How doubtless was it (within the nineteenth century) for an ocean liner to easily disappear?
A brand new Netflix launch (1899) opens with the mysterious disappearance of The Prometheus, an Atlantic ocean liner, with over a thousand folks on board. At first, I discovered this fairly unlikely, however then I questioned, what if there have been no different ships inside broadcast vary of The Titanic to choose up the survivors? May its disappearance have grow to be an entire thriller? How doubtless that may which were? Maritime historical past is filled with disappearances however to my data I am unable to consider a case of a ship so giant and fashionable simply disappearing. I might love to listen to folks’s ideas on this.
P.S. For these of you which can be not sure, I am NOT asking concerning the accuracy of the collection. I am asking concerning the historical past of ships disappearing with out a hint.
Comments ( 45 )
[Here’s a list of missing ships](https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_missing_ships)
>I can’t think of a case of a ship so large and modern just disappearing.
Well, it doesn’t really matter how big the ship – the depth of the ocean is always bigger.
Look how long it took to find the wreck of the Titanic despite everyone knowing quite well where she sank.
was there not a thing recently when super mega waves, that were always called hoaxes and myths and made up, were finally documented and found real? and a lot more common than anticipated ?
ah, they re called “Rogue Waves” apparently [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogue_wave](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogue_wave)
It happened a few times but not with as many passengers as the Titanic. Most 19th century ships simply weren’t that big, that’s why the Titanic was called the Titanic.
The SS Vaitarna was a passenger ship lost off the coast of India in 1888 with 746 people on board. The Guiding Star was a clipper ship transporting immigrants to Australia that was lost in the southern Atlantic in 1855 with 535 people on board. The City of Glasgow was a passenger ship lost crossing the Atlantic from Liverpool to Philadelphia in 1854 with 480 people on board. There are more, but those are three examples.
While the Marconi Wireless shystem of communications had been invented by 1897 it was not widely used on ships by 1899.
So if a ship sunk out side of view of another, and did not show up at port, it would be marked “Lost at Sea” which happened from time to time
The ocean is huge, like really really huge.
To date the search for mh370 has been the largest mapping of the sea floor in high resolution. And while we didn’t find the aircraft, we found a lot of shipwrecks in debris.
Weird things happen at sea. Often with little explanation.
Have you heard of the [Marie Celeste](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Celeste?wprov=sfla1). A lot smaller than the Titanic and about half a century earlier, but the mystery still confounds people.
Depends more on where it happened. The transatlantic routes would have had massive traffic and thus you would never be far from other ships. Other routes, who knows…
But for the titanic there were dozens of ships in radio range that could have helped out.
Extremely unlikely, then again flight MH370 disappeared and hasn’t been found 🤔👍
Don’t know the answer to your question, but I will say that 1899 was fantastic!
rogue waves have been known for a long time, but nobody knew about [the science behind them](https://d2r55xnwy6nx47.cloudfront.net/uploads/2020/02/RogueWaves_white_560.jpg) until relatively recently. There’s any number of things that could have been wrong with the ship before leaving port. A pretty heavy wave could have exacerbated the situation or capsized the ship and putting the ability to communicate with the outside world or drowning tons of people without any ability to escape or signs of wreckage in a pretty short amount of time.
SS Waratah 1909 vanished without a trace
One need not look that far back into the past.
The [Edmund Fitzgerald](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Edmund_Fitzgerald) disappeared *in minutes* on Lake Superior. Her last known transmission was “We’re holding our own” in the midst of a horrible storm. 10 minutes later there was no sign of her. 730 Feet long, and 14000 tons (about 100ft shorter than Titanic).
some theories are she drove into the face of a [rogue wave](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDOuLLdqUFA) and drove right to the bottom.
Even though this was done with a torpedo several Imperial Japanese hell ships were lost with thousands and thousands of men on board and I’m sure not many possibly any have been found
If you want to go down a deep wiki hole. Check out missing ships.
If anyone is thinking about watching this, turn off the dubbed audio. It’s horrendous and completely takes away from the series and the mystery. Most of it is in English anyways, so I have absolutely no clue why Netflix decided to dub it. It ruins the thing. Aside from that, it’s amazing. One of the best shows I’ve watched.
As far as I know, there haven’t been any *large* ocean liners, like the Prometheus, that have disappeared without a trace. There have been fishing vessels, cargo vessels, and exploration vessels that have disappeared, but that’s usually because they were in very remote areas and just sunk, taking the crew with them.
In 1845, the Franklin expedition almost entirely disappeared. While contemporary rescue teams were able to find a handful of artifacts and two bodies, the ship itself was only found eight years ago.
The commenters on this thread are stone cold nerds and I love you all for it.
We managed to lose a plane with 239 people on board, in 2014. I imagine it was easier to lose a ship in 1899.
Honestly much more so than you might think. I haven’t seen 1899 yet but ships disappeared with shocking regularity up until and even after wide distribution and usage of the Marconi wireless set.
