SS Austria

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SS Austria 1857.jpg
SS Austria, 1857
Name: SS Austria
Operator: Hamburg America Line
Builder: Caird & Company, Greenock, Scotland
Launched: 23 June 1857
Fate: Sank, 13 September 1858
General characteristics [1]
Type: Steamship
Length: 320 ft (98 m)
Beam: 40 ft (12 m)
Depth: 17 ft 6 in (5.33 m)
Propulsion: 1 × 400 nhp 2-cylinder steam engine, 1 screw

SS Austria was a steamship of the Hamburg America Line which sank on 13 September 1858, in one of the worst transatlantic maritime disasters of the nineteenth century, claiming the lives of 449 passengers and crew. The Austria was built by Caird & Co. of Greenock, Scotland and was launched on 23 June 1857. She was 318 ft and 2,684 BRT, with three masts and single screw propeller propulsion.

After a cancelled British Government charter, she went into service with the Hamburg America Line on 1 May 1858 on the Hamburg-New York City route.

Tragedy at sea[edit]

"The shipwreck of SS Austria" shown at Odense, Denmark
Sinking of the SS Austria, at the Deutsches Historisches Museum.

On 1 September 1858, SS Austria captained by F. A. Heydtmann sailed from Hamburg on her third voyage to New York City. At approximately 12:00, on 13 September, at coordinates 45°01′N 41°30′W / 45.017°N 41.500°W / 45.017; -41.500, a decision was made[by whom?] to fumigate steerage by dipping a red-hot chain into a bucket of tar; the chain became too hot for the boatswain to hold, and it was dropped onto the deck, which immediately burst into flames; although the ship was traveling at only half speed it was impossible to stop the engines as the engine crew had become asphyxiated. When the helmsman abandoned the wheel, the ship swung into the wind, spreading the flames down the length of the ship, racing through the mahogany veneer and varnished bulkheads, as passengers jumped into the sea. The passing barque, Maurice of France rescued most of the survivors (67), and the Catarina of Norway picked up more (22) the next morning. As the blackened hulk was left to sink, all but 89 of 542 passengers were lost.


Amongst the survivors were:


Amongst those who drowned were:

Paintings of the disaster[edit]

The fire and subsequent sinking has featured in multiple paintings, including:


  1. ^ "SS Austria". Clyde-built Ship Database. 2012. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Henriette Wulff 1804 -1858". H. C. Andersen Society. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  3. ^ [Chicago Press and Tribune (1858-1860). Nov. 13, 1858; ProQuest Historical Newspaper Chicago Tribune (1849-1985)]

External links[edit]