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The Roosevelt and the Antinoe.
The sinking of the S.S. Antinoe and the rescue of its crew by the S.S. President Roosevelt.
Northwest Atlantic Ocean.
On the 20th of January, 1926, the S.S. President Roosevelt steamed out of New York Harbor, bound for the German city of Bremerhaven. The ship contained several bags of mail bound for the UK and for Europe. Onboard were also roughly 200 passengers.
The Roosevelt had barely cleared the harbor and set out into the Atlantic, when bad weather started up. Heavy storm clouds, wind and rain, whipped the ocean up into a dangerous maelstrom. The weather grew so bad that passengers were forbidden to walk on the ship's outer decks. Lifelines were rigged up and the ship was firmly battened down, to prevent anything breaking loose or being washed overboard in the storm.
The Roosevelt was a pretty large ship and it handled the storm well. At 4:00am on the 24th of January, four days into their crossing, which left New York on the 20th, the bad weather had still not slackened off.
Wireless operator Kenneth Upton commenced his shift in the ship's radio-room. At 5:40am, he recieved a distress-message from a ship identifying itself as the S.S. Antinoe - a British cargo ship which was in danger of sinking. The storm had damaged the ship so badly that it was unmanuverable. In the days before radar, sailors fixed their position using the sun, stars and the ship's chronometer, a mechanical clock capable of extremely precise timekeeping.
Due to the storm, the crew of the Antinoe had not seen either sun or stars for days, and were not entirely sure of their position. Their radio operator sent off their dead-reckoning position and then prayed.
Six hours later, the Roosevelt had reached the position given by radio, and found the Antinoe rolling in heavy seas. Captain George Fried, of the Roosevelt, indicated that he would stand by to render assistance at the soonest possible opportunity.
If he'd known what he was in for, he might've changed his mind.
Several attempts were made to have a line strung between the two ships. Captain Tose of the Antinoe had hoped that his ship might be towed back to New York. Repeated failures at getting a secure line between the two ships, however, made this unlikely. The storm worsened and by nightfall, snow had started to fall. A particularly strong wave blasted the Antinoe right open, flooding her engine rooms and killing the electrical power. The Antinoe now had no electricity, no radios, no way of powering or steering herself, no lights and no heat, in the middle of winter.
As night came, the Roosevelt kept the Antinoe in sight, using its searchlights to spot the ship in the snow. Captain Fried's searchlights lost the Antinoe several times. When the two ships finally re-established contact (of a sort), Fried realised that the Antinoe was now taking on serious water. That it had now survived a whole day without sinking was a miracle.
Fried and his men tried several times to lower one of their lifeboats and send it across the water to the Antinoe's side. The currents and waves made this impossible, however. And by the time they would try again in safer conditions, two men and six of the Roosevelt's lifeboats had been lost to the sea.
Captain Fried had a wireless message sent to the offices of the United States shipping line in New York City, stating that he was participating in a rescue operation and that he would not leave the Antinoe until he either was forced to, until the ship sank, or until he had rescued everyone onboard.
Unknown to Fried at the time, radio recievers all along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard had picked up his message. By the time Fried would see dry land again, his heroic story would be known all over the country, sent from town to town as fast as telegraph wires could carry it.
Hours turned to days, and the days started piling up. First one, then two. Yet the Roosevelt stuck stubbornly by. The Roosevelt, don't forget, had 200 passengers onboard. It was an ocean-liner which had a schedule to keep. The Antinoe was terrified that the Roosevelt might have to leave them to their fate and steam off. But Captain Fried refused to leave.
By the third day, rescue-plans were finally successful. A lifeboat was lowered from the decks of the Roosevelt and rowed across the relatively calm waters towards the Antinoe. Since it was too dangerous to actually pull up alongside the Antinoe, men (married men first, by order of Captain Tose), jumped overboard into the sea, and swam towards the lifeboat. They were pulled in by the Roosevelt's crewmembers and rowed back to the Roosevelt. The operation was repeated on the fourth day and, with all the crew safely off, the Roosevelt left the Antinoe - crewless, without power or hope, to its eventual fate, to be swallowed up by the ocean.
Captain Fried had the ship's whistles sounded three times to farewell the Antinoe. A radio message telling the world of the success of the rescue-mission was sent to New York. Fried then steered his ship towards Germany, to continue his voyage.
When Fried and his crew returned to New York a month later, he recieved a hero's welcome, and a tickertape parade in Manhattan.
Apr/17/2009, 2:45 pm
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