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The Dundee Courier, Monday October 17, 1898

The stranding of the Mohegan, of the Atlantic transport company, on the rocks near Falmouth (briefly reported in Saturday's Courier), has proved one of the most appalling of modern shipping disasters. The Mohegan was bound from London to New York with passengers and general cargo when the catastrophe occurred. In all, 103 lives are believed to have been lost.

sketch of the Mohegan (The Dundee Courier, Monday October 17, 1898)

The Mohegan left the Thames on Thursday afternoon, steamed round the foreland into the Channel, and with every indication of a safe and prosperous voyage shaped her course for the West. All went well until she got abreast of the Lizard Point. Then with startling suddenness, and apparently without a moments' warning, she grounded on a bed of rocks. When the crash came a large number of passengers were at dinner. It was about seven o'clock on Friday evening. The air was clear, and the weather was fair, though there was a rough sea and a north-east wind was blowing. When she ran aground there was an ugly grating sound, and she rolled over heavily with a big lurch. The first shock was quickly followed by another, as she once more hit the rock, and then with a heel over to starboard the Mohegan settled down by the head. As may well be understood, wild alarm instantly arose on board the steamer, passengers running on deck and women and children screaming with affright. But there was no lack of nerve or discipline among the officers and men of the crew, and efforts were at once directed to the pressing task of getting out the boats and liferafts with which the ship was liberally provided, while rockets were sent up for the purpose of attracting the attention of lifeboats and the coastguard ashore. These signals happily were seen by lookouts at several points and by the assistance of the rapid telephonic communication from place to place a number of lifeboats were soon on their way towards the wreck. The Porthousestock Lifeboat was an early starter, and Falmouth also sent out its lifeboat to the rescue of the unhappy liner. From the moment of striking the liner was in a fearfully dangerous position. At the impact the rock tore ugly holes in her starboard side, and in a few seconds the sea was pouring in, so that she heavily settled down beyond all hope of floating. There was thus extraordinary difficulty in getting the boats clear, and only one boat, filled with women, really got clean away. Another was put off, but its voyage was cut short in a few moments. It was caught in the incredible vortex made by the great ship as her bows plunged down into deep water. Within twenty minutes of striking the rocks the Mohegan foundered completely. When the supreme moment arrived the captain stood calm and resolute on the bridge. He gave his orders with a single eye to saving as many lives as possible, and finally he perished at his post. The people who watched from the shore, and who realized that she had been going considerably out of her course knew how perilous was her position, and their horror was rendered additionally painful when they heard the shrieks of the unfortunate creatures who were perishing on board her. It is looked upon as little more than miraculous that all those on board did not find a watery grave, so rapid was her foundering, and so appalling was her position on the much-dreaded Manacles Rocks. The difficulties with which the officers had to contend were added to by the total extinction of the electric light soon after she struck, but in spite of all the difficulties, one boatload got clear away while others kept themselves afloat by means of lifebelts. Some clung to the rock in a grim fight for life against the force of the waves : some even of the rescued passengers were severely cut and bruised by the rocks, against which they were flung again and again. Many were in the water for hours before being rescued by the boats.
The lifeboats did some admirable work that evening. The Porthousestock lifeboat took off 28 in her first visit to the wreck, and in subsequent visits rescued several more. The Coverack and Lizard lifeboats, which were telegraphed for as soon as the disaster was known, made all speed thither, but unfortunately did not reach the scene in time to rescue any of the ill-fated passengers or crew. It is apparent that the officers of the Mohegan did not know which part of the coast she had struck, and in consequence of the pitch darkness which prevailed and the heavy sea that was running, it was next to impossible to do anything calculated to assist in saving the vessel. As skilled navigators, they saw at once that she was lost, and this was made all the more bitter by the fact that she and the drowning women and children aboard her were comparatively close to shore. A very gallant feat was performed by one of the crew of the lifeboat, a man named Tripp-Mrs. L. Grandin of New York, the mother of Miss Maude Rounds, the operatic singer, was returning to New York with her daughter on board the Mohegan. Owing to the heavy rolling of the boat Mrs. Grandin had both her legs broken, and fell into the sea. Perceiving this, Tripp at once dived from the lifeboat into the rolling sea and rescued the lady. Unfortunately this act of heroism was fruitless, as the lady was in a dying condition when taken on board the lifeboat and died of the shock before reaching the shore. One of her feet was nearly severed from her leg. Miss Rounds was saved, and the first intimation their friends had of what had happened was a telegram received by a relative on Saturday morning. It came from Miss Rounds, and ran :-- "Ship wrecked, mother dead, I am saved."
