SS Ozama Wrecked off Cape Romain, South Carolina in 1894






 

Shipwrecked off Cape Romain, SC

Wrecked in six and a half fathoms

The Wreck

On November 23, 1894, the tug W.B. Congdon, picked up off the Georgetown Bar Captain Bennington and twelve men of the steamer Ozama, bound from Philadelphia to Charleston in ballast. Captain Bennington reported that at 7:30 p.m. on November 15th the Ozama struck on Cape Romain shoals and stove a hole in the engine room compartment. The water quickly filled the fire rooms, rendering the engines useless. The steamer floated off the shoals soon after striking, and at 3 a.m. sank in six and one half fathoms of water. The crews took to the boats, saving only part of their clothing. The engineer with ten men went off to board the steamer Planter from Charleston but missed her and it was thought they landed “on Romaine beach” (sic).[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

1857 Lighthouse at Cape Romain

1857 Lighthouse at Cape Romain

A subsequent report spelled her name in one place as Osama and in another as Ozama. It stated that she had gone to pieces and would be totally lost. That report said she was “sunk in six and a half fathoms of water,” the Cape Romain “light bearing Northwest by West, half West, six miles distant.” Elsewhere it said she was lost “in about six fathoms.” It described her as an iron, schooner-rigged steamer and gave her length as 216’6”.[8]

“Six of the crew of the ill-fated steamer Ozama are missing. They are known to have left the wreck in an open boat and have not been heard of since. Yesterday the steam launch of the buoy tender Wisteria left for the vicinity of Cape Romain, and will search every likely place for these men before returning.”[9]

“William P. Clyde & Co., the New York agents of the steamer Ozama received a dispatch today (November 24, 1894) from Georgetown, S.C., saying that a boat arrived at Georgetown at 5 o’clock this morning, having on board the engineer and ten men from the wrecked steamer Ozama. These eleven men left the Ozama to board the steamer Planter from Charleston for Georgetown, but missed her.”[10] [Note by ELS: Earlier reports said six of the crew were missing, this report and an earlier one, mentions a total of eleven men rescued. So the question is, who were the other five? Were they passengers? And, since she regularly carried passengers, why is there no mention at all of passengers in the other accounts? If there were passengers, it seems to me that the steamer’s captain and owners would have wanted everyone to know that they were alive and safe, unless the passengers had something to hide and were traveling incognito. Could the five men have been “filibusters” (mercenaries) or “revolutionists” accompanying a secret cargo? By saying she was traveling in ballast, the captain was effectively saying there wasn’t any cargo. No cargo and no passengers? Based on her history, that seems unlikely.]

The loss of the Ozama was mentioned as “among the notable American marine disasters of the year” (1894), the others being the foundering of the steamer Colima; the loss of the Kewenaw, reported missing with thirty-one lives; the stranding of the Cienfuegos; and the loss of the steamer Chicora on Lake Michigan.[11]

(Note by ELS: The date of the Ozama’s loss is unclear as it is variously reported as early as November 15, 1894, and as late as November 23. The actual date was probably November 21.)


[1] The Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, Utah, USA), Volume 25, #165, November 24, 1894, p. 1, c. 1 (“Stuck on the Shoals”)
[2] The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah, USA), Volume 10, #201, November 24, 1894, p. 1, c. 1 (“Castaways Picked Up”)
[3] Davenport Daily Leader, (Davenport, Iowa, USA), November 25, 1894, p. 7, c. 4
[4] The Morning Call, (San Francisco, California, USA), November 24, 1894, p. 1, c. 5 “On Romain Shoals, The steamer Ozama Struck and Then Went Down”
[5] Omaha Daily Bee, (Omaha, Nebraska, USA), November 25, 1894, p. 8, c. 2
[6] Lockport Daily Journal, (Lockport, New York, USA), Last edition, November 23, 1894, p. 1, c. 5
[7] Oswego Daily Times, (Oswego, New York, USA), Volume 51, #248, November 23, 1894, p. 1, c. 4 “A Dozen Shipwrecked Sailors Rescued”
[8] The Times, (Richmond, Virginia, USA), Volume 8, #218, November 24, 1894, p. 1, c. 5
[9] Georgetown Semi-Weekly Times, Volume 29, #77, November 28, 1894, p. 1, c. 1 “Six Men Missing”
[10] The Evening World, (New York, New York, USA), Evening Edition, November 24, 1894, p. 3, c. 6 “Ozama’s Crew All Safe”
[11] Omaha Daily Bee, (Omaha, Nebraska, USA), July 4, 1895, p. 1, c. 4

More on the SS Ozama, Ex-Craigallion

Information on: Discovery of the Ozama
Information on: Construction & physical details
Information on: Steam engine and machinery
Information on: Towing history
Information on: Smuggling guns
Information on: Seizure & release
Information on: Miscellaneous Voyages
Information on: Wrecked in the Bahamas
Information on: Re-flagging as American steamship
Information on: Wrecked off Cape Romain, SC
Information on: The shipwreck as it is today
(private not currently available to general public)
Information on: Shipping money
(private not currently available to general public)

Image Files Relating to Shipwreck Ozama

Images: Sidescan images of Ozama wreck site
Images: Photos of artifacts found on the Ozama
(private not currently available to general public)
Images: Photos of people and work in progress
(private not currently available to general public)
Images: Maps & charts relating to Ozama’s history
(private not currently available to general public)
Images: Archaeological and technical drawings
(private not currently available to general public)

Ownership of Salvaged Gold & Artifacts

The above pages all deal with the steamer Ozama, which was shipwrecked off Cape Romain, South Carolina in 1894 and discovered and identified by underwater archaeologist Dr. E. Lee Spence in 1979 and 2013 respectively. He also discovered other abandoned wreckage in the same general vicinity. In 2012, the Federal District Court ruled that Spence was the “true and exclusive owner of the abandoned wreckage” (which includes the Ozama and all of the other shipwrecks that he had found in the specific area designated in his court filing), which means he is already the legal owner of any and all shipwreck gold, silver, cannons, hulls, engines, rigging, and other artifacts on those wrecks. His work is being funded by United Gold Explorations Limited. To learn more about shipwrecks in general, check out Spence’s page on Facebook.







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