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Old 15-01-2011, 22:54
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davidrn davidrn is offline
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Default HMS Calliope: A Stoker at Samoa 1889

This is yet another item that I could never have posted without the help and hard work of other members of the forum.
I know that once again this relates to my medal collection but I feel that the the mans service record may be of interest to more than just a collector of medals.

KING. Mark, 121348 Chief Stoker

Queen`s South Africa Medal (No Bar) to HMS Gibraltar (621 medals to Ship).
Naval Long Service & Good Conduct Medal VR to HMS Malabar (Awarded 6th. October 1892).

Born 22nd. November 1861. Hayling Island, Hampshire. Occupation – Groom.
2nd October 1882 Joined the Navy as a Stoker 2nd. Class HMS Asia (Portsmouth Base).

HMS Alexandra (A Central Battery Ironclad of 1875)

16th March 1883 joined HMS Alexandra
March 1883 – At Malta under the command of Captain Harry Rawson; flagship of Vice Admiral Lord John Hay.
21st April 1883 – Sailed on a “cruise of instruction” in area of Port Augusta
2nd May 1883 – Returned to Malta
17th May 1883 – Sailed from Malta for the Adriatic (several ‘flag showing’ port visits carried out in May and June – Cattaro, Zara, Fiume, Trieste and Ancona).
17th July 1883 – Arrived at Corfu
For remainder of July until October she remained in Greek waters (Corfu, Zante, Patras, Mapolis, Nauplia, Salonika and Piraeus)
October 1883 – Gave assistance to Smyrna area following an earthquake
26th November 1883 – Returned to Malta
December/January 1884 -Spent at Malta
18th February 1884 – Sailed from Malta (flag not onboard)
27th Feb to 3rd March 1884 – Spent at Famagusta
10th March 1884 – Arrived Suda Bay, Crete
17th April 1884 – Arrived back at Malta
19th May 1884 – Sailed from Malta for the eastern Med (flag onboard)
25th May 1884 – Arrived at Alexandria
June and July 1884 – Remained at Port Said / Alexandria
16th August 1884 – Sailed from Alexandria for Jaffa & Beirut

Promoted to Stoker 1st Class. 16th. September 1883

HMS Duncan a First Rate 110 gun (reduced to 89 in 1864) Ship of the Line of 1859
16th August 1884 Joined? HMS Duncan the Royal Naval Barracks at Sheerness (did he return from Egypt on a commercial ship and was only carried on Duncan’s books?).

13th September 1884 back to HMS Asia Portsmouth Base

15th October 1884 Joined HMS Excellent Portsmouth Gunnery School.

15th November 1885 Back to HMS Asia Plymouth Base

HMS Calliope (a Steam Corvette of 1884).

25th January 1887 joined HMS Calliope

January 1887 – brought forward from the Steam Reserve at Portsmouth along with her sister Cordelia; defect repairs undertaken
25th January 1887 – Commissioned by Captain Henry Kane
26th January 1887 – Royal Marines detachment joined
28th January 1887 – Sailed from Portsmouth
26th February 1887 – At Devonport
7th March 1887 – Left Devonport sailing for the Far East
11th to 13th March 1887 – Spent at Madeira
21st March 1887 – At Cape Verde
16th May 1887 – Sailed from Capetown
June 1887 – Called in at Anjer
3rd July 1887 – Sailed from Singapore for Hong Kong
July, August and September 1887 – On cruise to the north with other ships of China Fleet; Japan (Nagasaki – Hakodate); Russia (Vladivostock – Port Lazareff)
26th September 1887 – At Hong Kong
7th October 1887 – Sailed for Australia
15th November 1887 – At Sydney
December 1887 – Sailed to New Zealand visiting the Bay of Islands, Auckland and Wellington.
January 1888 – At Sydney
February and March 1888 – Visiting New Zealand, Auckland and Wellington
April 1888 – Back at Sydney
April and May 1888 – Visiting Fiji and Samoa
June, July and August 1888 – Spent in Australian waters including Sydney and Melbourne.
September to November 1888 – Visited Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Noumea and the New Hebrides.
November and December 1888 – spent at Sydney
January 1889 – Sailed to New Zealand, visiting Auckland and Wellington.
February to March 1889 – Visited Samoa and it was here that she escaped from the harbour at Apia, during the violent hurricane that struck there on 15th -16th March.

