Monday, May 7, 2012

BEFORE "TITANTIC" THERE WAS THE "GENERAL SLOCUM"

Irish Commemorative Stamp of TITANIC
Most people have heard of the Titanic disaster that occurred on April 15, 1912. Thousands will always remember the iconic movie of the same name - re-released in 3-D - partly because It put a human face on an unimaginably horrible event. (And, yes, partly because of the eye-candy.)

Few, however, have heard of the General Slocum disaster. That maritime tragedy occurred on June 15, 1904 - reportedly, a beautiful morning for a church outing to celebrate the end of the school year. The plan was to head for Locust Grove, a picnic area on the north shore of Long Island - about two hours away from Kleindeutschland—Little Germany, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. There were about 1,350 aboard, mostly women and children from St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The excursion steamer, General Slocum, steamed up the East River at 15 knots. As the story goes, when "...the ship reached 97 Street, some of the crew on the lower deck saw puffs of smoke rising through the wooden floorboards and ran below to the second cabin...the men had never conducted any fire drills, and when they turned the ship’s fire hoses onto the flames, the rotten hoses burst. Rushing back above deck, they told Captain Van Schaick that they had encountered a 'blaze that could not be conquered.' It was 'like trying to put out hell itself.' "

Descriptions of what happened next describe a massive, horrendous tragedy.  In fact, the final "...death toll of 1,021, made the burning of the General Slocum New York City’s worst disaster until the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001."

This story also has a local connection and that's the rest of this story. Eventually, part of the ship was refurbished and then used as a barge.  Local Maritime Safety Expert, Captain Ronald Sinn, says what was left of the General Slocum was converted into a barge named The Maryland and that sank off the Strathmere, NJ coast while hauling coal on December 4, 1911. (Strathmere is the next island south of Ocean City.)

Captain Sinn is attempting to get the wreckage put on the National Historical Register. I believe that he was also instrumental in the establishment of an annual oceanside memorial service held on the beach in Strathmere, just 3/4 of a mile from the final resting place of the General Slocum/ Maryland. 
USCG Memorial Service photographs.

Story of the General Slocum with pictures of the ship from Smithsonian Magazine.
Story of The Maryland/ General Slocum sinking off of Strathmere, NJ

INNsider Tip:

Visit the Ocean City Historical Museum to learn about the Sindia shipwreck on the 17th Street beach in Ocean City. The four-masted, steel-hulled Sindia ran aground December 15, 1901, as it neared the end of a five-month voyage from Japan to New York.

The Historical Museum is located at 1735 Simpson Ave # 3, Ocean City, NJ 08226. Phone 609-399-1801.


Carol & Gus, Innkeepers
Scarborough Inn
an Ocean City NJ Bed and Breakfast

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