RMS Amazon (1851)

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For other uses, see Amazon (disambiguation).
RMS Amazon.png
Contemporary engraving of loss of Amazon
Career (Great Britain) Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Builder: R & H Green, Blackwall Yard, London
Laid down: 1 September 1850
Launched: 28 June 1851
Homeport: London
Fate: Sunk 3 January 1852 following fire
General characteristics
Tonnage: 2250
Length: 300 ft (91 m)
Beam: 42 ft (13 m) over paddle boxes
Draught: 21 ft 7 in (6.58 m)
Propulsion: Two side-lever reciprocating engines each producing 800 hp (597 kW) at 14 rpm.
Two paddle wheels, 40 ft 8 in (12.40 m) diameter.
Speed: – service speed: 11 knots (20 km/h)
Complement: 162 (maiden voyage)
 Passengers: 50
 Crew: 112
 Survivors: 58

RMS Amazon was a wooden paddle wheel mail steamer of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company.


Amazon was laid down on 1 September 1850 at R & H Green's Blackwall Yard, London and launched on 28 June 1851.


Amazon departed from Southampton for the West Indies on Friday 2 January 1852, commanded by Captain William Symons. At about 12:45 a.m. on the morning of Sunday 4 January, while about 110 miles (180 km) west-south-west of Scilly, a fire suddenly broke out and soon became uncontrollable.

Attempts were made to launch the ship's boats but they were hampered by the new iron cranes that had been fitted, and only two were successfully launched. At about 5 a.m. the ship's magazine exploded and she sank about a half hour later. Among the dead was popular travel writer and novelist Elliot Warburton.

21 survivors in one of the boats were picked up by the brig Marsden, outward bound from London to North Carolina, and landed at Plymouth. It was initially feared that these were the only survivors, but this was not the case; news soon arrived that 6 passengers and 19 crew members had been landed at Brest on 5 January by the Dutch galliot Gertruida, and on 16 January a further 13 survivors were landed at Plymouth by the Revenue cutter Royal Charlotte; they had been rescued on the night of the sinking by the Dutch vessel Hellechina, which transferred them to the cutter.

Likely cause[edit]

The exact cause of the fire remains unknown to this day, but contemporary reports stated that due to the newness of her steam engine machinery, it had been necessary to keep the bearings cooled with water and that it had been necessary to stop the ship for about four hours in order to cool them down, and it is thought that they overheated and caused the fire.


The value of the Amazon's cargo was estimated at about £100,000 (equivalent to £8,413,836 in 2007 [1]) and included £20,300 in specie and 500 bottles of mercury for mining use worth around £5,150.


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