The Newspapers Reported 30th May 1889 “The escape of her Majesty’s Ship Calliope”

A Parliamentary Paper was published yesterday containing Captain Kane’s report on the escape of H.M.S. Calliope from Apia, Samoa, during the hurricane of the 16th and 17th of March last, together with an official letter from the Admiralty thanking Captain Kane for his conduct and expressing high appreciation of the behaviour of his officers and men. The documents are as follows:-

H.M.S. Calliope, at Apia, Samoa, 20th March 1889.
Sir, - Since the 5th inst., the date of my last letter of proceedings (No. 18), there has been nothing to remark on in the political state of affairs here but I deeply regret to have to report a terrible hurricane, which caused a disaster unprecedented since the introduction of steam; the total loss of four men-of-war out of seven two of the remainder being stranded and the loss of 130 lives.
The Calliope, I thank God, is left afloat and sound in hull, though with the loss of three anchors, three boats, the foreyard sprung and all fastenings of the bowsprit carried away. We lost no lives and had only one serious accident, a carpenter’s mate Thomas John, who has a fractured skull but he is doing well.

The USS Trenton, which arrived on the 11th, the USS Vandalia, SMS Alder and SMS Eber are total wrecks and the SMS Olga and the USS Nipsic are on a sandy beach, with little but small chance of getting them off.

On the 7th and 8th we had a gale, to which we struck lower yards and topmasts and got up steam but it did not do much damage and all the men-of-war rode it out without dragging.
On Thursday 15th the barometer began to fall with heavy rain but no wind, it fell until 2p.m. on the 15th when it reached 29.11.

We in common with all the other ships struck lower yards and topsails and got up steam so as to be ready for anything; but we were assured by experienced people on shore that the fall was for rain and that there was nothing to be afraid of. In addition to that we were lulled into comparative security by our having already had experience of three gales and had ridden them out all right.
But as the afternoon of the 15th wore on the wind came up from the north-east and gradually freshened. By midnight it was blowing a gale and it increased all through the middle and morning watch. By daylight, when it was blowing a hurricane, we had dragged quite close to the reef and the SMS Eber had gone down with all hands but five.
The Harbour was crowded with shipping all dragging together. I got steam up in all boilers and succeeded in keeping clear of the reef for some time but soon found that would not last for long. The seas were perfectly fearful, breaking over our top-gallant forecastle and all but burying the poor SMS Adler, which soon went on the reef. By very good management they cables at the right moment and were lifted right on to the reef, where they lay on their broadside. Had they not slipped the cables, she would have gone down in deep water. Twenty men were drowned in her, the others found shelter in the ship till Sunday morning.

The seas were now (8 a.m. on 16th) breaking from out beyond the reefs, The Vandalia was dragging down on top of us, the Olga was close on our starboard quarter and the shore reef was close on our port quarter. I managed for some time to keep clear of all three but our port cable parted and we came against the Vandalia’s stern and carried away the jib boom and all the fastenings of the bowsprit. The spar itself was saved by lifting right up when the bobstay, bands etc went. The Olga came up on our starboard side and very nearly rammed us. I just managed to sheer clear but she caught our foreyard and damaged it severely. Luckily it boomed her off.

Seeing that every time we tautened our cable we were getting nearer the reef (in fact it had become a question of feet), I made up my mind to slip and try to go out, reserving as a last result the hope of beaching the ship on a sandy patch which the Olga afterwards succeeding in reaching.
I called on the Staff-Engineer for every pound of steam he could give us and slipped the one remaining cable. I had slipped the sheet some time before as I found it did no good and hampered my movements. The engines worked admirably and little by little we gathered weigh and went out flooding the upper deck with green seas which came in over the bows and which would have sunk many a ship. My fear was that she would not steer and would go on the reef on the passage out, especially as the Trenton was right in the fairway but we went under her stern putting our foreyard over her quarter boat and came up head to the wind most beautifully. Once outside her it was nothing but hard steaming. If the engines held out we were safe, if anything went wrong with them we were done for. Thanks to the admirable order in which the engines and boilers have been kept all went well.
We steamed from 9.30 a.m. when we slipped, until 8 p.m. with the extreme power of the engines, developing at least as much power as we have ever done on a trial without a hitch and that with the engines racing every plunge in a very heavy sea.

