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Atlantic ships sharing Titanic's misfortune allong the Northern Ice Route By Ian Jackson
  Posted on Sun 29 Apr 2012 (16209 reads)
The bitter winds of an Atlantic spring embraced the ship as she cut through the frosty gloom of the early morning, moving towards her own demise.

The Lady of the Lake left Belfast on the 8th of April 1833 en route to Quebec, with 230 souls on board; only 15 would ever see land again. After six days at sea, the square rigging of the two- masted brig shuddered as her starboard bow slammed into an iceberg some 250 miles east of Newfoundland, holed below the waterline, she began to founder.

Though one lifeboat capsized killing 80, a second boat, manned by Captain Grant rowed to safety where the survivors were forced to watch as thirty or so passengers clung desperately to the mainmast. Eventually it too dropped beneath the waves consuming the ship in an eternal icy tomb.

Almost 80 years and only a few miles south of the Brig’s final resting place, the RMS Titanic infamously met the same fate.
The dangers of ice in the North Atlantic were well understood long before the Titanic tragedy cemented them in the public’s imagination.


The Potato famine sent millions of destitute Irish across the ocean in search of a new and perhaps better life; not all found one. The Schooner Maria, carrying emigrants from Limerick to Quebec struck an iceberg on 10th May 1849. Only 10 of its 121 souls survived.


The same year saw the Hannah go down under even more distressing circumstances. The ships logs reported ‘heavy winds, and a quantity of floating ice’ on the 27th of April but the captain declined to drop sail; his priority was to arrive on schedule. Two days later a reef of ice punctured a hole in the side of the ship sealing its fate. For the 180 or so emigrant’s things were about to go from bad to worse;

Captain Shaw, perhaps fearing panic locked them in the hold. As crew tried desperately to free the trapped passengers Captain Shaw, his first and second officers escaped in the ships’ only lifeboat. Whilst Shaw and his officers fended off pursuers with swinging cutlasses the freed passengers sought the dubious refuge of the ice. 49 of the survivors succumbed to the freezing temperatures before help arrived.

A much reviled Shaw, was treated with the same contempt that Bruce Ismay would later face; accused of being guilty of ‘one of the most revolting acts of inhumanity that can be conceived,’ he nevertheless successfully defend his conduct by discrediting witness testimonials.

Of the dozens of ships have met the same fate as Titanic over the years, few have ever held the public's imagination in quite the same way. Only the magnitude of the Titanic tragedy was sufficient to awake people to the danger of ice drifting into shipping lanes. It’s still a danger.


As recently as 1977 the MV William Carson hit an iceberg on 2nd June, sinking in just 500 feet of water. But by then, the lessons of Titanic had been learnt; all 129 passengers and 29 crew, survived.

Ian Jackson
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