Daily Event for July 1, 2011

July 1, 1892 the Inman liner City of Chicago was approaching the coast of Ireland in a heavy fog, she was traveling at about 14 knots and was off course when she went aground near the Old Head of Kinsale. The ship was 430' long and registered at 5,202 gross tons, she was built in Scotland in 1883 and made her maiden voyage from Liverpool on Sept. 18, 1883.

The night of the disaster she was returning from New York with about 130 passengers and 200 crew, her master, Arthur Redford, was a respected captain and one of the most experienced masters employed by the Inman line. However even an experienced man of the sea can make a mistake, and this was the case that night. When nearing the coast Redford made a course change which took the ship closer to the coast than he thought, and at about 7:45 pm a sounding was taken which showed only 16 fathoms, Redford slowed the ship, but it was too late and she ran her stem into a crevasse which was described as almost being created just for that purpose.

The jolt knocked a number of passengers off their feet, but there were no serious injuries. The ship was stuck fast and reversing the engines had no effect on the ship, she refused to move. When it was realized that the ship was not going to be able to free herself Redford ordered the boats to be lowered. Many women and children were in a near panic screaming and crying in fear for their lives. The situation was serious, but there was no immediate danger of the ship foundering, Redford even kept the engines running to keep the ship tight against the rocks to prevent it sliding off into deep water.

Getting off the ship and on to land was dangerous, but all the passengers were successfully removed and no lives were lost. However getting off the ship was just the first challenge faced by the poor souls of the City of Chicago as they were at the foot of a 200' tall cliff. The local Coast Guard atop of the cliff lowered rope ladders and the passengers all had to climb to the top. The 200' climb for many must have been terrifying considering how many people fear heights, but one and all made the climb to safety, again with no loss of life.

With the passengers and many of the crew off the ship, the fight to salvage the City of Chicago began. Salvage ships, tugs and other vessels were dispatched to the site, but over the next several days the weather caused serious problems. Storms, fog and waves crashing against the ship caused her to start to break up. On July 6th the men remaining on the ship were forced to abandon her because of an approaching storm and the next morning her battered hull was broken in several places, but she was still afloat. She had been turned so her stern was against the rocks and the waves struck her full broadside over and over.

By this time much of the cargo and all of the mails had been removed, but this did not prevent local thieves from boarding the ship to take what they could. Not long after mid July the salvage effort was abandoned and the ship finally broke up. The Board of Trade inquiry found captain Redford negligent in the loss of his ship and his masters certificate was suspended for nine months.
© 2011 Michael W. Pocock

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