Sinking of the SS Norge

SS Norge was a Danish passenger liner sailing from Copenhagen, Oslo and Kristiansand to New York, mainly with emigrants, which sank off Rockall in 1904 in the biggest civilian maritime disaster in the Atlantic Ocean up to that time.

She was built in 1881 by Alex Stephen & Sons Ltd of Linthouse, Glasgow, for the Belgian company Theodore C. Engels & Co of Antwerp; her original name was Pieter de Coninck. The ship was 3,359 GRT and 3,700 metric tons deadweight (DWT), and the 1,400-horsepower (1.0 MW) engine gave a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). She could carry a maximum of 800 passengers.

In 1889 she was sold to A/S Dampskibs-selskabet Thingvalla of Denmark (later to be the Skandinavien-Amerika Linien or Scandinavian-America Line) and renamed Norge.

On 28 June 1904 Norge ran aground close to Rockall, on St Helen's Reef. According to Sebak's comprehensive account, the final death toll was 635, among them 225 Norwegians. The 160 survivors spent up to eight days in open lifeboats before rescue.

Mr Nelson told the Grimsby News of July, 1904: “I was lying in my bunk waiting for breakfast. I had previously got up and washed. We heard a slight bump followed directly by another bump. I rushed on deck and saw at once that something serious had happened.”

He rushed to get in one of the lifeboats which managed to get clear of the ship.

“We saw two of the other boats capsize due to heavy weather and because no one could navigate them. The captain was on the bridge and appeared to be keeping a cool head. He had backed her off the rock and you could see her going down.

“She filled so fast that in ten minutes after striking the reef the deck of the ship was level with the sea and in another ten minutes the stern was completely under water. It was a terrible sight to see the struggling passengers and to hear their distressing cries. The sea at that time was one mass of struggling folk, men, women and children gasping and choking in the water.”