SS Oceanic (2nd)
Mutiny Aboard A White Star Line Ship
White Star Line Oceanic II 1899-1914
(Shown above at the "Landing Stage" in Liverpool)
The only White Star Line ship built exclusively for speed. She was said to have exceeded 30 knots and was fitted with electric lights and refrigeration capabilities. In 1901 in a heavy fog, she was involved in a collision where she rammed and sank the small Waterford S.S. Co's. Kincora killing 7. In 1905, Oceanic was the first White Star Line vessel to have a mutiny on board resulting in the conviction and imprisonment of 35 coal stokers upset with the commanding officers over working conditions. White Star Line ship's carried firearms on board locked up and in the control of the ships Master-at-Arms. They were intended for use in the event of piracy, mutiny or uncontrollable misconduct.
Oceanic was later fitted (WWI) as an armed merchant cruiser due to her high speed capabilities On September 8, 1914, while cruising west of Shetland, the ship was attempting to navigate to the west of the island but due to a navigational errors, the current carried her off course and she grounded on Hoevdi Rocks in the Shaalds. A trawler, the Glenogil transferred close to 400 men to Alsatian and other ships that were standing by in the area. Three days later, attempts were made to save the ship to no avail and two weeks after that, rough seas drove her bottom even deeper into the sea bed and the rocks.
Her guns and armament were removed and the ship was abandoned. In 1924, what remained of Oceanic was cut down to water level and salvaged. In 1973 work began to remove more of the wreck and in 1979, the last of Oceanic was completely removed after 65 years of laying on the rocks.
Three Royal Naval officers aboard Oceanic were blamed for the error in navigation and were court marshaled initially but later exonerated after closer investigation.
New York Times,
Thursday, March 23, 1911:
Foretopmast Shattered and Wireless Temporarily Put Out of Business.
The White Star liner Oceanic came into port yesterday without her wooden foretopmast. It was shattered by lightning in a heavy squall on Tuesday morning. The ship was plowing her way through a heavy sea when the bolt struck. The ship rocked and then from the foremast about nine feet of wooden spar came crashing to the deck. The top of the mast just missed the funnel, dropping on the railing around it and near the glass saloon dome. No one was hurt. * Chief Officer Lightoller, who was on the bridge, came near being struck by big splinters. The breaking of the mast top snapped the wireless riggers, putting the wireless out of commission. It was nearly an hour before the damage was repaired so that messages could be sent. This was done by stringing the wires between the main and mizzen masts. Though the Oceanic encountered heavy seas all the way from Daunt's Rock to the Ambrose Channel, she made the voyage in 6 days and 52 minutes, arriving here on time.
* Note - Charles Lightoller mentioned above as Chief Officer Lightoller (referred to by friends as "Lights") would serve the following year as Second Officer aboard the Titanic. He survived the disaster.
The Oceanic ordeal with her crew was not to be the last attempt at mutiny aboard a White Star Line vessel. Shortly after the Olympic arrived back in England after the Titanic disaster, she underwent a refit with additional lifeboats placed on board. Captain James Haddock was soon confronted by a strike by some of his crewmen. The men refused to sail on the Olympic owing to inadequate life saving facilities. Non-union firemen were brought into fill the gap and this led to a mutiny by the able-bodied seamen. 53 men were subsequently arrested and the case eventually went to trial in Portsmouth.
Image Credit : (Above) The Syracuse Herald April 21, 1912.
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