Loss of the ARCTIC, 1854

The Northern Times, Oct 13th 1854

Total loss of the steamer ARCTIC

Fearful sacrifice of life

Arrival of the CLEOPATRA

The Canadian steamer CLEOPATRA, Capt SALT, arrived here this morning from Quebec having put into St Johnís Newfoundland for coal, making the passage from St Johnís in 7 days.

By her we have received St Johnís newspapers for the 3rd inst giving the melancholy details of the total loss of the American steamer ARCTIC, Capt LUCE, with a fearful sacrifice of life, off Cape Race. The ARCTIC was on a passage from this port to New York, having left here on the 20th ult.

St Johnís Public Ledger, 3rd inst

The French merchant screw steamer VESTA from St Peters bound to Granville, arrived here Saturday morning last, with loss of foremast and bows completely shattered, having been in collision with the Collinís paddle-steamer ARCTIC, from Liverpool to New York about 54 miles S.E of Cape Race.

The VESTA left St Peters on Tuesday last, and at noon the following day in the neighbourhood of Virgin Rocks, in a dense fog, steaming 8 knots came into collision with the ARCTIC whose speed having been not less than 12 knots.

The VESTA appeared to be sinking but rose up again, but no hope was entertained of her ultimate safety and the passengers and crew looked upon the ARCTIC as their only chance of safety.

One man was killed and others severely injured, two boats were put over the side, one immediately sank, the second was boarded by 2 crew and several passengers, who not heeding the cries of the Captain to return on board, abandoned the vessel.

The fog continued very thick and they lost sight of the ARCTIC, still hoping, however, that she would not desert them. Cries of distress were heard and was attributed to some men of the VESTA who had jumped overboard to get on the ARCTIC. The bulkhead in the forecastle was not started, which Capt DUCHESNE noticed was affording a chance of safety. He immediately with the utmost promptitude, gave orders for lightening the vessel, which was readily obeyed by the throwing overboard all, the fish, cargo, luggage of the passengers etc. This elevation with the firmness of the bulkhead contributed much to stop the heavy rush of water.

150 mattresses, palliasses and other effects were now placed abaft in the safety partition, over which were thrown sails, backed by boards and planks, the whole thing secured by cables. The damaged foremast was cut away and contributed to raising the head still more. This occupied 2 days, they then ran under small steam to the nearest port, St Johns.

Upon mustering the hands, 13 were missed.

The VESTA had on board 147 passengers and a crew of 50. Nothing but the most superior seamanship could have brought the vessel to port, Capt DUCHESNE is much applauded.

Nothing further was heard of the ARCTIC until Saturday evening when news reached town that she had suffered considerably from the shock and had been abandoned by the passengers and crew. On Sunday some of those who had taken to the boats arrived here from Renews.

Information from one of the passengers

On Wednesday last at noon, as the passengers were at lunch in the cabin, a violent shock was felt, and upon rushing on deck, a steamer was very indistinctly seen, through the dense fog, broad of the starboard bow, which turned out to be the VESTA.

At first no danger was apprehended on board the ARCTIC, and the Chief Officer was sent with a boat to rescue the crew of the VESTA. It was soon discovered. However, there was little hope of saving the ARCTIC, and the Lady, daughter and son of Mr E. K. COLLINS and several ladies were put on board a boat, in the act of lowering one of the tackles gave way, and all, except one lady who clung to a sailor holding fast of the boat, were precipitated into the sea and lost.

Another party of ladies and some gentlemen were put on board another boat and some provisions, but not having been manned by sailors there is little chance of their speedily reaching land.

The ship could not be stopped to lower the boats, the pumps being attached to the engine for the purpose of keeping the vessel clear of water, which was rushing into her, from an injury on the fore side of the starboard wheel.

She was then headed for Cape Race, but after 15 miles the water had gained to extinguish the fires, and the wheels consequently ceased to work, at which time the boats saved left the ship.

Capt LUCE had no hope of saving the vessel, or his own life, and on someone wishing to take his little son into the boat declined. A large boat capable of taking 50 persons was on deck, but there was not sufficient hands on board, it being difficult to launch, it is supposed she would be filled with persons, in the hope that she might float when the vessel sunk. It is conjecture 3 lifeboats might still be floating, which will be likely to live out the gale of Saturday.

The purser Mr GEIB chartered a small craft at Renews to visit the scene of the disaster, and ascertain whether there are more boats out, and learn of the safety or otherwise of the parties.

The ARCTIC had on board 400 persons, 185 1st class passenger, 75 2nd class passengers and 130 crew. Ferryland 28th Sept 1854

W. H. NEWMAN Esq, American Consul

Dear Sir - Enclosed I send you an important telegraphic communications from Messers E. K. COLLINS and Co, New York, informing them of the loss of the steamer ARCTIC, which I will thank you to have forwarded to Halifax for transmission by the earliest opportunity to St Johns. I am now on my way to your place with 14 passengers and 31 crew of the ill fated steamer who were saved in two small boats belonging to the ship, after spending 2 days and 2 nights on the deep.

