THE BURNING OF THE 'VOLTURNO' - PAGE 13
THE VOLTURNO CONTENT OF
'FAMOUS SEA RESCUES' - 1935 - KARL BAARSLAG
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Here is another page of data, exclusively respecting the Volturno related text contained in 'FAMOUS SEA RESCUES'. The book seems not to state when it was published but does indicate that it was originally published in 1935 by 'Oxford University Press, New York, Inc.' with a different title - 'SOS TO THE RESCUE'. But the webmaster has now seen two copies of the work & the earlier one that he has seen uses the title 'SOS RADIO RESCUES AT SEA' instead. The later volume was published in the U.S. But the earlier volume was published by Methuen & Co. Ltd. of Essex Street, London, England. So just maybe the volume was published & republished a number of times, all those years ago, in both England & in the United States? That would indeed seem to be so.
A 1937 (Methuen) copy of 'SOS RADIO RESCUES AT SEA' sold via e-Bay in mid Mar. 2005 for GBP 5.19 or approximately U.S. $9.70. An ex-library 1935 copy (Oxford University Press) of 'SOS TO THE RESCUE' sold in Jul. 2005 for the modest price of U.S. $3.13. And another copy of 'SOS TO THE RESCUE' also sold in Jul. 2005 for U.S. $17.50. But as you can see from those dates, I have not been following prices for a number of years.
I like, where possible, to give data about each author whose work graces these pages. It would seem, from a number of WWW pages I have now accessed, that Karl Herman William Baarslag was born on Nov. 25, 1900 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He died in 1984 (see next paragraph for the exact date) in Palm Beach at the age of 83 of a heart attack, & was then survived by his wife, Esther, & his two sons, Karel (an unusual name, to the webmaster, at least) & Eric. He would seem to have had an interesting life indeed, which included serving as a radio officer aboard passenger ships &, during 1941/45, active duty as a Lt. Commander with the U.S. Navy & as the Navy Representative to Field Marshal Montgomery. Widely published indeed. With the chapter about Titanic, contained in his 'SOS TO THE RESCUE' volume, republished separately. He had specialized knowledge & expertise in areas of counter intelligence that was put to extensive use by the United States. Do check for more extensive data available about him via a search engine. It would be good & fitting to show on this page a photograph of the author also, but no suitable image has yet been located. Can anybody help on that matter?
I now know that Karl Baarslag in fact died on Jan. 10, 1984, thanks to the miracle of e-mail & to the curiosity of Susan and Dean Woodcook of Lisle, New York. The Woodcooks have for a number of years vacationed in the tiny community of Rodanthe on Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Dubbed the 'Graveyard of the Atlantic', the Outer Banks, a long & extremely narrow sliver of land, some 70 miles from north to south & 25 or so miles off-shore, are famed for treacherous currents, shoals, storms & shipwrecks. And also famed for the Cape Hatteras lighthouse & the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station. Today, it is also noted for its sand dunes & beaches and is therefore a popular vacation destination. Anyway, the Woodcooks rented a house at Rodanthe for their vacation & were advised that there was, in the back of the property, the tombstone of an author & navy man. They took some photographs, researched the name via the WWW, found this web site & contacted the webmaster.
The tombstone is, of course, that of Karl H. Baarslag. It would appear that the property is now owned by his sons, so I presume that Mr. Baarslag used to own the property while he was alive & that the property had a most special significance to him - such as would result in his being buried there. Perhaps an appropriate place, however, for a Navy man with its location so steeped in maritime history & tradition & probably personal memory also. Susan and Dean, we thank you so much!
Now the webmaster's access to the titles quoted above was somewhat limited - limited to photocopying the sections that related to Volturno & not therefore reading the rest of the text. But 'SOS TO THE RESCUE' contained, I read, these elegant words about the use of wireless:
'Until the dawn of this century ships great and small sailed for distant ports and, once they had passed over the horizon, were lost to the world until weeks or months later when they were again sighted on shore. Once out of sight of land those who went down to the sea in ships belonged to another world - a world of stark loneliness and utter silence. Ships burned or foundered in storms with not so much as a whisper reaching land to tell their fate. The crew of a sinking or burning ship fought their battle for life, silently and alone. Wireless telegraphy with its magic powers was to wrest from the sea its ancient terror of silence and to give speech to ships which had been mute since the dawn of navigation.'
