SS Austria, 1857
|Operator:||Hamburg America Line|
|Builder:||Caird & Company, Greenock, Scotland|
|Launched:||23 June 1857|
|Fate:||Sank, 13 September 1858|
|General characteristics |
|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.
Tragedy at sea
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 , 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:
- Theodore Eisfeld, New York Philharmonic music director
- Charles Brew, British Columbia Inspector of Police
- Charles Rosene
Amongst those who drowned were:
- Henriette Wulff, friend and frequent correspondent of Hans Christian Andersen
- Adolph Starmont, merchant for S.F. White & Bro., Chicago, IL 
Paintings of the disaster
The fire and subsequent sinking has featured in multiple paintings, including:
- Josef Püttner, "Untergang der Austria", Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, Germany.
- Eugène Isabey, "L'incendie de l'Austria", Musée national de la Marine, Paris, France; "L'Incendie du steamer Austria", Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, France;
- Anonymous, "Burning of the Austria", National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England.
- Le duc Charles, "L'Incendie de l'Austria", Chateau des ducs de Bretagne, Musée d'Histoire de Nantes, Nantes, France.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Austria (ship, 1857).|
- Michael P. Palmer (16 September 1999). "Palmer List of Merchant Vessels". Archived from the original on 2006-02-02. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
- Star of the North (13 October 1858). "Burning of the Austria". Star of the North. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
- Hulman Dynasty site
- Illustrated London News, Emigration Reports