A private dispatch was received in this City, last night, from James Brown, agent of the Coast Wrecking Company, announcing the destruction by fire of the Pacific Mail Steam-ship Company's steamer Henry Chauncey, on Wednesday, 16th inst. The ship was discovered to be on fire off Body Island, and was immediately headed for the land and every effort made to smother the flames, but the fire continued to burn with terrible rapidity until she struck the beach, the passengers and crew narrowly escaping with their lives. The wrecking steamer Resolute has been dispatched from Norfolk to the scene.
The steamer Henry Chauncey belonged to the Pacific Mail Steam-ship Company, and sailed from Pier No. 42 North river on Tuesday last with passengers, mails and freight for Kingston, Jamaica, Aspinwall, South Pacific and Central America. She was deeply laden with freight, and had a large mail and the following passengers.
The Henry Chauncey was built in 1864, by W. H. Webb, and engined by the Novelty Iron Works, and was a fine side-wheeled vessel of 2,989 tons and 2,275 horse-power, 319 feet 4 inches in length, 48 feet beam of hull, and 28 feet depth of hold, and had three decks, and in every respect was a first-class vessel. She had a beam-engine with 105 inch cylinder and 12 feet stroke of piston. She had five water-tight bulk-heads, and was fitted with every known appliance for suppressing fire. There were also five fire-pumps, several hundred feet of hose, and steam-jets capable of letting steam into every section of the vessel. In this department of safety no ships in the world are so well provided as those in the Pacific Mail, and, to further guard against accident, the crews are drilled in fire duty at least once a month. Every precaution is taken by the Company and its officers to guard against fire, as will be seen from the following rules which are posted in each state-room:
"Open lights will not be permitted in cabins, state-rooms, or hold of the ship. All lights but one in each saloon will be extinguished at 10 1/2 P. M., and all state-room lights at 11 P. M. None will be allowed after that hour, except in case of sickness, when permission must first be obtained from the captain.
"For the convenience of smokers, cigar lighters will be kept burning day and night, one forward and one aft.
"No smoking will be allowed in the cabin.
These steamers are provided with full compliments of life-boats, and also with other life-saving apparatus of the most approved description, all of which are inspected daily. The officers and crew are also stationed and regularly exercised every voyage, in the drill necessary in case of alarm of fire."
Located on her forward main deck was an independent donkey boiler, pump and engine, put up for such emergencies as fire, stranding or leaking, but it seems to have proved of no avail on this occasion. Her motive power was generated in four boilers, and in every department she was well supplied with life-saving apparatus.
Ten large metallic life-boats hung at her davits, but from the facts announced in the brief telegram received, it is almost certain that those on each quarter and perhaps those just aft the paddle-boxes were rendered useless by the flames; but still there were enough at the forward davits to accommodate all on board. The Henry Chauncey was the best steamer of the Company on the Atlantic coast, and they are now left with only the Rising Star and Ocean Queen to perform this service, as the Alaska and Arizona were sent some months since to the East Indies via the Suez Canal.
Fortunately the steamer was well in shore, as indicated by our advices, and the officers were enabled to beach her before taking to the boats.
Body Island, thus brought prominently into the notice
of the public, is situated on the North Carolina coast, and lies in latitude
35º 47' 20" north, longitude 75º 31' 20" west, and is a low,
sandy island; with little vegetation on it. It bears from Cape Henry Light
south 18º east, distant 70 miles, and from Cape Hatteras Light north
3º west, distant thirty-three miles. Previous to the war there was
a revolving light, showing a bright flash every minute and a half, ninety
feet above the level of the sea, but the rebels destroyed it, and in consequence
several vessels have been lost there, among the latest being the steam-ship
one of our first-class Havana traders, hence for Havana. Congress at the
last session appropriated $65,000 to re-build the light, and work is being
pushed on it. We believe there is no insurance on the vessel, the company
insuring only some of the freights.
© Copyright 2008 SFgenealogy. All rights reserved.