The page is complete with all of the text (about 15 pages worth) now transcribed. A later part of the text, that containing personal data relating to Captain Inch is also recorded on site page 37.
But before I present the text, I show you a single image, that appeared in 'SOS TO THE RESCUE' but not in the later republication entitled 'FAMOUS SEA RESCUES'. It is of course of the Volturno, burning in mid-Atlantic in 1913. The scan I now present was kindly provided by Jim Hutchinson of Tucson, Arizona, whom we sincerely thank.
Part of the text of Chapter VII
Ten days after the burning of the Templemore, on October 9th, 1913, fire attacked another ship far out on the Atlantic, this time the immigrant ship, Volturno, which had sailed from Rotterdam on October 2nd for Halifax and New York. The Templemore had only 54 in the crew, and her loss attracted little attention in the press ; but the Volturno was crowded with 564 immigrants from eastern Europe, and her 93 officers and crew brought the total number of souls in peril to 657. The burning of the Volturno in mid-ocean, again attracted public attention to the striking value of wireless telegraphy to ships in distress.
Only twenty-four hours intervened between the discovery of the fire and the abandonment of the burning vessel by the captain in the last boat, but into those twenty-four hours were crowded such a rapid succession of harrowing scenes and awful tragedies as few modern shipwrecks have ever furnished. Although 132 lives were lost, this was due to panic, which precipitated abortive boat lowerings in a full gale. Six boats were launched, four were smashed in getting them to the water, and the other two drifted away in the storm and were never recovered. Fire at sea is terrifying enough but a whole gale, which made boat launching suicidal, cut off all hope of escape and drove the poor immigrants into hysteria. The burning of the Volturno must have tried the courage of even the dauntless.
The Volturno was a small vessel of 3600 tons, chartered to the Uranium Steamship Company, who were engaged in the immigrant trade between Rotterdam and North America. Besides her heavy passenger list, she carried a miscellaneous cargo consisting of oils, peat moss, wines, gins, straw bottle covers, burlap, rags, barium oxide, and other chemicals - not the cargo a shipmaster would select if he were given any choice in the matter.
Fire was discovered in a forward hold at 6:55 A.M. on Thursday, October 9th, when the ship was 1260 miles west of the English Channel, or almost in mid-ocean. Despite quick work and strenuous fire-fighting the conflagration gained rapidly and Captain F. J. D. Inch ordered the SOS sent within a few minutes after the fire had been discovered. Captain Inch and Second Officer Lloyd cut a hole through the hatch covers in order to play a fire hose into the burning hold. An explosion blew them, seared and blinded, twenty feet along the deck. With the covers blown from the hatches, it was impossible to keep in the steam which was being used to smother the fire. Captain Inch discussed with the chief engineer the advisability of flooding the forward holds but this plan had to be rejected as involving too much danger of sinking the vessel. The captain therefore ordered the boast swung out, ready for lowering, and lifebelts were issued to passengers. A second explosion damaged the steering gear and the engine-room telegraph. It also blew the compass out of the binnacle. Flames were leaping forty feet in the air, swirling about in the gale, reaching back towards the bridge. Life-rafts, nested near the foremast, caught fire. Tongues of flame burned through the rope stays of the antenna from which the distress calls were at that very moment being radiated. Seddon, the senior operator, said that he had great difficulty in receiving as the sagging antenna caused the lead-in to ground on a water tank, blotting out incoming signals. Second Officer Lloyd, a giant of a man, climbed up the shrouds, and after twenty minutes of trying work. succeeded in lashing the antenna directly to the mast so that it could not come down unless the mast did. He had nearly regained the deck when he was overcome by smoke and acrid fumes and dropped twelve feet, landing on his head and shoulders. He was knocked unconscious. He revived to distinguish himself again, as we shall see later.
