On this day in history….20th September 1906

On this day in history : 20th September 1906 – The launch of the Cunard Line’s RMS Maurentania – at the time she was the largest and fastest ship in the world…

Official launch party – Image credit : Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Maurentania was built by Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson and was sister ship to the Lusitania, which was sunk by a German U Boat in 1915…. The two ships held between them the Blue Riband (Atlantic speed record) for over twenty years…. Less than a century before it had taken a month to cross the Atlantic, Maurentania could do it in five days….

Weighing over 30,000 tons and with a crew of 812 Maurentania could carry 560 first class passengers in luxurious accommodation amidships on five decks…. She could also carry 475 second class and 1,300 in third class….

RMS Maurentania after her launch – Image credit : Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

The grand interior of the ship was fitted out in French and Italian Renaissance styles, with a magnificent 15th century Italian staircase…. The two dining saloons were in the style of Francis I and the 80ft lounge Louis XVI style…. The smoking room was Italian Renaissance with a spectacular marble chimney surrounded by carved wood…. There was even a children’s room with a giant rocking horse…. The first class cabins were decorated and furnished to give maximum comfort…. It really was a floating palace…. Even the second and third class accommodation was a vast marked-improvement on what had been before….

RMS Maurentania Image credit : Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

However, Maurentania’s reign was relatively short-lived…. In 1929 her speed record was lost to the new German liner Bremen…. In 1935 she was scrapped at Rosyth….

Maurentania 17 September 1907 – Image credit : Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

On this day in history….19th November 1911

On this day in history : 19th November 1911 – Two ships are lost in one day on the notorious sandbank Doom Bar, in the Camel Estuary, Cornwall….

Doom Bar at high water – Image credit : Worm That Turned – own work – CC BY-SA 3.0

Doom Bar, previously known as Dunbar Sands – or Dune-bar – lies at the mouth of the River Camel Estuary where it meets the Celtic Sea off the north coast of Cornwall…. During storms the sands are prone to dramatic shifting, making the narrow channel between Doom Bar and the cliffs at Stepper Point very difficult for ships to navigate…. Until the 20th century this was the only access available to Padstow Harbour…. The channel is regularly dredged by the Padstow Harbour Commission – but despite being made safer the RNLI still has to deal with incidents at Doom Bar….

Tractor and trailer dredging – Image credit : Paul Harvey – CC BY-SA 2.0

Since records began in the early 19th century there have been over 600 reported wrecks, capsizings and beachings…. The largest is believed to have been the 1118 ton barque Antoinette – which sank on New Year’s Day 1895; thankfully all onboard were rescued…. The only warship ever lost on the sands was HMS Whiting, a 12-gun schooner which had been captured from the French in 1812…. The ship had been involved in the pursuit of smugglers when it hit the sandbank…. Following the incident the captain lost a year of his seniority – and three crewmen who deserted after the sinking were later caught and each received 50 lashes….

The two ships to be lost on the 19th of November 1911 were The Island Maid, all of her crew were rescued – and The Angele, who lost her entire crew, except for the captain….

Doom Bar at low tide, river channel on far side – Image credit : Andy F – CC BY-SA 2.0