Thursday, 17 March 2016


SS Norge was a Danish passenger liner sailing from CopenhagenKristiania and Kristiansand to New York, mainly with emigrants, which sank off Rockall in 1904. It was the biggest civilian maritime disaster in the Atlantic Ocean until the sinking of the RMS Titanic eight years later, and is still the largest loss of life from a Danish merchant ship.
She was built in 1881 by Alexander Stephen and Sons of LinthouseGlasgow, for the Belgian company Theodore C. Engels & Co of Antwerp; her original name was Pieter de Coninck. The ship was 3,359 GRT and 3,700 tonnes deadweight (DWT), and the 1,400-horsepower (1.0 MW) engine gave a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). She could carry a maximum of 800 passengers.[1]
In 1889 she was sold to a Danish company, A/S Dampskibs-selskabet Thingvalla, for its Stettin-Copenhagen-Kristiania-Kristiansand-New York service and renamed Norge.[1] Following financial difficulties, that company was purchased in 1898 byDet Forenede Dampskibs-Selskab (DFDS), Copenhagen, which served the route as "Scandinavia-America Line".[2] By then, the capacity of Norge was 50 1st class, 150 2nd class and 900 3rd class passengers.[1]
On 28 June 1904, heading for New York, Norge ran aground on Hasselwood Rock, St Helen's Reef, close to Rockall, in foggy weather.[1][3] She was reversed off the rock, but sank quickly due to the serous hull damage.[3] According to author Per Kristian Sebak's comprehensive account, over 635 people died during the sinking, among them 225 Norwegians. The 160 survivors spent up to eight days in open lifeboats before rescue. Several more people lost their lives in the days that followed rescue as a result of their exposure to the elements and swallowing salt water.
Among the survivors was the poet Herman Wildenvey.[4]
The disaster remains the worst in Danish maritime history.[1] The wreck of Norge was located off Rockall in July 2003.

Tonnage:3,359 Gross Register Tons
Installed power:1,400 hp (1,000 kW)
Speed:10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Capacity:800 passengers

dimensions103 x 12 x 6.9 m


LONDON, July 4.
The latest information concerning the
Danish emigrant steamer Norge, which was
wrecked in the Atlantic on Tuesday last
while on a voyage from Copenhagen to
New York, is to the effect that 64 additional 
survivors have been picked up.
The Norge's crew numbered 63 and her
passengers 694.
The rescuers passed hundreds of dead
bodies of persons who had died in their
lifebelts, probably from exposure.
There were 200 children aboard the
Norge. The emigrants consisted mainly of
labourers and peasants, who were availing
themselves of the reduced fares (3 pounds per adult)
There were also some Polish Jews, who were 
proceeding to America in order to escape service 
with the Russian army in the Far East.
Captain Gundel and those of the crew
who remained on the vessel till she sank,
disappeared with their arms folded, heroic-
ally facing what seemed inevitable doom.
The captain, however, after swimming for
an hour and a half, was, together with the
engineer, rescued by a passing boat.
The saved include eight members of the
crew and 128 passengers.
Captain Gundel, the officers, and the
crew, all accounts agree, acted splendidly,
but it was at once apparent that in the
heavy sea prevailing nothing could save the
vessel, which settled down within ten
minutes level with the waters edge. The
utmost discipline was observed during the
brief but trying period. It was of little avail, 
however, and the passengers, aroused
from their sleep at a quarter to 8 in the
morning, made desperate fights to reach
the boats, three of which had no
sooner been launched than they were
simultaneously dashed to pieces, an 
occurrence which added greatly to the panic
among the frantic and despairing crowd
gathered on deck.
As on many similar occasions the terrible
story is illuminated by many incidents of
heroic self-sacrifice. When the ship's life-boat, 
which was afterwards rescued by a
trawler from Grimsby, swung out, a 
Swedish youth, only 17, who was urged to take
his place, stepped back, exclaiming,
"Where's my sister?" He found her in
prayer, and having kissed her, placed her
in the boat, and waved a signal of farewell.
He perished.
An officer, finding the boat overweighted
by his presence, jumped overboard, trusting 
to his powers as a swimmer to enable
him to reach another boat. The attempt
was unsuccessful, and he sank.
Heartrending stories are also told of persons 
struggling in the water, and piteously
begging for their lives only to be refused,
through sheer necessity, admittance to
boats already overladen.
Captain Gundel declares that the vessel
struck, not, as was supposed, a reef connected 
with Rockall (an Atlantic rock),
but a sunken and an uncharted rock, 13
miles south of Rockall.
Seven boats got away safely, and the life
rafts were cut adrift. Thirty-four children, 
15 women, and 52 males landed at
Stornoway, in the Outer Hebrides, where
they received every kindness and clothing
and money sufficient to enable them to 
resume their journey to the United States.

Much has been written about the Norge tragedy. The internet is awash with heart wrenching accounts.
The Norge, 3359 gross tons, 338 ft. length, 39 ft. beam, and 22.6 ft. depth, was registered to convey
800 passengers. Stuart Flood raised the issue of relatively small vessels registered to convey huge
numbers of emigrants. According to the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, the master of a vessel would
have been subjected to a fine (on arrival at destination port), not exceeding 10 pounds, if the vessel
carried a greater number of passengers / emigrants than permitted by regulations. Hardly a

According to the Act vessels were restricted to 1 statute adult per 20 tons registered tonnage, which
gives us, in the case of the Norge, 168 adults ! Babies were not included in the tally and children under
12 were regarded as half a statute adult. Even if the Norge carried only children under 12 we would still
only get a maximum of 336 !  According to the news report, there were 694 emigrants on board ! The
fines were ridiculous and serious loopholes existed in manipulating the Merchant Shipping Act - after all
the SS Norge was registered for 800 passengers. One shudders to think of the conditions below deck.
No wonder there were insufficient lifeboats. The image of the Norge illustrates this point. Would you like
to have been one of 800, excluding crew,  on board a steamer this size ?

Waratah carried almost 700 emigrants on her maiden voyage and this figure should not have exceeded 300 if one employs the regulation of 1 statute adult per 20 registered tons. Progress was not simply a continuum of technological advance it included regard for the welfare and safety of human life. It took the Titanic tragedy to bring this issue into sharp focus. 

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