The wind increased during the afternoon still more. The best idea of its strength may be got from the fact that we made only a knot or so against it and the sea, just enough to give steerage way. I did not dare to go slower, because the ship would have fallen off into the trough and also, it being as thick as pea soup, I could not tell if I was 10 miles or 10 yards off the reef which skirts the whole shore.
After 8 a.m. finding the sea going down somewhat, though it was blowing as hard as ever, I was able to reduce speed. By noon on the 17th it had blow itself out down to an ordinary gale. A passing glimpse of the sun showed us that we were well off the land.

I returned to Apia on the 19th (yesterday) and found the harbour perfectly clear, not a craft from the Trenton to a schooner afloat in it. The Vandalia is under water to her nettings. She lost her captain and 30 men. The Trenton is under water to the main deck. The Olga and the Nipsic are above water but some feet in the sand.
The whole of the anchor-buoys have been washed away and the anchors and cables of all ships have been mixed up by dragging one over the other to such an extent that there can be no hope of picking them up. In view of the possibility of another hurricane the great probability of at least another gale and our condition with only one anchor and damaged spars. I have made up my mind that the safety of the ship requires that I should not stop an hour longer than necessary in Apia. Indeed that I should get out of hurricanes latitudes as soon as possible. I have, therefore ordered 150 tons of coal from the German firm who are alone able to supply us and propose as soon as it is in (to-morrow probably) to leave for Sydney. I have so informed the Consul, who sees the necessity of that course and who does not think that a man-of war is now wanted, though he expresses his hopes of seeing one when the fine season comes round.

I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of every officer and man on board the ship. During the hours we passed when any moment might have been our last, every order was obeyed with alacrity and without confusion and the way in which the engineer officers and stokers kept to their work is beyond all praise. It is a matter on which I feel very keenly and I propose to submit a special report on the subject when I have more time. I am obliged to close this immediately for the mail.

We shall want, I presume from England. “Three anchors, 60 cwt. Admiralty iron stocked, fitted with band on shank, for stowing with one davit; Two anchors fitted for starboard side and one for port, 14 lengths 3in. chain (175 fathoms), three anchor shackles, one 8cwt. Kedge anchor, three ground chains, three slips for ground chains and diving apparatus complete as at the request of the American Admiral I have supplied him with our diving gear”.
I have the honour to be, Dir your obedient servant, H. C. Kane Captain
To Rear- Admiral Henry Fairfax C.B., & Commander-in-Chief Australia,

The Admiralty response thanked Captain Kane for his actions and skilful seamanship throughout to secure the safety of his ship. Highly appreciating the support of all members of the officers and crew and especially expressing their satisfaction to Staff-Engineer Bourke and his staff in the management of the engines.
They closed by saying:- “The conduct of all concerned was highly commendable and the Lords are of the opinion that great credit is due to the officer commanding for the example he set and the confidence he installed into those under his orders”.

March, April and May 1889 – Spent back at Sydney.
May to June 1889 – Spent visiting Adelaide, Williamstown and Jervis Bay.
June 1889 – Back at Sydney
July and Aug 1889 – Visiting Noumea and Samoa
September and October 1889 – Back at Sydney and then ordered home.
2nd November 1889 – Sailed from Farm Cove for England
6th to 9th November 1889 – Spent at Singapore
8th to 31st December – Spent at Aden
7th January 1890 – Arrived at Zanzibar (having been diverted)
February 1890 – At Mombasa
27th February 1890 – Back at Aden
8th March 1890 - Suez
19th to 24th March 1890 - At Malta
31st March 1890 – At Gibraltar
7th April 1890 – Arrived at Plymouth
8th April 1890 – Arrived at Portsmouth
1st May 1890 – Paid off into the reserve at Portsmouth

Promoted to Leading Stoker 13th November 1888

2nd May 1890 back to his base HMS Asia

HMS Malabar (a Royal Indian Marine Iron Steam Troopship of 1866).

