April 19, 1997, with Commander Gerard D. Roncolato in command. Upon her commissioning, the ship is given the motto that is thought to have been spoken by the brothers when asked to separate during World War II, “We Stick Together.”

On April 26, 1997, USS The Sullivans departs New York City for Norfolk, Virginia, where, after arriving on April 27, the crew completes underway replenishment qualifications with USS Platte (AO-186). The warship then sails for Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida, on April 29 and arrives in her new homeport on May 2. After completing two days of gunnery trials in mid-May, USS The Sullivans embarks upon her shakedown deployment to the West Indies on May 27.

Members of al-Qaeda attempt an attack on USS The Sullivans while in port at Aden, Yemen on January 3, 2000 as a part of the 2000 millennium attack plots. The plan is to load a boat full of explosives and detonate it near USS The Sullivans; however the boat is so overladen that it sinks. Later, al-Qaeda attempts the same type of attack a second time, successfully bombing USS Cole (DDG-67) on October 12, 2000.

While underway and sailing for Composite Unit Training Exercise 01-2 USS The Sullivans receives word of the September 11 attacks. USS The Sullivans, as part of the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) Battle Group, takes part in Operation Noble Eagle. The destroyer provides air-space security along the mid-Atlantic seaboard.

In February 2002 USS The Sullivans deploys with the USS John F. Kennedy carrier battle group to the Arabian Sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

On September 14, 2020, it is announced that USS The Sullivans will be part of HMS Queen Elizabeth‘s Task Group for the GROUPEX and Joint Warrior exercises. On January 19, 2021, a declaration confirms that USS The Sullivans will form part of the escort for HMS Queen Elizabeth during her first active deployment as part of the UK Carrier Strike Group in 2021.

(Photo: U.S. Navy photo of USS The Sullivans on the Mediterranean Sea in July 2002 by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Jim Hampshire)


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Sinking of the RMS Leinster

RMS Leinster, a ship operated by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company and serving as the KingstownHolyhead mailboat, is torpedoed and sunk by the Imperial German Navy submarine SM UB-123, which is under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Robert Ramm, just outside Dublin Bay on October 10, 1918, while bound for Holyhead. The exact number of dead is unknown but researchers from the National Maritime Museum of Ireland believe it to be at least 564, making it the largest single loss of life in the Irish Sea.

In 1895, the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company orders four steamers for Royal Mail service, named for four provinces of Ireland: RMS Leinster, RMS Connaught, RMS Munster, and RMS Ulster. The RMS Leinster is a 3,069-ton packet steamship with a service speed of 23 knots. The vessel, which is built at Cammell Laird‘s in Birkenhead, England, is driven by two independent four-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines. During World War I, the twin-propellered ship is armed with one 12-pounder and two signal guns.

The ship’s log states that she carries 77 crew and 694 passengers on her final voyage under the command of Captain William Birch. The ship had previously been attacked in the Irish Sea but the torpedoes missed their target. Those on board include more than 100 British civilians, 22 postal sorters and almost 500 military personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force. Also aboard are nurses from the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

Just before 10:00 AM as it is sailing east of the Kish Bank in a heavy swell, passengers see a torpedo approach from the port side and pass in front of the bow. A second torpedo follows shortly afterwards, and strikes the ship forward on the port side in the vicinity of the mail room. Captain Birch orders the ship to make a U-turn in an attempt to return to Kingstown as it begins to settle slowly by the bow. It sinks rapidly, however, after a third torpedo strikes her, causing a huge explosion.

Despite the heavy seas, the crew manages to launch several lifeboats and some passengers cling to life-rafts. The survivors are rescued by HMS Lively, HMS Mallard and HMS Seal. Among the civilian passengers lost in the sinking are socially prominent people such as Lady Alexandra Phyllis Hamilton, daughter of James Hamilton, 2nd Duke of Abercorn, Robert Jocelyn Alexander, son of Irish composer Cecil Frances Alexander, Thomas Foley and his wife Charlotte Foley (née Barrett) who was the brother-in-law of the world-famous Irish tenor John McCormack. The first member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service to die on active duty, Josephine Carr, is among the dead, as are two prominent officials of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, James McCarron and Patrick Lynch.