The first ship to answer the Volturno's SOS was the Cunarder Carmania, 78 miles away. A high sea was running ; the sky was low and overcast, with driving clouds. The Carmania's engineers crowded on every ounce of steam they dared, as stokers off watch trooped into the fireroom to reinforce the regular watch. Despite the heavy gale, the Carmania increased her speed from 16 to 20.9 knots ; she hammered head on through the smothering plume. As news spread among the passengers, they went to Captain Barr or to the radio room and asked in awed and anxious tones. "Shall we be in time?" Messages of encouragement were sent to the burning immigrant ship as the big Cunarder cut down the remaining miles between them. A dense cloud of smoke was sighted long before the Volturno herself could be made out. The burning ship was sighted at 11 A.M. At two miles, those on the Cunarder could smell the smoke. By noon the Carmania ranged alongside the fiery Volturno.
During the morning disastrous attempts had been made to launch lifeboats. The recurring explosions and the roar of the fire made it appear that instant abandonment was the only hope of saving life. A number of terror-stricken immigrants had crowded into boats while they were still in the chocks and before any orders to abandon, or any preparations to swing the boats, had even been made. Officers had to drive them out with clubs.
No. 2 boat, in charge of the chief officer, was lowered first with 22 of the 24 first-class passengers, the chief steward, stewardesses, and a quartermaster. This boat capsized in launching and all its luckless occupants were spilled into the sea. The boat righted itself ; the chief officer, chief steward, and the quartermaster were seen to clamber back into the boat. It drifted away in the gale and was never seen again.
No. 6 boat, in charge of the 4th officer, was next. It got away safely, loaded with passengers, and disappeared in the storm, like No. 2, never to return. No. 7 was the third boat to be put over. Like its predecessor, it was safely launched only to swirl aft under the Volturno's counter just as a huge sea lifted it high out of the water. Before the doomed boat could get clear, the Volturno's passengers were horrified to see the big vessel's stern crash down on the small lifeboat, smashing its occupants to death.
It was at this time that Captain Inch learned from Radio Operator Seddon that the Carmania was on the way. He ordered the second and third officers, who were getting other boats ready, to attempt no more launchings. He returned forward to direct the fire-fighting. While the conduct of the officers in this disaster appears to have been above reproach, some of the crew seem to have become infected by fear. Several stokers refused to leave the boat-deck, and the third assistant engineer had to draw his pistol to force one of them back to work down below. As soon as the officers turned their backs and returned to fight the fire, some of the more craven or fear-stricken, attempted surreptitiously to launch another boat. It was heavily over-loaded, and as it was being lowered to the water the after-end crashed down, spilling all into the sea. None was recovered, as the wind and sea quickly swept them away.
The awful fate of the boats deterred any further boat launch attempts. At least 120 lives had already been lost. Those on the Volturno, terrible as their plight was, felt that remaining with the ship was their only chance.
The passengers huddled aft as far from the flames as they could get. Fortunately, the gale carried the smoke away from the stern. On the approach of the Carmania, Captain Inch ordered the engines stopped so as to divert all steam to the dynamos and pumps. While the crew, under the leadership of the captain, fought the fire, the immigrants prayed. Most of them were Polish, Russian or east European Jews. As they had left Rotterdam just before Yom Kippur, the steamship company had secured for their use a sacred scroll and a ram's horn, or Shofar, from a Rotterdam synagogue. There was also a Rabbi in charge of one of the groups. Here surely was a strange and pathetic scene : the pitching and rolling Volturno, a blazing furnace forward with smoke-grimed and partly blinded men fighting a dogged but losing battle against the flames, while abaft in such cramped space as they could crowd themselves were 400 or more immigrants, almost on the verge of collapse from terror and despair. Most of them had never seen a ship or the sea before. As one survivor reported, "They came on deck, blew the Shofar, unrolled and read their sacred scrolls, and recited their mournful prayers many timed throughout the day."