20th September 1890 joined HMS Malabar
Malabar was engaged in trooping duties which seem to have involved running a ‘shuttle’ service between Portsmouth and Bombay, with occasional stops at Malta and Aden.
In September 1890 she was at Portsmouth; commanding officer Captain John George Jones
1st October 1890 – Sailed from Portsmouth with troops of the Royal Artillery; 2nd Yorks Light Infantry & 1st Devonshire Regiment for India ( via Suez with brief calls at Malta and Aden)
27th October 1890 - arrived Bombay
6th November 1890 – Sailed from Bombay; carried Connaught Rangers to Aden and embarked 2nd Battalion, Leicester Regiment at Aden for England.
30th November 1890 – Arrived at Portsmouth & disembarked troops
11th December 1890 – Sailed from Portsmouth with 2nd Royal Scots embarked for Malta plus troops from various corps for India.
19th December 1890 – Arrived Malta; disembarked R Scots; embarked 1st Battalion Bedfordshire regiment
7th January 1891 – Arrived at Bombay and disembarked troops
15th January 1891 – Left Bombay for England Via Aden, Suez and Malta
10th February 1891 – Arrived at Portsmouth with “time expired men and invalids” and their dependants
19th February 1891 – Sailed from Portsmouth for Bombay with 1,100 officers and men with 21 women and 14 children from a variety of regiments via Malta, Suez and Aden
21st March 1891 – Arrived at Bombay and disembarked troops.
28th March 1891 – Left Bombay for England via Aden, Suez and Malta
21st April 1891 – Arrived at Portsmouth with “time expired men and invalids” with dependants
May to September 1891 - spent at Portsmouth
16th September 1891 – Left Portsmouth with Horse Artillery for India on her route Malta. Suez and Aden
13th October 1891 – Arrived at Bombay and disembarked her troops
21st October 1891 – Sailed from Bombay for England with returning troops & dependants (Aden – Suez – Malta)
14th November 1891 - Arrived at Portsmouth
26th November 1891 – Sailed from Portsmouth with Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders for India (Malta – Suez – Aden)
24th December 1891 – Arrived at Karachi and disembarked troops
30th December 1891 – Sailed from Karachi with returning troops and dependants (Aden – Suez – Malta)
27th January 1892 - Arrived at Portsmouth
30th January 1892 – Reported that her boilers were in poor condition, requiring her furnaces to be rebuilt
February to September 1892 – Under repair and refitting at Portsmouth
4th October 1892 – Sailed from Portsmouth for India with 1st Northamptonshire Regiment plus drafts for other Regiments (Malta – Suez – Aden)
1st November 1892 – Arrived at Bombay
10th November 1892 – Sailed from Bombay for England (Aden – Suez – Malta)
5th December 1892 – Arrived at Portsmouth with time expired/returning troops
17th December 1892 – Sailed from Portsmouth with 1st South Wales Borderers for Egypt (Malta – Suez)
28th December 1892 – Arrived at Alexandria – disembarked the SWB and embarked 1st Devonshire’s for India
12th January 1893 – Arrived at Karachi
24th January 1893 – Sailed from Karachi for England with time expired troops (Aden – Suez – Malta)
20th February 1893 – Arrived at Portsmouth
3rd March 1893 – Sailed from Portsmouth for India with drafts of men for several regiments (Malta – Suez – Aden)
29th March 1893 – Arrived at Bombay
8th April 1893 - Sailed from Bombay with time expired men, dependants and invalids(Aden – Suez – Malta)
2nd May 1893 – Arrived at Portsmouth
May – August 1893 – Spent at Portsmouth