Captain Birch who is wounded in the initial attack, drowns when his lifeboat is swamped in heavy seas and capsizes while attempting to transfer survivors to HMS Lively. Several of the military personnel who die are buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery.

Survivors are brought to Kingstown harbour. Among them are Michael Joyce, an Irish Parliamentary Party MP for Limerick City, and Captain Hutchinson Ingham Cone of the United States Navy, the former commander of the USS Dale (DD-4).

One of the rescue ships is the armed yacht and former fishery protection vessel HMY Helga. Stationed in Kingstown harbour at the time of the sinking, she had shelled Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin two years earlier. She was later bought and renamed the Muirchú by the Irish Free State government as one of its first fishery protection vessels.

At October 18, 1918 at 9:10 AM SM UB-125, outbound from Germany, picks up a radio message requesting advice on the best way to get through the North Sea minefield. The sender is Oberleutnant zur See Robert Ramm aboard SM UB-123. Extra mines have been added to the minefield since SM UB-123 had made her outward voyage from Germany. As SM UB-125 had just come through the minefield, Vater radios back with a suggested route. SM UB-123 acknowledges the message and is never heard from again.

The following day, ten days after the sinking of the RMS Leinster, SM UB-123 accidentally detonates a mine while trying to cross the North Sea and return to base in Imperial Germany. It is October 19, 1918. Oberleutnant zur See Robert Ramm, who has a wife and children, never returns to them. Thirty-five other German families are similarly bereaved. No bodies are ever found.

In 1991, the anchor of the RMS Leinster is raised by local divers. It is placed near Carlisle Pier and officially dedicated on January, 28, 1996.


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Birth of Molesworth Phillips, Companion of Captain Cook

molesworth-phillipsMolesworth Phillips, sailor and companion of Captain James Cook, is born in Swords, County Dublin on August 15, 1755.

Phillips is the son of John Phillips of Swords. His father is a natural son of Richard Molesworth, 3rd Viscount Molesworth, whence Phillips acquires his Christian name. He first enters the Royal Navy, but on the advice of his friend Sir Joseph Banks he accepts a commission as second lieutenant in the Royal Marines on January 17, 1776. In this capacity he is selected to accompany Captain Cook on his last voyage, extending over nearly three years. He sails with Cook from Plymouth on July 12, 1776, and is with the marines who escort Cook when he lands at Hawaii on February 14, 1779.

In John Webber‘s painting “The Death of Captain Cook” Phillips is represented kneeling and firing at a native who is clubbing Cook. Phillips is himself wounded, but, after swimming back to the boat, he turns back and helps another wounded marine to the boats.

On November 1, 1780 Phillips is promoted to captain. On January 10, 1782 he marries Susanna Elizabeth, third daughter of Dr. Charles Burney (1726-1814), and sister of Frances Burney and of James Burney, Phillips’s friend, who, like him, had accompanied Cook on his last voyage. He has no further active service, but is promoted brevet major on March 1, 1794, and brevet lieutenant colonel on January 1, 1798. From 1784, for the sake of his wife’s health, he lives for a time at Boulogne, but after the French Revolution he resides chiefly at Mickleham, Surrey, not far from Juniper Hall, where Frances Burney entertains numbers of French emigres. From 1796 to 1799, during the alarm of a French invasion of Ireland, Phillips feels it his duty to reside on the Irish estates at Beleotton, which he had inherited from an uncle. On January 6, 1800 his wife dies.

After the Treaty of Amiens, Phillips visits France in 1802, and he is one of those who are seized by Napoleon on the renewal of the war. He is detained in France until the peace of 1814. During this detention he makes friends with the Prince of Talleyrand and other well-known Frenchmen. After his return to England he becomes acquainted with Robert Southey, Mary and Charles Lamb, who describe him as “the high-minded associate of Cook, the veteran colonel, with his lusty heart still sending cartels of defiance to old Time,” and with John Thomas Smith (1766-1833), whom he supplies with various anecdotes for his Nollekens and his Times.

Phillips dies of cholera at his house in Lambeth on September 11, 1832, and is buried in St. Margaret’s, Westminster, where an inscription commemorates him and James and Martin Burney (1788-1852).

