Shipwrecks: Past & Present

Shipwrecks of April 2nd

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Shipwrecks of April 2nd

Lots of vessels have been shipwrecked on April 2, including the Elizabeth Eleanor and the Jemima lost on the Caicos Reef in 1819, the steamer Greenbriar in 1915, and the freighter David H. Atwater off the U.S. east coast in 1942. If you are seeing this in a post, other than on, read more about these wrecks and other ships lost on an April 2 at

Today’s Shipwrecks™
for April 2

compiled and edited by Dr. E. Lee Spence

1786: New Lloyd’s List reported that the ship Lady Cathcart, Captain Stupart, bound from London to Jamaica, was lost on April 2, 1786, “at the south west part.”

1801: The British under Vice Admiral Nelson destroy moored Danish ships under Captain Johan Olfert Fischer, during the First Battle of Copenhagen.

1804: HMS Apollo, 36 guns, Captain John William Taylor Dixon, wrecked running on shore in Mondego Bay, Portugal.

1804: HMS Hindostan, 54 guns, Captain John Le Gros, caught fire off  the coast of Spain and blew up after the crew got ashore.

1814: Boats of HMS Porcupine, 22 guns, Captain Sir George R. Collier, captured twelve vessels and destroyed four  others.

1814: HMS Gleaner, 12 guns, Lt. Alexander Barclay Branch, fouled by other vessels off the mouth of the Adour during a storm was driven ashore.

1816: Captain Wiggins of the sloop Decatur, reported a coasting schooner ashore on Cape Romain, South Carolina, on April 2, 1816. The coasting schooner had run ashore in a fog and Captain Wiggins doubted that she would be got off. The same day, Captain Lahue of the schooner Two Brothers saw a sloop ashore on the south breaker of the Cape’s outer shoal. (This sloop is believed to be one of a number of wrecks discovered by Dr. Spence on that outer shoal.) Still another sloop was reported on shore to the westward of the Cape. All in all, April 2, 1816, was not a good day for vessels trying to round  Cape Romain.

1819: The Elizabeth Eleanor, Captain Rose, of Antwerp, bound to Havana, was “lost on the Caicos Reef” on April 2, 1819. Her crew and part of the cargo were saved.

1822: The Jemima, Captain Doyle, of Dublin, “was wrecked on a reef near Crooked Island,” April 2, 1822. Part of her cargo was saved and carried to Crooked Island.

A later report stated: “We are sorry to find that the account of the loss of the Jemima, on her voyage from Maracaybo to Liverpool, is confirmed. Mrs. English, widow of General English, of the Colombian service, who sailed passenger in the Jemima, is arrived in London, having gone from Ackland’s Island, one of the Bahamas, where the wreck took place, to Crooked Island, and there obtained a passage in the Mary Anne, from Jamaica. The wreck of the Jemima was complete, but about one third of the cargo saved. It is unfortunate that this, which was the first direct shipment made from in Colombia for England, should have miscarried. Its arrival would have been an interesting circumstance. The cargo consisted of coffee, indigo, cotton, tobacco, cocoa, balsam capivi, hides and fistic. The indigo is represented to have been of particularly good quality. Some parties who came from Nassau to the place of sale to purchase the saved goods, said it was superior to some that had lately fetched there 13s currency per pound.”

1863: The steamer Marion, Captain Johnston, belonging to Spofford & Tileston’s New York and New Orleans line, struck an uncharted, sunken rock “about nine miles north of the Double-Headed-Shot Cay Lighthouse, at 5 P.M. on Thursday, the 2nd of April (1863). She was bound from New York to New Orleans with a valuable assorted cargo. She passed over the rock, but was so much injured that she was with difficulty navigated to the lighthouse, and just on reaching it, she leaked so considerably that that the fires in the engine-room were extinguished. In this emergency the captain was compelled to beach her, and she immediately bilged. Mr. Squires, who was engaged in the erection of a building attached to the lighthouse, with the assistance of his workmen, succeeded in saving a large quantity of the Marion’s cargo. Captain Johnston hailed a schooner which passed on the day after this disaster, in which he dispatched the purser and several of his crew to Nassau in order to procure a steamer for the purpose of forwarding the passengers to their destination; but all the schooners there being engaged, the schooner Vigilant has been chartered for that purpose. ••• They had erected tents for shelter, and, having saved the provisions and stores of the Marion, were enjoying themselves as well as circumstances would allow.

