Daily Event for September 7

On Mar. 27, 1869 a new type of turret ship was launched at Laird's in Birkenhead, England. The ship was
powered by a steam engine but was also rigged for sail, she was the HMS Captain. Her designer Captain
Cowper Phipps Coles had designed a ship with a shallow draft and low freeboard, a design he believed in
due to his experience in the war with Russia in the 1850's. The problem with the ship was she was top heavy,
especially while under sail in a heavy wind. Changes in her overall design caused more problems, she displaced
427 tons more then the design called for and the Royal Navy expected to man her with 500 men, 100 more
than the design. The additional weight set her lower in the water and lowered her freeboard to just over
six feet.

Even though there were reservations by several high up's in the Admiralty the Captain was accepted by the
Royal Navy and commissioned on Apr. 30, 1870. She underwent two trial periods which provided decent
results but a problem on the second trial with the ship's propeller suggested a third trial was in order. And on
Aug. 4, 1870 she set sail for Gibraltar and a third trial. Her designer Capt. Coles was onboard and was observing
the ship and how she handled in the sea. On Sept. 6 while off Cape Finisterre, Spain the Captain was using only
sail when a storm blew in from the southwest. The seas were reportedly at 24' or better and the Captain was
rolling badly. Her commander, Captain Burgoyne, was aware that the ship was in trouble, her designer surely
knew as well. Burgoyne ordered the sails brought down but it was too late, a little after midnight on Sept. 7,
1870 the HMS Captain rolled over and sank. She carried about 500 men at the time, only eighteen survived,
the designer was not among them.
© 2007 Michael W. Pocock

Portrait of the HMS Captain during the storm, artist unknown.

2005 Daily Event
2006 Daily Event