Before wireless signal flags, signal lights, or distress rockets were the sole means of communicating with other vessels and obviously were only useful within medium to close visual range.
If a vessel suffered a catastrophic emergency at sea with no vessels nearby to help and sank too quickly for lifeboats to be launched, there’s a very real chance it would have simply “vanished” for all intents and purposes whether it was small fishing ships, Great Lakes freighter, or a (then) modern passenger liner.
Coincidentally, the Titanic’s wireless set failed the day before it struck the iceberg. The operators worked for 5 hours to repair it (in violation of company policy to leave it inactive and let Marconi technicians fix it in port) and were successful. The next day the Titanic sank in 2 hours. If it’s wireless set was still out of order when they hit the iceberg they never could’ve sent any message
I would not say it’s a stretch of the imagination, stuff like that still happens today. We’re still not exactly sure where Malasyian Airlines flight MH370 went down.
Think about the titanic. It sank and wasn’t found for 73 years. I’m sure there are plenty of ships and planes (Amelia Earhart) sitting on the bottom of the ocean.
The Titanic’s sinking area was a pretty vast field of wreckage, life jackets, about anything buoyant that was on board (it’s rumored there was a carved door with a young freezing couple on it, IDK) and frozen bodies. Even if nobody had heard the transmissions or the ship had gone down too quickly for lifeboats to be launched, eventually searchers would have come across enough odds and ends to suss out that it had somehow foundered. Ships tend to leave a bit of a mess when they go down, and many “missing ship” mysteries have been solved by floating debris. Even during WWII, missing ships would leave oil slicks and a decent mess on the surface.
That said, there have been plenty of “simply disappeared” ships, especially in the era before telegraphy – [the SS Waratah in 1909 is a good example](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Waratah), over 200 passengers and crew, no confirmed trace.
Another useful site for shipping losses is Lloyds: [https://www.lloyds.com/about-lloyds/history/catastophes-and-claims/shipwrecks](https://www.lloyds.com/about-lloyds/history/catastophes-and-claims/shipwrecks).
Use of radios helped in rescue but also in transmitting weather info. Shipping forecasts were introduced in 1860s using the telegraph after 450 people died in 1859 when the *Royal Charter* sunk off Anglesey, Wales. North-easterly gales whipping down the Irish Sea caused many ships to go down over the centuries
I agree with the correction that it was James Ballard that discovered the Titanic in 1985 (not Cameron). I heard him interviewed on the radio a year or so later and vividly remember him recounting that the submersible cameras found pairs of shoes sitting on the bottom; all that had survived of the deceased because of tannin in the leather. Seeing dolls unexpectedly was also spooky.
There are more airplanes on the bottom of the oceans, then there are submarines in the sky
Don’t know about 19th C. But a close relative was involved in maritime insurance for 50 years. They once told me on average one large ship a week is lost.
or, you could just keep reappearing.
It certainly happened. That’s why the Titanic was promoted as being unsinkable, despite being made with pretty standard technology for her type at the time.
1. It was certainly possible but unlikely. In wartime ships might be targeted by sailors for transporting troops or weapons. Ships could flounder in storms and early arc welding technology was often fragile and would split in rough or cold waters. But by and large most ships were fine.
2. There were ships within broadcast range. However, one ship that could have arrived in time had no radio operator on station during the sinking. It was the middle of the night and they’d gone to bed. A further ship, the Carpathia, got the Titanic’s signal, but by the time it arrived the ship had already sunk. The sinking of the Titanic changed maritime regulations which now require a radio operator to be on station at all times (though modern ships tend to automate this today).
3. It’s harder to lose ships now with GPS and satelites. Modern is relative though. A ship sank off the coast of south Africa because a pipe broke, letting sea water into the bilge. The crew abandoned ship with the passengers on board, leaving them to organize the evacuation. Fortunately, there was a patrol boat within range.
4. Never underestimate the human element. A stupid captain and compliant crew wrecked a multibillion dollar ocean liner off the coast of Italy because he wanted to do a drive by of a port town and show off his boat. Piracy is also possible. Though it hasn’t happened yet, an ocean liner would also be a prime terrorist target as well.
Remember the Edmond Fitzgerald, it sank in The Great Lakes and it took forever to find, decades to find a single body, and still no conclusive cause for its sinking.
There was some inaccuracies even a novice like me noticed. Four working smoke stacks. Titanic over a decade later had four but only three were real.
However I did love love love the show.
The series is really good and really freaky!
Oceans a big place. Wouldn’t surprise me if they were out there drifting or at the bottom from getting hit with 100ft waves. Oceans a rough place. Specifically during hurricane season. Sometimes giant waves just come along and knock them over. And other times posideon sees one and wants it for his personal collection.
