Friday, January 29, 2016

Shipping disasters: Austrias fire 13 September 1858 Part 2

The Fire 

After taking up the English passengers in Southampton  Austria sailed out onto the Atlantic .The journey  was relatively uneventful since ther was  headwind the ship was  estimated to arrive in New York a little  later than expected.
At noon on September 13 it was decided to fumigate  the sterage, by smoking it by dipping a red  hot chain into a bucket of tar. The chain soon  became too hot for the boatswain to hold and dropped onto the deck, which immediately caught fire. Soon  the cry was heard:
Feuer! (Fire !!)
Although the ship traveled only at half speed, it was impossible to stop the  steam engines since  enginecrew had become  asphyxiated   by the  smoke.
As the helmsman and the captain abandoned the ship,  the ship swung into the wind, which further allowed the fire to spread along the ship, devouring the  the mahogany veneer and varnished bulkheads and painted shots. The propeller could not be stopped and the rudder became useless.
Panic broke out on board. The passengers who did not suffocate  by the smoke were burned to death by fire or drowned when they jumped overboard to escape the flames.  Others died when they were drawn into the rotating propellers.
Anders Victor Lindstein told:
The horrible scene at the ship's fire is difficult to describe, you can make yourself an idea about it at the thought that out of 600 people, only 89 became saved. I saw mothers take their children, whose clothes already on fire, and throw them into the sea before  plunging  themselves into the waves

Charles Rosene and his son Charles Jr. had been sitting near the engineroom when the fire broke out. Charles, Jr. told:
:My father and I ran forward to escape the fire and was followed by the other passengers. I saw the fire penetrate through the valves within 10 to 15 minutes came the call to the lifeboats!
The panic-stricken passengers struggled to get space in a lifeboat, but disarray prevailed
Several lifeboats were launched but . but drove off before anyone had time to rise.
When the firstofficer took a knife and cut the ropes that held one of the lifeboats  it fell into the water, the passengers that were  inside were thrown out and the boat filled with water Charles Jr. ended up in the water but managed along with some others get  into the boat, it  however, turned over several times and  more people fell out and drowned.
Charles Sr.clinged to the boat for a short while but then lost his grip , and disappeared into  the waves. Claes Högqvist clung to one of Austrias lifebuoys for several hours before he could be helped into the lifeboat.
The first vessel to observe the disaster was the French bark Maurice which  immediately rushed to help.  Att seven in the evening arrived at the burnt ship and could rescue the first survivors.fromthe lifeboat.   The next morning the Norwegian sailing ship Catarina picked up the remaining  survivors who clung to the charred hull or were  floating on wreckage nearby  while the charred remains of the burned-out ship was left to sink.
Anders Lindstein was one of the last people pulled alive from the water.., his friend Carl Johan Holmberg was hanging dead on the bowsprit, where he had tied himself. In total, only about 90 people were  rescued of the ships  originally about 540 occupants.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Shipping disasters: Austrias fire 13 September 1858 Part 1


During the  early days of the swedish emigration In the 1840-1850 thies   most emigrants left Sweden on sailings ships from swedish ports .Most of the ships where not regular passager ships .The journey could take between 8-12 weeks. However, there were already at that time bigger ships specialized in passenger traffic with hundreds of emigrants on board.

They were combined sail and steamships that passed from the British, German and French ports. They traveled quicker  across the Atlantic than sailing ships and crossed the Atlantic in about  14-21 days. Even though they were both bigger and faster , they were not always safe. Several major disasters occurred during the 1840-1850's. one of the worst was the Hamburg-America Line Austrias fire on September  13th 1858.

The Hamburg-America Line had started its passenger traffic in 1847 with sailing ships but in 1857 supplemented  it with steamers and purchased four new ships to operate the route from Hamburg  to  New York. In  1855  Hammonia and Borussia entered into service i, and in 1857 followed the sister ships Saxonia and Austria.

Austria was built on Werft Caird & Company (Caird & Co.) shipyard in Greenock in Scotland and launched June 23rd  1857.She was 318 ftand 2,684 BRT, with three masts and single screw propeller propulsion. The ship was built as a troop transport ship for the British  East India Company. She was, however, an unlucky  ship. Already  on October 5th  1857, she was hit by  a storm in the Bay of Biscay which killed  a crew member  .It severely damaged the ship  which had to sail back to Plymouth  to undergo extensive repairs. On her second trip, she  again encountered   a storm  both steam engines were badly damaged this time she must also return for repairs in Plymouth  In  May 1858 was taken over by the  Hamburg-America Line and was deployed on the route Hamburg-New York

The fateful trip


On the quay in Hamburg where emigrant ships moored swarmed with people .Most of those who would sail  with Austria came from different parts of the  german speaking areas.There were no united Germany yet..Hamburg was an independent city state, and the provinces of Schleswig and Holstein belonged to Denmark...Some of the passengers  came from different parts of the  the Habsburg empire , a number of Americans who were visiting Europe were a also among the passengers. A dozen Scandinavians had also solved tickets in different price ranges.

Henriette Wullf and her friend and companion Caroline Howith from Copenhagen had allowed themselves first-class tickets .Caroline  was a was a well-travelled  single 54 year old sophisticated lady  and a close  friend of the writers H C Andersen and Fredrika  Bremer .This would be Caroline's third trip across the Atlantic in 10 years. She had previously visited both the Caribbean and the United States with her brother and  after his death, she decided to definitively emigrate  and settle in the United States.

Two returning  Swedish gold-diggers Anders Viktor Lindstein  and his friend John Holmberg had bought tickets in the cabin  class both men came from Västra Vingåker in Södermanland.They had visited friends and family and were now both on their way back to California .

Among the third class passengers were some other returning Swedish gold-diggers including Swen Peterson and S.P. Swensson from Landskrona area in Skåne .Swensson had married Peterson's sister Olivia and she was now following them back to USA. .The three siblings Anders,Sven and Carolina Nilsson came from Kläckeberga in Kalmar county .They had early lost their parents Anders had became a sailor and was now returning to bring his siblings to USA. .From Söderhamn came Charles Högqvist who had been on a visit  to his hometown Söderhamn in Hälsingland  ,with him followed the farmer Lars Dahlström from Söderala who decided to seek his fortune in America

Other Swedish passengers who had been home on a visit, Charles Rosin
Rosin had already in his youth emigrated from Kalmar  to America now he and 16-year-old son Charles  Jr.on their  way home to Richmond , Virginia after having visited relatives,
August Theodor Mankee had visited relatives in Stockholm and was now on his way home to Rock Island, Illinois. Among the  Scandinavians were also Sven and Daniel Danielsen who sailed to Hamburg from Stavanger. in Norway.
On August 31  all passengers were  carefully recorded In the passenger lists

Austria sailed September 1, 1858  from Hamburg on her  third trip to New York with about 538 people aboard passengers and crew under command of Captain FA Heydtman three days later she arrived in  Southampton where additional passangers boarded  .In the morning of September 4rd  Austria  steered out on  the Atlantic  The ship was estimated to arrive  in New York on September 18th. Unfortunately most of those on board were never to arrive to their destination.