Ocean Monarch (barque)
Ocean Monarch was an emigration barque which caught fire at sea in 1848 with the loss of 178 lives. The barque was owned by the White Diamond Line and was registered in Boston the port where she was built. The Ocean Monarch was built at the East Boston shipyard of Donald McKay in July 1848.
Burning of the Ocean Monarch
Ocean Monarch had left Liverpool on the morning of Thursday, 24 August 1848 carrying passengers to Boston in the United States of America. Helmed by a Captain Murdoch, the Ocean Monarch was towed from the port and entered the open sea around eight o'clock in the morning. Not far from harbour, between Abergele Bay and Great Orme's Head off Llandudno, at around noon, the Ocean Monarch was witnessed to put up its helm as if to return to port and then a flag of distress was raised. Within a short time flames were seen rising towards the rear of the vessel.
In an attempt to control the fire, which was now a blaze, Captain Murdoch attempted to turn the ship up wind, but in failing to do so, dropped both anchors. At this time it was apparent that the crew had lost control of the passengers who had begun fleeing the fire, rushing around deck in panic and even throwing themselves overboard. The captain ordered all moveable spars overboard to give those passengers in the water an aid in flotation.
Two other vessels in the area, came immediately to the ships aid, they were the yacht Queen of the Ocean, captained by Mr. Thomas Littledale; and the Brazilian frigate Affonso, captained by J.M.Lisboa. Onboard the Affonso was Admiral John Pascoe Grenfell who was superintending the trial of the frigate, he would later man a boat as part of the rescue. Later on two other vessels would join, what quickly became a sea rescue, they were an American packet New World and the railway steamer Prince of Wales. These rescuing vessels launched boats to aid the collection of the survivors. The Affonso managed to get close enough to the Ocean Monarch to fasten a rope to her allowing for rapid ferrying of passengers via boats.
By three o'clock the last ship at the scene, Queen of the Ocean turned and headed for Liverpool with their cargo of survivors.
Cause of the fire
It was initially reported in the Liverpool Mercury that the fire came from a wooden ventilator, which a passenger had mistaken for a chimney. This was later refuted by Captain Murdoch, stating that the craft had iron ventilators, and he believed that smoking amongst the steerage passengers, of whom he had confiscated smoking pipes earlier, was the cause.
Frederick Jerome a sailor working aboard the New World, born in Portsmouth, but then a resident of New York, showed personal bravery during the rescue. He dived into the sea, swam to the burning ship and lifted more than fifteen female passengers into a rescuing boat. On his return to New York he was awarded the freedom of the city by the Common Council of New York. He was also gifted a fifty pound award from Queen Victoria and another fifty pound award from the Prince de Joinville and Duc d'Aumale, both Brazilian dignitaries aboard the Affonso.
|Count of persons aboard Ocean Monarch|
|1st Class and 2nd Class||32|
|Captain and crew||42|
|Correct as of 2007-08-27|
|Lives saved by vessel|
|Queen of the Ocean||32|
|Prince of Wales||17|
|Total lives lost||1781|
|Correct as of 2007-08-27|
1 It should be noted that the figures given for the event are mathematically incorrect, but are recorded as given by the newspapers of the time.
- Burning of the Ocean Monarch - Liverpool Mercury, August 25, 1848
- The Illustrated London News, September 2, 1848