Captain Barr of the Carmania had learned by radio of the boat-launching and of the resulting heavy loss of life. The burning ship presented such an appalling sight, however, that, despite the dangerously high seas, he decided to lose no time in launching a boat. Chief Officer Gardner selected a picked crew of oarsman, oil was used to help smooth the turbulent sea, and the boat was lowered without mishap, but with the greatest difficulty. Cheers from the passengers and crew started the small boat off on its dangerous trip to the burning liner. Two hours later Gardner was back ; high seas and the lashing gale had made it impossible to approach the Volturno. The boat and its weary crew were taken back aboard the Cunarder.
Captain Barr then ran his ship as close as he dared to the burning Volturno, passing close under the latter's stern. The terrible plight of the 500 or more on the doomed immigrant carrier was vividly revealed to the people lining the Cunarder's rails. The fore-part of the Volturno was fire-ravaged and deserted ; a number of the crew had been burned to death, having been trapped in the forecastle before they could escape. The mid-section was a roaring furnace and gleams of flame, breaking through heavy clouds of smoke, revealed the fighting crew at the fire lines. The immigrants were crowded aft, all wearing lifebelts. The Carmania passed so near that the terror-stricken faces of the Volturno's passengers could clearly be seen : women with tear-stained and frantic faces, some clasping babies in their arms - there seemed to be an unusual number of infants in arms ; men's faces were etched with despair, with horror, or blank, apathetic resignation ; children, overcome with fright, clung to their elders, whimpering and crying. A few passengers waved handkerchiefs to those on the Carmania as that ship steamed past.
Meanwhile, Seddon and Pennington, the two operators, were in communication with not only the Carmania, but nearly as score of other vessels. The shack filled with smoke, and the room became unbearably hot, but they stayed on. Drawn from all points of the compass by the SOS, a fleet of no less than eleven ships was converging with all possible speed on the Volturno.
Captain Inch sent urgent radio messages to the Carmania, pleading that some attempts be made to get a line to him so that a boat might be pulled back and forth or that a breeches buoy be rigged to take off his passengers and crew. Barr realized the utter hopelessness of trying to keep a line between the two tossing ships long enough to rig a buoy. Instead he dropped overboard six of his boats, hoping that they would drift near enough to the Volturno to be picked up by that ship, but the latter lacked steam to manśuvre with, and all of them drifted tantalizingly across her bow. Barr then tried to drift a buoy down wind to the Volturno but with no better success.
At 3:30 that afternoon the German freighter Seydlitz came up and was followed by a compatriot, the Grosser Kurfuerst. The Belgian Kroonland came over the horizon at 6 that evening, and was soon followed by the Minneapolis, La Touraine, Rappahannock, Czar, and Devonian. The British, Belgian, American, German, French, and Russian flags snapped in the gale surrounding the burning Britisher.
On the appearance of the Seylidtz [sic], Captain Inch, mindful of his missing boats, asked the Carmania to search for them. The Cunarder made a wide sweep to the north-westward and searched for two hours without finding a trace of the ill-fated lifeboats. Nightfall made further search useless ; the Carmania returned and took up her post to leeward of the Volturno.
At 4 P.M. the Volturno sent out a general call to all ships, "Come as quickly as possible. We may go down at any minute. She is buckling." The blast furnace intensity of the fire was twisting girders into fantastic shapes and making gigantic washboards out of steel decks. At 4:30 P.M. Captain Inch suggested by radio that the Grosser Kurfuerst come up from the leeward and lower a boat which he then hoped to reach with a line. The Seydlitz then put over a boat, but the boisterous seas prevented it from reaching the burning vessel and it was forced to return.
At 6:30 Captain Inch sent a despairing radio to the surrounding ships to "do something." Few shipmasters in these modern days are ever called upon to pass through the ordeal that Inch went through on the burning Volturno. The intense heat of the incandescent holds had burned off his eyebrows and most of his hair and had seared his face. His uniform was in rags and his shoes nearly burned off his feet. Blinded by the blistering heat and smoke, he could not see what the ring of motionless ships was doing in response to his radio pleas. He turned to the valorous Second Officer Lloyd, "What are they doing ? I can't see, I can't see."
"Nothing - just nothing," Lloyd replied, disconsolately.