(Pictured: Etching of Molesworth Phillips by Andrew Geddes, circa 1825, bequeathed by Frederick Leverton Harris, 1927, National Portrait Gallery, London)


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The Launch of the SS Canberra

ss-canberraThe SS Canberra, an ocean liner in the P&O fleet which later operates on cruises, is launched in Belfast, Northern Ireland on March 16, 1960. She is built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast at a cost of £17,000,000.

The ship is named on March 17, 1958, after the federal capital of Australia, Canberra. Her launch is sponsored by Dame Pattie Menzies, GBE, wife of the then Prime Minister of Australia, Robert Menzies. She enters service in May 1961 and begins her maiden voyage in June.

At the end of 1972 she is withdrawn and refitted to carry 1,500 single class passengers on cruises. Unusually, this transition from an early life as a purpose built ocean liner to a long and successful career in cruising, occurs without any major external alterations, and with only minimal internal and mechanical changes over the years.

On April 2, 1982, Argentina invades the Falkland Islands, which initiates the Falklands War. At the time, SS Canberra is cruising in the Mediterranean Sea. The next day, her captain, Dennis Scott-Masson, receives a message asking his time of arrival at Gibraltar, which is not on his itinerary. When he calls at Gibraltar, he learns that the Ministry of Defence had requisitioned SS Canberra for use as a troopship. SS Canberra sails to Southampton, Hampshire where she is quickly refitted, sailing on April 9 for the South Atlantic.

SS Canberra anchors in San Carlos Water on May 21 as part of the landings by British forces to retake the islands. Although her size and white colour make her an unmissable target for the Argentine Air Force, the liner is not badly hit in the landings as the Argentine pilots tend to attack the Royal Navy frigates and destroyers instead of the supply and troop ships. After the war, Argentine pilots claim they were told not to hit SS Canberra, as they mistook her for a hospital ship.

SS Canberra then sails to South Georgia Island, where 3,000 troops are transferred from Queen Elizabeth 2. They are landed at San Carlos on June 2. When the war ends, SS Canberra is used as a cartel to repatriate captured Argentine soldiers, landing them at Puerto Madryn, before returning to Southampton to a rapturous welcome on July 11.

After a lengthy refit, SS Canberra returns to civilian service as a cruise ship. Her role in the Falklands War makes her very popular with the British public, and ticket sales after her return are elevated for many years as a result. Age and high running costs eventually catch up with her though, as she has much higher fuel consumption than most modern cruise ships. Although Premier Cruise Line makes a bid for the old ship, P&O had already decided that they do not want SS Canberra to operate under a different flag.

SS Canberra is withdrawn from P&O service in September 1997 and sold to ship breakers for scrapping on October 10, 1997, leaving for Gadani ship-breaking yard in Pakistan on October 31, 1997. Her deep draft means that she cannot be beached as far as most ships, and due to her solid construction the scrapping process takes nearly a year instead of the estimated three months, being totally scrapped by the end of 1998.

The SS Canberra appears in the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever as the liner where Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd try to kill Bond. In 1997, singer/songwriter Gerard Kenny releases the single “Farewell Canberra” which is specially composed for the final voyage.


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Death of John Holland, Irish Engineer

john-philip-hollandJohn Philip Holland, Irish engineer who develops the first submarine to be formally commissioned by the U.S. Navy, and the first Royal Navy submarine, HMS Holland 1, dies in Newark, New Jersey on August 12, 1914.

Holland, the second of four siblings, all boys, is born on February 24, 1841 in a coastguard cottage in Liscannor, County Clare, where his father, John Philip Holland, Sr., is a member of the British Coastguard Service. His mother, a native Irish speaker from Liscannor, Máire Ní Scannláin, is John Holland’s second wife. His first wife, Anne Foley Holland, believed to be a native of Kilkee, dies in 1835. The area is heavily Irish-speaking and Holland learns English properly only when he attends the local English-speaking St. Macreehy’s National School, and from 1858, in the Christian Brothers in Ennistymon.

