Daily Event for January 4

1852: The British steamer Amazon, burned and sank in the Bay of Biscay. Amazon, a 2,256 ton sidewheeler,
was built by R&H Green and was launched on June 28, 1851. The Royal Mail Steam Packet Companies new
ship was the largest sidewheeler yet built by an English shipyard. On January 2, 1852 she departed
Southampton on her maiden voyage the ship began to have problems with the bearings in the paddle shafts
overheating. In fact she had to stop three times so extra grease could be applied to the bearings.

Fire broke out on January 4 at about 12:45am and spread quickly. The fire prevented the crew from stopping
the engines thus making the launching of lifeboats nearly impossible. The ship still running at about 9 knots
and the weather nearing a gail caused all but three of the boats to either be wrecked on the davits or capsize
when they hit the water. The majority of those killed were drowned launching the boats.

Thirty six passengers and sixty eight crew, including Captain Symons were killed. Fifty eight were picked up by 3 other ships. The last lifeboat off the Amazon was the last one found. It contained 13 survivors who reported to the crew of the Dutch ship Hellechene that captain Symons had pushed their lifeboat clear of the burning ship even though his clothing was on fire.

© 2006 Michael W. Pocock