Monday, September 20, 2010

City of Glasgow

City of Glasgow, January 1854.

The City of Glasgow, 1,080 tons [sic], black iron hull with sails and a steam engine, owned by the Liverpool and Philadelphia Steamship Company, sailed from Liverpool for America on March [sic] 1, 1854, with 399 passengers, mostly emigrants, and 81 crewmen. She vanished without a trace. (Winer, Devil's Triangle, pp. 86.)

When she became overdue, her owner's agents, Richardson Brothers and Company, suggested engine trouble. Later, the papers printed rumors about her having become icebound, been taken by pirates, been wrecked off Africa, and been seen near the Bahamas.

With that, Winer informs us that this North Atlantic mystery should indeed be chalked up to the Bermuda Triangle, as she would have taken a southerly course to avoid icebergs and storms. From the Irish Sea, she would have sailed southwest past the Azores to at least latitude thirty-five degrees north, then west to at least longitude sixty-five degrees west. This would put her in the vicinity of the Bermudas, from where she would proceed northwest to Delaware Bay.

Yet even if you assume that the Bermuda Triangle extends some distance north of Bermuda or that the City of Glasgow ended up passing south of Bermuda through the Triangle proper, only a tiny part of her course would have been in or only near the Bermuda Triangle.

With his narrative sleight of hand, Winer, at other times one of the more reasonable Bermuda Triangle writers, succeeds in placing another mystery ship in or near the Triangle. But if he were to get away with it, each and every loss of a ship crossing the Atlantic could be blamed on the Bermuda Triangle, as long as it is not proven that that specific ship was on a northerly course or met her end outside the Triangle.

Thus, as far as the subject of this blog is concerned, we have a solution for the mystery of the City of Glasgow. As she was very probably lost outside the Bermuda Triangle, whatever mystery she is, she is not a Bermuda Triangle mystery.

As for the solution of that mystery, the loss of an early steamship is as unsurprising as that of a sailing ship. There was no radio, and any number of things might have happened without anyone ever hearing of it. Apart from the usual suspects like icebergs and storms, the novel iron hull may have been faulty and broken in two, or the propeller shaft may have broken and pierced the hull.

First ocean going iron steamship.

The Glasgow shipbuilding firm of Tod and Macgregor had the idea that an iron screwship would pay and accordingly built as a speculation the steamer City of Glasgow which they intended to run on a new service between the Broomielaw, in Glasgow, and New York.

Her dimensions were 227 feet in length by 32 in beam, giving her a tonnage of 1,610 by builder's measurement, while she had 2 beam engines totaling 350 nominal horsepower geared to a single shaft with a propeller 12 feet in diameter by 18 feet pitch. The arrangement was peculiar. The engines were on one side of the ship and a beam crossed the keel line. On the other side of the ship was gearing which reduced the engine speed 3 to 1. With her 3 flue boilers, working up to 10 lbs. pressure, the machinery was heavy for its type, 428 tons, and with the coal it accounted for 42 per cent of her displacement.

For what it's worth:

City of Glasgow left Liverpool on 1 January, New Year's Day, 1854, with an estimated 480 passengers and crew, but was never heard of again. Her fate remains a mystery to this day. Some official registries mark her final date of departure as 1 March 1854; the reason for the discrepancy is unknown. It was reported that a portion of the bow of a ship, bearing the name City of Glasgow in gilded letters, washed ashore at Ballochgair near Campbeltown on 25 October 1854.

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