The Loss of the "Atlantic" (A)

RMS Atlantic was a transatlantic ship owned by the White Star Line, operating between Liverpool in England, and New York City. On 1 April 1873, during her 19th voyage, the ship ran onto rocks off Marr’s Head, Meagher’s Island (now Mars Head, Mars Island), Nova Scotia) and sank. Survivors were forced to swim or climb ropes first to a wave-swept rock and then to a barren shore. Residents of the tiny fishing village of Lower Prospect and Terence Bay soon arrived to rescue and shelter the survivors

At least 535 people died of the 952 aboard, including all of the 156 women and all but one of the 189 children. Ten crew members were lost, while 131 survived.

It was the deadliest civilian marine disaster in the waters of the North Atlantic until the sinking of SS La Bourgogne in 1898. Of course the scale of this disaster was dwarfed by the sinking of another White Star ship, the Titanic, 39 years later in 1912.

the Atlantic

The Steam-ship “Atlantic,” Wrecked on Mars Head on the Morning of April 1, 1873, a wood engraving published inHarper’s Weekly, April 1873.

There were rumors that the ship was carrying five million pounds worth of gold bullion in her strong room, but when the seas calmed down and the authorities could board her, no trace was found of the gold. It was believed that three American tugs that had been hovering about the scene a day or so after the wreck had managed to board her and make off with the gold.

the official details

Some terrific images here


1. Ye Kind and tender Christians I pray you now draw near,
It’s a terrible shipwreck I mean to let you hear,
The loss of the Atlantic upon the ocean wave
Where fully seven hundred souls met with a watery grave.

2. ‘Twas on the twentieth day of March our gallant ship did sail,
Bound for the harbor of New York, she had a pleasant gale.
We called next day at Queenstown as we always had before
And took on board three hundred souls, their loss we now deplore.

3. We steamed away for seven days without either dread or fear,
Our brave and honored captain his course right well did steer,
Until he found to his dismay his coal was rather low,
He changed his course for Halifax which proved our overthrow.

4. ‘Twas on the first of April in the morning at three o’clock,
When all on board were sunk in sleep she ran upon a rock,
To hear the cries of wild despair ‘twould make you for to weep,
And those loud cries of anguish as they sank into the deep.

5. Oh heavens, ’twas an awful sight the struggle there for life,
The mother parted from the child, the husband from the wife,
The billows raged, the breakers roared, and o’er the vessel tore,
And washed o’erboard those human beings to sink and rise no more.

6. So hard it is for to describe all that they suffered there,
The men and women rushed on deck with wild cries of despair,
And some climbed up the rigging, for so we had been told,
And after hours of suffering they died there with the cold.

7. One man escaped into a boat, with terror looked behind,
And trembling there upon the deck he saw his wife so kind.
“Without my wife I cannot live so with her I will die,
And I hope we soon will meet again before the Lord on high.”

8. And when the news had reached New York ‘twould grieve your
heart full sore
To see the people cry and weep for their friends they’ll see no more,
The office of the White Star in crowds they did surround
To see if news from those they loved could anywhere be found.

9. To see the aged mother it would melt your heart with pain:
“Where is my loving daughter, shall I ne’er see her again?”
And the tender-hearted sister with sorrow she did cry:
“Must my kind and loving brother in the ocean’s bosom lie?”

10. The poor old feeble father with grief he tore his hair:
“Must I ne’er see forevermore my sons and daughters fair?”
Now to conclude my dreary song I’ve one more thing to say,
Ye kind and tender Christians I hope you’ll for them pray.

Citation: Peacock, Kenneth. Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, p. 931-932

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