Saturday, 18 June 2016


Evening News (Sydney) Wednesday 10 February, 1909.

The following interesting news about ships
that have disappeared at sea was printed in
the "Shipping Gazette Weekly Summary,"
London, on January 8: —
There is a little hardwood board at Lloyd's,
close by one of the windows looking out on to
the busy life of Threadneedle-street, which
probably serves as ominous a purpose as any
piece of timber in London. It is the board
on which are posted the names and terse 
details of the last voyages of luckless ships that
vanish at sea, and are ultimately written off
as "missing vessels." Facing this, on the
opposite side of the window, is a similar
board, which is for the posting of the names
of hopelessly overdue ships. In the course of
each year there is a fluctuating succession of
these tragedies of the deep. Sometimes there
will be over 50 such losses, and the following
12 months may yield less than a score. 
During the year which has just ended 29 vessels
have been posted at Lloyd's as missing.
In 1907 there were also 29 vessels posted, but
the tonnage of the missing vessels of 1908
totals 23,960 net tons, which is about 3000 tons
in excess of the figures for 1907. This is
easily accounted for, seeing that since January
1, 1908, a number of big ships have been post-
ed as missing. Indeed, the frequency with
which sailing ships of large proportions have
been lost without news is one of the notable
features of the present year's returns. Of the
29 vessels included in the total for 1908 13 were
steamers and 15 were sailers, the remaining
unit being an American towing barge of 464
net tons. British, vessels number 16, seven of
which were steamers and nine sailers. The
other nationalities represented were:—United
States, 1 steamer, 4 sailers, and 1 towing
barge; Norway, 2 steamers; Japan, 1 steamer;
Germany, 1 steamer; Spain, 1 steamer; Italy,
1 sailer; and Russia, 1 sailer. The largest
vessel was the American steel four-masted
ship Arthur Sewall, of 2919 net tons, a splen-
did ship, launched at Bath (Maine) less than
ten years ago. The British vessel of highest
net tonnage was also a sailer — the Liverpool
three-masted ship Toxteth, of 2387 net tons.
Both these ships disappeared while outward
bound on Cape Horn voyages.
The British coasting steamer Gatesgarth was
the first ship posted missing this year, she
having been lost between Partington and Penarth. 
A fortnight later, on January 15,
came the Joindon Hall. Bound from Sulina
with grain for Scotch distilleries, this turret-
deck vessel disappeared beneath the waves be-
fore she had passed the Bosphorus. Passing
without comment the loss of the Spanish steamer
Laurak Bat, of 1263 net tons, we come to one
of the most notable missing ships of the year,
the steel four-master Arthur Sewall. Philadelphia 
for Seattle was the last voyage of this
big craft, an that voyage she never completed. 
Laden with coal, the Arthur Sewall began her fateful 
voyage on March 30, 1907, and
after taking her final departure from Delaware Breakwater, 
was never again heard of.
But we have a recollection of reading that
some unscrupullous individual, who gave him-
self out to be one of the crew of the ship, and
who spun a specious story of the loss of the
vessel, managed to get his yarn believed in
New York for a while, and so lined his pockets
with dollars. The Neptune and the Munin, two
steamers which were posted missing in February, 
possess no special claim to attention. The
former, a British vessel, was lost on a coasting voyage; 
while the Munin a timber-laden Norwegian 
disappeared between Kotka and Ghent.
The only Italian vessel posted was the Pellegrina O., 
a sailer of 1411 tons, which at the
time of her loss, was making the voyage from
Newcastle (N.S.W.) to the West Coast of
South America. The first British sailing
ship of any size to be posted was the Hartfield, 
of 1815 net tons, which was lost while
going north from Valparaiso to Tacoma. Although 
it was as a missing ship that the Hartfield ended her 
days, the wreckage, which was washed ashore, 
indicated only too clearly that she had been 
wrecked off the Vancouver coast,
