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White Star Liner SS Celtic (1st)

White Star Line Celtic (1st) 1871-1903

The  first Celtic was one of a pair of Oceanic-class liners commissioned by White Star, following the success of their first four steamships (the Adriatic being the other of the new pair). The ship was originally supposed to be named the Arctic, but since the America Collins Line had a paddle-wheels steamer with the name Arctic which had sunk in 1854, the White Star Line didn't think it was a good idea to have a ship with that particular name so she was renamed Celtic prior to launching.

Edward James Smith, captain of the Titanic and commodore of the White Star Line served as 4th officer aboard the Celtic in 1880.

On May 19, 1887, at about 5:25 in the afternoon, the Celtic collided with the White Star liner Britannic in thick fog about 350 miles east of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. The Celtic, with 870 passengers had been steaming westbound for New York City, while the Britannic, carrying 450 passengers, was on the second day of her eastward journey to Liverpool. The two ships collided at almost right angles, with the Celtic burying her prow 10 feet in the aft port side of Britannic. The Celtic rebounded and hit two more times, before sliding past behind Britannic.

Six steerage passengers were killed outright onboard Britannic, and another six were later found to be missing, having been washed overboard. There were no deaths onboard Celtic. Both ships were badly damaged, but Britannic more so, having a large hole below her waterline. Fearing that she would founder, the passengers onboard began to panic and rushed the lifeboats. Britannic's Captain, pistol in hand, was able to restore some order, and the boats were filled with women and children, although a few men forced their way onboard. After the lifeboats had launched, it was realized that Britannic would be able to stay afloat, and the lifeboats within hailing distance were recalled. The rest made their way over to the Celtic. The two ships remained together through the night, and the next morning were joined by the Wilson Line's Marengo and the British Queen of the Inman Line, and the four slowly made their way into New York Harbor.

The Celtic was sold in 1893 to the Thingvalla Line. In 1898, the year that Thingvalla was absorbed into the Scandinavian American Line, the Amerika was scrapped.


Sources: Illustrated London News, May 28, 1887 - History of the White Star Line  R. Gardner 2001


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