15th September 1892 volunteered for a second term of 10 years

15th May 1893 - joined HMS Victory II the Portsmouth Depot ship

HMS Magicienne a 2nd. Class Medea Class Cruiser of 1888

5th September 1893 joined HMS Magicienne

10th August 1893 – Commissioned at Portsmouth by Captain Arthur C Clarke
30th August 1893 Captain Arthur C. Clarke Assumed Command of Magicienne.
16th September 1893 Sailed from Spithead for North America and The West Indies Station.
23rd to 28th September 1893 – Spent at Funchal
11th October 1893 Arrived at Halifax Nova Scotia with reliefs for the Pacific Squadron.
31 October 1893– Sailed from Halifax for Bermuda
From November 93 to February 1894 – At Bermuda ‘making good defects’
March /April /May / June 1894 – Visiting Jamaica, Bluefields (Nicaragua) and Colon
(note: someone from the ship wrote to ‘Reynolds Newspaper’ in May 1894 complaining of the conduct of her officers in not allowing shore leave and on the rare occasion it was granted excessively punishing those who were late returning; however I can find nothing more on this, so it may have one disgruntled individual.)
28th July 1894 – Arrived Halifax
August 1894 – spent at Halifax and Quebec
September and November 1894 – Spent at Halifax undergoing ‘defect repairs’.
December 1894 – Sailed for Bermuda
31st January 1895 Joined HMS Blake, Flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir John O. Hopkins for Winter Cruise
January and February 1895 – Visiting Jamaica
March 1895 – Visiting San Domingo and Barbados
15th April 1895 -Serving on the Barbados Division as Senior Officer
18th April 1895 Ordered to leave Bermuda for Trinidad
May 1895 – Visited Jamaica
June 1895 – Visited Bermuda
July and August 1895 – Spent at Halifax
September 1895 – Visited Halifax, Quebec and Montreal
(16 September 1895 - widely reported in the press that she ran aground off Montreal, but this appears not to have been correct)
28th September 1895 -To leave Halifax for Bermuda for Docking and defect repairing
October to December 1895 – Spent at Bermuda undergoing repairs.
January to April 1896 – Spent at Jamaica
May 1896 – Visited the Turks & Caicos, Cayman Islands and Morant Cays
June, July and August 1896 – Visited St Lucia and Jamaica
September 1896 – Back at Halifax
27th October 1896 – Arrived back in Plymouth from the North America and West Indies Station
19th November 1896 - Paid off into the B Division of the Fleet Reserve at Plymouth

20th November 1896 – Joined HMS Victory II
Promoted to Acting Chief Stoker. 29th. January 1897

23rd April 1897 – Joined HMS Australia an Orlando-class cruiser of 1888 acting as Southampton Coastguard?

7th May 1897 – Joined HMS Victory II

Promoted to Chief Stoker 29th January 1898

20th February 1898 – Joined HMS Victory III

20th March 1898 – Joined HMS Victory II

13th January 1899 – Joined HMS Victory III

7th June 1899 – Joined HMS Duke of Wellington II a Portsmouth Depot ship

11th December 1899 – Joined HMS Victory Flagship

7th March 1900 – Rejoined HMS Duke of Wellington II

HMS Gibraltar an Edgar first Class Cruiser of 1890

5th March 1901 – Joined HMS Gibraltar
Commissioned at Portsmouth 5 March 1901 by Captain Arthur Limpus
20th March 1901 – Sailed from Portsmouth as flagship of Rear Admiral Arthur Moore
1st April 1901 - Arrived Sierra Leone
2nd April 1901 –Sailed from Sierra Leone for Simonstown to relieve HMS Doris
13th April 1901 – Arrived at Simonstown
May 1901 – Visited Delagoa Bay, Durban “...& all the bays of the western Cape”
27th May 1901 – Returned Simonstown
4th June 1901 – At Port Nolloth
11th June 1901 – Returned to Simonstown
10th August 1901 – Arrived at Durban; rendezvoused with Ophir which was carrying Duke & Duchess of York on their world (Empire) cruise, escorted along coast to Simonstown. (the cruise is well documented and illustrated in “The Web of Empire” by sir Donald Mackenzie Wallace, the assistant private secretary to the Duke on the tour published in 1902).
18th August 1901 – Arrived at Simonstown
5th September 1901 – Arrived at Durban
14th September 1901 – Arrived at Delagoa Bay; Portuguese Governor and British Consul General entertained
24th September 1901 – Returned to Simonstown
27th December 1901 – Sailed from Simonstown for cruise visits to various west African ports; Ascension Island & St Helena
4th February 1902 – Sailed from St Helena, with the gunboat HMS Rattler in tow
18th February 1902 – Arrived at Simonstown where she seems to have remained
3rd July 1902 – Sailed from Simonstown
6th July 1902 – Arrived at Durban
10th July 1902 – arrived at Lourenco Marques
13th July 1902 – Left Lourenco Marques for Zanzibar
13th August 1902 – Left Zanzibar for Kilindini, and returned
26th August 1902 – Left Zanzibar for Mozambique, Beira and Delagoa Bay
7th September 1902 – Arrived at Durban
11th September 1902 – Left Durban
19th September 1902 – Arrived at Simonstown
I am assuming that about this time HMS Gibraltar returned to England as the next entry on his service papers is:-

