Daily Event for March 23, 2015

Built in 1884 by Henry Murray & Company in Port Glasgow, Scotland the coastal steamer Mutsu Maru was owned by Kiodo Unyu KK in Tokyo, Japan. She was sold to Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK Line) in 1885 and remained with the line until her end. That came on a foggy night in the Tsugaru Strait off Hakodate, Japan. She was en route from Aomori to Muroran, perhaps with a stop in Hakodate, when at 0230 on March 23, 1908 she was struck amidships by the steamer Hideyoshi Maru. It was reported that the fog in the Tsugara Strait that night was so thick nothing could be seen and neither ship was able to take any evasive action to avoid the tragedy.

Both ships were of similar size, Mutsu Maru 911 gross tons and Hideyoshi Maru 729 gross tons, and both were about 195' long. However, Mutsu Maru, according to published reports, was almost cut in half and went down quickly. There are very few details available to me about this disaster, but reports state that the master and crew remained on the ship with the over 200 passengers as she went down. Although if she went down as fast as reported they could hardly have abandoned the ship. Apparently no boats were able to be launched from the sinking vessel and some reports claim that the few survivors from over 275 people on board were only still alive by pure chance. They had floated clear after the ship went down. Hideyoshi Maru lowered her boats and a second ship, which had come on the scene also lowered hers. Searching for survivors was difficult in the dense fog, but crewmen rowed for hours looking for people in the water. It was not reported how many survivors there were, but the number was apparently not great. In all about 250 people perished that dark and foggy night.
© 2015 Michael W. Pocock