SS Volturno (1906)

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Coordinates: 49°07′N34°31′W / 49.12°N 34.51°W / 49.12; -34.51

Geographic coordinate system Coordinate system

A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system that enables every location on Earth to be specified by a set of numbers, letters or symbols. The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represents a vertical position and two or three of the numbers represent a horizontal position; alternatively, a geographic position may be expressed in a combined three-dimensional Cartesian vector. A common choice of coordinates is latitude, longitude and elevation. To specify a location on a plane requires a map projection.


SS Volturno
Steamship Volturno.jpg
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Canada
Owner: Canadian Northern Steamships Ltd (Royal Line)
Operator: Uranium Line
Port of registry: London
Builder: Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Govan
Yard number: 448
Launched: 5 September 1906 [1]
Completed: 1906
  • Burned 9 October 1913
  • Scuttled 18 October 1913
General characteristics
Type: Ocean liner
Tonnage: 3602 gross tons [2]
Length: 340 ft (100 m)
Beam: 43 ft (13 m)
  • Steam triple expansion engines
  • two propellers
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h)
  • Passengers:
  • 24 first class
  • 1,000 third class
Crew: 93

SS Volturno was an ocean liner that caught fire and sank in the North Atlantic in October 1913. She was a Royal Line ship under charter to the Uranium Line at the time of the fire. After the ship issued SOS signals, eleven ships came to her aid, and in heavy seas and gale winds, they rescued 520 passengers and crewmen. There were 136 people, most of them women and children in lifeboats launched unsuccessfully prior to the arrival of the rescue ships, who died in the incident. Volturno had been built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Govan and was completed in November 1906.

Ocean liner Ship designed to transport people from one seaport to another

An ocean liner is a passenger ship primarily used as a form of transportation across seas or oceans. Liners may also carry cargo or mail, and may sometimes be used for other purposes.

<span style="text-decoration:overline;">SOS</span> international Morse code distress signal (· · · – – – · · ·)

SOS is the International Morse code distress signal ; the overscore indicates that the normal gaps between the letters should be omitted. It is used as a start-of-message mark for transmissions requesting help when loss of life or catastrophic loss of property is imminent. Other prefixes are assigned for mechanical breakdowns, requests for medical assistance, and a relayed distress signal originally sent by another station.

Lifeboat (shipboard) boat used primarily as an emergency means of leaving a larger boat or ship in case of emergency

A lifeboat or life raft is a small, rigid or inflatable boat carried for emergency evacuation in the event of a disaster aboard a ship. Lifeboat drills are required by law on larger commercial ships. Rafts (liferafts) are also used. In the military, a lifeboat may double as a whaleboat, dinghy, or gig. The ship's tenders of cruise ships often double as lifeboats. Recreational sailors usually carry inflatable life rafts, though a few prefer small proactive lifeboats that are harder to sink and can be sailed to safety.

Fire and sinking

'The Burning of the S.S. Volturno'; undated painting by William Shackleton The Burning of the S.S.Volturno - William Shackleton.jpg
'The Burning of the S.S. Volturno'; undated painting by William Shackleton

At about 06:00 on 9 October 1913, Volturno, on a voyage from Rotterdam to New York City, was carrying a mixed load of passengers, mostly immigrants, and cargo, which included highly-flammable chemicals. [3] It caught fire in the middle of a gale in the North Atlantic at 49°12′N034°51′W / 49.200°N 34.850°W / 49.200; -34.850 (SS Volturno) . The cargo hold in the front of the ship was found to be fully engulfed in flames. Shortly afterwards, part of the cargo exploded.

