Ocean Monarch

From ‘The Illustrated London News’, September 2nd, 1848

Ocean Monarch, Captain Murdock.  Sailed on Thursday morning, August 24th, from Liverpool for the United States with a total of 398 persons onboard. When 5 – 6 miles to the east of Great Orme’s Head, in Abergele Bay, fire broke out. The flames were seen by Mr Littledale, Commodore of the Royal Mersey Y.C , who was returning to Liverpool in his yacht Queen of the Ocean. He proceeded at once and saved 32 persons. Mr Littledale described the flames as burning with a fury from the stern and centre of the vessel. Passengers, men, women and children, crowded to the fore-part whilst many others jumped into the sea. In a few minutes the mizen and main went overboard but the foremast remained standing. As the fire moved forward, passengers and crew clung to the jib-boom in clusters as thick as they could pack, one lying over another. At length the foremast went overboard, snapping the fastenings of the jib-boom, and the jib-boom plunged into the sea, taking all with it.

The Brazilian frigate Affonso, Captain J.M. Lisboa, was on a pleasure cruise in the area with Brazilian dignitaries, Prince de Joinville and the British Admiral Grenfell aboard. She bore down to the Ocean Monarch and launched five boats to assist. The Admiral took charge of one boat and Captain Lisboa, another. Because of the numbers of people in the water, and the tangle of floating spars, the boats from the frigate could not get as close they wished. The Affonso, nevertheless, rescued 156 persons including 13 seamen.

Burning of the Ocean Monarch off the Great Orme. Samuel Walters 1850

View from a yacht off Abergele

“By keeping very close in shore for some distance we got a view of Llandudno, now become a fashionable watering-place, and sighted Abergele, where the fearful railway accident happened some years ago, when so many people were crushed or burnt to death. We also passed over the spot where the Ocean Monarch was burnt, almost close to the land; yet out of nearly four hundred passengers, nearly half were lost. The ship was so near the beach that good swimmers could easily have reached the shore. The survivors were rescued by the boats of various vessels which came to their assistance.”

– W.H.G. Kingston, A Yacht Voyage Round England