At half past seven last evening a press representative was informed by Messrs. Williams, Folley &Field, the agents of the Mohegan, that in all 103 lives had been lost in the wreck. Forty-eight bodies had so far been recovered, of which number 23 had been identified. This leaves 55 unaccounted for. All day yesterday the offices of the company were open, and a large staff of clerks were busily engaged answering the inquiries of anxious relatives of those who were on board the Mohegan when she was wrecked.
A later telegram says:--"The crew of the Mogehan was a scratch one newly shipped in London, but the officers were old employees of the company. The reason why the vessel was so far out of her course remains a mystery, which only deepens the more it is inquired into. According to statements made by surviving members of the crew, the electric light went out five minutes after the ship struck. The captain shouted, "Hurry up with the rockets," but they could not be reached owing to the vessel being already too far down in the water.
Robert barrow, a Londoner, employed in the engine-room, swam ashore to a point 2 ½ miles distant from the wreck. A passenger named Smith, of the Oregon, who had surrendered to a woman a piece of wreckage, accomplished a similar feat. Miss Webb, to whom he gave up the wreckage, also had a lifebelt, and was picked up after being a long time immersed. Mr. Smith said he thought the captain looked ill all day, and did not come down to dinner. He is positive land was visible just before the Mohegan struck.
Another account says :--"Only twenty minutes elapsed between the striking and the sinking. The passengers, all of whom were saloon, numbered fifty-three, and the crew about eighty. The coastguards noticed the strange course of the vessel, and from the Coverack station a rocket was sent up to warn the Mohegan. It was, however, unavailing. When the vessel struck, the Porthousestock lifeboat was immediately launched, and although the crew ha d a couple of miles to pull in a heavy swell, they were able to render good service in rescuing the occupants of the ship's boats and some men clinging to spars. Other lifeboats on arrival could see no one, but the Falmouth boat picked up a man clutching to a plank. A number of bodies have been landed at Falmouth, where the inquest will be held on Monday.
Mr. F. Necklin, one of the stewards of the Mohegan, said-I could not state at what rate we were travelling. The ship rolled very heavily. I was forward of the mainmast. The first shock was very slight, but the second was heavier and the ship heeled over very much on the starboard side. There was no panic. The captain was not in the saloon at the time. He was on duty as far as I know. When the horn blew for dinner he was in the dining-room. I asked the question whether the captain was coming down for dinner and immediately after we struck, so evidently the captain was on duty at the time. The order was given to the Stewards' department to clear the boat lashings and covers. This we did. I assisted in launching a boat from the port side. There were altogether eight boats in the ship. All seemed resigned to their fate. Passengers were sitting down on deck huddled together. Everybody did his duty, and could do no more. We helped in rescuing as many families and children as we could. Just as the ship was settling down we cut the lashings of the boat which contained 20 passengers and I sprang overboard. After being dashed several times against the side of the vessel I was dragged on board the boat. Two others were picked up, and we just managed to get clear with great difficulty. The boat was half-filled with water, and those who could not row laid hold of anything available and bailed for their lives. We pulled desperately away from the wreck but the water gained on us and when we were about three-parts full of water the Porthousestock lifeboat picked us up and put us all on board. On our way to Porthousestock we picked up a lady passenger, who proved to be Miss Noble. We ultimately landed with 28 persons. All on the sinking vessel worked for their lives to the very last moment. Captain Griffiths, Mr. Le Crouch, Chief Officer Coles and the second, third, and fourth officers were all drowned so far as I know. I believe three or four of the ship's lifeboats were launched, but ours was the only one which weathered the storm.
