Lives lost in ocean holocaust
An artist's interpretation of the sinking of the Volturno Photo: Illustrated London News [London, England], 18 October 1913

Lives lost in ocean holocaust

Published: 13 October 1913

The Carmania arrived at Fishguard this afternoon, carrying tales of heroism and tragedy from the SS Volturno, of the Uranium Shipping Company, which caught fire in the middle of the Atlantic last Thursday.

The Cunard liners played a lead role in the rescue attempts and, while Captain Barr was reluctant to give a statement before he reported to his company's headquarters in Liverpool, one of the Carmania's passengers, Mr Arthur Spurgeon, head of the Cassell Publishing House, wrote an account of his experiences.

He stated: 'Long before we caught sight of the ship, we saw smoke darkening the horizon... It was in the forward hold that the fire broke out. I believe it was discovered about 6 o'clock on Thursday morning and thus it had been burning six hours when the Carmania arrived.'

Captain Barr (left) of the Carmania and Captain Francis Inch of the Volturno; the details of this tragedy will become clearer when these men make their statements.
(Images: Illustrated London News [London, England], 18 October 1913)

Not since the Titanic has such a disaster occurred at sea. There were 657 people on board the Volturno, most of whom were immigrants bound for New York. According to Mr Spurgeon, one of the main causes of loss of life during the ordeal was disorder among the crew, who insisted on launching the life boats, despite the captain's order that the seas were too rough.

'They tried to launch five in succession, but either the boats were smashed to pieces by the heavy seas, or the ropes broke in lowering them. It is believed that there were about 120 people in these boats, all of whom were killed or drowned.'

'The little life boat's daring': a photograph taken from on board the Carmania showing one of its lifeboats struggling against the rough seas, trying to reach the smoking Volturno
(Image: llustrated London News [London, England], 18 October 1913)

Ten vessels in all aided in the rescue attempts, and although details at this juncture remain unclear, it is reported that over 500 passengers were taken safely from the burning ship.

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