"THE “VICTORIA” BOAT DISASTER 1881" - London
Posted by: Hard Oiler
N 42° 58.582 W 081° 16.812
17T E 477152 N 4758228
Quick Description: The site of one of Canada’s worst marine disasters when the “Victoria” capsized on Victoria day with over 182 lives lost on what is now a relatively placid stretch of the Thames river.
Location: Ontario, Canada
Date Posted: 3/9/2007 8:29:03 PM
Waymark Code: WM19X4
Hard to imagine today that this was the site of one of Canada’s worst marine disasters as the river now looks fairly shallow and calm. I suspect that dams have been removed and the river here is a lot different from the way it was in 1881.
On May 24, 1881 Queen Victoria celebrated her 62nd birthday. The event offered Londoners a rare holiday from their six-day workweeks. Many had decided to take the 15 cent boat ride to Springbank Park and the ferry operators were eager for the extra business. By the time the Victoria arrived at the park for the afternoon's last return trip, the dock was packed.
The Victoria was designed to carry 400 passengers. By the time it pulled out from the Springbank pavilion at five o'clock it carried 650. The passengers were excited and kept rushing from one side to the other. Captain Rankin told them repeatedly to stand still and not crowd so much. Coincidentally, near the site of the plaque, the London City Rowing Club, unaware of the Victoria's peril, decided to race it down the Thames in their scull. It was the final ingredient for disaster.
People rushed over to the right hand side of the ship to take a look but the crowd was just too big. The ship keeled over and the boiler rolled off its mount. As it toppled overboard the boiler took out the main supports for the top deck which then collapsed on the passengers below. In a matter of seconds the structure of the Victoria had disintegrated in seventeen feet of water.
The scenes that followed can only be described as horrific. Many women were dragged under the surface by the weight of their waterlogged dresses. The total death count was estimated at 182, although it was probably higher. It was London's greatest loss of life in a single day.
"The captain blamed the people. The people blamed the owners of the ship and the company line," sums up Kenneth McTaggart, the author of the 1978 book, The Victoria Day Disaster. "Everybody blamed everybody else without realizing - they all caused it."