SS Jeddah

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SS Jeddah
Career
Owner: Singapore Steamship Company
Port of registry:  UK
Identification: Official number 67,990
General characteristics
Type: Steamship
Tonnage: 993 44/101 tons register

SS Jeddah was a steamship that was originally thought sunk in 1880 with a great loss of life among the Muslim pilgrims aboard.

On 17 July 1880 Jeddah sailed from Singapore bound for Penang and Jeddah, with 778 men, 147 women and 67 children on board. The passengers were Muslims from the Malay states and they were traveling to Mecca and Medina for the Hajj.

Jeddah sailed under the British flag and was crewed largely by British officers. It was owned by the Singapore Steamship Company, whose managing director, Syed Mohamed al-Sagoff (Arabic: سيد محمد السقافSaiyid Muḥammad al-Saqqāf), came from a wealthy Arab family well established in Singapore. Syed Omar al-Sagoff (Arabic: سيد عمر السقافSaiyid ʿUmar al-Saqqāf), Mohamed's nephew, was on board at the time of the incident. After terrible weather conditions in the first week of passage, the ship's boilers 'started adrift from their seatings'[citation needed] and Jeddah had been taking in water. The vessel sprang a large leak, the water rose rapidly and the captain and officers abandoned the heavily listing ship taking Syed Omar with them. They were picked up by another vessel and taken to Aden where they told a story of violent passengers and a foundering ship. The pilgrims were left to their fate, an apparently certain death.

However, to much astonishment, given reports of its loss, on 8 August a French steamship towed Jeddah into Aden—the pilgrims had survived. They had been abandoned by those meant to protect them and an official inquiry followed into this great scandal. It is strongly suspected[by whom?] that this tale inspired Joseph Conrad, who had landed in Singapore in 1883, and that he wove the main themes of Lord Jim around it using the name SS Patna for his fictional pilgrim ship.

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