Daily Event for January 4, 2006

January 4, 1852 The British steamer Amazon, burned and sank in the Bay of Biscay. Amazon, a 2,256 ton sidewheeler, was built by R&H Green and was launched on June 28, 1851. The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company's new ship was the largest sidewheeler yet built by an English shipyard. On January 2, 1852 she departed Southampton on her maiden voyage, the ship immediately began to have problems with the bearings in the paddle shafts overheating. In fact she had to stop three times so extra grease could be applied to the bearings.

Fire broke out on January 4th at about 12:45 a.m. and spread quickly. The fire prevented the crew from stopping the engines thus making the launching of lifeboats nearly impossible. The ship, still running at about 9 knots, and the weather nearing a gail caused all but three of the boats to either be wrecked on the davits or capsize when they hit the water. The majority of those killed were drowned launching the boats.

Thirty-six passengers and sixty-eight crew, including Captain Symons, were killed. Fifty-eight were picked up by three other ships. The last lifeboat off the Amazon was the last one found. It contained thirteen survivors who reported to the crew of the Dutch ship Hellechene that captain Symons had pushed their lifeboat clear of the burning ship even though his clothing was on fire.

© 2006 Michael W. Pocock