Ghost ship circuits

They float through the chilling pages of the many threads of the sea – ghost ships that sail forever to haunt the living seas. But once, in the English Channel, a real ghost ship sailed. The story began with a collision in a thick fog.

The two ships that collided were the French steamer Frigorifique built in 1869. A 715-ton steamer carrying wine from Bordeaux to Rouen and the British 522-ton colliery Rumney, built in 1879, sailing from Cardiff with 920 tons of coal bound for Rochefort. They collided off the Ile de Seine during a heavy foggy morning on March 19, 1884.

Rumney was driving the SE by S on slow engines with the steam whistle sounding at regular intervals. When the keeper heard a noise on the port bow, the captain immediately reversed the engines to full stern, as Frigorifique, moving at great speed (later denied by Frigorifique) on a westerly course, was seen crossing Rumney’s bows, moving from port to starboard. The wheels of both ships were placed on a solid starboard side but a collision could not be avoided, with Rumney’s leg making contact with a quarter of the other ships on the starboard side, cutting halfway across the deck. In the collision Frigorifique’s rudder was forced to port and jammed so badly that the helmsman was thrown entirely over the wheel. As the two ships had been stuck for some time and it appeared that Frigorifique was taking to the water, the French crew of 22 immediately abandoned their ship and jumped aboard Rumney and then Frigorifique, whose engines were still going, backed away and disappeared into the mist.

With the survivors on board, the Rumney set sail. Suddenly the French cried out in fear. Just then, a large ship loomed silently out of the mist, and Rumney’s ship was lost. It was the French ship they assumed had been sunk.

Twenty minutes later, the “ghost ship” reappears from the mist, to once again bear upon the British ship. This time there was no escape. With a deafening crash, Frigorifique’s bows smashed into the starboard quarter of the collier. Within seconds Rumney was sinking, sending her 15 men running into the lifeboat and the ships while the French crew went for the pinnace. The French ship retaliated. The two crews in the boats gave chase and succeeded in boarding the fleeing ship, its engines stopped, but shortly thereafter it was discovered that it was also sinking, but the crews were rescued and helped ashore by some fishermen.

As the fog lifted and the survivors of both ships clearly saw the French ship crossing the sea, the ominous mystery was explained. Frigorifique had not yet sunk after the first collision. With the boilers still running and the rudder broken by the collision, the abandoned ship continued to steam in a full circle, twice crossing the course of the mine. Only then, after her revenge, her murderous pursuit ended, did she finally sink in.

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