Fog Doomed The Waesland In 1902
By James Donahue
Two passengers were killed after the Red Star Line Steamship Waesland collided with the steamer Harmonides
in fog shrouded waters off the coast of Anglesey, Wales, on March 8, 1902. It could have been worse. The other 201 passengers
and crew members safely escaped on the ship’s lifeboats even as the ship was sinking under their feet.
The Waesland, a 435-foot steamship under the command of a Captain Apfield was beginning a routine
trip from Liverpool to Philadelphia with 114 passengers and general cargo. The vessel had been moving cautiously through dense
fog all that afternoon and was still in the thick of it when it reached the Anglesey coast at about midnight. Nearly all of
the passengers and off-duty crew members were asleep in their beds when the Harmonides suddenly appeared out of the fog and
drove her bow amidships into the side of the Waesland.
The bow of the Harmonides cut into the room of the Waesland’s purser, and a heavy steel plate
of the ship’s stern fell into the room. Miraculously the man escaped alive.
With a large gash in its side the Waesland was doomed. The ship began taking on water immediately
and sank in about 20 minutes. There was a mad scramble for the ship’s lifeboats. Most of the survivors escaped wearing
only their nightclothes. Edwin Dangerfield, an American who had been visiting Europe with his family, lost his footing when
one of the davits to the lifeboat he was boarding failed. They said he fell head-first into the boat and died instantly of
a crushed skull. A little girl, who was never identified, also fell from the tipped lifeboat and drowned.
All of the other passengers and crew members escaped, even as the water was splashing over the deck.
Apfield and his offers were the last to leave the ship. They were just pulling off when the water reached the hot boilers
below, causing them to explode. The ship then turned on its side and sank.
The Harmonides, with its bow crushed and the crew working hard to plug the leaking holes, backed off
the Waesland and was standing nearby in the fog. The water was pouring in at the forepeak, but the collision bulkheads held
and the ship remained afloat and operational. The Harmonides picked up all of the survivors and carried them back to Liverpool.
The Waesland was launched in 1867 as the Russia. She had the distinction of being Cunard’s first
transatlantic screw steamer. It was sold to the Red Star Line, an American company, in 1880. At that time the ship was completely
rebuilt, lengthened, refitted with compound engines and put on the British and North American run.