Cape Lookout, NC off shore Steamer CENTRAL AMERICA Sinking, Sep 1857

Central America Sinking etching.jpg Steamer Central America.jpg



The New York papers of Saturday are full of the details of this terrible disaster, though the accounts, which up to that date were only such as had been transmitted by telegraph from Savannah, or Norfolk, were necessarily more, or less imperfect. We condense from these papers the following account of the fearful shipwreck.
The Central America (formerly the George Law) a three-masted, side-wheel steamer of some 1500 tons, built in 1852, left Havana, on the morning of the 8th instant, for New York, with about $1,600,000 in gold, on freight, and an extimated amount of $300,000 more in private hands, and 525 passengers. The following statement from one of the passengers, MR. H. H. CHILDS, who, after swimming six hours in the ocean, was picked up by a vessel and taken to Savannah, tells the sad story of her loss:
I left Havana on the steamship Central America for New York on September 8th. The weather was delightful and the sea calm on the passage from Aspinwall. On the afternoon of the day of sailing from Havana, fresh westerly breezes sprang up. On the following morning the wind blew very strong, the gale continuing to increase in violence as the day advanced. At night there was no abatement in the fury of the gale, and it commenced raining in torrents. On Thursday it blew a hurricane, the sea running very high. On Friday the storm raged fearfully.
At eleven o'clock in the morning of this day, it was first known among the passengers that the steamer had sprung a leak and was making water fast. A line of men was immediately formed, and they went to work bailing out the water from the engine rooms, the fires having already been extinguished. We gained on the water so much that we were able to get up steam again, but we held it but a few minutes, and then it stopped forever. Bailing continued, however, and was kept up in all parts of the ship until she finally went down.
During Friday night the water gained gradually, but all on board being in good spirits they worked to the best of their ability, feeling that when the morning came they might possibly speak some vessel and thus be saved. The fatal Saturday came at last, but brought nothing but increassed fury in the gale. Still we worked on, and at about two o'clock in the afternoon the storm lulled a little and the clouds broke away. Hope was renewed and all now worked like giants.
At 4 P.M. we spied a sail, and fired guns and placed our flag at half-mast. It was seen, and the brig Marine, of Boston, bore down upon us. We then considered safety certain. She came near us, and we spoke to her and told our condition. She laid by about a mile distant, and we, ini the only three boats saved, placed, all the women and children, and they were safely put on board the brig. As evening was fast approaching, we discovered another sail, which responded to our call, and came near us. Capt. HERNDON told our condition and asked them to lay by and send a boat as we had none left. She promised to do so, but that was the last we saw of her except at a distance, which grew greater and greater every moment. At 7 o'clock we saw no possibility of keeping afloat much longer, although we all felt that if we could do so until morning all would be saved. In a short time a heavy sea for the first time broke over the upper deck of the vessel, and then all hope faded away.
Life preservers were now supplied to all, and we sent up two rockets, when a tremendous sea swept over us, and the steamer in a moment went down. I think some four hundred or four hundred and fifty souls were launched upon the ocean at the mercy of the waves. The storm at this time had entirely subsided. We all kept near together and went as the waves took us.

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