Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Bizarre Deaths in Caribbean Sinking

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Bizarre Deaths in Caribbean Sinking

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SeaDream Yacht Club has seven-day and six-day sailings to dive sites in the Caribbean in December this year, including to the wreck of the Rhone. Prices start from US$2,635pp twin-share (excluding optional scuba fees) and include five-star dining, open bars, wines with lunch and dinner, 95 crew for a maximum 112-guests, onboard gratuities and government fees and taxes.

For details see travel agents or visit

BIZARRE as it sounds, when a Royal Mail Ship, the Rhone, smashed onto rocks in the Caribbean's British Virgin Islands in 1867, more than 200 passengers perished because they'd been tied into their bunks by the crew.

And equally strange, the little island on which the Rhone foundered is today owned by the descendants of those who lived there at the time: Queen Victoria was so impressed with the way their forebears had gone to the aid of the stricken vessel, even though their own homes were being trashed by a hurricane, that she signed ownership of the island from the Crown to the islanders in exchange for a simple bag of sea salt per year.

That bag of salt is still sent to England annually to this day.

The Rhone was a 94m steam packet that was much favoured by the more wealthy to travel between the UK and the West Indies. She was just two years old, was considered unsinkable as one of the world's first iron-hulled ships, she could travel under combined sail and steam at a then-unthinkable 14 knots and even for third-class passengers her cabins were luxurious.

On October 19, 1867, the Rhone pulled into Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands to top up her coal bunkers and her master, Captain Robert F. Wooley, mentioned to the master of another vessel already there, the Conway, that he was concerned about gathering storm clouds and a fast-dropping barometer.

Although the hurricane season was officially long over, within hours both ships were dragging their anchors, so the captains decided to put the Conway's passengers on the aunsinkablea Rhone that would head to sea to ride out the storm while the smaller Conway would somehow seek safety elsewhere. …

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