Daily Event for December 3, 2009

The Bath City was built in 1880 at the yard of Richardson, Duck & Company, Stockton-on-Tees, England and owned by Charles Hill & Sons, Bristol, England better known as the Bristol Line. She was a cargo ship of 1,724 gross tons, 260' long with a beam of 34'. The ship was put into service in April of 1880 and by all reports was a good sea ship. However, the gales of December 1881 would be the end of her.

She set out from Bristol for New York on Nov. 10, 1881 with a general cargo of tin plates, wire rods, 7,000 boxes of raisins and five sheep just to name a few things carried. She met with the first storm a week out of Bristol, the sea ravaged the ship damaging two of the lifeboats and causing a leak in the stern. After this had passed they went headlong into a second storm, this one carried away the foremast and caused the leak to increase.

On Nov. 26 a third storm destroyed the rudder head, carried away gear from the wheelhouse and again increased the amount of water the ship was taking on. Three days later Capt. Ivey ordered 1,100 boxes of tin to be thrown overboard to lighten his ship as the crew were unable to stop the leak, but nothing they could do would be enough to save the ship. Soon the rudder was carried away and the ship was at the mercy of the sea.

Distress signals were hoisted and the Cunard ship Marathon came alongside on Dec.1, Capt. Ivey requested to be towed into St. John's, but captain Garrett of the Marathon refused sighting the lack of coal on his ship, he later stated that at the time the sea was calm and while the rudder was gone, her engines were working. He also stated that he offered to remove the crew, but that Capt. Ivey "did not think he was justified in abandoning the vessel".

The decision to stay with the ship would end in disaster. On Dec. 3, 1881 the Bath City encountered another terrific storm, and by 9am capt. Ivey ordered the crew into the two remaining lifeboats. The leak in the stern had overwhelmed the pumps and there was no hope of saving her, one and a half hours later the Bath City sank stern first about 180 miles southwest of St. John's, Newfoundland.

Everyone made it off the ship, but one of the boats capsized and four men were lost, the others being taken into the last boat. The harsh conditions, lack of food and water and mostly the bitter cold took a toll on the survivors, before being picked up by the barque William J. Foley on Dec. 6, four more men perished, two others, including Capt. Ivey died on the rescue ship and those who lived had severe cases of frostbite loosing toes and even feet later. Seventeen men made it to Liverpool, including a stowaway named George Cooper, who was reported in critical condition at hospital and not expected to live, I have been unable to determine if he survived or not.

This is but one of the ships that were lost or damaged in the November storms of 1881, which damaged and sank dozens of ships all across the Atlantic. (click here for further details)

© 2009 Michael W. Pocock

Roll of Honour
In memory of those who lost their lives in SS Bath City
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Butt, J.
Miller, J.
Pink, Henry
Able Seaman
Thomas, J.
Died of exposure in lifeboat Dec. 4
Drew, J.
Died of exposure in lifeboat Dec. 5
Derrick, J.
Scott, W.
Died of exposure onboard rescue vessel Dec. 9
Died of exposure onboard rescue vessel Dec. 11
Quick, James

To submit a photo, biographical information or correction please email the webmaster.

2006 Daily Event
2008 Daily Event