Ref Number: 00163
Ref Number: 00163
The shipwreck of the SS Eider, was one the most famous events of the Victorian era, it occurred off the island in the nineteenth century. The SS Eider was a massive German luxury passenger ship that weighed 4,179 tonnes. She was nearly 430 feet in length, had four masts, two funnels, 167 crew members, and 227 passengers. Over 500 mail bags and over 10kg of precious metals were also in her cargo hold.
The ship crossed the English Channel on January 31st, 1892, en route from New York to Bremen, and ran into a thick fog bank. While the cruise progressed, the captain had the crew take frequent soundings while the ship’s orchestra played a concert in the Saloon for the First Class passengers.
A jolt was reported by all passengers at around 10 o’clock. Despite being aground, the skipper was confident that the cruise ship would be able to be rescued by the incoming tide and refloated, howeverf some of the cargo was thrown overboard to lighten the ship. It was then that the new Atherfield lifeboat came alongside, but the skipper declined her assistance and instead requested tugs. During which time, the Eider was gradually settling further onto the rocks below, so the coast guard remained vigilant after the lifeboat’s departure.
At 7 a.m., the lifeboat came back to alert Eider that a storm was brewing. However, the captain was certain that the tugs would make it in time, so he requested that the mail bags be transported to shore in the lifeboat rather than the passengers. The men on the lifeboat agreed with remorse.
Although the tugs did get near to Eider, they were unable to go much closer because of the strong winds. It was too stormy for the little Atherfield lifeboat to be launched when the Captain made the decision to evacuate the passengers at 10 a.m. Larger lifeboats were launched from Brook and Brighstone, although they were still quite a distance away. A dozen women and children were rescued on the first arriving lifeboat, the Brighstone. After five long hours at sea, the Brook lifeboat finally made it to Eider, where additional women and children were waiting to be rescued.
The Catherine Swift joined in the shuttle operation and after many trips by all the lifeboats the passengers and crew were all rescued.
The gold and silver arrived on Wednesday, closely watched over by armed coastguards, and a celebratory message from Queen Victoria was received that night.
The German Emperor afterwards presented the three coxswains with gold watches and made a monetary donation to the Lifeboat Institution in their honour.