Tag: 1861

The Disaster to the Great Eastern

From The Weekly Pioneer and DemocratOctober 11, 1861

She Breaks her Rudder and Becomes Unmanageable.

FEARFUL ROLLING OF THE VESSEL

TERRIBLE SCENES ON BOARD

She Reaches Cork a Floating Wreck.

Farther Point, Tuesday, Oct. 1.—The following in regard to the disaster to the steamship Great Eastern is taken from the English papers :

The Great Eastern left her moorings in the river Mersey at half past one o’clock on Tuesday, the 10th of September. The pilot boats left her at 4 o’clock. She immediately put on full speed, and all went well with her until 4 o’clock on Thursday, when, a strong breeze prevailing, the aft tackle of one of the forward boats on the port side became unhooked, leaving it suspended by one tackle. The captain endeavored to steady the ship while this was rectified, but found to his surprise that she did not answer the helm. The fact was, though it was not known at the time, the rudder pin was broken. The fore staysail was run up but it was blown away. The paddle engines were now stopped, and the the boat lashings cut away, when the Great Eastern once more started on her course. The passengers then went down to dinner, and from that moment commenced a chaos of breakages which lasted without intermission for three days. Everything breakable was destroyed. Furniture, fittings, services of plate, piano—all were involved in one common ruin. It now became known that the rudder was unmanageable. About six o’clock the vessel had to be stopped again owing to two rolls of sheet lead, weighing several hundred weight each, which were in the engine room, rolling about with every oscillation of the vessel with fearful force. These having been secured, another start was made, when a tremendous grinding was heard under the paddle-boxes. The shaft had become twisted, and the floats were grinding against the side of the ship. The paddles were stopped, and thenceforward the scene is described as fearful in the extreme. The ship rolled so violently that the boats were washed away. The cabin, besides undergoing the dangers arising from the crashes and collisions which were constantly going on, had shipped, probably through the port holes, a great deal of water, and the stores were floating about in utter confusion and ruin. Some of the chandeliers fell down with a crash. A large mirror was smashed into a thousand fragments, rails of banisters, bars, and numerous other fittings, were broken into numberless pieces. Some idea of the roughness of the night may possibly be gathered from the fact that the large chain cables polished themselves quite bright with friction on deck. A spare riding bit gave way on the cabledeck, and knocked a hole through the ship’s side. Two oil tanks, also on the cabledeck, were so much damaged by another concussion that 200 gallons of fish oil contained in them ran into the hold, and caused, during the rest of the unhappy voyage, a most intolerable odor. The luggage of the passengers in the lower after cargo space was lying in two leet of water, and, before the deliverance of the ship was effected, the luggage was literally reduced to rags and pieces of timber. Twenty-five fractures of limbs occurred from the concussions caused by the tremendous lurching of the vessel. Cuts and bruises were innumerable. One of the cooks was cast violently, by one of the lurches, against the paddlebox, by which he sustained fearful bruises on the arms, putting it out of his power to protect himself. Another lurch drove him against one of the stanchions, by which concussion one of the poor fellow’s legs was broken in three places. The baker received injuries of a very terrible character in vital parts ; and one of the most striking incidents of the disaster was this poor, brave man, crawling in his agony to extinguish some portion of the baking gear, which at that moment had caught fire.

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