Shipwrecks: Past & Present

Shipwrecks of May 13

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Shipwrecks of May 13

Despite her size and power, the British warship Goliath couldn’t handle the blow she took and went down on May 13. The question for today is: How did a ship wreck in a cave and much gold was really on the bark General Grant?

Today’s Shipwrecks™

May 13

compiled and edited by Dr. E. Lee Spence

1802: The schooner Mary, Captain Woodward, was upset in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, opposite Fort Johnson during a squall on May 13, 1802, while the captain was at the fort making the customary report as required by law. The Mary was from Savannah and carried a cargo of tobacco, sugar and cotton consigned to Muir and Company.

1819: The schooner Phoenix, Captain Coffin, bound from Suffolk to Philadelphia, wrecked on Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, on May 13, 1819.

1859: A ship was seen on shore to the northeast of Riding Rock, Bahamas on May 13, 1859, by the Armorial, which was bound from Liverpool to Havana.

1866: The American bark General Grant while bound from Melbourne for London, with a cargo of wool, skins, and 2,576 ounces of gold, collided against the cliffs of Auckland Island and drifted into a large cave on the island’s western shore on May 13, 1866. The rising tide and increasing swell caused her main mast to repeatedly strike the cave’s roof until the mast was forced through the bottom of her hull and the she sank. She was carrying 58 passengers and 25 crew. Fifteen people survived the actual wreck but this was a subantarctic island and there were no people to help them. by the time they were rescued on November 27, 1867 only 10 were left.

Besides the gold the General Grant carried as cargo, a number of successful miners from the Australian gold fields were among her passengers and they were known to have had considerable gold with them too. There was even speculation that her 9 tons of ballast, listed on the manifest as zinc spelter, was really gold.

Wreck of the bark General Grant in a cave on Auckland Island

Wreck of the bark General Grant in a cave on Auckland Island

The General Grant was a wooden, three-masted bark built in Maine in 1864.  She was registered in Boston and was owned by Messers Boyes, Richardson & Company.  She was 1,005-tons, and measured 179.5 feet in length, 34.5 feet in breadth and 21.5 feet in depth of hull.

This was the third time in just three years that ships had been lost in the Aucklands, with survivors who went through long, terrible ordeals before being rescued. The other two being the Grafton in 1864 and the Invercauld in 1865. As a result, the New Zealand government established a network of castaway depots and regular visits by government vessels to the islands.

The General Grant‘s cargo of gold has attracted numerous salvage expeditions, several of which have proved deadly, but none have been successful in even finding the wreck.

1915: The British battleship HMS Goliath, Captain Thomas Lawrie Shelford, was torpedoed and sunk by the Turkish torpedo boat Muavenet-i Milliye in the Dardanelles with the loss of 570 of her 700 crew.

Bow view of HMS Goliath

Bow view of HMS Goliath

On the night of May 12–13, Goliath was anchored in Morto Bay off Cape Helles, along with HMS Cornwallis and a screen of five destroyers, in foggy conditions. Around 1:00 a.m. on 13 May, the Turkish torpedo boat destroyer Muavenet-i Milliye, which was manned by German and Turkish crew, eluded the British destroyers Beagle and Bulldog and zeroed in on the battleships. Muavenet-i Milliye fired two torpedoes both of which struck Goliath almost simultaneously. One struck by her forward turret and the other near her forward funnel, immediately causing a massive explosion. Goliath began to capsize, and was already on her side when a third torpedo struck near her after turret. She then roll upside down and sank bow first. Five hundred and seventy of her 700 man crew died, including her commanding officer.

Despite being spotted and fired on as soon as her first torpedo hit the Goliath, the Muavenet-i Milliye managed to escaped untouched. Her captain Ahmet Saffet Bey was afterwards hailed as a hero by his side and promoted to the rank of major, while his German co-commander, Rudolph Firle, received the Iron Cross 1st Class as well as Austro-Hungarian and Turkish medals.

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NOTE: This is by no means meant to be a complete list of the vessels lost on May 13, as there have been thousands of ships lost for every day of the year. All of the above entries have been edited (shortened) and come from various editions of Spence’s List™. The original lists usually give additional data and sources. Those lists are being updated and are or will be made available for a fee elsewhere on this site.

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© 2013 by Dr. E. Lee Spence for composition, content and compilation.

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