Daily Event for September 21, 2010

The Edam was a brig rigged passenger steamship built for Nederlandsch-Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij of Rotterdam, Holland in 1881. Her maiden voyage was made from Rotterdam to New York on Oct. 29, 1881, less than a year later Edam would be just a memory. On the evening of September 21, 1882 Edam was outbound from New York with 75 people on board, 21 passengers and 54 crew, she was also carrying $150.000 in cargo bound for Europe. At the same time the Wilson Line's Lepanto, which left Hull, England on Sept. 5 with a stop in Southampton on the 7th was inbound in the same fog bank.

Captain Rogers on the Lepanto noted in his log that the sea was calm and they did not run into the fog until around 9 p.m. at which time he slowed his vessel and sounded his horn. On the Edam the horn was first heard at about 10 p.m. a second signal from the hidden ship came a few minuets later, this time however it seemed to the lookout that the whistle was in a different location. It was this misunderstanding that ultimately caused the collision which would happen at 10:15 p.m. about 390 miles from New York.

It was soon after the exchange of signals that the ships spotted each other, but by this time a collision was unavoidable as the Lepanto rammed the Edam on the abreast of the engine room, as the Edam moved across the bows of the Lepanto, the latter rammed the former two more times at different points. Captain John H. Taat of the Edam knew immediately that his ship could not survive for long and ordered all hands to ready to abandon the ship.

With little panic the passengers and crew got into the lifeboats and moved away from the stricken Edam, while the Lepanto also lowered boats to rescue people on a ship they could not see. The fog was so thick that while the ships were near each other, they could not see each other and it would take over an hour for the survivors of the Edam to locate the Lepanto. The survivors were taken aboard and treated well according to later reports. Thirty minuets after the collision Edam slipped under the waves forever, sadly taking two of the crew with her.
Lepanto, with her bows stove in all the way to the collision bulkhead, made port in New York on Sept. 24 with no further difficulty.

Conflicting statements made by the crews of each vessel resulted in a lawsuit being filed on Aug. 23, 1884 by the Holland America Line against the Wilson Line and captain Rogers for $450,000 in New York district court. The court found that Edam and captain Taat were to blame for the collision, the decision of the court is summed up as follows;

"The weight of evidence shows that the Lepanto made no material mistake in location; that she violated no statute, no custom, no requirement of prudence or of nautical skill; that the collision was brought about, primarily, by the Edam's erroneous location of the Lepanto upon her starboard bow, instead of on her port
bow, and that this error arose, doubtless, from unavoidable natural causes, and was not in itself a fault; but that the collision was caused, secondarily, by the Edam's previous nonobservance of her duty to go at moderate speed, and by her failure, on hearing the Lepanto's first whistle near, to reverse her engines, as
she was also bound to do.

Had both of these duties been observed by the Edam, the collision would certainly have been avoided; it would probably have been avoided had either of them been observed. The Lepanto, having made no material mistake in location, and having observed all the rules of navigation, and done all she could do to avoid the collision, cannot be justly charged with any share of the loss. Great as this loss was, it must be borne by the Edam, whose faults alone, so far as there was fault, produced it."

© 2010 Michael W. Pocock

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

van Geyt, Yan
Assistant Engineer
Leyendecker, Nicholas
3rd Engineer

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