of 488, of whom 192 were Senegalese riflemen. Tugs and naval vessels are still searching for boats, but the terrible seas give little hope of many further survivors.
Rescued men narrate that tihe liner Ceylan
went to the assistance of the Afrique in
response to a distress signal when the
storm was at its worst, and was escorting
her to port when the Afrique struck the
Plateaux Rochebonne— a well-known reef
50 miles from Barochell (Bay of Biscay),
and two fathoms below the surface. The collision caused a terrific shock. It was midnight, and the ship was plunged into darkness owing to
the dynamos failing. The wireless was
just able to raise enough power to send out
a despairing S.O.S.
The captain, realizing that the Afrique
was doomed, ordered the boats to be
launched, despite the huge waves. The
Ceylan meanwhile was unable to keep close
owing to the seas, and wirelessed that she
was steering a parallel course, and would
meet the Afrique at a given spot at dawn.
She received an S.O.S., 'We cannot keep
afloat till dawn,' followed by another,
'We are abandoning the ship:' The Ceylan
closed in and commenced a desperate
search in the darkness for the boats. She
was able to rescue a few, but there was no
trace of the Afrique at daylight. Evidently
she struck the rock and sank rapidly. I have had a look at a number of accounts about this visually top heavy steamer and there is no clear cut explanation for her experiencing problems in the storm BEFORE striking the rock. All I can find is that she was 'damaged in the gale'. One does wonder if this is a case of a truly top heavy vessel which was tested and failed in a storm of 'exceptional violence'. It's almost as mysterious as the loss of the Waratah.....