Today, exactly 110 years ago, the Danish passenger liner SS Norge sank off Rockall in what was the biggest civilian maritime disaster in the Atlantic Ocean before the Titanic.
Norge embarked on her final voyage on June 22, 1904 carrying 405 passengers and 68 crew members. The liner sailed from Copenhagen to Kristiania, where an additional 232 passengers boarded it, then to Kristianssand where further 90 passengers came on board. On June 25 it entered the Atlantic ocean. The majority of the passengers were Norwegian and Russian (mostly Jewish, excluding some Finns) immigrants to America. Among the passengers were over two hundred children. Of the 727 persons on board, some 629 were destined to lose their lives. Much like the RMS Titanic that would sink eight years later, Norge suffered from a critically insufficient number of lifeboats. The eight lifeboats it carried were designed for a total of 250 passengers.
On Wednesday morning, June 28, around half past seven, a slight bump was felt throughout the liner, followed by a loud metallic groan. Alarmed passengers rushed to the deck, most of them half-dressed.
"I was like most others in bed when the accident happened. One of the quartermasters came and prodded us. I ran upstairs to the deck wearing only my blouse. I thought there had been a collision, but I didn't think at the time that there was any danger of the ship sinking. So I ran downstairs and wore some trousers, and then I heard the captain command the lifeboats into the water. All passengers were now upstairs, and they screamed terribly in many different languages. I did not understand most of what they were saying, but they were almost all naked."
Captain Gundel-Sailor Carl Mathiasen's testimony
"...While some of us were having lunch and others hadn't yet left their beds, we felt a bump. It was as if the ship had stood still for a moment, and then we heard a scraping, abrasive sound that clarified what had happened, and struck even the bravest of us with horror... I ran downwards to inform the others and save some of my belongings, but I didn't make it... it was impossible to try running against the stream of people pouring up the stairs. I turned around and got up on the deck before the lifeboats were readied. The ship backed off, and we heard the scraping, abrasive sound when it slipped back into deep water. It was clear that she was doomed, and we could feel her sink and struggle harder with each passing minute..."-Survivor Niels Petersen's testimony
|The sinking of Norge|
-Christian Mølsted, based on witness accounts
Lifeboat 2: Smashed and filled with water. Never found.
Lifeboat 3: Found on June 29 by the British SS Salvia. It carried 27 passengers (1 child, 6 women and 20 men) and 1 crewman.
Lifeboat 4: Found on July 5 by schooner Olga Pauline. It carried 11 passengers (1 child and 10 men) and 8 crewmen.
Lifeboat 5: Found on July 4 by Scottish fishing boat Largo Bay. It carried 11 passengers (all men) and 6 crewmen.
Lifeboat 6: Never found.
Lifeboat 7: Capsized and went down with the ship.
Lifeboat 8: Found July 3 by SS Cernova. It carried 35 passengers (7 children, 2 women and 26 men)
"Many used the life belts that were hastily thrown out on the deck, and jumped into the sea. The deck was almost underwater when I managed to get away. There were only a few people left, but the captain stood steady on the bridge and directed the evacuation of the lifeboats. The water around us was a mess of heads and convulsively outreaching arms. Some begged us to save them, others cursed us because we refused to take them in. Our boat was designed for 20 and we were 27 in it. Many people clung to the oars and the boat, but we had to hit them away. Else we would have all have perished..."
-Testimony of Peter Nielsen (lifeboat 3)During their time at sea the survivors suffered great hunger. Thanks to the pouring rain, the thirst did not plague them the first couple of days, but some had to wait nearly a week for rescue. Several survivors reportedly died from drinking salt water and were buried at sea. Others died in hospitals after being rescued.
Witnesses reported that dozens of floating bodies had crossed their path the day following the disaster and were quickly carried away by the stream.
