Monday, 7 January 2013

7 January 1913–Steamships, Fuel Technology & Mystery

Cover Everybody’s fiction magazine, January 1913 source

On this day in 1913 the steamship Rosecrans was wrecked in a gale and ran aground on Peacock Spit, justt off the coast of Oregon, claiming 33 lives, only four (or three, depending which report you read) of the crew surviving the ordeal.

The New York Times reported on 7 January 1913 that:

the oil tank steamship Rosecrans, Capt. L.F. Johnson, from Monterey, Cal., bound for Portland, Ore., ran aground early to-day on Peacock Spit, while striving to reach the Columbia River, during a fifty-mile gale, and was lost, with thirty-three members of her crew of thirty-seven. One survivor of the wreck, it was reported to-night, had reached safety at Tioga, Wash., six miles from the scene of the wreck.
 Lawrence A. Prudon  source

According to the Sunday Oregonian, Portland, twenty-one year old  Lawrence A. Prudont was the wireless operator on the Rosecrans,  and it was he who sent the hurried, and unfinished,  "S.O.S" call, which brought a quick response from tugboats in an effort to give assistance to the distressed craft. Only a dozen years after Marconi's first transatlantic wireless transmissions, and less than two years since the first successful maritime wireless distress call, the sinking of the RMS Republic, wireless operation was a cutting-edge profession. 

Lawrence was offered a chance in the boats which the crew were putting over the side, but went instead to the wireless room and continued directing the rescuers until the ship broke up beneath him. When assistance came it was found that he had been pinned under the wreckage and washed overboard when the wireless house was swept into the hungry waves.  Lawrence’s body was not recovered, and he was remembered along with twenty-five other wireless operators who lost their lives at sea in the Memorial Fountain to Wireless Operators in New York City dedicated in 1915.


In technology that almost certainly influenced the popularity of fuel driven automobiles (rhater than steam), US chemist William M. Burton was awarded U.S. Patent No. 1,049,667 for his thermal cracking process.  Known as the “Burton process” the oil industry used it to double the production of gasoline in 1913.  In 1937 it was superseded by catalytic cracking, but is still used today to produce diesel.

William Merriam Burton (November 17, 1865 – December 29, 1954)   source

Insmore sad news, Paul Cleveland Bennett Nash, the U.S. Ambassador to Hungary was found dead in his room at London's Claridge’s Hotel. It is widely believed that he died of natural causes - heart disease is what the presiding Doctor Dr Ironsides pronounced -  or pneumonia, an illness which he was reported as suffering from on 24 May 1912 in the New York times.  The Agatha Christie fan in me, however, suggests a plot by German spies (and really, Dr Ironsides?). Mr Nash, originally from Massachusetts, was only 36, and married to Baroness Margherita Mayneri of Croatia, whom he met in Venice.  Conspiracy plot, murder, I'm not sure, but I think it would make a good mystery novel. What do you think?

Deb xxx

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