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.

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