Thereupon Lloyd decided to demonstrate to the waiting ships that a small boat could be launched and live on the high seas still running. The Volturno's last seaworthy boat was made ready and manned by two seamen, a fireman and a steward. Lloyd succeeded in getting his boat safely away from the Volturno's sides. He used an oar as a steering sweep, guiding her toward the Grosser Kurfuerst, her lights showing two miles away. Seddon had in the meanwhile warned the German liner that a boat was on the way over and to keep a good lookout for it. After a hard trip, the sinking boat, half-filled with water, reached the Kurfuerst. It sank as the last man was hauled aboard. The passengers cheered the feat ; the first of the Volturno's fire-menaced had been saved.
Lloyd had demonstrated to the hesitant captains of the rescue fleet that a small boat could live through those seas, even though the boat had been manned by five exhausted seamen. The trip had taken 45 minutes. The German liner immediately informed Captain Inch by radio, "Second officer and four men arrived well. Sea still too high to disembark your passengers. Await daylight." Captain Spangenberg, however, changed his mind shortly thereafter. Inspired by Lloyd's courage he decided to try a boat and the German vessel was the first to begin rescue efforts that night.
During the afternoon Captain Inch had radioed for a tanker to spread an oil slick, and thus somewhat smooth the high seas so that the difficult and hazardous work of transferring some 500 terror-stricken immigrants to safety from the Volturno's burning decks might be facilitated. At 6 P.M. Seddon received a message from the American tanker Narragansett, "We are on our way with the milk" - milk, in this case, being a facetious operator's witticism for oil. The tanker, however, could not reach the scene before dawn, but promised to make all possible speed.
It was a black hour for Captain Inch. The fire was relentlessly gaining. Decks were buckling and they would soon give way and crash into the blazing furnace underneath. Blistered and scorched, Captain Inch continued the fight.
A spectator on the Carmania reported it as an unforgettable sight. The weather was overcast and murky ; clouds, lashed along by the southwest gale, scudded across an angry, grim sky. The dark hulk of the Volturno was illuminated by the hellish glare of the fire, dense smoke billowed to leeward across a heaving, rolling sea. The Carmania's passengers held prayer services that night. A ring of lighted ships encircled the black horizon, each waiting for a chance to begin the work of rescue.
The Carmania, being the largest, and therefore the hardest to handle, lay off leeward of the Volturno ready to pick up the survivors should she sink. About 9:30 that night, the horrified watchers on the other ships saw a burst of flame shoot into the sky from the mid-section of the Volturno, destroying the bridge. The rockets, bombs and Coston lights stored on the bridge had been touched off by the heat. The poor immigrants thought their last moment had come and some, overcome by terror and frenzy, sprang into the sea.
A young French honeymoon couple sprang overboard, clasped in each other's arms. They perished, as did all the others who leaped. The explosion destroyed the antenna. One of Captain Inch's last despairing messages had been, "For God's sake, send us some boats or do something!"
A boat from the Grosser Kurfuerst, with a double banked crew, was first to reach the Volturno after a long and desperate struggle. When within hailing distance of the burning liner, the boat's crew shouted for the immigrants to jump and they would be picked up out of the sea. No one jumped. The Kurfuerst's boat was forced to return empty, after a terrible trip. The Devonian and Minneapolis had each put over a boat, that of the latter vessel being manned by six men and an officer. It approached to within a few yards of the burning hulk, but was also unable to induce anyone to jump. After five hours of battling against wind and sea, the exhausted crew found themselves unable to regain their mother ship. Swept before the storm, they headed for the nearest vessel which happened to be the waiting and vigilant Carmania, whose searchlight swept the swirling waters. The Minneapolis's boat was picked up by the Carmania.
Inch, learning of the boats, left off his fire-fighting long enough to direct members of the crew who were no longer needed, to jump and swim for the boats, hoping thus to induce the more timorous passengers to follow their example. Pennington, the junior operator was one of these. He jumped overboard and was picked up by a boat from the Kroonland. "I went down so far, I didn't care whether I came up or not," re related. He and Seddon, after their apparatus had been wrecked, had helped the captain and chief engineer, constructing rafts. Their last lifeboat had been used by Second Officer Lloyd early in the evening.
