Wreck Of The Drumelzier
By James Donahue
The remains of the British steamship Drumelzier lie just off Sandy Hook on the New Jersey coast where
it wrecked after going on the rocks during a blinding snowstorm on Christmas Day, 1904. The crew of 30 sailors was safely
removed by local lifesavers, and an unsuccessful effort was made by local tug boats to pull the ship back into deep water.
The 340-foot steel ship and its cargo of various items including 2000 tons of steel billets were lost.
The Drumelzier was under the command of Captain William Nicholson when it left New York harbor Christmas
morning, bound for Swansea, in the UK and Havre in Belgium.
A court of inquiry later determined that Captain Nicholson incorrectly set the ship’s course
after passing the Sandy Hook lightship and consequently drove the Drumelzier into the rocks. It happened during a heavy snowfall
so the crew was steering blind, depending on Nicholson’s compass course, and failed to see the danger.
As it was, the steamer was moving through the blinding snow at slow speed and Nicholson had a lookout
posted on the forecastle. When the ship struck it did not appear to be a serious event at first. The engines were put in full
reverse and the crew attempted to "rock" the ship back into deep water but the vessel was stranded.
The weather cleared by the following morning and a lifeboat came out from Fire Island. Assistance
was requested and a salvage tug was on the scene by 7:30 a.m. Even with the tug pulling hard aft, the steamer did not budge.
On December 28 a storm developed and the wreck was pounded by heavy seas from the south. The pounding
quickly broke up the stranded ship. First a boiler broke loose and then the bottom of the ship opened up and it flooded. The
crew was safely removed by life savers before the steamer broke in two amidships. It was declared a total wreck.
The Drumelzier was launched in England in 1895. The ship was driven by triple expansion engines and
also was schooner rigged, with masts both forward and aft. It was owned by the Astral Shipping Company of Liverpool.