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British Industrial History

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Asturias (barque)

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Asturias was a sailing barque based in Boston, USA

1870 ' Shocking Explosion at Sea.
On Monday evening the crew of the American barque Asturias were landed at Penzance. It appears that the barque Asturias, of Boston, from Cardiff for Hong Kong, with about 1,300 tons of steam coal, cleared out of Cardiff on Thursday morning, and the pilot left her off Lundy, between four and five o'clock on Friday night.
On Saturday morning, about ten o'clock, the second mate went below with a lantern, and a sudden explosion ensued. A man of colour at the wheel was blown to atoms and was never seen again, the heavy cast-iron wheel he handled being thrown up a considerable height above the deck. The captain (Sloane) was hurled into the air, falling upon the deck. He was found against the mainmast, bleeding at the nose, mouth, and ears, and he never spoke again; ceasing to breathe after hour or so.
The vessel was a perfect wreck. Her decks were opened out, her upper works injured, and though the rigging and sails were not much the worse for the explosion, it was evident that the Asturias could not hold together long. The explosion seemed to come from aft. The boats were on the fore house, and these were got out, and Mr. G. G. Deacon, of Cardiff, the first officer, directed 12 of the crew to get in. Four were considerably injured. The second mate was burnt. A man of colour had his thigh broken ; the cook was badly burnt; and another man also was scalded.
After knocking about for some time the boats were picked up by the brigantine Success, of Dublin. On her becoming becalmed the unfortunate men again left in the boats, seven miles off the Rundle Stone, and were finally landed (with the body of the captain) by the schooner Beryl, Capt. Hodge, Penzance, on Monday afternoon, at six o'clock.
It further appears that on Saturday, about eight p.m., the steam-tug Dandy, of Falmouth, passed a large vessel on fire from bow to stern, about five miles S.W. of Milford Haven, drifting towards Milford. A thick fog prevailed at the time. The vessel's masts were gone ; a stump of the mizen-mast alone standing. This was probably the barque Asturias.
On Tuesday an inquest was held by Mr. G. P. Grenfell concerning the death of James W. Sloane, late master of the Asturias. In the course of the evidence it was stated that the second mate went into the hold to look for a key, carrying, at the direction of master, a lantern, the door of which was closed, and that about two minutes afterwards the explosion occurred. The jury returned a verdict that deceased died from the effects of the explosion, and were of opinion that vessels carrying the kind of coal the Asturias was laden with should he recommended to carry safety lamps for use when moving about with light near the cargo.'[1]

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Sources of Information

  1. West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser - Thursday 26 May 1870