30th September 1902 – Joined HMS Duke of Wellington

Pensioned to Shore 24th November 1902.
27th November 1902 – Joined HMS Duke of Wellington as a Stoker Pensioner

31st March 1903 – to Shore
Joined the Royal Fleet Reserve Portsmouth as A942 - 21st July 1903
Discharged 3rd June 1910 as D.D. (Discharged Dead)
Attached Images
File Type: jpg KING. Mark.JPG (84.3 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg HMS Calliope 1889 Somoa.jpg (59.4 KB, 16 views)
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Old 16-01-2011, 03:42
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Old Salt Old Salt is offline
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Default Re: A Stoker on HMS Calliope at Samoa 1889

What a fascinating read and insight into naval history. Thank you David.

As you have noted, the ship spent some time in and around New Zealand.
The wharf at the RNZN Naval Base in Auckland is named 'Calliope Wharf ' and the road outside the base is 'Calliope Road'.

The name continues, even after 100 years.

Attached Images
File Type: jpg Calliope.jpg (218.8 KB, 16 views)
Being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned. Samuel Johnson
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Old 16-01-2011, 05:21
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patroclus patroclus is offline
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Default Re: A Stoker on HMS Calliope at Samoa 1889

Originally Posted by Old Salt View Post
What a fascinating read and insight into naval history. Thank you David.

As you have noted, the ship spent some time in and around New Zealand.
The wharf at the RNZN Naval Base in Auckland is named 'Calliope Wharf ' and the road outside the base is 'Calliope Road'.

The name continues, even after 100 years.


I think the name "Calliope" for Calliope Point, Road, Wharf and, importantly, Dock derives from an earlier HMS CALLIOPE, a 26 gun sixth rate, which was in New Zealand waters in the 1840s. It is a coincidence that the first ship to use Calliope Dock was a later HMS CALLIOPE (of Samoa fame) in 1888:
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Old 16-01-2011, 14:05
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davidrn davidrn is offline
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Default Re: A Stoker on HMS Calliope at Samoa 1889

Thank you Brian I am glad that you enjoyed it.
For me it made an normal pair of medals so much more intresting and glad that I had the opportunity to add then to my collection.
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Old 22-06-2012, 14:06
ap1 ap1 is offline
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Default Re: A Stoker on HMS Calliope at Samoa 1889

Another interesting view on this tragic incident.

Crown Copyright/MoD (1993).




(Consultant Naval Architect and Historian)


The sail-assisted steam warship, HMS Calliope, was the only one of 13 warships to survive the
great hurricane of March 16 1889 at Samoa. This she did by successfully making the open sea using
the full power of her reliable engines, together with the skill of her ship's company.


One of the great stories of the Victorian Navy, now largely forgotten, was the
survival of the Calliope in the Samoa Hurricane of 1889 when six warships of
other navies, together with many merchant vessels, were wrecked. Her survival
was due to her tough hull, excellent seamanship and, above all else, to her
powerful and reliable engines, well served by a devoted engine room crew
Fleet Engineer Henry J. Bourke
Engineer William Milton
and Assistant Engineer James R. Roffey.

When Calliope completed in 1884 she looked rather old-fashioned with her
high sides, broadside armament and a full barque rig (FIG. 1 ) . Sailing rig was
still essential as her engines, though quite up to date, still burnt between 2 and
2% lb of coal per ihp per hour which, with 430 tons of coal, gave her a nominal



endurance of 4,000 miles at 10 knots-about 16 days easy steaming. In many
parts of the world coaling stations were still far apart, coal was expensive and
her duties of trade protection and support to colonial administration meant that
sail was needed for long voyages. Sail brought penalties, a large crew of 317
men, and an obstructed upper deck (FIG. 2) precluding an effective arrangement
of armament. Under steam, the aerodynamic drag of masts, yards and
rigging would reduce her speed by 1 to 2 knots in calm air.