The Devonian's boat succeeded in picking up one man, and after a great fight, regained its own ship's side safely. The boat capsized as the crew were boarding their ship but all were retrieved. The Kroonland sent over several boats but could not induce any of the Volturno's passengers to jump. Other ships sent boats as the night advanced until the Seydlitz broadcast a message saying, "Do not send any more boats - the people won't come off." Then, under the leadership of the crew, some of them did begin to jump, 70 or 80 of the men deciding to take the chance, and all except 5 or 6 were saved by the boats hovering near by. A Russian opera singer was eager to make the attempt and needed no persuasion, but in his few days on board he must have learned something of shipboard etiquette because he first sought out Captain Inch to secure his permission to leave the vessel. He jumped, missed the boat, and was dragged back aboard the Volturno.
Another swimmer, to whom the English Channel would have been a lark, appeared out of the darkness and gale at the side of the Carmania, the ship farthest away. His cries, out of the night, brought sailors with rope-ladders and lines. One of the Carmania's sailors had to spring overboard and swim to him with a line as the wind and sea were carrying him away. This doughty swimmer, who was a German by the name of Trentepol, had swum over two miles through a storm which had daunted lifeboats!
Fortunately wind and sea were going down as the night slowly wore into another day. At daybreak several rescuing boats were so near that it seemed desirable to Captain Inch to begin the evacuation of his passengers. A line was stretched fore and aft and the passengers segregated - men on the windward side and women and children to the leeward, the side from which boats would naturally load. The women went down on ladders, or clinging to lines ; children were passed down on heaving lines. Several "rushes" were started, but they were quickly checked by the officers ; and the frenzied, panic-stricken men were driven back to their side of the ship until the women and children could be taken off. One enterprising impostor tried to sneak into a boat wearing the third officer's greatcoat. Captain Inch is reported to have knocked him down, and he was sent back to the men's side, though he scarcely deserved such classification. This maintenance of the first law of the sea, "women and children first," separated families, as boats from six or more ships were taking away loads of the rescued, each to its own ship, so that the Volturno's passengers, as we shall see later, were thoroughly scattered.
The Narragansett had come upon the scene with the "milk" shortly after dawn. Her pumps began laying down a "slick" of oil that marvelously eased the work of the small boats, keeping the seas from breaking.
Captain Inch was the last to leave, carrying the ship's papers under his arm. Accompanied by Seddon and the other officers, he left in one of the Kroonland's boats. In this boat also was one of the unsung heroes of the Volturno disaster, a cook who stayed at his post making coffee and baking until the heat of the flames burned the shoes off his feet. There was also a small dog who shared the honors of "last to leave."
Before abandoning his command, Captain Inch had taken a last look around ; the decks were billowy and corrugated. During the night he had tried to look into No. 1 hold ; it was a roaring furnace of twisted girders and leaping flames.
It was just 8 A.M. on Friday, October 10th, when the Kroonland's boat pulled away from the side of the deserted hulk. Twenty-four hours had elapsed from the discovery of the fire to the time of abandonment. Of the many sea disasters, few approach that of the Volturno for sheer dramatic suspense. Few captains have ever had to pass through such an ordeal by fire as did Captain Inch. He was blind for four days, the film over his eyes having been dried by the intense heat of the fire.
Each of the eleven rescue ships had some of the Volturno's passengers or crew. Another spectator had been a mysterious stranger, attracted by the reflection in the sky. She had come up during the night. She carried no radio so her identity was never learned. She left at dawn when the rescue attempts were well under way, and it was obvious her assistance was not needed. The record of rescue stood as follows : Grosser Kurfuerst 105 ; Czar 102 ; Kroonland 90 ; Devonian 59 ; Seydlitz 46 ; La-Touraine 40; Minneapolis 30; Narragansett 29 ; Rappahannock 19.
