Thursday, January 5, 2012

Steamer Thames ~ 6 April 1869

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1869:

While on its regular run between Galveston and New York the 560-ton passenger steamer Thames rounded Cape Hatteras on April 6th and headed north along the coast. When still within sight of the lighthouse on the cape, a cry was hear from amidships: “FIRE!” By the time Captain Pennington could organize his fire-fighting crew, the flames had spread so quickly that there was no hope of bringing them under control. All hands—9 crewmen and 9 passengers—were driven from the cabin.
     The Captain ordered the three aft boats removed from their davits and carried forward. Then, with passengers and crew gathered on the bow, he headed his vessel into the wind, toward shore. But the flames continued to spread and soon Pennington was driven from the pilothouse, leaving the vessel in an unmanageable state.
     The three boats were quickly lowered over the side and the passengers and crew crowded into them. By then the Thames, which was engulfed in flames, was abandoned in the sea off Hatteras. Two of the boats reached shore that night. The third, containing the ship’s cook, two cabin boys, a seaman, and a coal heaver, either drifted to sea or overturned on Diamond Shoals, all 5 being given up for lost.

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