A correspondent at Falmouth obtained an interview with Mr. Blumingdale, one of the passengers on saved. He said:--"After the ship struck the greatest trouble was experienced with the boats. When the order to man the boats was given all the ropes were found to be stiff, and the blocks would not run. Twenty-five men were unable to launch the boats when in the ordinary way five ought to have been plenty. There were no lifebelts on the deck, but only in the lockers in the cabins. When it was first clear that an accident had happened I found two lifebelts in a locker. I buckled on eon myself and handed the other to a lady. The first intimation of an accident was a slight scraping noise. I went on deck, but the officers said it would be all right, and I accordingly was going back to the saloon to finish my dinner. It soon became evident however that the ship was sinking and I climbed into the rigging. I secured myself as firmly as possible and was able to remain there without any great discomfort. It was after three o'clock the next morning before I was taken off by the lifeboat, after clinging to the rope for eight hours.
Mr. Smith, another of the passengers saved, in conversation with the correspondent corroborated Mr. Blumingdale's assertions as to the workings of the boats. The boats were swung inwards, and the tackle was only worked with the greatest difficulty. "The one cry," Mr. Smith said, "when everyone knew a disaster had happened, was 'save the women'. Indeed, in one instance too many women were put in one of the boats, as there were only four men in it to manage it. I saw one young woman fall dead into the arms of one of the sailors. I was on deck not a long time before she struck and then I could see the land distinctly. I was three and a half hours in the water before I was picked up." Asked as to whether he could assign any cause for the situation of the Mohegan at the time of the disaster Mr. Smith said, "I believe the accident must have happened through a mistake of the captain's which had taken him out of his course. All day (Friday) the captain had looked ill."
Mr. Blumingdale also expressed the opinion that the captain had made a mistake in reckoning.
Mr. Maule, who was a passenger, in an interview said-the captain and crew behaved like heroes. The ship was slowly settling down by the head. Two boats were launched, each with a load of passengers, but whether they reached the shore I cannot say. As the vessel appeared to be filling rapidly I secured a lifebelt and jumped overboard. As I left the vessel a little girl addressed me in a piteous tone, and with tears, to save her as "she didn't want to die yet". I was, of course, powerless to help her. Mr. Crouch, the second officer, jumped off the vessel at the same time as I did, but we were soon parted. I clung to a piece of plank which I saw by me, and remained in this position for seven hours and a half, when I was rescued by the tug Penguin, of Falmouth, just in time, for I could not have held out much longer.
With reference to the question of the cause of the disaster Mr. Maule said-"I am unable to explain how the accident occurred. The night was quite clear. It was the first voyage of the vessel since her thorough overhaul. Captain Griffith was an experienced sailor, and was the commodore of the line."
Wm. Fergusson, of London, third engineer, was the last man to leave the ship. He was considerably injured, but was able to give his story. He said there were nine engineers on board, and six lost their lives. He saw a boat capsize with about thirty people in her, and another drifted about empty.
One of the passengers who was saved, an American, is now in the house of Mr. Williams at St. Keverne. When the boat was launched he jumped into it. His wife threw their children to him in the boat, and she then jumped in herself. The boat was shortly afterwards capsized, and all were thrown into the water. The lifeboat however picked them up and landed them safely. One of the passengers as the boat was leaving the sinking ship, was asked to throw his daughter into the boat. He however hesitated, and lost his chance. Both of them were drowned. The ship's doctor, who was only rescued after a terrible experience, clung to the mast for seven hours. When the lifeboat came to him his strength was all but worn out.
One family, that of Mr. King, newspaper proprietor, of Nantucket, was wiped out, Mr. King, his wife, his wife's mother, two sons, and a lady's maid being among the drowned. They had friends at Penzance.
All the men were loud in their praise of the pluck of Miss Noble, who was in the water for three-and-a-half hours. The survivor Maule, who was in the water for seven-and-a-half hours, stated that Miss Noble was quite confident that she would be picked up eventually. Up till now about fifty bodies have been recovered. An inquest will be opened here tomorrow morning.
The Central News says in shipping circles the loss of the Mohegan cannot be satisfactorily accounted for. An hour before the ship struck the land must have been perceptible to the officer in charge of the bridge, as the westerly course would give an addition of twenty minutes to the daylight. The course of a ship bound as the Mohegan was bound should have placed the Lizard several miles to the starboard, but instead of this the course taken practically placed the Lizard to the left, and in fact, the ship headed directly for the land. The assumption that the Mohegan had broken down or would not steer accurately is not admitted by seamen, because in such an event her captain would have borne directly for Falmouth harbour. It is also pointed out that after passing the Eddystone the ship must have trended towards the Cornish coast instead of keeping it well on the starboard side, and giving the Lizard a wide offing. Assuming thick weather, there must have been a serious miscalculation after passing the Eddystone which would give the course even if it had been lost. Moreover, from the position of the Mohegan at 6:30 the lights of Falmouth ought to have been an intelligent warning.
