The SS Carnatic ran aground on a reef in the Red Sea in 1869. A sense of false security lured the captain into making the decision to keep everyone aboard until the passenger liner Sumatra, that was expected to pass relatively soon, could effect rescue. But the delay would spell death for 31 of the 210 people aboard.
Carnatic was grounded on September 12th in the mouth of the Gulf of Suez near Shadwan Island. There she stayed affixed with seeming certainty – the ship and her pumps seemed able to handle the situation. But in the early morning hours of the 14th, her boilers were overtaken by rising waters, cutting power to the ship. It wasn’t until the morning of the next day that Captain P.B. Jones finally gave orders to abandon ship.
But as the first passengers boarded one of the lifeboats, Carnatic broke in half, sending everyone into the water. Luckily for the 173 surviving passengers and crew, they were able to make it into the rest of the lifeboats and make for Shadwan Island where they had to spend the night before being picked up by Sumatra the following day. Also on board was £40,000.00 of gold which was apparently all recovered.
Captain Jones faced an official inquiry into the sinking. He was found negligent in this instance and was suspended for a period of nine months. However, he did not go back to life at sea afterward.
The SS Carnatic, built in 1862 and finished in 1863, was a single-propeller British steamship that was also equipped with sails. She travelled between Suez and Bombay for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. The site of her remains, which were found in 1984, is frequented by divers eager to swim back in time.
© Copyright Vince Capone 2013