Shipwrecks: Past & Present

Shipwrecks of April 28

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Shipwrecks of April 28

Treasure comes in all forms. One of today’s shipwrecks carried tons of copper, lead, tin, silver and tungsten. Her people all got off alive, but over 2,000 on another ship that sank on an April 28, were not so fortunate. April 28 was also the day of the “mutiny on the Bounty,” which has been commemorated in books, films, and songs. If you are seeing this in a post, other than on, read more about these wrecks and other ships lost on an April 28 at

Today’s Shipwrecks™

April 28

compiled and edited by Dr. E. Lee Spence

1758: The British frigates HMS Tryton, Captain Thomas Manning, and HMS Bridgewater, Captain John Stanton, were intentionally run ashore and burnt by their captains on the Coromandel Coast to prevent their capture by a French Squadron under Comte d’Aché. (Note: The Coromandel Coast is the name given to the southeastern coast of the Indian Subcontinent between Cape Comorin and False Divi Point. It may also include the southeastern coast of the island of Sri Lanka.)

The Bainbridge, launched in 1744, and the Tryton, launched the following year, were both armed 24 guns and of the sixth-rate.

1774: A brigantine, Captain Fortune, bound from Jamaica, with slaves and rum, was lost on St. Simon’s Bar, Georgia, in late April, 1774. The people and cargo were saved.

1787: The vessel William, Captain Losh, bound from London to Quebec, was lost on April 28, 1787, near Cape Breton.

1789: Although the ship was not immediately sunk, April 28, 1789 was the day that Fletcher Christian led seventeen of the crew of HMS Bounty in a mutiny against her commanding officer, Lieutenant William Bligh. According to most accounts, the sailors were attracted to the idyllic life of the Pacific island of Tahiti and were further motivated by harsh treatment from Bligh.

Print showing the mutineers turning Lt. Bligh and part of the officers and crew adrift from HMAV Bounty, 29 April 1789, by artist and engraver: Robert Dodd (1748–1816), published by B B Evans

Print showing the mutineers setting Bligh and part of the officers and crew adrift from the Bounty.

The mutineers set Lieutenant Bligh afloat in a small boat with eighteen of the twenty-two crew who were still loyal to him. Bligh’s successful 3,618 nautical miles voyage to safety, is still considered one of the greatest navigational feats in history. The mutineers then variously settled in Tahiti or on Pitcairn Island where they burned the Bounty, to avoid detection and to prevent desertion.

The British navy sent HMS Pandora to capture the mutineers. She found fourteen of the men at Tahiti but never found Pitcairn Island. Pandora subsequently ran aground on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, with the loss of 31 of the crew and four of the prisoners. The surviving prisoners were eventually tried in a naval court in England. Three were hanged, four acquitted and three pardoned.

Descendants of some of the mutineers still live on Pitcairn Island, and pieces from the wreck of the Bounty have been recovered. (Note by ELS: I have several brass tacks and spikes from the wreck that were given to me over forty years ago by one of my friends and mentors, the late Luis Marden of National Geographic.)

1816: The Revenue cutter Surprize, Captain Ross, in attempting to proceed to sea from Charleston, South Carolina, on April 28, 1816, was capsized in a sudden wind. No lives were lost and the cutter was afterwards raised and towed to Blakes Wharf at Charleston.

1822: A French brig laden with indigo, logwood and mahogany, from Honduras, and the vessel Ann of London, Captain Campbell, bound from Havana to Buesnos Aires, was lost the end of April, 1822, on East Florida Keys, part of cargo saved.

1827: The vessel Scorpion, 270 tons, three years old, bound from Jamaica to London, was lost on April 28, 1827, “on Memory Rock.” Her crew was saved.

1860: The U.S. mail steamer John C. Calhoun, Captain Leander Crawford, exploded her boiler and burned at the Ridleyville Landing on the Chattahoochee River about 5:00 in the morning on April 28, 1860. The loss was also described as at Bainbridge, Georgia. The captain and seven men were lost. The mails were entirely destroyed. (Note: If there was any money in the mails, which was common, it was not reported.) She was 165 tons, had a wood hull and was built in 1859 at West Brownsville, Pennsylvania. Her first home port was Apalachicola, Florida.

1863: On April 28, 1863, a steamer and a schooner from the Federal fleet employed in the blockade of Little River anchored off Magnolia Beach, South Carolina, and landed a party of men, who marched across the beach and burned a summer house belonging to the Oaks Plantation. The Federal forces also burned a schooner loaded with salt, which was lying in the creek. The schooner was owned by Messrs. Comins and Edwards of Augusta, Georgia.