A Falmouth correspondent has had an interview with one of the crew who survived, and who gives a graphic description of the scene on deck as the vessel went down. He says:--
"As the ship struck she heeled over to the starboard side, where all the passengers and crew congregated. The captain was on the bridge and behaved, as he did throughout with perfect calmness. When the orders were given to man the boats all the people rushed to the leeward side, leaving only five or six of us on the other side. After two or three attempts we managed to launch one of the boats, and got five of the passengers into her. The work was most difficult, and one of the men remarked that it was nothing short of a miracle that she was not swamped. The captain saw our difficulty and shouted, 'For God's sake boys, get clear if you can'. These were the last words he spoke. The vessel disappeared a moment afterwards.
The passengers were as follows:--Mr. R. A. Baxter, Mr. James Blackey, Mr W. J. Bloomingdale, Miss Bushwell, Mr. A. F. Cowan, Mr. Charles Duncan, Mrs. Charles Duncan, Miss Rosa Duncan, Mrs. Fenton, Mrs. J. P. Firing, Miss B. M. Firing, Miss Fraser, Mr. B. Franklin Fuller, Mr. C. Seymour George, Mrs. L. S. Grandin, Mrs. Grimbrecht, Mr. A. H. Harrington, Miss Hart, Mr. John Hyslop, Mr. Richard Kelley, Mr. T. W. King and valet, Mrs. King and maid, Master R. King, Mr. R. A. Kipling, Mr. J. Le Lacheur, Mrs. Lacheur, Mr. F. W. Lockwood, Mr. L. M. Luke, Mrs. Luke, Miss E. Merryweather, Mr. H. Morrison, jun, Mr. W. J. O'Neil, Mr. F. R. Pemberton, Mrs. Pemberton and maid, Master F. Pemberton, Master John Pemberton, Miss Maude Roudebush, Miss Saunders, Miss Shepherd, Mr. A. G. L. Smith, Mrs. Compton Smith, Miss L. H. Warner, Mrs. Weller, Dr. Followand, and Mr. Cordery.
The following is a complete list of the officers and crew of the ill-fated Mohegan:--
Captain R. Griffiths, Chief Mate L. Crouch, Second Mate E. Cole, Third Mate W. Hindmarsh, Fourth Officer S. Browning, Surgeon A. H. Trevor (saved).
Boatswain J. Cruickshank (saved), Boatswain's Mate W. Bredenbery, Carpenter H. Pinfold, Carpenter's Mate H. T. Dalton.
Able Seamen-W. Whitehead (saved), T. Nichols (saved), T Nichols, J. A. H. Judder (saved), G. Woods (saved), F. Butt (saved), W. Moore (saved), F. Huntley (saved), P. Treplow, G. August, I. A. Blake, G. Hillson (saved).
OrdinarySseamen:--J. Bennet, J. McFarlane (saved).
Engineers:--First engineer, R. McLaren, second engineer: E. R. Buck, junior second engineer E. R. Fergusson : third engineer J. Marshall, fourth engineer, M. E. Gray (saved), fifth engineer, J. C. Smith (saved), sixth engineer, A. Cross : engineers' storekeeper, M. Chappie : donkeyman, A. Warren (saved), assistant donkeyman, F. Nobes, assistant engineer, W. Kinley.
Firemen:--J. Roach, M. Kavenaugh (saved), W. De Grouchy, W. Hammead, J. Stuart, G. Chiffey, A. Anderson (saved), J. Underwood, R. Whitehead (saved), J. Clease, J. Trovakis, J. Isherwood, T. Moore (saved), G. W. Thurlow (saved), N. Campbell, J. Lecy, E. Felham, J. Harris, J. Bailey, (! W. Bailey), J. Crawley, J. Slott, J. Smithers.