Her old-fashioned appearance concealed several up-to-date features such as a
steel hull, compound engines and a heavy armament of breech-loading guns.
Responsibility for her design lay with Nathaniel Barnaby as Director of Naval
Construction and, for the engines, James Wright as the Engineer-in-Chief.
Barnaby was an enthusiast for the use of steel in British warships but good
quality steel from the Siemens Martin open hearth process was not available in
this country until the late 1870s.

HMS 'Calliope'

Calliope was a slightly modified version of the Comus Class of 1876 which
had steel hulls sheathed in teak above water. Below the waterline there was 2.5
inches of a cheaper wood covered with copper to protect the hull from fouling.
Crew accommodation standards were improving and there was a sick bay, a
bathroom for the ratings, a library and improved ventilation-all novel and
intended to help attract volunteers for a life far from home. Even so, she was
very crowded below decks, with the machinery and coal taking about half the
space and the magazine arranged between the boiler and engine rooms.

For about 100 feet amidships, over the machinery, there was a 1.5 inch steel
protective deck. There were nine watertight bulkheads, of which six extended to
the upper deck though most were compromised by watertight doors, low down.
The ratings were mainly berthed amidships, over the machinery which must
have been rather hot despite the 'improved' ventilation. Their heads were in the
forecastle, together with the forward guns and the anchor gear. Warrant and
petty officers berthed forward whilst wardroom and junior officers had the
more spacious area abaft the machinery. The captain, first lieutenant and
navigator had cabins in the poop.

The ship was operated from the forward end of the poop with a small, bulletproof
conning tower on either beam containing voice pipes, engine and steering
telegraphs. The wheel was just below, at the forward end of the poop. Calliope
was 10 feet longer than Comus and, with a heavier armament, floated a little
deeper, and was given bilge keels, 95 feet long. Her particulars are listed in

tab I.jpg

The engine was of a type common in both merchant ships and warships of the
day. Each LP cylinder was in tandem with its HP cylinder with a common
piston rod. There was a separate starting engine and an auxiliary which drove
the dynamo for the searchlight. The six single-ended boilers were back to back
against a centre-line bulkhead, forming two boiler rooms, and generated steam
at 60 lb/in.2
Calliope carried four 6 inch guns in sponsons, either side, one pair forward of
the funnel and the other at the break of the poop, giving about 150" arcs of fire.
The 5 inch either side in the waist had arcs of about 120". The torpedo launchers
were on either side of the lower deck just forward of the boiler room and were
hung from a pivoted girder on the deckhead. To fire, a port was opened and the
tube run out so that it projected six feet from the side. It could train through 75"
and was controlled from a simple director on the bulwark above.
She commissioned under Captain H. C. Kane on 25 January 1886 for the
Australian station. The political situation in Samoa was 'confused', with both
the USA and Germany trying to establish authority. The UK had no such
intentions but sent Calliope to keep an eye on British interests and protect
British citizens. The USA was represented by Rear Admiral Kimberly with his
flag in Trenton and with Vandalia and Nipsic, whilst Germany had Adler, Olga
and Eber.

Apia Harbour.

At high tide Apia harbour appears as a broad open bay, running up to the
coast road with houses, stores, churches and trading posts, surrounded by palm
trees. Behind, there is 'a beautiful green landscape of mountains, hills and
valleys'. l At low tide the scene is threatening, with coral reefs closing in from
the points at Matautu in the east and Mulinu to the west. Only in the way of the
river Vaisingano is water still visible, for coral cannot live in fresh water. Robert
Louis Stevenson likened the harbour to a high shouldered jar or bottle with a
funnel mouth, with sides of coral everywhere, for the barrier reef formed the
neck of the bottle and also skirted the beach forming the collar. A reef of coral
ran out to form a dangerous cape, opposite the fairway, which was only three
cables wide at the narrows (FIG. 3).

The Hurricane.

The great hurricane was preceded by storms in mid February when three
small merchant ships were wrecked. There was another gale on 7 March
sufficiently severe for the warships to raise steam and head into the wind to
reduce the load on their anchors. It was fine on 12 and 13 March 1889 but on the
14th the barometer began to fall and kept on falling. On the 15th the sea got up
but local pilots advised that the season of bad weather was over and, on this
advice, Admiral Kimberly decided that it would be safe to stay in the harbour
but he sent the lower yards down, housed the topmasts, raised steam and set
storm main and mizzen stay sails. His flagship, and probably the other ships,
had four anchors down. Neither of the other national squadrons were willing to
sail and leave the USN in sole control so they stayed too, taking similar
precautions*. There were also six small merchant ships of up to 500 tons and
many small craft in the main harbour that day.

