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Sinking of Ocean Liners Early in the 20th Century

By , grimes, IA
After the Titanic sunk, many other ocean liners were lost in World War I.
Some were the same Olympic class design as the Titanic. One was the very ship that rescued survivors of the Titanic, the Carpathia.

The HMHS Britannic was one of the Olympic-class ocean liners. It was the biggest and last ship to be launched. Since the sinking of the Titanic all commercial boats were to be upgraded to have enough lifeboats to hold every passenger. This called for more cranes to lower them. These upgraded cranes could reach the other side of the boat. Other upgrades included a widening of the hull and a 2,000 stronger horsepower engine. Later in her service career it was refitted to be a hospital ship. It would load wounded men and take them to Great Britain or the United States for further surgery.

On November 12, 1916 the Britannic departed Southampton and was heading for Lemnos. At 8:12 a.m. on November 21, 1916 a rocking was felt onboard the ship from hitting an unknown object. The staff immediately went to their assigned spots. In a little bit, the Captain, Charles Bartlett, noticed that the shaking damaged two watertight compartments and a tunnel to the boiler room for the firemen. Soon after, he sent distress signals and ordered lifeboats to be readied for departing of the ship. Charles Bartlett then noticed an island nearby so he tried to beach the ship. The people in charge of the lifeboats did not know of his plan so they released two lifeboats that were quickly destroyed by the still turning propellers. Twenty-three minutes after hitting the mysterious object, the captain ordered everyone to abandon ship and stopped the engines. At 9:00 Charles was washed over board while sending distress signals (he lived.) At 9:07 the boat was completely sunk. 30 people died. The mysterious object the boat hit was later declared an underwater mine.

The SS California was built to replace the ocean liner Astoria. She had three decks: the poop deck, bridge, and forecastle. It needed two funnels to remove smoke from the engines. She was launched on July 9, 1907 and made her first transatlantic voyage on October 12, 1907. On June 28, 1914 the California missed a near end when she was accidentally beached of the coast of Ireland. No one was injured. Then on May 13, 1916 she had another near miss after catching fire in a dock in Manhattan. Munitions for the war were being loaded at the time.

On January 29, 1917 the California deported Glasgow. It was heading to New York. There were 215 people on board. On February 7, 1917 U- Boat 85 was spotted a few miles ahead. Captain John L. Henderson decided not to react because Germany and America were not at war yet. The U-Boat did react though and it fired two torpedoes at the California. One of them hit the port quarter and the other the starboard on the boat. It sunk in nine minutes. 41 people died. Captain John L. Henderson survived.

The RMS Carpathia was a Cunard Line transatlantic steamship. She was launched the 6th of August 1902. It made its first transatlantic voyage on May 5, 1903 from Liverpool to Boston. On April 14, 1912 the Carpathia received distress signals from the Titanic. Captain Arthur Henry Roston ordered the ship to go as fast as it could to the last known position. When she got there, she picked up 705 passengers from lifeboats and debris. Crew members and the Captain were awarded medals for their work. During World War I she transferred soldiers from Canada and the United States to Europe.

On July 15, 1918 the Carpathia departed Liverpool and was heading for Boston. On July 17, 1918 at 9:15 a.m. German U-Boat met the Carpathia in the Celtic Sea. It fired three torpedoes at her. One hit the port side, the second hit the engine room, and the last struck it after most of the people were off the ship. Captain William Prothero immediately sent off distress signals. As people started to get in the lifeboats the front started to go under water. 57 passengers and 218 crewmembers survived. Azalea-class sloop HMS Snowdrop drove U-55 away. It then picked up the survivors.




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