The Carmania, first on the scene but the biggest vessel there, had only one survivor, the mighty swimmer. Because of her bulk, Captain Barr had hesitated about bringing her in close among the smaller vessels. He felt he could do more by using his searchlight to aid the boats of the others than to add his own lifeboats to the more than sufficient number already hovering near the Volturno.
It was out of the question to re-transfer all the rescued to some New York bound ship - the sea was still too rough. So it was decided by radio that each ship should proceed to its appointed destination ; the scrambled survivors would have to be sorted out ashore and then reunited. In no other sea disaster have the survivors been so widely scattered among so many rescuing vessels. As the various craft were bound for New York, Halifax, Liverpool, Rotterdam, Le Havre, and London, families divided among the nine rescuing ships found themselves bound for six different ports on both sides of the Atlantic. It took months of frantic cabling to locate and re-unite them. Some of the poor immigrants who were returned to Rotterdam on the Russian SS. Czar, were so overcome by their harrowing experiences that they returned to their homes in Poland and Galicia.
On the evening of October 17th, eight days after the Volturno had been abandoned, the Dutch tanker Charlois came along, ignorant of the disaster. Flames were still burning in parts of the derelict. Captain Schmidt, not knowing that she had drifted for seven days without a soul on board, sent over a boat at 10:45 P.M. Those in the boat, on coming alongside, were puzzled to see no signs of life, so they kept near to the smouldering hulk all night.
They boarded the fire-scarred wreck at dawn and found every scrap of wood or other combustible material burned off. The decks had fallen in and the gutted hulk presented a scene of utter desolation. A search of the forecastle revealed the charred corpses of the unfortunate seamen who had died there. They opened the sea-cocks and allowed the ravaged Volturno to find its resting place in the deep.
From Captain Thompson of the Officers (Merchant Navy) Federation, London, the writer learned that the burning of the Volturno was not Captain Inch's first experience at fire-fighting. As Chief Officer of the SS. Campania under Captain Thompson he had been principally responsible for putting out what might have developed into another Volturno fire. Inch donned a smoke helmet and went into the after end of the vessel, abaft the emigrants' quarters, at 2 A.M. and succeeded in putting out the fire which had started from a short circuit. The sleeping emigrants never learned of the incipient fire so near to their quarters. Captain Thompson added that after returning to England, Inch was presented with the Freedom of the City of London, a fine honour for any British subject. At the outbreak of the European War Captain Inch commanded the Principello and he later became a Cunard captain commanding the Verentia and the Valacia. Captain Thompson concluded, "Captain Inch was a very fine seaman, courageous to a degree and imbued with a fine sense of duty. I think I may say I never had a more capable or competent Chief Officer." The writer understands that Captain Inch retired from the sea about 1929 and died shortly thereafter.
There is now a vast amount of data on this site re the events covered in the above article. 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.
From a now long expired e-Bay item. An interesting, if anecdotal, item about Karl Baarslag! We know from one of the links above that Karl Baarslag served at sea from 1925 to 1939. He must have served for a while on the Eastern Star. Why do I say that? The e-Bay item just mentioned was re a lot of three documents: a) a note placed adrift in a bottle from a location 1062 miles east of Boston on Dec. 22, 1926 from the S.S. Eastern Star by K. Baarslag of Brooklyn, New York, b) a signed letter from Joseph Smart, of The Goodrest Farm, Haleswen, England, dated Sep. 5, 1927 to Baarslag informing him that the bottle & note were found on Aug. 23, 1927 at 10:30 A.M., over 2,000 miles from where they were launched. and c) a newspaper clipping recounting the story of the letter in the bottle. The listing further indicated that Baarslag, the author of several books about ships & sea voyages, had taken a leave of absence from his job at the Post Office to go to sea to work on his book about the Volturno disaster, a liner which burned en route to North America in 1913.
All of interest to this site, & hopefully to site visitors who have an interest in Karl Baarslag!
And here is the 'message in a bottle'. Which was indeed later found at Barmouth on the Welsh coast & returned to Karl Baarslag at Brooklyn.
A SITE SEARCH FACILITY THE GUEST BOOK - GO HERE