Rotterdam Municipality in South Holland, Netherlands

Rotterdam is the second-largest city and a municipality of the Netherlands. It is located in the province of South Holland, at the mouth of the Nieuwe Maas channel leading into the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta at the North Sea. Its history goes back to 1270, when a dam was constructed in the Rotte, after which people settled around it for safety. In 1340, Rotterdam was granted city rights by the Count of Holland.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Later, the fire spread to the ship's coal bunkers, cutting off the fuel supply for the fire hose pumps. The crew attempted to fight the fire for about two hours but, realising the severity of the fire and the limited options for dousing it on the high seas, Captain Francis Inch had his wireless operator send out SOS signals. Eleven ships responded to the calls and headed to the ship's reported position, arriving throughout the day and into the next. [4] In the meantime, several of the ship's lifeboats with women and children aboard were launched with tragic results; all either capsized or were smashed by the hull of the heaving ship, leaving no one alive from the first boats. [4]

Captain James Clayton Barr of Carmania, the first ship to arrive, took command of the rescue effort. [5] Barr had the other nine vessels form a "battle line" and slowly circle the burning ship. Throughout the night of 10/11 October, Carmania kept one of her searchlights on Volturno, with another sweeping the ring of rescue ships to help them avoid collisions. [4] According to one passenger, despite Carmania's efforts, two of the ships, the Red Star liner Kroonland and the French Line steamer La Touraine almost collided, coming within 15 to 20 feet (5 to 6 m) of impact. That was disputed by an officer on the Kroonland. [6]

James Clayton Barr British sailor

James Clayton Barr, CB was a Senior Commodore of the Cunard line.

RMS <i>Carmania</i> (1905) British ocean liner

RMS Carmania was a British ocean liner designed by Leonard Peskett and built by John Brown & Company for the Cunard Line. In World War I, Carmania was converted to an armed merchant cruiser.

Red Star Line transport company

The Red Star Line was an ocean passenger line founded in 1871 as a joint venture between the International Navigation Company of Philadelphia, which also ran the American Line, and the Société Anonyme de Navigation Belgo-Américaine of Antwerp, Belgium. The company's main ports of call were Antwerp in Belgium, Liverpool and Southampton in the United Kingdom and New York City and Philadelphia in the United States.

In the high seas, the rescue ships had launched lifeboats of their own to try and take passengers off the stricken Volturno, but the poor weather, the high seas, and the reluctance of Volturno's passengers to jump into the frigid waters hampered rescue efforts. On board Volturno, the crew and some of the male passengers, unable to extinguish the fire, were at least able to keep it from spreading to the aft cargo holds over which the others on board were gathered. However, shortly before dawn, a large explosion, probably of her boilers, rocked Volturno. The rescuers felt that the ship, which had not been in imminent danger of sinking, might founder at any time.

Boiler closed vessel in which water or other fluid is heated

A boiler is a closed vessel in which fluid is heated. The fluid does not necessarily boil. The heated or vaporized fluid exits the boiler for use in various processes or heating applications, including water heating, central heating, boiler-based power generation, cooking, and sanitation.

In the early morning of 11 October, the tanker SS Narragansett, one of the eleven rescue vessels, turned on her pumps and sprayed lubricating oil on the sea to help calm the surface. [4] The combination of the oil and the lessening of the storm allowed many more lifeboats to be sent to Volturno's aid.

With all boats recovered by 09:00, the rescue ships all resumed their original courses. [4] In all, 521 passengers and crew members were rescued by ten of the eleven ships. The death toll was 136, mostly women and children from the early lifeboat launchings. [4]

On the night of 17 October, the Dutch tanker Charlois, unaware of the events of the week before, came upon the still-smoldering hulk of Volturno. Charlois lowered a boat that stood by, attempting to hail any possible survivors on board. When day broke on 18 October, Captain Schmidt saw the full extent of the damage, and aware that Volturno was a hazard to passing ships, he ordered Volturno's seacocks opened and scuttled the ship . [7]

Rescue ships

The following ships participated in the Volturno rescue: [8]


  1. "Launches and Trial Trips: Launches—Scotch: Volturno". The Marine Engineer and Naval Architect. Vol. 29. 1 October 1909. p. 101.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "135 perish when ship burns at sea". The Washington Post . 12 October 1913. p. 1.
  5. "Capt. Barr Cites Log On Volturno. Says Carmania's Part in Rescue Work Was Misrepresented in English Reports" (pdf). The New York Times . 27 October 1913.
  6. "Ships near a crash in aiding Volturno" (pdf). The New York Times . 19 October 1913. p. 8.
  7. Spurgeon, pp. 66–68.
  8. Spurgeon, pp. 57–58.
  9. "Tells of Rescues by the Kurfuerst" (pdf). The New York Times . 16 October 1913.


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