It depends on where and what route it was on, but yeah. It wasn’t that uncommon in the 1800’s for a ship to simply fail to arrive on schedule and then eventually be declared lost with all hands. (Prior to the Suez Canal, Cape Horn was particularly notorious for that kind of thing.) A good example — included on the list of missing ships someone posted, but worth highlighting — is [the HMS Atalanta](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Juno_(1844)), a Royal Navy training vessel that simply vanished in 1880.
And while 1899 does seem relatively late in the game for a total loss without any evidence, [take a look at the number of shipwrecks Wikipedia lists as happening that year.](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_shipwrecks_in_1899)
I’m probably not the first person to say so, but I think it’s a pretty common thing actually. Even in the great lakes in the US there are close to 6,000 shipwrecks in them. The Edmund Fitzgerald, memorialized in song, was about a freight liner lost with it’s crew just in 1974, so it still goes on. The more surprising thing is that so many make it to their destination at all.
1899. Just started watching, but good creepy show.
I think, with air travel making continent-hopping possible in just a couple of hours, we’ve completely lost perspective on just how fucking immense the ocean is. Even the Titanic at the time the fastest liner on the seas, couldn’t cross the Atlantic in under 7 days. Slower steamers often took weeks. The Mayflower took 2 *months*.
Not only are the oceans vast, but they’re also prone to violent weather, warships, and all other kinds of unfriendly things.
Ships could *absolutely* disappear without so much as a trace, especially before the advent of technology that tracked their routes and broadcast their positions.
Hell, there’s a 600,000 sq mile garbage patch in the Pacific that no one knew was there until relatively recently, and they *still* have difficulty finding it every now and then.
I work in Lloyd’s and there is still a ‘Missing Vessel Clause’ in most policies which states if the ship hasn’t appeared after a certain peroid you can claim for a total loss. This was codified in the Marine Insurance Act of 1906, the old SG wording and most of the more ‘modern’ marine wordings.
Although modern AIS tracking makes this less likely it is still viewed as a possibility to insure against.
Ships disappearing without a trace seems impossible until you take in how much humans underestimated the size and frequency of rogue waves. They weren’t even widely accepted until 1997 and after video evidence of the draupner wave in 1995 made scientists reassess their understanding and then in the 2000’s a British research vessel the RRS discovery recorded (was hit by) a 29m (95 ft) tall wave aka a 10 story building of water. If you consider ships build before steel that much water hitting a ship broadside might sink it pretty dang fast.
It happened a lot in the 1850s and 1860s, when the number of ships, and modern steamer construction, were both on the rise. Until the widespread introduction of the Marconi wireless telegraph system on ships (i.e. Titanic’s radio) there was really only one way for the world to know what happened: survivors.
A rapid sinking such as the Empress of Ireland, where life boats fail to be launched, mixed with the cold North Atlantic, could easily make a ship of any size disappear without a trace. It wasn’t until 1899 that wireless radios were introduced to ships for communication purposes, and even on the night when Titanic was sinking, there were ships in the North Atlantic without radio sets on board. (Not to mention that the radio equipment could fail at a moments notice. Titanic’s radio was not functional the day before her skinking, and if the guys hadn’t gotten it repaired, she might have sunk in silence, with all of her passengers stranded in an ice field outside of standard shipping lanes, and without anyone knowing where or why. All that would’ve been found were the frozen dead in floating life boats drifting around on the sea.)
Here’s some examples of real world disappearances.
The SS Driver was lost at sea in the North Atlantic, in 1854 with 377 people on board.
The Guiding Star disappeared in the South Atlantic in 1855 with 543 people on board.
The SS Pacific vanished in the North Atlantic in 1856 with 186 people.
SS City of Boston disappeared in the North Atlantic in 1870 with 191 passengers.
HMS Juno disappeared in the North Atlantic in 1880 with 281 people on board.
The SS Vaitarna vanished in the Arabian Sea in 1888, killing 746 people.
As commented below, boats did and do vanish all the time, ocean rescue can be very difficult when we know exactly where they are [people are barely specks on a surface, and thermally, water makes one go hypothermic very quickly, in the Arctic Ocean, lifespan can be measured in minutes – I have an arctic rated escape suit [husband was Navy and picked it up at a DRMO sale] it is screaming orange, has the feet and hood built in, and has the floatation vest built in, with a strobe, a pressurized vial of blue dye that is shark repellent [but is reputed to not work at all as repellent] and is rated for 1 hour at below freezing.
[My quibble with the beginning of the first episode is the second and third class/steerage passengers had their own doctor, first class had their doctor so there would not have been a need for the poor guy to come staggering in demanding and begging for a doctor to help his sister. Chances are there would have also been more than one very qualified midwife below as well.
‘Ship hits the fan’ podcast from Rooster Teeth, goes over many ship wrecks and their causes.
Just watched an excellent YT vid about Titanic that touched on this.
As soon as wireless radio became common on ships (ca 1910?), the likelihood of a ship simply vanishing without a word dropped a lot. Also, ships tended to follow fixed trade routes, so there were likely other ships in the region to receive those transmissions, even if they couldn’t always respond in time to help.