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The Volturno Ship Disaster - October 1913

Translated into English by Jan Daamen

© 2000 by Jan Daamen


Research information about the shipwreck of the Volturno

On October 2nd, 1913 the S.S. Volturno leaves its dockingplace in the Maashaven (Meuse Harbor) in Rotterdam (Netherlands). On board are emigrants (mainly Jews from Hungary, Austria, Galicia and Russia), who had been accomodated in sheds of the Hotel Uranium Steamship Company located at the Brede Hilledijk, Katendrecht. The ship is headed for New York (U.S.A.) with a planned stopover of one day at Halifax (Canada).
The captain of the ship is the Englishman Francis J.D. Inch.

On Thursday October 9th, 1913 at about 05:50 a.m. a fire breaks out on board of the Volturno, which is sailing in mid Atlantic Ocean (at 48-12 north latitude and 34-51 west longitude and according to the New York Journal at 48-25 north latitude and 34-33 west longitude).
Fire started at the front part of the ship, after which an explosion occured which caused the immediate death of about 80 to 90 persons, among them a navigating officer, passengers and other members of the crew. The radio operator then sent out a distress call.
The Volturno had 19 lifeboats and 6 wooden rafts on board. At that moment there was a heavy storm from the north-north-west and the sea was high. Three lifeboats were lowered into the water, which were crushed. For a survey of the rescuing ships, see the separate information about this.

The steamship Volturno (an iron cargoboat of 3,581 tons, 375 feet length with a 40 feet mast and a water moving capacity of 26 feet) had been built in 1906 by the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. in Glasgow (U.K.), by order of the Uranium Steamship Company (British) and it was administrated by the Canadian Northern Steamship Co. Ltd.; the latter firm dealt with transport of emigrants between Rotterdam and the United States.
The representative of the Uranium Steamship Co. Ltd., address: Boompjes 76, Rotterdam (with main office in New York) is Mr. R.B. Timsley.
It has been said that the British government ordered the cruiser "Donegal" to sail out in order to destroy the wreck of the Volturno, but according to other sources the Dutch tanker "Charlois" of the American Petroleum Company sunk the wreck of the Volturno on October 18, 1913, by opening an outlet.

The number of passengers on board cannot be established unambiguously, because the original manifests listing crewmembers and passengers went down with the S.S. Volturno. The following numbers have been mentioned:

There were 654 persons on board:
There were 657 persons on board:
1st class: 21  passengers
1st class: 24  passengers
3rd class: 540  passengers
3rd class: 540  passengers
crew: 93  crewmembers
crew: 93  crewmembers

There were 653 persons on board (this is probably the correct number):
1st class: 21  passengers
3rd class: 538  passengers
crew: 93  crewmembers

No univocal figures are known about the number of persons saved:
Number of persons saved:
Number of persons saved:
493  passengers
460  passengers
29  crewmembers
25  crewmembers



522  persons saved
485  persons saved
131  persons died
168  persons died

Persons who were rescued were partly housed in Rotterdam in a sanctuary named "Montefiore" located at the Westzeedijk (Baan 63). The doctor of "Montefiore" is Mr. J. Voorzanger.
Photographer Meylink located at the Coolsingel (Rotterdam) has made and sold postcards with the portraits of the victims.

As a result of the disaster with the S.S. Volturno and from conversations with survivors who had been lodged in "Montefiore" a report has been made by the "State Committee of Inspection of the Passage and Transportation of Emigrants".


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Created: 22 September 2000 ~ Revised: 31 March 2001