Wreck of the Hansa; Waterford harbour, 1899

On the evening of Thursday 2nd November 1899, the barque Hansa entered Waterford harbour in gale force winds.  Having endured the early winter storms crossing the Atlantic, and finally arriving at her port of destination, the crew were probably beginning to relax.  The journey was yet to take a final turn however and within hours they would be fighting for their lives.
The Hansa in the harbour (Drumroe or Seedes bank?), note her main mast is gone
photo via Andy Kelly Waterford History Group
The SS Hansa was a three masted barque of 1198 tons.  She was an Italian ship from the port of Genoa.  She had loaded Deals (timber) in St John, New Brunswick and set sail across the Atlantic to discharge at Graves & Co of Waterford.  We know little of her trip, except that the papers spoke of very bad storms all through the previous week across Ireland. In the gathering gloom of a winter evening the Captain was no doubt delighted to round the Hook and head into the harbour.  Alas, as the sailing vessel made her way past Creaden Head a sudden squall blew her off course and onto a sandbank.

The ship stuck fast and began to heal over. Any effort to shift the ship failed and the crew took to the rigging. Distress flares were launched and the pilot cutter based at Passage East came to the rescue, and in darkness successfully rescued all the crew*. The next day three river steamers of the Waterford Steamship Company were dispatched to try refloat the ship.  The Ida, Vandeleur and Mermaid were apparently unsuccessful. The ship remained above water however, the floating nature of the cargo apparently had helped to keep the ship righted.

For the next part of the tale we come to an interesting minute of a Harbour Board meeting titled "Pilotage dues on a salvage boat" in the Waterford Standard of Wednesday 15th Nov
Damage to the side of the ship possibly caused in getting the ship
refloated, or perhaps by salvors in getting at her cargo. NLI
In the piece a Mr Farrell argues that the steamer employed to salvage the cargo** of the Hansa, which is little more that an lighter herself (25 ton) should be exempted from pilotage fees, as she had paid them already to enter port, and were she to pay them each time she came or went to the Hansa, it would be prohibitive.  The plan it seems was that the steamer would tow lighters to and from the wreck, bringing the original cargo to Graves of Waterford. The discussion seems to have been a heated one, with other members of the board being concerned for the loss of revenue. Farrell however won the day, arguing that for the good of the port it was best that the dues be waived.*** Interestingly, although nearly a fortnight after the initial grounding, it suggests that the ship has yet to be got off. The plan was that once relieved of her cargo she would be towed to Cheekpoint.

This subsequently happened and it appears she was initially towed to Drumroe bank at Duncannon and hence to Seedes Bank at Ballyhack.  A Lloyds telegram covered in the Cork Examiner of 5/12/99 confirms as such.

The Munster Express newspaper of 23/6/1900 continues our story where we are told that in the month previous, the wreck was auctioned and sold to a Liverpool merchant for £40. The crew we are informed had been kept on with the vessel and had taken up residence in the village, where we hear "...they became quite favourites, especially with the gentler sex."  Their conduct however "...during their stay of the past three months was most exemplary..." perhaps in light of their "...warm Catholicity..."
The captain and mate supervising on deck NLI
Their ship being sold the paper continues the Italian Consul Mr Vi O'Carvi facilitated the crews return to their home port of Genoa, causing we are told "...much regret of their newly found friends who had began to admire and respect the dark eyed, olive tinted children of the land of fig tree and vine."

The final piece to the story of the Hansa comes via Frank Murphy an every dependable support to me. The North Devon Gazzette of 21st August 1900 tells us that the Hansa once refloated was bought by Messrs Cook and Galsworthy of Appledore in North Devon.  The refloating was a difficult process and that following the removal of the cargo the ship was got off the sandbank but subsequently sank. The ship was lightened, no doubt explaining the loss of her mainmast and 1300 paraffin casks were tied around the hull which successfully raised her.  She was made seaworthy again at Ballyhack and was eventually towed by tugboat across the Irish sea arriving at Appledore 15 August 1900. She was then employed as a floating hulk at Badstep.

Please note, ever effort has been taken to keep this account accurate.  There were many newspaper reports which were contradictory and online threads/sites(for example this fascinating exchange via the NLI) that suggested she was a German vessel or other nationalities ( I found reference to at least two German, a Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish Hansa and have no doubt there were more),  This account is based on my own judgement and close reading of the reports and the dates that we have.

* I would imagine the pilot boat was already on her way to put on a pilot.  No mention was made of a pilot being aboard at the time of the grounding.
** The Munster Express names the salvage company as Alnsick of Queenstown
*** An interesting aspect of the discussion was that the river steamers and the lighters that operated, did so without any need for a pilot, crewed by men, no doubt, that would know the harbour as well as the pilots. (perhaps that swayed the argument, as local lighter men were no doubt aboard the salvage steamer.


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Comments

  1. Great story, concisely told. Thanks.

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  2. Agreed, great story Russianside and can't wait to read all the other stories on this site. Thank you

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment lampbag england, enjoy, appreciate any feedback on anything you read

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  3. Another great bit of research and writing Andrew, well done again.

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