Stewards:--Chief Steward, E. Sennington : second steward, H. Humper : assistant stewards, C. Brownjohn, E. Fieldhouse, W. Barnes and F. Nichlen (saved) : officers' steward, Victor Rawlings (saved) : cattlemen's steward, E. Dimnair : captain's steward, F. Cruickshank (saved) : pantryman, G. Foster : messroom steward, E. Armsworth : stewardess, E. Bowles : chief cook, J. Edge (saved) : second cook, A. Mcwhirter (saved) : third cook and butcher, H. Simmonds : scullion, H. Bourne : ship's cook, J. Wiggington (saved) : baker, N. Yeazlie : bedroom steward, D. Rich : store porter, C. White : greasers, J. Collie, J. Adams (saved), J. McKechnie (saved), E. Chapman, R. Barrow (saved) and S. Murrell : assistant stewards, H. Gray, P. Brown and H. Brauery : steward's boy, W. Adams : second pantryman, A. Stevens.
Printer, P. White : night watchman, F. Dinnain : assistant steward H. Childs : able seamen, J. Molyneux : stewardess A. Piggott (saved) : second saloon steward, C. Wassell : water tenders, R. Watson (saved), R. Maxwell (saved).
The following is a corrected list of the saved and of those drowned where bodies have been identified, made up till 5:30 p.m. last evening :--
F. W. Pemberton, Mrs. Pemberton, Master John Pemberton, Nurse Miss Noble, Mrs. Compton swift, Miss Roudebush, G. L. Smith, Mr. J. W. Bloomingdale, Mr. R. Kelly.
J. W. Wiggington, ship's cook : W. Brandenberg, boatswain's mate : A. McWhirter, second cook : J. Ward, cattleman : W. Moore, A.B. : ?? Illsen, A.B. : J. Trevor, surgeon : J. Edge, chief cook : W. Fergusson, third engineer : N. E. Gray, fifth engineer : J. A. Judder, A. B. : F. Butt, A. B. : R. Whitehead, fireman : N. Kavanaugh, fireman : Geo. Maule, cattleman : J. Adams, greaser : J. McKechnie, greaser : J. G. Smith, fourth engineer : N. Monsell, water tender : V. Rawing, officer's steward : A. Warren, donkeyman : R. Watson, water tender : H. Sullivan, fireman : T. Moore, fireman : S. W. Thurlow, fireman : J. McFarlane, A. B. (leg broken) : T. Nichols, A. B. : W. Whitehead, A. B. : F. Huntley, A. B. : A. Anderson, fireman : J. Cruickshank, boatswain : F. Cruickshank, captain's steward : F. Mitchell, cattleman : J. Woods, A. B. : R. G. Farrar : Miss Piggott, stewardess : Lucas, fireman.
Passengers-W. A. Baxter, Mrs. L. S. Grandin, Mrs. T. W. King, Mr. J. W. Luke, Miss L. H. Warner, Miss P. F. Fuller (a child), Mr. Seymour George, Miss H. M. Cowan.
Crew-D. Robb, steward's department : Dinnair, steward : J. Bailey, steward : J. Topping, cattleman : W. Barns, steward : --. Horne, engineer's department : E. L. Davies, steward : E. Stennington, chief steward : H. Hamper, second steward : J. Marshall, fourth engineer : E. M. Buck, second engineer : J. Travackie, fireman : W. Daniels, A.B.
Several bodies have been brought ashore. The work of identification is necessarily very slow, but as soon as identification is assured the relatives of the deceased are informed. Mr. Williams, the head of the firm of Williams, Folley, & Field, the agents of the Company, is now being assisted by Captain Robinson, of the same Company, and the two are doing everything in their power to aid the rescued.
The point on the Cornish Coast where the disaster occurred is one of the most dangerous in the whole length of the English Channel, and on that account vessels passing up and down avoid it as far as possible, though the signaling station at the Lizard is the recognized point whence vessels receive orders o entering or leaving the Channel. The coast line, glorious in summer, is hideous in winter on account of the cruel rock-bound coast, the rocks being from two to three hundred feet above the level of the sea. The Mohegan went ashore several miles away the Lizard Point on the Falmouth side, between the Manacles and Lowland Point. Midway between these two points are the dreaded Manack's rocks on which the doomed vessel struck. There are probably no rocks on the treacherous Cornish Coast that have claimed as many lives as the Manacles. It was here that the emigrant ship John went ashore forty years ago-a disaster that resulted in the loss of 191 lives.

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Kinghorn "The Atlantic Transport Line 1881 - 1931" McFarland, 2011

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