Daily Event for March 14

March 14, 1886 the Cunard steamship Oregon sank after being rammed by the schooner Charles H. Morse off Long Island, New York. The iron hulled Oregon, which was registered at 7,375 tons, received three holes in her hull from the 500 ton wooden schooner. The weather was clear and the sea calm when the Morse came out of the south and headed straight for the Oregon, without taking evasive action. She slammed into the port side near the bridge and sank immediately, presumable with all hands, at least nobody was recovered.

The Oregon, which Cunard had only been operating since June of 1884, came to a stop and took on a list. There were about 900 people on board the Oregon, but this incident, being only the second Cunarder lost at sea to date, was blessed with the "Cunard luck". Cunard, to that point had not had a single passenger death from an accident, at least not from ships colliding or sinking. Several passengers over the years had been washed overboard and drowned, but this was a common occurrence in those and even these days. (Although people are not commonly "washed overboard" anymore from the modern cruise ships, there have been several high profile "passenger overboard" cases lately, many presumed to have been suicides.)

In the case of the Oregon, she was close to land, only about 18 miles off Long Island, and in the shipping lanes. A local pilot boat wandered on the the scene some three hours later and began taking passengers off. Several other ships, including the NDL liner Fulda also aided in the rescue. Nine hours after the collision the Oregon slipped under the waves, once again the Cunard luck held and not one life was lost on the Oregon.
© 2006 Michael W. Pocock