Daily Event for March 8, 2006

On March 8, 1871 the White Star Liner Pacific was launched at Harland & Wolff. She was one of the original four White Star steamships ordered by Thomas Ismay after he took full control of the company. Before the ship was completed however her name was changed to Baltic. This was done after there was some bad press coverage and people were reminded of the Collins Liner, Pacific, which had been lost in 1856 with all hands.

The Baltic was an iron hulled single screw steamer with four masts rigged for sail. Four hundred and twenty feet long and registered at 2,209 tons. As other White Star ships she carried large numbers of emigrants, which, along with the mail was her bread and butter. First class counted for only 166 passengers, but she could carry 1,000 in steerage with a crew of 166. Many of the crew were stokers and it was them who shoveled the 58 tons of coal into her furnaces which she used every day. This was however better than the Cunarders which used about 110 tons for the same size of ship.

She served White Star well for twelve years even winning the Blue Riband in 1873. But after 1883 she spent the majority of her time under charter to the Inman Line. She was laid up after Inman failed and in 1888 she was sold to the Holland-America Line and used on the Rotterdam, Cherbourg, New York route under her new name Veendam.

She came to grief on Feb. 6, 1898 while crossing the Atlantic. She struck a submerged object mid ocean, presumably a derelict hulk, and sank the following day. The old superstitions about the Pacific came back to haunt the ship, but in this case, happily, no lives were lost.
© 2006 Michael W. Pocock
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