Little Bits of History

Lost at River

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 1, 2015
PS Washington Irving

PS Washington Irving

June 1, 1926: PS Washington Irving sinks. The paddle steamer was a 3,600 ton sidewheel day boat and the flagship of the Hudson River Day Line – a luxury passenger line which operated on the Hudson River from 1913 to 1926. The route the ship followed was between New York City and Albany, New York. At a cost of about $1 million, the New York Shipbuilding Company laid down the 416.5 foot long, four storied ship on May 23, 1912. She was completed later that year and had her maiden voyage on May 17, 1913. On that day, she left from the Desbrosses Street Pier in New York City and headed for Albany with fifty oil paintings by artists which illustrated her namesakes period in history. Tickets were $1.00 each. The Washington Irving replaced the Robert Fulton on the run and remained in service until this date.

Again, she was leaving from the Desbrosses Street Pier but on this June morning, there was very heavy fog. Shortly after 9 AM, Washington Irving was struck by one of two oil barges being pushed by the tugboat Thomas E. Moran. The paddle steamer was struck on the starboard (right) side below the water line. The gash made by the collision was 21 feet long and 3 feet wide. Water poured into the engine rooms. Captain David H Deming ordered all passengers to don life vests. He signaled via ships whistle “Ships afire” – two long and three short blasts. Pandemonium ensued as frantic parents struggled to find their children in the foggy conditions. Adding to the fear was the inability to see any land, again due to the fog.

In order to help keep the panic to a minimum, the captain ordered the jazz band to resume playing and maintain their posts until rescue was effected. Without power, Washington Irving needed help from tugboats to reach Pier 12, Jersey City. After reaching the pier, it took only five minutes for the ship to sink. Amazingly a woman, her three year old daughter, and a steward who was trapped in a cabin far below deck were the only fatalities. The rest of the 200 passengers and 105 crew members were safe. A hearing determined the disaster to be an unavoidable accident citing not only the fog, but an unusual tidal current running below the surface of the water.

The ship sank in a most unfortunate position right on top of the New York-New Jersey vehicular tube (the Holland Tunnel) being constructed. The wrecked ship became a menace and was struck on June 16 at 3 AM by a railroad car float. The ship was finally raised on February 13, 1927 and towed to dry dock. At that point she was declared a total loss. While insured, it was not for the value of the ship and so a bond was issued to refinance the company’s debt and provide financing for building her replacement, the Peter Stuyvesant. The new ship was supposed to be built for $700,000 but cost overruns brought the price closer to $1 million, too.

We poison our lives with fear of burglary and shipwreck, and, ask anyone, the house is never burgled, and the ship never goes down. – Jean Anouilh

He who is shipwrecked the second time cannot lay the blame on Neptune. – English proverb

The man who has experienced shipwreck shudders even at a calm sea. – Ovid

The best way to meet a woman is in an emergency situation – if you’re in a shipwreck, or you find yourself behind enemy lines, or in a flood. – Mark Helprin

Also on this day: And Now – The News – In 1980, Ted Turner began broadcasting with CNN.
Breathing – In 1974, the Heimlich Maneuver was published.
Not Hops Scotch – In 1495, Friar John Cor was listed as possessing ingredients to make Scotch.
Unlucky Ship – In 1813, James Lawrence took command of the USS Chesapeake.
Boston Martyr – In 1660, Mary Dyer was hanged.

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  1. rennydiokno2015 said, on June 1, 2015 at 9:13 am

    Reblogged this on

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