Holland joins the Irish Christian Brothers in Limerick and teaches in CBS Sexton Street in Limerick and many other centres in the country, including North Monastery CBS in Cork, St. Joseph’s CBS in Drogheda, and as the first Mathematics teacher in Coláiste Rís in Dundalk. Due to ill health, he leaves the Christian Brothers in 1873 and emigrates to the United States. Initially working for an engineering firm, he returns to teaching again for an additional six years in St. John’s Catholic school in Paterson, New Jersey.

While a teacher in Cork, Holland reads an account of the battle between the ironclads USS Monitor and USS Merrimack in the Battle of Hampton Roads during the American Civil War. He realizes that the best way to attack such ships would be through an attack beneath the waterline. He draws a design, but when he attempts to obtain funding, he is turned away. After his arrival in the United States, Holland slips and falls on an icy Boston street and breaks a leg. While recuperating from the injury in a hospital, he uses his time to refine his submarine designs and is encouraged by a priest, Isaac Whelan.

In 1875, his first submarine designs are submitted for consideration by the U.S. Navy, but are turned down as unworkable. The Fenians, however, continue to fund Holland’s research and development expenses at a level that allows him to resign from his teaching post. In 1881, Fenian Ram is launched, but soon after, Holland and the Fenians part company on bad terms over the issue of payment within the Fenian organization, and between the Fenians and Holland. The submarine is now preserved at Paterson Museum in New Jersey.

Holland continues to improve his designs and works on several experimental boats, prior to his successful efforts with a privately built type, launched on May 17, 1897. This is the first submarine having power to run submerged for any considerable distance, and the first to combine electric motors for submerged travel and gasoline engines for use on the surface. The submarine is purchased by the U.S. Navy on April 11, 1900, after rigorous tests and is commissioned on October 12, 1900 as USS Holland (SS-1). Six more of her type are ordered and built at the Crescent Shipyard in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The company that emerges from under these developments is called The Electric Boat Company, founded on February 7, 1899. Isaac Leopold Rice becomes the company’s first President with Elihu B. Frost acting as vice president and chief financial officer. The company eventually evolves into the major defense contractor General Dynamics.

The USS Holland design is also adopted by others, including the Royal Navy in developing the Holland-class submarine. The Imperial Japanese Navy employs a modified version of the basic design for their first five submarines, although these submarines are at least 10 feet longer at about 63 feet. These submarines are also developed at the Fore River Ship and Engine Company in Quincy, Massachusetts. Holland also designs the Holland II and Holland III prototypes. The Royal Navy ‘Holland 1’ is on display at the Submarine Museum in Gosport, England.

After spending 56 of his 73 years working with submersibles, John Philip Holland dies on August 12, 1914 in Newark, New Jersey. He is interred at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Totowa, New Jersey.


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RMS Titanic Strikes Iceberg in North Atlantic

titanic-strikes-icebergJust before midnight on April 14, 1912 in the North Atlantic, the RMS Titanic, the world’s largest ship, fails to divert its course from an iceberg, ruptures five compartments along its starboard side, and begins to sink. The liner, four days into her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City, sinks at 2:20 AM on the morning of April 15, 1912.

RMS Titanic, the largest ship afloat at the time it enters service on April 2, 1912, is the second of three Olympic class ocean liners operated by the White Star Line, and is built by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

RMS Titanic‘s maiden voyage, commanded by 62-year-old Captain Edward John Smith, begins shortly after noon on April 10, 1912 when she leaves Southampton on the first leg of her journey to New York City. A few hours later she reaches Cherbourg, France, where she takes on passengers. Her next port of call is Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland, which she reaches around midday on April 11. After taking on more passengers and stores, RMS Titanic departs in the afternoon with an estimated 2,224 people on board.

RMS Titanic receives six warnings of sea ice on April 14 but is traveling near her maximum speed when her lookouts sight the iceberg. Unable to turn quickly enough, the ship suffers a glancing blow that buckles her starboard side and opens five of her sixteen compartments to the sea. RMS Titanic has been designed to stay afloat with four of her forward compartments flooded but not more, and the crew soon realises that the ship is going to sink. They use distress flares and wireless radio messages to attract help as the passengers are put into lifeboats. However, in accordance with existing practice, RMS Titanic‘s lifeboat system is designed to ferry passengers to nearby rescue vessels, not to hold everyone on board simultaneously. With the ship sinking quickly and help still hours away, there is no safe refuge for many of the passengers and crew. Compounding this, poor management of the evacuation means many boats are launched before they are totally full.