and when practically at the end of her journey. 
Still in American waters, but on the
other side of the Continent, were two vessels,
which, a week later, were declared missing.
These were the old American steamer Bluefields 
and the towing barge Grafton. The former 
disappeared while on a voyage from
Jacksonville to Philadelphia, while the latter
broke adrift from her towing vessel during a
storm, was lost sight of, and was never again
The Goto Maru, the largest steamer posted
during the year, was owned in Japan. Bound
on a passage across the North Pacific, the
Goto Maru was lost somewhere between Hakodadi 
and San Francisco. April 15 was certainly a dark 
day for the sailing ship, for on that
date no fewer than three long-voyage square-
rigged vessels were declared missing. Two of
these, the Alacrita and the Castle Rock, were
British vessels, the third being the Adolph
Obrig, a Yankee ship, built at Bath (Maine) in
1881. The Alacrita. owned by the Anglo-American 
Oil Company, was bound from Delagoa Bay
to Hongkong. Launched so recently as 1903,
she was the most modern of the big sailing
vessels posted missing during 1908.
The Castle Rock was lost when making a
passage from Sydney (N.S.W.) to the North
Pacific Coast; while the Adolph Obrig was
one of the ships that disappeared on a Cape
Horn voyage. The Nova Scotia schooner Mary
A. Duff, a craft of 90 net tons, laden with a
cargo of fish, was bound from Lunenburg (Nova
Scotia) to Port of Spain (Trinidad), when she
was posted missing. Some time afterwards her
storm-battered hull was sighted in the North
Atlantic by the barquentine Blanche Currie.
Derelict and water-logged, the little fish-carrier 
was drifting in the track of vessels crossing the North Atlantic.
Towards the close of June the British sailer
Falklandbank was posted. She, like three
other big sailers which have shared her fate,
was one of the ships lost while on a Cape Horn
passage. The quartette thus referred to were
the Falklandbank, of 1781 net tons; the Coonedd 
Llewellyn, of 1608 net tons; the Toxteth,
of 2387 net tons; and the American ship Bangalore, 
of 1560 net tons. The general opinion
was that these four ships were lost while in
the vicinity of Cape Horn, probably through
collision with icebergs. No castaways were
discovered, and one had to face the unpleasant
truth that the crews of all four ships were
drowned. Four other vessels whose names
have appeared on the "missing vessels" board
during the second half of the year were the
Winnipeg, a Russian barque, of 837 net tons,
the steamers Europa and Ursula Bright, and the
American brig John M'Dermott.
It may be mentioned with regard to the ages
of the 29 vessels that eight were built in 1900
or subsequently, the Mary A. Doff, launched in
1906, being the one which had had the shortest
span of usefulness. The oldest vessel was the
American steamer Bluefields, launched on the
Clyde in 1865. Six of the vessels were bound
on coasting voyages between British ports, and
as a contrast to these six were lost while on
voyages round Cape Horn. The vessels of
less than 200 net tons numbered half a dozen;
while five were over 2000 net tons.
It is not possible to give definite figures as
to the loss of life, but the probability is that
the 29 missing vessels were responsible for the
drowning of somewhere about 500 mariners.
Another point of interest is that with the exception 
of four of the American craft— the Arthur Sewall, 
Adolph Obrig, Grafton, and John M'Dermott—
all the vessels were either built in
the United Kingdom or in Colonial yards. Two
of the smaller sailers—the Mary A. Duff and
the Alice H.—were launched at British North
American ports, but the other twenty-three
were constructed in Great Britain. For some
years past the list of missing vessels has included 
one or more of the big French sailing
vessels. In 1904 there were the Paris and
Lamoriciere, in 1905 the Lafayette, in 1906 the
St. Donatien, nad in 1907 the Daniel and Hautot.
During the year just ended, however, no
French vessel has been posted at Lloyd's, as missing.

1 comment:

Stuart Flood said...

Could there have been more missing ships that did not make it to Lloyds list?