The sinking of the French ocean liner SS La Bourgogne on the morning of 4 July 1898 was some of the disgraceful of disasters in maritime historical past because of the cowardly and felony habits of the crew. As a substitute of the heroic sacrifice that has typically been the shining second in such a horrible tragedy, the crew of the steamer “fought like demons for the few lifeboats and rafts”, drawing out their knives and threatening passengers with it. Out went for a toss “Girls and kids first!”, famously established by the troopers of the sinking Birkenhead, half a century earlier, and by the crew of the Titanic fourteen years later. Just one lady passenger from La Bourgogne was saved, and all kids perished.
The Transatlantic steamer La Bourgogne, coming into the port of Le Havre, France. Photograph: Library of Congress
The La Bourgogne was in-built 1885 by Société Nouvelle des Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée, in La Seyne-sur-Mer, France. She was a sleek-looking ocean liner, practically 5 hundred ft in size with 4 masts and twin funnels. She was manufactured from iron and metal, and was propelled by a single screw propeller giving her a most velocity of 17 knots.
In her brief profession of 12 years, the La Bourgogne was concerned in no less than three accidents. In 1896, she rammed an anchored British steamer on the entrance to New York harbor and sank her. She was additionally concerned in a collision with the SS Toreador damaging her stern.
On July 3, 1898, the La Bourgogne left New York Metropolis for Le Havre on what could be her last voyage. Early morning the subsequent day, about 60 nautical miles south of Sable Island close to Nova Scotia, the British crusing ship Cromartyshire rammed into the starboard aspect of La Bourgogne. Dense fog had lowered visibility to solely about 20 yards, and the Cromartyshire was travelling at full velocity.
Cromartyshire’s broken bow after the collision. Photograph: 17qq.com
La Bourgogne started to record instantly to starboard. Lots of the lifeboats on that aspect have been wrecked within the collision and the boats on the port aspect proved inconceivable to launch because of the record. Because the ship began to record and the strict went underneath, the crew started to panic. Displaying little concern for the passengers, the crew started piling up on no matter lifeboats have been obtainable and launched them to sea. Some used fists and oars to beat up any passengers who tried to come back close to the boats. Some passengers have been stabbed. Half an hour later La Bourgogne fully disappeared beneath the waves, taking along with her virtually each lady and each single little one.
The Kansas City Journal reported on July 7, 1898:
The previous couple of minutes on board the Bourgogne witnessed among the most horrible scenes of horror and cruelty which have blotted the historical past of a civilized race. As a substitute of heroic self-discipline which so typically has been the one shiny characteristic of such terrible moments, the crew of the steamer fought like demons for the few lifeboats and rafts, battering the helpless passengers away from their solely technique of salvation, with the end result that the sturdy overcame the weak and the record of 162 saved comprises the identify of however one lady.
The crew of the Cromartyshire wasn’t conscious of the extent of the harm till after the fog had thinned. That they had mistaken the alarm whistles and rockets from the unseen La Bourgogne as a proposal for help, when in actuality it was a name for assist.
La Bourgogne was carrying 506 passengers and 220 crew. The Cromartyshire managed to choose up 173 survivors, out of which fewer than 70 have been passengers, with just one lady rescued out of roughly 300 on board. Not a single little one was rescued. Nearly all top quality passengers died within the catastrophe, with survivors largely restricted to guidance passengers and sailors.
As many passengers have been American, the incident brought about an enormous outrage in the US, and based mostly on the tales of rampant brutality on board the sinking La Bourgogne, it was assumed that an neutral investigation into the tragedy and a good trial of these accused of the horrific crimes could be held. However the entire matter was whitewashed and the French authorities put the blame on a handful of overseas sailors who had been touring on the French ship in guidance.
# Flashback in maritime historical past – Sinking of SS La Bourgogne, 4 July 1898 with the lack of 549 lives, Maritime Cyprus
# Pascal Kainic, The collision and foundering of La Bourgogne, oceantreasures.org