Antiqua Print Gallery Steamship Britannia
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Steamship Britannia

The Britannia Steam-Ship

This "fine-looking, strong-built, and well proportioned" vessel has, of late, been an object of considerable interest; more especially by her escape from a most perilous position, on her voyage from Liverpool to New York, on the 14th ult. On the afternoon of that day, the steamer went on the rocks at Cape Race, the southern point of Newfoundland, in a very dense fog. A correspondent of the New York Commercial Advertiser writes:--

"As you may imagine, it was a moment of deep solicitude. Many of us had been for some time watching for land, anxious to know our true situation, that we might escape all apprehension during the approaching night. My eye was at the moment fixed on Captain Harrison, our excellent commander, and I saw him turn quickly, and heard him exclaim, 'Starboard-stop her!' Before the echo could have died away the ship struck, and for the first time I saw the bleak and barren rocks.

"As soon as it was ascertained that the steamer was ashore, orders were given to clew up the sails, the guns were run aft, and the provisions and everything else that could be removed were shifted, the water in two of the boilers was let off, and the passengers all crowded to the stern; the engines were reversed, and two waves or rollers coming in, we were, under the gracious protection of an over-ruling Providence, once more afloat.

"The Captain then summoned the chief engineer to ascertain whether the ship made water. The result was, that she was making at the rate of about twelve inches per hour, but he was sure the two pumps usually in service would keep the water down. Under this impression the captain determined to proceed on his course.

"The passengers, both ladies and gentlemen, behaved with great coolness during the exciting moment, and no one attempted to interfere with the Commander in the course he pursued, nor did any one converse with him until we were again under way. Soon after some half dozen gentlemen met the captain in his state-room, and looked over his chart, and ascertained our position. St. John's was some fifty miles north of us, but as the fog still continued there was no probability of getting into that port, and having full confidence in Captain Harrison's statement, that the ordinary pumps would keep the ship free, Mr. Winthrop made a report to the passengers which allayed their fears, and we arrived at Halifax on Friday morning, where a survey was held, and the report was made, in substance, that the steamer had been ashore at Newfoundland, that her forefoot had been knocked off, her keel injured, and that she made fourteen inches of water per hour; but that her two bilge pumps could throw out the water she made, and that she might proceed safely to Boston."

The vessel reached Boston; but, previous to her arrival there, a statement in testimony of the good judgment of the Captain and his men, was drawn up, and signed by 65 passengers.

On the arrival of the Britannia in New York, she was found to have sustained injuries of a greater magnitude than was anticipated. The keel was carried away from abaft the wheel to the extreme end, taking with it the forefoot and a great quantity of the heavy sheathing. Part of the stem or cutwater was also taken off. To replace these properly would at any time, or under ordinary circumstances, occupy five days at least; but through the facilities offered by the peculiar construction of the dock, and the perseverance and untiring exertions of Captain Harrison, she was enabled to leave for Boston, having been on the dock, only four days, during which she received a new keel, forefoot, some coppering and other repairs.

(Source Illustrated London News)