Anniversary Post: Sinking of the RMS Atlantic

RMS Atlantic BurialOn this day in 1873, early in the morning, the RMS Atlantic sank just to the west of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Of the 957 crew and passengers, at least 545 people died — this included all of the women and children. Interestingly, the Atlantic was White Star Line, which also owned the RMS Titanic. But there’s a big difference here. The sinking of the Titanic was due to stupidity and hubris. The sinking of the Atlantic was the result of bad luck and the simple fact that travel by sea has always been a very dangerous business. Or at least that’s the way I see it.

RMS Atlantic was on its way to New York. But they were running low on coal, so the captain diverted the ship to Halifax to refuel. Visibility was poor and in hindsight, the captain should have stayed off the shore. But then, he did not know that the ship was several miles off course. In the end, he was blamed for the tragedy. But to me, his errors are the sorts of things that are to be expected. Everyone wants someone to blame when something like this happens.

I remember many years ago reading The Perfect Storm. I loved the beginning of it because it was filled with these old stories of Gloucester fishermen. These were tough men doing an incredibly hard job. And they died — a lot. And when they didn’t die, they were beaten halfway there. So I don’t like to go around second guessing and criticizing people who make their livings in this way.

When word got to shore about the RMS Atlantic and its troubles, the local people got into their boats and helped in the rescue. It’s very touching, but understandable. People who live that life understand what it is all about, and how we all have to help each other in times of need.

4 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Sinking of the RMS Atlantic

  1. So much for the theory that it has always been women and children rescued first!

    Still, it is very sad.

    • It’s an interesting story. For whatever reason, a lot of women passengers could not get out and their husbands refused to abandon them. That kind of thing makes me feel somewhat better about my gender. Two babies were born on the voyage, so some were really young, and at least two women were probably not fully recovered. The ship almost capsized, and all the life boats were blown away. One of the crew members set up a rope to the shore, but it took great strength to use it. Many men and all the women who used it ended up drowning. There was, however, one 12-year-old boy who made it. I think. It depends upon the account. We don’t actually know exactly how many people died. I love stories like this, however; they are horrible but they also show humanity at its best. The local people, for example, were wonderful.

    • Yeah, as I said to Elizabeth, I love these kinds of stories. The pain and death are horrible but they do show humans at the best of what they are.

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