The Foundering of the Steamer “Spree”

While on her way to New York

’Twas on the 23rd of November, and in the year 1892,
The steamer Spree sailed from Bremen, with 753 passengers including the crew,
And their spirits were as light as a cork,
And bound for that famous city called New York.

The great ship was steaming along at a rapid rate,
And the passengers were never dreaming of their coming fate,
When a big wave struck the propeller of the ship,
Which rendered her quite helpless to finish her trip.

The steamer’s stern was damaged to such an extent,
That the water rushed in through the gaping rent,
And the passengers were thrown into a state of excitement,
Until women became hysterical and very discontent.

Then every one on board was in a state of alarm,
Because they knew to the ship there had been done serious harm,
And the weather was bad, and the sea mountains high rolled,
Which tossed the ship from side to side, which was fearful to behold.

And the tossing of the water in the ship made a great din,
And the pumps were at work to save the bulkheads from being stove in,
And many of the women began to swoon,
Through fear of being drowned: ’tis an awful doom.

Mr Moody the Evangelist, he was there,
And amongst the passengers he engaged in prayer,
Whilst the passengers knelt in the saloon all round,
He prayed fervently to God to save them from being drowned.

When prayer was finished the passengers ran to and fro,
Poor souls, with their hearts full of woe,
Whilst their cries rose high in mid air,
Crying to God for help in their despair.

One young man, an Austrian, became so much excited,
That he jumped overboard he was so far frighted,
Whilst the angry billows covered him o’er,
And the Storm Fiend did laugh and did roar.

The great ship was tossed about with her three bare poles,
At the mercy of the elements with 753 precious souls,
And the stern of the ship had sunk in the water so low,
That the sight filled the passengers’ hearts with woe.

Sunday morning broke on them without any help in sight,
Which filled all the passengers’ hearts with fright,
And the thought alarmed them, for many felt sickly,
While Mr Moody prayed to God to send assistance quickly.

And to prevent the waves from breaking over the ship,
Bags of oil were thrown over her sides which did dip,
And spread around the ship, and calmed the water where she lay,
Which helped to chase from the passengers’ hearts all dismay.

Very few could sleep among the passengers or crew,
But numerous passengers kept a look out for a vessel in view,
When, to their joy, a steamer was sighted at half-past two,
Which proved to be the Lake Huron with a gallant crew.

Then there were shouts of delight by women and men,
Because the steamer had come to rescue them;
Then a wire cable was attached to the Spree,
And she was then towed ahead immediately

And the steamer Huron proceeded on her way,
And anchored her prize inside Queenstown Harbour on Friday,
And the passengers thanked God that did timely succour send,
Also the captain and crew of the Huron that did them befriend.

The Spree’s Great Peril

The Steamer Saved by her Water-Tight Compartments

Towed into Queenstown with a Broken Shaft and a Hole in her Bottom

A Panic Among her Passengers – One Man Jumped Overboard in his Fright

London, Dec. 3. – The North German Lloyd steamship Spree has been towed into Queenstown Harbor with her shaft broken and the compartment under her second cabin full of water.

The Spree sailed from Bremen for New-York Nov. 22, and has been the subject of some anxiety on account of being overdue at her destination. This apprehension was removed this morning when dispatches were received from Kinsale that the steamer had passed that point in tow of the British steamer Lake Huron, Capt. Carey, which was on her voyage from Montreal. Signals were displayed reading “Shaft broken.”

The steamer’s main shaft broke down on Nov. 26, when the vessel was about 1,000 miles from Queenstown. Before the engines could be stopped the broken machinery had pounded a hole in the stern. The compartment under the second cabin immediately began to fill with water.

The accident took place at 6:30 o’clock in the morning. At that early hour few of the passengers had arisen, and when the noise made by the pounding of the broken shaft aroused them, they were thrown into a state of great alarm. Many of them rushed on deck in their night clothing, mothers clasping their babies in their arms and husbands half carrying their wives. The scene is described as being one that the passengers will never forget. A second-class passenger named Paul Kelson was so frightened that he jumped overboard and was drowned.

The passengers thought the vessel was going to the bottom. For a time a veritable panic prevailed, and the officers were helpless to calm the tears prevailing. The water could be heard rushing through the hole in the bottom, and in a short time the vessel began to settle. The passengers ran hither and thither in the wildest confusion, but when they saw that the vessel was not immediately going to the bottom the counsels of the officers and the more cool-headed among their own number prevailed, and a semblance or order was restored. Life preservers were in great request, and many of the passengers kept them close at hand even when it became known that there was no immediate danger.

As soon as the accident occurred, the boats’ crews were piped to their stations, and everything was placed in readiness for the abandonment of the vessel should such a course be deemed necessary. The stewards busied themselves in getting provisions to the boats, and everything that prudent seamanship would dictate was done.

It was soon seen, however, that the watertight bulkheads were answering the purpose for which they were constructed, and that, though the water was pouring into the compartment beneath the second cabin very little was getting into the other compartments. With only one compartment filled the steamer lost little of her buoyancy, and when it was stated by the officers that all danger of sinking was past the passengers became calm, and joked with each other about the fears they had so shortly before entertained.

Two days later the Luke Huron was met and towed the disabled steamer the entire distance back. The Spree leaked so badly that it was impossible for the pumps to gain on the water, which was still thirty feet deep in the after compartment.

New York Times, 4th December 1892

Further Reading

Wikipedia Article

Related Gems

Comments (3) »

  1. In the year 2014, on the 26th day of August at 11:02 pm

    Actually, not be a bummer, but my grandmother was on this ship, and documented this event. Apparently the women stayed cool and collected while the men got hysterical on deck. Apparently one man shot himself and several others hurled themselves overboard. And I believe it because she was appalled at the behavior of the men, whom she expected more out of. lol.

  2. Chris Kaufmann
    In the year 2014, on the 3rd day of September at 1:54 am

    My great-grandmother, Emily Swoboda, was on this ship in 1902 (age 16) when it was called Kaiserin Maria Theresia and she immigrated to Chicago from Vienna, Austria.

  3. In the year 2020, on the 14th day of May at 10:06 pm

    […] D.L. Moody was mentioned in a poem written about the Spree: […]

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