1917: The British passenger ship Medina, of the Peninsular and Oriental steamship line, bound from Australia to ports in the United Kingdom, was torpedoed and sunk on April 28, 1917, in the English Channel about three miles east northeast from Start Point, Devon in latitude 50°15′ north, longitude 3°30′ west by the German submarine UB-31. Six men died.

Oil painting of the P&O liner SS Medina (1911) held in the collection of the P&O Group

Oil painting of the P&O liner Medina held in the collection of the P&O Group

Medina’s cargo included 5,733 ingots of copper, 5,200 ingots of silver lead bullion, 143 ingots of tin, 353 bags of wolframite concentrates (an ore of tungsten, which is a hard, rare metal), 111 bags of schewlite concentrates (another important ore of tungsten) and one box of silver bullion. Today the wreck, which lies close to Anvil Point in 221 feet of water, is still reasonably intact despite the salvage of her copper and the passengers’ baggage from forward holds. Some of the passengers baggage was said to contain jewels, treasure and antiquities. She is upright with a 15 degree list to port. Her bulkheads are collapsing and her compartments are folding down. The stern is most damaged and she is sinking into the mud of the seabed. A detailed account of this wreck and some of the salvage efforts, and treasures recovered, can be found in John Grogan’s excellent article on World War II wrecks that is posted on Global Underwater Explorers’ website. See also: Riches From Wrecks – The Recovery Of Sunken Cargoes by Fergus Hinds (ISBN 0 85174 623 3).

Built by Caird & Company, Greenock, Scotland, in 1911, the Medina was 12,350 tons, 550 feet in length, 62 feet 8 inches in breadth, and 34 feet 5 inches in depth of hull. She was built to carry 670 passengers, 450 in first class and 220 in second. She was powered by quadruple-expansion steam engines, which provided 1,400 horse power to her twin screws and gave her a top speed of 19 knots.

1918: The British steamship Oronsa, Captain Frederich Holt Hobson, left New York on April 13, 1918, as the lead ship in a convoy of 13 vessels bound for Liverpool, England. On April 28, 1918, when about thirty miles south of Holyhead, England, and 12 miles west of the Bardsey Island Lighthouse, she was hit on her starboard side, between cargo holds No. 3 and No. 4 by torpedo fired from a German submarine. Three lives were lost. Her cargo included sugar, nitrates, and “metals,” but the type metals was not specified and could have been anything from steel to gold. Even the cargo manifests were lost.

The twin screw steamer Oronsa was built by Harland & Wolff, Ltd., at Belfast, Ireland, in 1906. She had two 8-cylinder quadruple expansion engines and six boilers and could make 15.5  knots. She was 8,075 gross tons, 465 feet 3 inches in length, 56 feet 2 inches in breadth,  36 feet 1 inch in depth of hull.

Shortly after the Oronsa went down, a Portuguese ship in the same convoy was torpedoed. The Portuguese ship had aboard 150 sailors and 110 passengers, 58 of whom were members of the American YMCA.

1941: The British, Commonwealth and Dominion Line freighter Port Hardy, bound from New Zealand to the United Kingdom, with 700 tons of zinc, 3000 tons cheese, 4000 tons of mutton and possibly a shipment of silver bullion, was torpedoed and sunk northwest of Rockwell Island in the North Atlantic on April 28, 1941, by the German submarine U-96. One life was lost. She was built by Hawthorn Leslie & Co. Ltd. at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England in 1923. A steamer, she was 8,897 tons, 450 feet three inches in length, 55 feet 3 inches in breadth, and 30 feet 4″ in depth of hull.

Her location was variously reported as 60°14′ north, longitude 15°20′ west and latitude 60°05′ north, longitude 16°00′ west.

Japanese hospital ship Kamakura Maru 1942 photo: The Japan Times

Hospital ship Kamakura Maru
1942 photo: The Japan Times

1943: The Kamakura Maru was appropriated from her owners by the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1942 for use as a troop transport and hospital ship. On April 28, 1943, while bound from Manila to Singapore with around 2,500 soldiers and civilians, the Kamakura Maru, was torpedoed by the American submarine USS Gudgeon. She was struck by two torpedoes and went down within twelve minutes. Four hundred and sixty-five survivors were rescued from the sea by Japanese ships, meaning over 2,000 people were were lost.

The Kamakura Maru was built as the Chichibu Maru for the Nippon Yusen shipping company by the Yokohama Dock Company, Yokohama, Japan, in 1930. She had a beam of 22.6 meters, a length of 560 feet, a breadth of 74 feet 2 inches; and was 17,498 gross . She could make a maximum of 21 knots, and had a cruising speed of 19 knots.

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NOTE: This is by no means meant to be a complete list of the vessels lost on April 28, 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.

© 2013, 2017 by Dr. E. Lee Spence for composition, content and compilation.


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