Monday, 9 March 2015

On board the S.S.Victorian

During a trip to Liverpool Maritime Museum last week, it was impossible to not take a look at the large Titanic exhibition they have on display. The devastation of this event is well known and got me thinking to our own children who made the same trip every year across the icy Atlantic towards Canada.

On the 12 April 1912, the S.S. Victorian set sail from Liverpool to make one of its frequent trips across the Atlantic to Halifax, Canada. On board were 33 boys who were starting a new life in Ontario.

1897 Emigration party outside of Manchester Town Hall

By 1870 nearly all journeys across the seas to Canada and America were carried out on steamships. These replaced the old sailing ships, which had taken around 35 days to complete the journey. Coupled with cramped living conditions, poor ventilation, scarce food and widespread disease, conditions onboard were miserable. Things improved with the 1855 Passenger Act, which laid down minimum standards for rations, space and sanitation. The new steamships reduced journey time to between 7 and 10 days and competition between firms helped improve conditions further. 

On board

On the 15th April a message was received by the Victorian from another steamship, the Carpathia, via the Baltic, at 10:30am. This news was the announcement of the sinking of the Titanic, the so called ‘unsinkable ship’. Fearing the news would disturb the steerage passengers the information was kept from all passengers until the ship reached Halifax, where she arrived on 20 April.

The captain calculated they had been about ‘300 miles behind Titanic at the time of the disaster, travelling in the same direction. Crossing the sinking site, they saw no other vessels or floating debris, but did see much ice’- (Halifax Morning Chronicle, 22 April 1912)

The records from the children emigrated that year showed no mention of the disaster. It is possible they knew nothing of what had happened so close to their own ship and the dangers they faced when crossing through the ice of the Atlantic Ocean.

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