La Plata steamship sinks in the Bay of Biscay antique print

La Plata steamship sinks in the Bay of Biscay antique print. Original front page from ‘The Illustrated London News,’ dated 12th. December in 1874. Guaranteed original woodblock engraving in excellent condition. Paper size approx 15.75 x 10.75 inches.


La Plata steamship sinks in the Bay of Biscay antique print.

On this day 12th. December in 1874 ‘The Illustrated London News’ carried a story about the loss of the steam-ship ‘La Plata.’

Below the image,”sketched from information supplied by one of the engineers,” was the caption, ” Foundering of the Steamship La Plata in the Bay of Biscay.”

Researching this story I came across two conflicting reports about the vessel.

In Kilvert’s ‘World of Wonders: Growing up in Mid-Victorian England’
by John Toman, I found the following statement. “… the captain of the La Plata, a telegraph cable-laying ship, which ‘foundered and went down off Ushant in the Bay of Biscay with sixty souls,’ had always regarded it as an ‘an unseaworthy vessel’ and inclined to be overloaded.”

Whilst in ‘Human Personality: And Its Survival of Bodily Death’ by Frederic William Henry Myers, the contrary was reported: “Why a well-found and powerful steamer should have gone down in open sea, when a common rowing-boat should have survived, is a mystery which remains unsolved.”

The brother of one of the victims of the sinking asked why such a ship should ‘founder’ after being exposed for only a few hours to a terrific gale?

According to Lloyd’s Register, she was classified as a ‘first-class vessel.’

The Western Mail reported on 8 December 1874 that “A French Government steamer … returned to Brest without meeting any survivors of the ill-fated steamship La Plata.”

Located between northern Spain and France, the Bay of Biscay is home to some of the Atlantic Ocean’s fiercest weather; abnormally high waves occur there. Up until recent years it was a regular occurrence for merchant vessels to founder in Biscay storms during the months of winter.

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