Daily Event for March 16

Mar. 16, 1912 after leaving Tilbury for Bombay the P&O liner Oceana was rammed and sunk by the German four masted iron barque Pisagua off Beachy Head. The Pisagua was sighted about half a mile away, but a mistake made by the chief officer, who was in charge at the time, caused the Oceana to cross the bows of the Pisagua and she hit her on the port side causing a large hole in the hull.

Nobody was killed in the collision, but the damage had been done, Oceana would founder, the question was how soon? Capt. Thomas H. Hide felt sure she would go down soon so he ordered the lifeboats to be swung out, however at this time the ship was still underway. He seems to have not given the order to lower the boats, but in any event one was lowered and it capsized killing most of these who were in it. The exception was one Miss MacFarlane, the daughter of a Glasgow business owner, she held fast to the overturned boat and was finally removed, her father perished in the same boat.

In fact all the deaths that occurred were in this lifeboat and the fact that it was lowered too soon was blamed on the chief officer, however the captain was admonished for not paying close enough attention to what was going on on his ship. Several nearby ships came to the rescue and the tug Alert took the Oceana in tow, but several hours after the collision, Oceana sank in shallow water, her masts protruding out of the water.

In her holds were a general cargo and £750,000 in gold and silver bound for India. She was salvaged over the next few months and all but £260 of the precious metals were recovered. In July the wreck was blown up because it caused a navigational hazard, but much of it remains to this day and it is a popular dive site, with divers even bringing up very small amounts of silver from time to time.
© 2006 Michael W. Pocock