Daily Event for February 6, 2009

On Oct. 30, 1856 the Petropolis was launched at Caird & Company in Greenock, Scotland for the Hamburg Brazilianische Packetschiffahrt Gesellschaft (Hamburg Brazilian Packet Ship Company) and was used on the South American route from Hamburg to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She was 282' with a beam of 39' and was registered at 2,405 tons. A single screw steamer which could make 10 knots, but had three masts and was rigged for sail.

In 1858 the ship was sold to the Hamburg Amerika Line and renamed Bavaria, she was moved to the Hamburg to New York route and continued this service until 1873. However in 1867 she inaugurated the lines service to New Orleans. In 1873 moved to the Hamburg to West Indies service and finally sold (or chartered, sources differ) to the Mississippi and Dominion Steamship Company (Dominion Line) of Liverpool on Nov. 1, 1876.

Her first sailing for the Dominion Line was Dec. 7, 1876 when she left Liverpool for New Orleans, she would never see Liverpool again. The voyage to New Orleans went well, after her arrival she loaded 4,356 bales of cotton, 1,000 barrels of resin and 269,000 Mexican dollars, she also picked up eight passengers, including the O'Connor family with three children.

Her return voyage began on Feb. 3 and no problems were reported until the afternoon of Feb. 6, 1877 when a small fire was found in the starboard coal bunker, the fire was put out with the donkey pump and captain H. C. Williams and the Bavaria continued on. At 7:10 p.m. it was discovered that the cargo of cotton was on fire, the donkey pumps were started again, but this time the fire was too much for the equipment on board.

Less than an hour later Williams knew his ship was lost and he ordered his crew to ready the lifeboats. They were provisioned for ten days at sea with water and bread and swung out. At 10:30 p.m. Williams began loading the six boats and lowering them into the sea. All the boats were lowered without incident less one, the #4 boat. It was surrounded by flames and heavy smoke, driving the men back from it, they rushed the boat several times, but again were driven back. Finally Williams himself rushed the boat and managed to lower her down without further delay. After all on board were in the boats and all the boats were in the water Williams took to his boat, which included the O'Connor family, the other three passengers, all males, were split between different boats with the crew.

They remained near the burning ship until 1:30 a.m. Feb. 7 when Williams directed all the boats to follow his boat and he headed toward Port Royal, South Carolina, which he figured was about 130 miles west-northwest of his position. The last time Williams saw his ship she was aflame from stem to stern, only an hour later another ship would see the Bavaria blazing just 20 miles away.

Captain Frostick of the bark Dorothy Thompson saw the fire and made his way to the burning ship to see if he could render aid to those on board. He arrived about 6 a.m. to find the ship abandoned, but noticed the davits were swung out and decided the crew had abandoned the ship in lifeboats rather than have been taken off by another ship and he began a search.

Four hours later he found two of the boats, he was told the rest of the boats were heading WNW and continued his search. Four more hours went by when he found two more boats. Under the best conditions finding all six boats would have been a small miracle, but now the sea was getting heavy, rain was falling and a full blown gale was about to hit, the fate of all in the last two boats was grim to say the best.

With little chance of finding anyone in such heavy seas Frostick could have set sail for the coast, but he decided to continue his search. His decision saved the lives of all the people in the last two boats when at 2 p.m. they were found, Williams' boat being the last.

They survived the shipwreck and a force 9 gale and made land at Beaufort, South Carolina on Feb. 9. The passengers and crew of the Bavaria presented Frostick and the crew of the Dorothy Thompson the following card after the rescue;

"On board bark Dorothy Thompson off Port Royal Feb. 9, 1877- We, the captain, officers, engineers, crew and passengers of the screw steamship Bavaria, desire hereby to express our deepest gratitude to Capt. Frostick, officers and the crew of the bark Dorothy Thompson, for their great humanity in rescuing us from six ship's boats in a north-east gale, on the axis line of the Gulf Stream.

We feel assured that the remarkable judgment that enabled Capt. Frostick to take in at a glance of the
burning ruins an exact apprehension of the catastrophe, and our subsequent movements, whereby he was
enabled to pick up boat after boat, the last one at a distance of 30 miles from the wreck, will alone suffice to
insure his future career as one of usefulness and prosperity.

Nevertheless, we would add out heartfelt wishes for his future welfare, assuring him that his kindness,
care and hospitality in ministering to our necessities will never be forgotten by the 64 souls he has rescued
from what must have been during the ensuing night certain death.

Signed in behalf of the officers, engineers, crew and passengers. H. C. Williams, Commander."
© 2009 Michael W. Pocock

2005 Daily Event
2007 Daily Event