Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Cimbria

Photograph of the CIMBRIA docked at the Jonas, Hamburg. Source: Hans Jürgen Witthöft, HAPAG; Hamburg-Amerika Linie(3., überarbeitete Auflage; Hamburg: Koehler, 1997), p. 18.
The steamship CIMBRIA was built for the Hamburg-America Line by Caird & Co, Greenock, and was launched on 21 January 1867. 3,025 tons; 100,93 x 12,1 x 10,34 meters/329 x 39 x 33 feet (length x breadth x depth of hold); straight stem, 1 funnel, 2 masts; iron construction, single screw propulsion, compound engines, service speed 12 knots; accommodation for 58 passengers in 1st class, 120 in 2nd class, and 500 in steerage; crew of 120.
19 January 1883, bound from Hamburg for Havre and New York, sunk in collision with the British steamship SULTAN near the island of Borkum, with the loss of between 437 and 457 lives. The following account of the sinking of the CIMBRIA is taken from Charles Hocking,Dictionary of Disasters at Sea During the Age of Steam; Including sailing ships and ships of war lost in action, 1824-1962 (London: Lloyd's Register of Shipping, 1969), vol. 1, pp. 141-142:
The liner CIMBRIA, Capt. Hansen, left Hamburg on Thursday, January 18th, 1883, with 402 passengers--mostly emigrants from Russia, Prussia, Austria and Hungary--and a crew of 120. There were also a number of French sailors on board, bound for Havre, and a party of Chippewa Indians returning to the U.S.A. after performing at an exhibition. Early on the morning of the 19th the weather thickened, and later on became dense. Off the Island of Borkum the siren of an approaching steamship was heard, but her location was in doubt until the very moment that she loomed into sight, barely 150 feet away. She proved to be the SULTAN, of the Hull and Hamburg Line, Capt. Cuttill, and she crashed into the CIMBRIA's port side immediately in front of the foremast, cutting a hole which extended to below the water-line. She then backed away, finding her own plight extremely bad, as she had a 7-foot hole in the bows and was making water fast. In these circumstances she did not lower her boats or make any effort to get into touch with the vessel she had rammed, believing that her own case was the more serious. Shortly afterwards the two ships drifted out of sight of each other.

Conditions on the CIMBRIA were very serious, the startled passengers, who were asleep below, came on deck to find the ship heeling over to starboard and rapidly settling down. The seven boats were got away as quickly as possible, one capsizing on launching. In general there was good order and every means of saving life was adopted, even to cutting loose the ship's spars to provide assistance for the unfortunate people when they were flung into the water.

Two of the boats were picked up by the British barque THETA, on Sunday the 21st, with 39 survivors. A third boat containing 17 was picked up by the British ship DIAMANT [this identification is incorrect: the vessel was the Bremen bark DIAMANT] off the Weser Lighthouse, while a fourth boat with nine people arrived at Borkum, thus making 65 all told. Among the saved were the second, third and fourth officers and the second engineer. Nearly all of the 72 women and 87 children on board were lost.

At an official inquiry at Hamburg, Capt. Cuttill stated that he considered his ship the more damaged at the time, and that he did not lower his boats for fear of losing them in the fog. He affirmed that he was not aware of the disaster to the CIMBRIA, from which he had drifted away. It was proved that if the SULTAN had shipped a foot more water in her hold she would have foundered.

“I worked on my board today.  This afternoon when I went up I took 30 Doz. Eggs to Frank Ball.  Snowed hard this afternoon and is snowing this evening.”

“I went up today and worked awhile on my board.”