The steamer Marion, 900 tons, had a wood hull and was built in 1851 at New York, New York, which was also her first homeport

1844: Captain Brooks of the steamer General Clinch, who arrived at Savannah, Georgia, from Charleston, South Carolina, on April 2, 1844, reported seeing a full rigged brig ashore at St. Helena, South Carolina.

1863: The United States submarine Alligator was lost in a storm at sea on April 2, 1863. The Alligator had left Newport News, Virginia, under tow of the U.S.S. Sumter on April 1, 1863, and was bound to Port Royal, South Carolina, when the vessels got into a storm and the steamer was forced to cut the submarine loose. The submarine had been intended to be used to discover and explode mines in preparation for an assault on Charleston. The assault took place on April 7, 1863, and failed largely due to the Confederate mines. The Alligator was designed by the French inventor Brutus de Villeroy and launched by Neafie and Levy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 30, 1862, under a subcontract from Martin Thomas. The vessel was completed in June of 1862. She was said to be about 30 feet long and 6 or 8 feet in diameter. “It was made of iron, with the upper part pierced for small circular plates of glass, for light, and in it were several water tight compartments.” It had originally been fitted with sixteen paddles protruding from the sides to be worked by men inside, but on July 3, 1862, she was ordered to Washington Navy Yard to have her folding oars replaced by a propeller which was powered by a hand crank. It was said to be capable of seven knots. “The Alligator was to have been manned by sixteen men, besides one in submarine armor, who was the explorer, and a captain who was to steer the craft. An air pump in the center of the machine, to which were attached two air tubes, attached to floats, was to furnish air to the occupants, the machine being of course air tight. The entrance to it was through a man-hole at one end, which was covered with an iron plate, with leather packing.” She was to have been submerged by the flooding of compartments. The Alligator was also described as a “semi-submarine boat,” 46′ (or 47′) long and 4’6″ in diameter, with a crew of seventeen.

1915: A telegram from American Consul General Listoe in Rotterdam to the U.S. Secretary of State stated that the steamer Greenbriar, Captain Dalton, which had sailed from Bremerhaven bound for New York with a general cargo was sunk on April 2, 1915, “near North Frisian Island Amrum,” apparently from a mine explosion. All 38 crew members were saved.

1942: The American freighter David H. Atwater, was shelled and sunk off the east coast of the United States on April 2, 1942, with the loss of 23 men.

She was carrying 4,000 tons of coal. Her sinking between Cape Charles and Cape Henlopen by gunfire from the German submarine U-552 was one of the more controversial actions of the Keiegsmarine during World War II. The outrage was primarily due to the manner of the attack.

U-552 surfaced about 600 yards from the freighter and opened fire with her 88mm deck gun and automatic weapons (possibly including the submarine’s 20mm cannon) without warning, one of her first shells destroying the bridge and killing all of the officers. In all, 93 shots were fired from the deck gun, with 50 hits being recorded on the small freighter,which rapidly began to sink. As the Atwater sank, the sub’s commander, Erich Topp, allegedly directed his crewmen to continue firing, striking the Atwater‘s crewmen as they tried to man the lifeboats. When Captain Webster was shot, the crew abandoned attempts to launch the lifeboats and leapt into the sea. It was widely believed at the time that U-552 had deliberately machine-gunned the Atwater‘s crewmen in the boats and rafts.

Built as the Crabtree by the Great Lakes Engineering Works for the United States Shipping Board, she was renamed W.J. Crosby  in 1922, and was renamed David H. Atwater in 1935.

She was a screw steamer of 2,438 gross tons, 1,468 net tons, 1,250 hp, 253.4’ in length, 43.6’ in breadth, and 25.1’ in depth of hold. She was built in 1919 at Ashtabula, Ohio, and normally carried a crew of 27 (8 officers and 19 men). Her official number was 218156. Her official letters were WOGB. Her homeport was Fall River, Massachusetts and she was owned by the Atwacoal Transportation Co.

NOTE: This is by no means meant to be a complete list of the vessels lost on April 2, as there have been thousands of ships lost for every day of the year. All of the above entries have been edited (shortened) 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 by Dr. E. Lee Spence for composition, content and compilation.



  1. Countrygal  April 25, 2013

    I was born on April 2


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