At about 2:15 AM, RMS Titanic‘s angle in the water begins to increase rapidly as water pours into previously unflooded parts of the ship through deck hatches. Her suddenly increasing angle causes a giant wave to wash along the ship from the forward end of the boat deck, sweeping many people into the sea. RMS Titanic‘s stern lifts high into the air as the ship tilts down in the water, reaching an angle of 30–45 degrees. After another minute, the ship’s lights flicker once and then permanently go out, plunging RMS Titanic into darkness. Shortly after the lights go out, the ship splits apart at one of the weakest points in the structure, the area of the engine room hatch. The submerged bow likely remains attached to the stern by the keel for a short time, pulling the stern to a high angle before separating and leaving the stern to float for a few minutes longer. The forward part of the stern floods very rapidly, causing it to tilt and then settle briefly before sinking.

RMS Titanic sinks with over a thousand passengers and crew still on board. Almost all those who jump or fall into the water die from hypothermia within minutes. RMS Carpathia arrives on the scene about 90 minutes after the sinking and has rescued the last of the survivors by 9:15 AM on April 15, some nine and a half hours after the collision with the iceberg.

The death toll has been put at 1,513, including many Irish, although the number of casualties remains somewhat unclear due to a number of factors, including confusion over the passenger list, which includes some names of people who cancelled their trip at the last minute, and the fact that several passengers traveled under aliases for various reasons and were double-counted on the casualty lists.

The disaster causes widespread outrage over the lack of lifeboats, lax regulations, and the unequal treatment of the three passenger classes during the evacuation. Subsequent inquiries recommend sweeping changes to maritime regulations, leading to the establishment in 1914 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which still governs maritime safety today.


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Sinking of the SS Isolda

isoldaThe Irish lightship tender SS Isolda, which is resupplying lighthouses off the coast of County Wexford, is bombed and sunk by a German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor on December 19, 1940 despite Irish neutrality. Six sailors are killed.

The lightships provide a vitally important service to maritime traffic for over two centuries. People live aboard these ships that anchor stationary at sea, providing a beacon in the dark for vessels that navigate the more treacherous parts of the Irish coast. These ships are faithfully assisted by ships that resupply them and facilitate crew changes. The SS Isolda is one such ship.

Danger in the waters around Ireland greatly increase during World War II. The Battle for the Atlantic is raging and Ireland’s location near important shipping lanes places Irish vessels right in the middle of a conflict zone. As a result, many casualties are incurred on Irish ships despite their position of neutrality.

The SS Isolda is a lightship tender owned by the Commissioners of Irish Lights. The lightship service is considered neutral and the ship has “Lighthouse Service” painted in large letters on both sides of the hull.

On December 19, 1940 she sails out from Rosslare Harbour heading to re-supply nearby lightships with relief crews and Christmas provisions. After placing the first crew at the lightship Barrels she then heads towards her next stop, the lightship Coningbeg. She does not make it very far as three miles out she is attacked from the air.

A German Condor flies over and drops the first bomb on the ship. The plane circles around and drops a second bomb, sealing the ships fate. Realising the SS Isolda is doomed, Captain Albert Bestic gives orders to abandon ship. Back on shore observers at the army lookout post at Carnsore Point look on helplessly at the carnage. The next day the German High Command admits that it is a German aircraft that had bombed the SS Isolda.

Survivors are picked up by boat and brought into Kilmore Quay, County Wexford. Six of the crew die and seven are wounded. Captain Bestic is among the survivors. This is not his first brush with death as he survived the sinking of the ill-fated RMS Lusitania 25 years earlier when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat.

(From: “Remembering the SS Isolda and her crew | Lost December 19th 1940” by Ann Robinson, December 19, 2017, http://coastmonkey.ie/ss-isolda-1940 | Pictured: The Ship – SS Isolda being bombed – Painting By Kenneth King)