We arrived at 4 this morning at a place called Broad Cove, and are waiting for fair wind to take us to St Johns

John GEIB, Purser, Steamer ARCTIC

The 2nd Officer, Mr BAAHLAM also made a statement

Public Ledger, Oct 3rd 1854

In brief :-

On Wednesday at noon, Cape Race, bearings S.W by W, 65 miles distant, while running in a thick fog, were struck in the starboard bow, about 60ft abaft the cutwater by an iron steamer, which made three large holes in the ship, two below water, one of which was 51/2ft long, and one 11/2ftdeep.

The wheel was put hard to starboard, the engine stopped and we backed at full speed, until clear of the other steamer. The French steamer seemed to be sinking bow first, Capt LUCE immediately gave orders to clear away the quarter-boats and Mr GOURLEY, Chief Officer left the ship in charge of the starboard boat. On informing the captain of the damage he ordered the shipís head to be kept for land, which bore N.W by W. By this time we had lost sight of the Chief Officerís boat and the other steamer, which we supposed had sunk.

We had not been out more than 5mins, when we ran into a boat belonging to the other vessel, the passengers all of whom perished except one, who caught hold of a rope hanging over the bow.

Orders were given to stop the engine, which the Chief Officer said could not be done. In about 30mins all the lower fires were out, there was at least 6ft of water in the ship, fore and aft. In 45mins the water in the level of the lower deck beams and the captain had no hope of saving her and told me to save the boats.

The boats on the portside were completely filled with men and women. I went to the starboard and ordered the guard-boat be lowered, I asked the captain what his intentions were and he replied, that the shipís fate would be his. I then asked would he not allow his son to go with me and he answered that he should share his fate.

I then jumped into the boat and was ordered by the captain to cut away, about 20 people jumped overboard, of these 17/18 were picked up. We fell in with another boat which had been lowered from the other side and lightened her of part of her compliment, leaving 19 in her and 26 in my boat.

The last sight of the ARCTIC, her yards were level with the water, the surface of the sea was strewn with human beings, of whom, it was impossible to render any assistance.

I was put in complete command of both boats, we were 60miles S.E of Cape Race. It was my duty to all to take the nearest course, after pulling for 42hrs with nothing to guide but the run of the sea, which I took to be heaving from southward, and in a thick fog, we reached Broad Cave, some 12miles N. of Cape Race.

We then proceeded by land to Renews, which we reached on Friday last. I there obtained a small schooner, hired by the purser and myself and immediately went in search of the wreck or boats. We cruised around until yesterday and found no sign of the wreck or boats.

I sent word to Capt LEITCH of the PHILADELPHIA, who I am informed sent out two vessels and Mr Alan GOODRIDGE of Renews also sent out a vessel on Saturday.

I regret to report there is no trace of the ARCTIC or her boats, there were many vessels in the area where the disaster occurred, it is not at all improbable that many lives may have been saved. No doubt, however, is left in my mind as to the loss of the steamer ARCTIC.

Copy of a letter from Mr C. T. MITCHELL, of Charleston, passenger on the ARCTIC.

St Johns Newfoundland, 0ct 3rd 1854

Messers GLEN and ANDERSON - Dear Sir - This advises you that the ARCTIC, in a dense fog off Cape Race, came into collision with an iron steamer and sank in 4hrs. I took to the boat and after 42hrs of intense agony of mind and body was saved. I saved nothing but the clothes I stood in, will leave this from Friday for Halifax, and from thence proceed to Boston, with as much despatch as possible. I sprained my ankle, which is the only injury I sustained. Please give this information to Mr Edward MOON and other friends, and oblige, yours truly.


Extract from a letter St Johns, Oct 8th 1854

The steamer which ran into the ARCTIC was the VESTA, 800 tons, bound for St Peters to Granville with cod fish. 11am she struck, it was very foggy. She struck the ARCTIC forward of the paddle boxes. The French steamer arrived here last Sunday in a terrible state, the crew had thrown all the fish overboard to lighten the vessel. 14 crew thinking she was sinking left her in one of the boats which was ran down by the ARCTIC and all were lost. The VESTA had 140 souls on board - conscripts to supply the places of those who had died in the Baltic of Cholera in the French Navy. This small city is full of wrecked crews and passengers.

It is an awful thing the loss of the ARCTIC, the Captain [brave fellow] would not leave this ship and when last seen by the survivors he was with the ship sinking fast. Mr COLLINS, his wife, daughter and son were lost when lowering the boat which was swamped alongside. I have just come from the French steamer it is a miracle she was saved. The bow is turned completely at right angles with the side, in the starboard bow is a great crack, extending to within 6ins of the keel. All her coal and cargo is thrown overboard. Her water tight compartments saved her. ďThe CITY OF PHILADELPHIA has broken to pieces.Ē

Passenger list of the ARCTIC, from Liverpool 1854

List of crew members, including Capt LUCE, saved from the sinking of the ARCTIC, Oct,1854


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