-Captain Gundel's testimony
Nationality of the person on board (Pass. & Crew):
United States ------5
United States ------5
Russian empire ---259*
* Inc. 15 Finns
Complete list of all crew members (inc. date and place of birth):
Captain Valdemar Johannes Gundel - 22.02.1864 Skibby, Denmark (Survived)
1st officer Julius Frederik Alexander Gilbe - 02.01.1863 Copenhagen, Denmark
2nd officer Oluf Christian Jørgensen Otte - 03.08.1868 Copenhagen, Denmark (Survived)
3rd officer Niels Thomsen Ankersen - 26.10.1871 Norby, Denmark (Survived)
1st mechanic Peter Jensen Holm - 10.10.1859 Hobro, Denmark
2nd mechanic Julian Michal Ferdinand Heinisch - 25.12.1862 Frederiksberg, Denmark
3rd mechanic Niels R. Clausen - 17.05.1872 Rønne, Denmark
4th mechanic Niels Jensen - 28.08.1871 Uggeløse, Denmark
Asst. mechanic Magnus Johan Bruun/Bruhn - Framinge, Denmark (Survived)
Asst. mechanic Jens Peter Jensen - Skibby, Denmark
Asst. mechanic Hans L. Simonsen - 25.03.1877 Dalby, Denmark
Steward Anders Jensen - Søllerød, Denmark
Victualler Carl Nielsen - Aarhus, Denmark (Survived)
Clerk Jacob Johannes Theisen – 27.10.1882 Sundby, Denmark
Carpenter Thoren Johanson - Sweden
Boatman Christian Bernhard Amundsen - 25.12.1858 Norway
Lamp trimmer John Mouritz Olsson - Sweden (Survived)
Sailor Carl Petersen – Norway (Survived)
Sailor Henrich S. Schønning - Ringkøbing, Denmark
Sailor Niels Nielsen - Ringkøbing, Denmark
Sailor Peter Olsen - Hals, Denmark (Survived)
Sailor Carl Mathiesen - Endelave, Denmark (Survived)
Sailor Hans Hansen - Kastrup, Denmark
Sailor Hannibal Christensen - 15.03.1859 Aalborg, Denmark (Survived)
Sailor Laurids Nielsen - 17.05.1876 Haderslev, Denmark (Survived)
Sailor Jørgen Peter Poffler - 01.10.1876 Marstal, Denmark
Deckhand Carl J. Erichson - Carlshamn, Sweden (Survived)
Deckhand Peder Christian Pedersen - Aning, Denmark (Survived)
Stoker Ole Rasmusen - Odense, Denmark (Survived)
Stoker Julius Georg Byssing - 07.01.1856 Copenhagen, Denmark
Stoker Martin P. Christensen - Ørum, Denmark
Stoker Christian Poulsen – Helsingør, Denmark
Stoker Per Wicklund/Viglund - Sweden (Survived)
Stoker Anton M. P. Lindfors - Sweden
Stoker Carl Anderson - Sweden
Stoker Martin H. Svensson - Sweden
Stoker Gerhard M Hjorth - Sweden
Stoker Anders Jacobsen Torp – 07.06.1884 Vejersted, Denmark
Stoker Christen P Knudsen - Selsø, Denmark
Stoker Valdemar Emil Heimann - Copenhagen, Denmark (Survived)
Stoker Johannes V. Sørensen - Copenhagen, Denmark
Steward Karl A. Rasmussen - Copenhagen, Denmark
1st Cook Albert C. Krull - Marstal, Denmark
2nd Cook Peter Lassen/Larsen - Aalborg, Denmark (Survived)
1st Baker Carl Laurits G. Olsen - Nyborg, Denmark
2nd Baker Carl Mathiesen - Copenhagen, Denmark
1st Galley boy Bernhard Petersen - Copenhagen, Denmark (Survived)
2nd Galley boy Villiam Jensen - Copenhagen, Denmark
3rd Galley boy Carl Christian Svenningsen - Copenhagen, Denmark
Waiter Victor F. E. Petersen - Copenhagen, Denmark
Waiter Viggo J. Jensen - Copenhagen, Denmark
Waiter Johannes Th. H. Madsen - Copenhagen, Denmark
Waiter Vilhelm Nør - Copenhagen, Denmark
Waiter Jensenius Klindt - Copenhagen, Denmark
Waiter Heinrik H. P. Berg - Tårnby, Denmark
Waiter Andreas B. P. Larsen - Germany
Waiter Valdemar Olsen - Roskilde, Denmark
Waiter Harald Wilne - Vordingborg, Denmark
Waiter Søren Sørensen - Holeby, Denmark
Waiter Herman Honoree - Fredericia, Denmark
Waiter Carl Thermeden - Ferslev, Denmark
Cabin boy Carl Norup - (Survived)
Mess room waiter Ludvig Larsen - Hals, Denmark (Survived)
Physician’s assistant Thorvald Fruberg - Vandborg, Denmark (Survived)
Middle deck cabin boy Valdemar Hein - Copenhagen, Denmark (Survived)
1st Stewerdess Marie Hennings - 17.11.1878 Venø, Denmark
2nd Stewerdess Augusta S. Østmann - Sweden
Steward Johannes Christensen - Hobro Denmark