British steamer Alum Chine

Liverpool Mercury, Mar 15th, 1913

Blown up by dynamite

British steamer destroyed

While dynamite was being loaded on the British steamer ALUM CHINE in the lower harbour, Baltimore, a terrible explosion occurred.

Over 300 tons of dynamite blew up.

Over 50 persons reported killed.

The steamer and a barge alongside sank immediately.

The shock of the explosion was felt at Reading, some 100 miles distant.

Reports from Baltimore state that 15 survivors of the crew of the Cardiff steamer ALUM CHINE signed a statement to the effect that the laws governing the loading of explosives were observed, and that a fire from an unknown origin caused the explosion. They say they saw the fire.

All accounts with one exception agree that there was but one explosion.

A statement however from an assistant foreman stevedore, named BOMHARDT, declares a box he and another stevedore carried on board exploded when it was let down to the floor of the ship’s hold. After that he and 14 others scrambled out and got on the tug ATLANTIC, which put off at speed.

When they got to the tug they saw smoke coming from the hold. There was about 20 mins between the time the box exploded and the big explosion.

Owners, Messers HARPER and Co, Cardiff received the following cable :-

ALUM CHINE total loss, Explosion dynamite. The following of the crew saved.


The following not accounted for :-

WATERS, Chief officer, Cardiff, HUNTER, GARNEY, Donkeymen, VERHOVEN, GIBSON, DAVIES, NYBERG. HANSEN and NYBERG were substitutes.

The crew signed on at Barry dock.

The bodies of several victims including those of Edward WATERS the Chief officer of the Alum Chine, and a fireman Charles DAVEY [?DAVIES], both English,. James GIBSON a fireman of Cardiff, missing.

Mr J. G. REES of Cardiff, Chief engineer of the Alum Chine narrated a thrilling story of his escape.

He was in the engine room, when he was startled by a cry of, “fire!” Realising if a fire broke out an appalling explosion was inevitable, he rushed on deck and managed with others to get on the boat.

They were 200 ft from the steamer when the explosion occurred.

Mr REES describes the scene :-

“A column of fire of about 50 ft shot up. This was topped with a column of smoke which rose to about 200 ft. For some minutes everything was shrouded in smoke.

When it cleared we found the ship and the barge had disappeared.

“In the meantime a fearful hail was falling all about us, composed not only of steel and wood, but of human fragments.”

According to later estimates, from 50 to 60 were killed and 60 injured, 15 fatally.

The damage to property is estimated at, £100,000.

The cause it not known. Some declare a stevedore jammed a spike into a box of dynamite.


Copyright 2002 / To date