The wreck of the 'Floridian,'

Wreck of the "Floridian," Emigrant Ship, on the Long Sands, off Harwich. Illustrated London News. 10 March 1849. Scanned image, bibliographical information, and text by Philip V. Allingham. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link to this URL or include it in a print document.]

Nearly 200 Lives Lost

We have to record this week one of the most frightful catastrophes that, probably, ever occurred on the English coast, viz. the total loss of a large emigrant ship, on the Long Sands, near Harwich, with nearly 200 souls on board, during the tempestuous and fearful weather on Wednesday (last week [i. e., 7 March]). The gale commenced in the early part of Wednesday morning, the wind blowing from the soth-west; and, as the day advanced, the violence of the storm increased, and continued till between six and seven o'clock in the evening. Aheavy snow-storm followed, and lasted till midnight.

During the prevalence of the storm on Thursday several vessels were wrecked on the Long Sands: among them was a Dutch Indiaman, named the Dyle, Captain Laws, bound from Antwerp to Havannah, the crew of which (with the exception of one poor fellow) were picked up by her Majesty's revenue-cutter Scout, and landed at Harwich. A large schooner shared a similar fate on the same sands, with the loss of every soul of her crew. Seven or eight total losses are also reported as having happened on the adjacent shoals, but these do not form the extent of the disasters. Her Majesty's revenue-cutter, Petrel, has communicated the melancholy intelligence of the appalling loss of an emigrant ship on the same sands, and that nearly 200 beings perished with her. Only four of the many on board survived, and these the Petrel rescued. . . . .

The ill-fated vessel was the bark Floridian, 500 tons burden, Mr. E. D. Whitmore, master, from Antwerp. She was the property of Mr. E. D. Hulbert, of New York, and had been chartered by a German company for the conveyance of emigrants to the United States. The number of emigrants that had taken a passage by her at Antwerp, and had gone on board before she weighed anchor, is stated to have been from 176 to 200. They comprised young, respectable German agricultural labourers, with their wives and families, and many mechanics. Amongst the number on board were from 50 to 60 women, and between 20 and 30 children. The ship was worked by a crew of nearly 20, part of whom were Englishmen, commanded by a Captain Whitmore; a surgeon being on board to attend the emigrants. It was late on Thursday when the Floridian put out to sea. The course taken after clearing the Flemish banks was westward for the Straits of Dover. The weather continued favourable up to 12 o'clock, when it changed for the worse,with hail and snow.

Daybreak on Wednesday brought fearful weather; the wind had sprung up terrifically, with a great fall of snow, and a heavy rolling sea. The ship kept on her course, the intention being to make for the South Foreland light; but at three o'clock P. M. she struck with such terrific force, that her planks and false keel immediately rushed up alongside. A scene of horror instantly presented itself on deck — the emigrants hastened on the deck in frantic dismay. Within a few moments of the vessel striking, the sea broke into her hull, blowing up the hatchways, and sweeping many of the poor creatures overboard, while others were drowned in their berths, being unable to rise from the effects of sea sickness. Captain Whitmore, perceiving the inevitable destruction of his ship, gave orders to his men to launch the boats. The first boat broke adrift the moment it was launched, and, it is said, capsized directly with two men who were in it. The moment the second boat was lowered, the captain jumped into it with Mrs. Whitmore (his wife). This led to a desperate rush towards the craft. Some 20 or 30 poor creatures, men and women, leaped from the quarter-deck of the foundering ship into the boat; the result was, that it also instantly capsized, and the whole party were precipitated overboard and lost. The crew took to the rigging, to which they lashed themselves, and upwards of 100 of the emigrants congregated on the quarter-deck. Here they had not been more than an hour before the ship broke in two, amidships. The mainmast fell over the side with a fearful crash and a [151/152] tremendous sea carried away the whole of the quarter-deck with the mass of human beings on it. A frightful shriek filled the air, and the next moment the unfortunate creatures were struggling in the deep. By great efforts eight or ten were rescued by the men who had secured themselves in the rigging. The moment the ship broke in two, her cargo, mostly merchandise, floated out and intermingled with the drowning sufferers. For some time men, women, and children were to be seen floating about on the packages. Ere night, however, all had disappeared.

Related Material about Victorian Shipwrecks


“Dreadful Wreck of an Emigrant Ship.” The Illustrated London News. (10 March 1849): 151-52.

Last modified 6 July 2010