Sinking of the Ottoman Frigate Ertuğrul
After sailing in Asian waters for more than a year, a time filled with various mishaps and difficulties, the Ertugrul arrived in June of 1890 in Japan, where Osman Pasha and his crew had a successful visit with the authorities and the imperial family. On the return voyage, however, the Ottoman frigate sank in a severe typhoon on the 16th day of September after foundering on dangerous sharp rocks off the coast of Wakayama in southwest Japan. Except for a mere 69 survivors, the waves of the Pacific Ocean claimed the Pasha and his men.
On 15 September 1890 at noon, Ertuğrul set sail from Yokohama for Istanbul. The very good weather conditions at the departure changed the next day in the morning. A reverse wind began to blow, getting stronger towards evening. By nightfall, the wind came from below the bow so that the sails had to be folded. At the same time, violent waves in the rabid sea began beating against the ship, which, under severe trial, could hardly make headway. The 40 m (130 ft) high mizzen mast collapsed and caused severe damage by shaking from side to side and banging into the other (rigging) sails. While the storm continued gaining power, waves coming from the bow separated the deck boards from the front. Water broke through into the coal depots in the boiler room. In the next four days, the crew tried to repair the damage by remedying the sails and tightening the shrouds. They also continuously tried to empty the water with buckets out of the coal containers, which was the most serious danger, since the pumps were insufficient.
Despite all the efforts, the ship's disintegration was imminent and the only option was seeking sanctuary in a nearby port. They headed to Kobe, within 10 miles (16 km) of the ship, in the gulf beyond the Kashinozaki Cape with Oshima Lighthouse. Seawater breaking through finally extinguished one of the furnaces in the engine room. Almost immobile without main sails and sufficient propulsion, and having only the wind and the waves behind, Ertuğrul drifted towards the dangerous rocks at the eastern coast of Oshima Island. As the crew tried just to stop the ship before the rocks by emergency anchoring, the ship hit the reefs and fell apart at the first impact around midnight on 18 September 1890.
At the site of the accident, around 533 sailors, of whom fifty were officers including the commander Admiral Ali Osman Pasha, lost their lives. Only six officers and sixty-three sailors survived. Six of the survivors were uninjured, nine severely wounded and the others with light injuries. After the rescue operation, two survivors were taken to Kobe by Japanese ships, two more by a Japanese battleship and sixty-five by German gunboats. All of the sixty-nine survivors were transported back to Istanbul aboard Japanese corvettes Kongō and Hiei, leaving Shinagawa, Tokyo in October 1890. The sultan accepted the officers of the Japanese battleships on 5 January 1891 and expressed his appreciation for the relief operation by decorating them with medals
The water entering Ertugrul increased the rolling of the ship, and the water line formed in the ship made the rolling more dangerous. The ship was rolling as if it would capsize at any moment, and then as it struggled to settle down again it shook and squeaked, and then rolled to the other side with another blow. The crew in the boiler and engine rooms were still trying to get up steam even through they were in water up to their chests.
Everywhere was in darkness. It was one hour to the midnight. They had arrived at the salvation point of Kashinozaki Lighthouse on Oshima Island. But now another tremor was heard in the ship. Reports were given that the water that had entered the boiler room had caused the number one furnace to collapse, causing the furnace to roll back and forth, hitting the sides of the ship.
Osman Pasha and naval construction engineer and technician ran to the boiler room in order to find a solution to this problem. Moreover, after the furnace broke down the Ertugrul became totally immobile and it was rapidly drifting towards the rocks. Cavalry Ali Bey thought of anchoring the ship, at least trying to stop the ship from hitting the rocks and said:
Alesto fero! (Get ready to anchor)
Bismillah fundo (Anchor in the name of Allah)
He gave the commands one after another. But before he could even start to anchor a loud noise was heard. Long and painful cries followed this noise.
Ertugrul hit the rocks on the eastern edge of Oshima Island and fell apart at the first impact.