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The last voyage of “Princess Alice” – as a one-day trip on the ship turned into a catastrophe

The story of the forgotten tragedy of 1878, when the rest of 700 traveling London residents broke a giant carbohydrate.

The moment of collision of “Princess Alice” with a carbohydrate. Photo Library by Marry Evans

September 3, 1878, the ship “Princess Alice” once again brought home hundreds of London residents after a small sea voyage. Among the passengers were children with mothers and fathers – a total of more than 700 passengers. Out of them, more than 650 people did not return home: the ship cut in half.

The scale of this tragedy, which occurred in the middle of the Thames, was covered in all the newspapers of the world, but now this story is not remembered even on the anniversary. To fix this, the BBC publication restored the chronology of the disaster and found out how it affected English naval affairs.

Last summer rays

On the morning of September 3, the passengers of the “Princess Alice” took to the deck to meet the sunny and quiet weather. The steamer was slowly accelerating, planning to arrive in London before sunset. It was an inexpensive trip, so among the travelers were mostly middle-class working families. The day passed safely, and in the evening many decided to go down to the lower decks.

Alfred Thomas Merryman was asked to work on the ship shortly before sailing. For a 30-year-old Londoner, this was not the first journey, and he quickly agreed. At about 19:40, the man stepped onto the deck, unwittingly witnessing a catastrophe. A giant carbohydrate crashed into “Alice”, which weighed several times less, and tore it in half. “There was a terrible panic, women and children were screaming and fled to the bridge in search of salvation,” Merriman testified.

In turmoil, he managed to get to the captain and asked what to do. “We are dying fast. Do your best, “answered the officer. As in the case of the Titanic, which was torn in two, the back of Alisa went up high, and then hit the water, forming a powerful funnel. Merriman and a few other people on the deck were in the water, and people in the lower sections were trapped. Near the place of the disaster was a zone where wastewater from the city merged. Trying to stay in the cold water, people breathed dirt and pant.

The collapse of the “Princess Alice”. Getty illustration

Despite the attempts of the team to help people, throwing them boards and boxes, many under the water dragged heavy clothes Victorian times. In awe, Merriman grabbed a wooden board, but when another 20 people followed him, she drowned. Gathering the last strength, the man grabbed the rope, deflated from the carbon. He was dragged along with four other distressed.

The interlocutors of the tabloid told that they repelled people from themselves: after one of these tremors, the woman went under water. Merriman remembers that the original rescue was more, but some died after frostbite or cold: “One boy died in my arms.”

Investigation of tragedy and memory

Merriman was among about 130 people who were safely dragged out of the water. The climber of the sunken ship Robert Haines managed to get out too. A few minutes before the collision, he saw the approaching carbohydrate, but did not attach any importance to this. The man was already going to go down to the lower deck with the rest of the artists, when “Alice” was cut in two. In a panic, the musician did not know what to do with his double bass, but then threw it and ran to the upper deck. The rest of his troupe died.

Heyns could not swim, but stayed on the water thanks to the lifebuoy. He was dragged out by rescuers on a boat, which they sent from a carbohydrate. Shortly to the place of the catastrophe profit boats: originally they expected to pull the drowning, but it soon became clear that people do not help. The rescue operation was drastically re-qualified for the collection of the dead.

The dead were dragged out of the water by a crash. Illustration of London News
The next few days the body carried on the nearest shores of London. They were stored in hundreds of temporary morgues throughout the city. At the same time, relatives of the dead and politicians asked dozens of questions. How did the ships collide? Who is guilty? Was “Princess Alice” overcrowded? Why did the boats save so few people? Could the wastewater cause the death of the poor? Was the captain of the carbohydrate drunk? Many of these questions were never answered.

The first two weeks of investigation experts only observed how more and more unidentified bodies are arriving ashore. At some point the coroner concluded that because of the lack of a list of passengers, it is impossible to establish the exact number of deaths. The next two months, 19 jurors listened to the testimony of witnesses – in total, their text version took five thousand pages.

As a result of the investigation, experts came to four key conclusions.

  • The carbohydrate had to stop and reverse back before;
  • The team of “Alisa” was to immediately stop the ship and not reverse;
  • This and other clashes in the Thames would have been avoided if there were more strict navigational rules;
  • Before the crash, Alice was efficient enough to enter the sea, but it was poorly staffed, had more passengers on board than “it was reasonable”, and suffered from a shortage of rescue equipment.

Despite the findings of experts and testimony, the Chamber of Commerce, which was part of the British government, came to another decision. It was decided that the blame for what happened was entirely on the team of “Princess Alice”, because she did not follow the rules of the maritime traffic.

The funeral of unidentified victims of the crash. Illustration of London News

Contrary to the ambiguous verdict, the wreck brought the Mariners a favor. It was after him that the authorities invested in improving the sewerage system, adopted a rule on emergency signal lights on ships, and in 1880 opened a major Royal Albert Dock , which became an important part of eastern London.

However, after a century and a half, few people remember the reasons for these changes. About the tragic wreck of “Alisa” reminds only a small memorial sign near the place of the collision, as well as a monument in the Vulwich Cemetery. It is dedicated to 120 people who were never identified – more than 23 thousand people donated money for the construction of the memorial.

Monument to the unidentified victims. Photo of the BBC

In memory of the tragedy, the team of choreographer Daisy Farris (Daisy Farris) held a speech in London to remind the audience about what happened. The girl believes that the reason why almost no one remembers the tragedy lies in the status of the dead. They were ordinary people of the middle class, among whom there were no really “important” people.

There were not many well-to-do or military people on the ship, there were no heroes or survivors’ stories that would be passed on from generation to generation. No stories about famous people who died in the wreck. They were ordinary middle-class people who just had a good time.

Daisy Farris
choreographer

The reason for the collision of the cargos and “Princess Alice” that evening is still not disclosed.

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