Montreal, QB Steamers CYNTHIA and POLYNESIAN Collide, May 1889

GONE TO THE BOTTOM.

THE STEAMERS CYNTHIA AND POLYNESIAN COLLIDE.

NEAR MONTREAL AND THE FORMER VESSEL SINKS, CARRYING DOWN EIGHT OF HER CREW.

THE REMAINDER OF THE CYNTHIA'S PEOPLE SWAM ASHORE -- CAUSE OF THE DISASTER -- STORY OF A SURVIVOR.

Montreal, May 23. -- A serious collision occurred on the river yesterday morning between the royal mail steamer Polynesian, of the Allen Line, commanded by Captain HUGH WYLIE, and the steamer Cynthia, of the Donaldson Line, commanded by Captain JOHN TAYLOR, resulting in the sinking of the latter vessel and the loss of eight of her crew. The Polynesian left port shortly after 4:30 o'clock and proceeded down the Varennes Channel. Opposite Point Trembles she perceived the Cynthia, inward bound. There is a dangerous curve in the channel at this point, and through some misunderstanding of the "rule of the road," the Polynesian was brought into collision with the Cynthia, striking her on the port bow and causing such a gap in her side as to sink her in a few minutes, the vessel filling with great rapidity. Those on deck had barely time to rush below and warn the members of the crew who were off watch and asleep in their berths to get on deck and swim ashore to save their lives. The Cynthia carried no passengers. She was from Glasgow with a general cargo, chiefly of pig iron.
Following is a list of the crew of the Cynthia who lost their lives:
HUGH IRVING, chief cook, of Glasgow.
ALEXANDER NICHOLAS, sailor, of Glasgow.
ANDREW VANCE and CHARLES McCracken, trimmers.
JAMES LOW, fireman, of Glasgow.
JAMES FERRON, boatswain.
CHARLES BLACKSTOCK, mess-room boy.
DAVID YOUNG, a stowaway, from Glasgow.
JOHN COATES, chief officer of the Cynthia, was soon on board the steamer Alcides. He was clad in a suit of clothes borrowed from a brother officer. He was below at the time of the catastrophe. He felt a tremendous crash and rushed on deck, where he found that the Cynthia had been struck by a big steamer, which he learned was the Polynesian, and both vessels backing from each other he had barely time to observe anything, as the Cynthia began to settle down. It appeared to be about seven minutes from the time he felt the shock to the time she sank. Captain TAYLOR was on the bridge at the time with the pilot and the Cynthia was on her proper side of the river.
The rule of the sea, which prevails likewise in the river, is that vessels shall pass each other on the port side. The position in which the Cynthia now lies, Mr. Coates contends, is proof positive that she was in her proper course and as the Polynesian struck her on the starboard side he holds that this shows that somehow or other she was going out of her proper course. He believes that something went wrong with the steering gear of the Polynesian, as otherwise she could hardly have gone so astray, or that she was being steered from the stern instead of from the bridge, which he considers very dangerous. The Cynthia was being steered from the bridge. The Cynthia was built by Henderson, of Glasgow. Her sister ship, the Titania was wrecked about three years ago off Anticosti. The cargo of the Cynthia comprised about 550 tons of pig iron and 500 tons of coal.
According to the people in the vicinity, some of whom witnessed the catastrophe, the collision took place about 4:40 and in twenty minutes more the boat had disappeared. The bow, which was struck, went down first, lifting the screw partly out of the water, and she lopped over, throwing all but three men into the water. Most of these could swim and saved themselves. when a boat come to the assistance of the men on the hulk they refused to leave until the pilot, who was in great danger of drowning had been saved. They evidently did not know of their peril, and when the vessel suddenly sank one of them, who was unable to swim, became a victim of his heroism and was drowned, together with seven others whose retreat from below had been cut off by the inrushing water. When the Cynthia struck bottom there was a report like that of a cannon and a shock that made window panes shiver and chimneys tumble down. Though the people on the Polynesian must have been quite aware of the damage wrought, the vessel never stopped to tender aid.

Salem Daily News Ohio 1889-05-23