'THE PATHFINDER' - Nov. 29, 1913
and 'THE INDEPENDENT' - Oct. 23, 1913

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Here is another page of data, respecting issues of three magazines or newspapers, all published in late 1913.

THE PATHFINDER - Nov. 29, 1913

The 'Pathfinder' data appears here courtesy of Cary Ginell, whose family were aboard Volturno on that fateful trip in 1913. Cary, we thank you. I have no data about 'The Pathfinder' but it was, in 1913, a weekly, published in Washington, D.C., and in its 20th year of publication.

At left, below, is an image of the front page of 'The Pathfinder' of Nov. 29, 1913, Number 1039, an issue of 32 pages, I understand. And at right, below, is the fine image which appears on that front page. I recognise it as being the work of the famous marine artist Norman Wilkinson ~ the identical work, in a giant two page spread, was published in Illustrated London News (ILN) on Oct. 18, 1913. Indeed the text which accompanied it (but not yet the image) appears in the ILN page available here. The Narragansett is the vessel in the middle of the image, incidentally, and you can just see in the image the two oil discharge pipes, one at the bow and the other at the stern. The Devonian is at far left and the Volturno, of course, is at right. The image is followed with the words of the Pathfinder article with one modification - I introduced paragraphs not contained in the original as published, to make it more easily read on this page.


Many of the terrors of travel by sea have been eliminated by adoption of the wireless telegraph. No longer is a steamer isolated on a trackless waste of waters, helpless in case of trouble, as was formerly the case. Instead of running up a flag of distress and trusting to some chance vessel to happen along, a steamer now, when danger of any kind comes, sends out the wireless "S. O. S." call for help, and such is the number of steamers plying in the great lanes of ocean traffic that within a very few hours one or more vessels are almost certain to come to the rescue. In the case of the Uranium liner "Volturno," which took fire and burned in mid-ocean recently, no less than a dozen steamers turned up and did all they could to aid in getting the horror-stricken passengers off the doomed ship.

Practically all the lives that were lost were needlessly sacrificed, as it afterward turned out. The sea was very high at the time the fire was discovered and several boatloads of people were swallowed up by the waves when attempts were made to get off in that way. Luckily the fire was slow in spreading and it allowed the people to retreat to the after part of the vessel to wait for help. In cases of disaster at sea everyone is excited and they are all so anxious to leave the vessel that the boats are launched without due caution and they are swamped in the act. The case of the great "Titanic" disaster and also the one of the "Volturno" both show that the people who took it coolly and waited had a better chance of saving their lives than those who were so impulsive.

Our picture is reproduced from one in the Illustrated London News. It shows the tank steamer "Narragansett" pumping oil from her hold onto the waters through two large pipes. The "Narragansett" had caught the wireless signal of distress and had sent back the reassuring message "We are coming with the milk". People are often jolly even at times of the greatest distress, and this joke about the "milk" created a ripple of laughter among the people on the "Volturno," who were at the very time facing death. An eye-witness declares that "within five minutes after the "Narragansett" began oiling the water the sea round about became absolutely calm, apart from a slight roll." The use of the oil aided materially in the rescue work, as it made it less dangerous to transfer the people on the wreck to other vessels.

Landsmen often wonder why in such a case the rescuing steamer cannot run right up alongside the helpless ship and let the people simply step across from deck to deck. These tactics were all right in the old days of small wooden ships, and pirates often boarded vessels in that way. But in these days of huge steamers weighing with their cargoes all the way up to 50,000 or 75,000 tons or more it would never do. The momentum of such a vast weight, even at very slow speed and in a smooth sea, is so tremendous that nothing can resist it.

Two big modern steamers coming together in this way would be certain to damage each other seriously, if not send each other to the bottom. Our navy and other navies have tried various schemes for coaling warships at sea direct from coaling-steamers, but it has been found that the scheme is impracticable except under the most favorable circumstances. The hawsers six inches or a foot in diameter which are used to lash the vessels together are snapped in two like ordinary twine. This helps to make us understand why it was that with a number of big steamships hovering right around the burning "Volturno" it was such a serious problem to get the survivors off the doomed ship and onto the others.

As for the principle of "oil on troubled waters," it is of such ancient repute that its origin is lost in the murk of antiquity. The fact that oil will quiet rough water is recorded in the famous ecclesiastical history of Bede, written in Latin in the year 735 A.D. According to the story, St. Aidan, wishing to give all help to a young priest who was making a trip by water to convoy a young bride to King Oswin, provided him with a cruse of oil and instructed him as to its use in case of a storm. The priest did have occasion to use the oil and it kept the waves down so that the bride was safely taken to her lord. St. Aidan died in 694.

In modern times many demonstrations of the value of oil in calming the sea have been made. Commodore Wilkes of the U.S. navy, on his famous cruise round the world 75 years ago, testified to seeing big waves leveled by the whale-oil left in the wake of a leaky ship near the Cape of Good Hope. In the Gulf of Mexico there are places where oil rises to the surface of the water from submarine oil wells, and even in fierce storms the waves are kept down.

Many devices have been thought of for systematically oiling the water around ships in time of severe storm. A simple and crude method that is common is to tie sacks of oil-soaked oakum on the bow of the vessel where each wave as it comes will hit it. Various kinds of apparatus for sprinkling the oil constantly have been patented. Even the Eskimos, when they have to make a trip on very rough water in a small boat, have a trick of placing a man in the bow who keeps the course of the boat well oiled.

It is found that a single drop of oil will spread out in a film of microscopic thinness until it covers seven square feet of water. This film of oil, owing to its elasticity, exerts a tension on the water and thus tends to pull down the crests of the waves and make the water calm; and it also prevents the waves from breaking.

In the old-fashioned method of making maple sugar it was the practice to tie a small piece of fat pork just over the sap kettle. Then when the sap boiled up and threatened to run over, it came in contact with the fat. The heat melted a little oil out and this would instantly cause the boiling to subside. It takes such a very small amount of oil to do the work that in the absence of fat pork the sap-boilers sometimes use even a sprig of hemlock or some other conifer, and the tiny quantity of oil extracted from this sprig would answer the purpose.


Christian Herald Magazine, in its issue dated Oct. 22, 1913 (Volume 36, No. 43) had an article on the Volturno. And thanks to Tyann and Brian Miller of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., I can show you exactly what it said and (how appreciated) without my need to type it! The words in the large image that follows are quite legible, I believe. But you must scroll to see it all.

THE INDEPENDENT - Oct. 23, 1913

And here, at left is an image of the front page of 'The Independent' published on Oct. 23, 1913, available thanks to an e-Bay item long since sold - in Oct. 2003 for U.S. $24.50. The issue was said to be of a total of 35 pages.

'The Independent' would seem to have commenced publication in 1848 & to have been published in New York, New York. It absorbed the Chautauquan in Jun. 1914, Harper's Weekly in May 1916, the Countryside and Suburban Life in Aug. 1917, and the Weekly Review in Oct. 1921. It merged into the 'Outlook' in Oct. 1928.

The image is of Guglielmo Marconi, whose 'wireless' radio system permitted the SOS to be sent by the Volturno that resulted in the arrival of the whole rescue fleet.

I may, in due course, place on this page the text of the two articles that issue of 'The Independent' contained, since it is in the archives of The Robarts Library in Toronto, Canada. But the articles are already available on Jan Daamen's fine Volturno site from the Netherlands.

Those two interesting articles can accordingly be read, today, here & here.

All fine articles, as I trust you will agree.

If YOU have any new data about the Volturno, or in any way related to the Volturno, I would welcome your dropping me a line.

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