[*Professor H. R. Dixon (Royal Engineers) in his fascinating book, The Psychology of Military
Incompetence (1976), equates the conduct of the three senior naval officers with the Charge of the
Light Brigade. He is surely wrong; they were not under orders but using their judgement and, in the
light of the earlier storms and of informed local advice that the March storm would not be severe
their judgement seems soundly based and, in the case of Capt Kane, correct-just.]

By nightfall there was a rising wind and torrential rain which got steadily
worse. The wind was from the north, unusual for Apia, and hence the ships
were exposed to its full fury. Waves broke over the bow with sheets of spray as
high as the lower mast heads, deluging the deck with up to a foot of water. In
the darkness it was impossible to see the reefs or whether the anchors were
dragging but dawn showed that all ships had been forced towards the shore,
some fatally. Eber was the first to strike, hitting the reef soon after 5 a.m. on
the 16th and she broke up with the loss of all but four of her crew of 80.


The Vandalia had been anchored well out but was dragging towards Calliope
whilst the Trenton was holding her own in the harbour mouth though she was
troubled by flooding through a broken anchor port cover. Olga, Adler and
Nipsic collided after they had all dragged their anchors and, for a time, lay
locked together, close to the beach. Nipsic was a 'wild and piteous sight' as her
funnel was torn away at the deck and she was being thrown about in the sea with
sparks, smoke and flames coming out of the hole in her deck. She was washed
over the reef onto the beach at about 7 a.m. where she was abandoned with the
loss of seven of her crew.

Adler went an hour later when she touched the reef and was lifted onto it by
an extra heavy wave. Twenty men were lost but the rest, who stayed on board,
were rescued when the storm had passed.

Calliope had drifted to within twenty yards of the reef on her port quarter
with Vandalia drifting down onto her port bow and Olga boxing her in on the
other side. Captain Kane wrote: 'It was the most ticklish position I was ever in,
and without exaggeration, several times the Calliope's rudder was within six
feet of the reef. Had she touched, it would have been all up with us. I had to
steer over to get out of the way of the Olga, to go ahead to clear the reef, and to
slack the cables when the Vandalia came down on me'. At one time the three
vessels were locked together and Calliope's engines had to use their full power
to break clear.

'Calliope' Escapes to Sea.

Captain Kane realized he could not stay in this position. One possibility was
deliberately to drive the ship onto the beach with a fair chance of escape for the
crew but he chose the more daring course which could save the ship as well. He
decided to slip the cables and make for the open sea, accepting the risk that the
machinery might fail or that it had insufficient power to overcome wind and
sea. Kane continued: 'I slipped the cables and went hard ahead calling up every
pound of steam and every revolution of the screw. In making the passage the
vessel literally stood on end. The water coming in at the bows as she dipped,
running aft immediately as she rose. I really wondered how the machinery and
rudder stood the strain of the tremendous sea that was running'.

Vandalia was passed without mishap and there were then some 8,000 yards to
steam in order to reach the entrance of the harbour. Calliope was developing
revolutions for 15 knots but her speed over the ground was only about two
knots and sometimes as low as a half knot. The channel was partially blocked
by the Trenton which was in serious difficulty; she had lost her rudder about
7 a.m. and flooding was gaining on the pumps. There was only one anchor
cable left and then, at 10 a.m., her engine failed. It was about then that Admiral
Kimberly saw '. . . the large black hull of a ship looming forth in the dim
distance. It was slowly, very slowly, advancing right for us. Now high up in the
crest of some sea and then down so low that only her tops could be seen'.

Calliope passed so close to Trenton that her fore yard arm passed over the
latter ship's deck and it only just cleared as the Calliope lifted. As Calliope
passed the Trenton 'the American Admiral and his men gave us such ringing
cheers that they called forth tears from many of our eyes . . . I will ever
remember that mighty outburst of fellow feeling which I felt came from the
bottom of their hearts of the noble and gallant Admiral and her noble sailors'.

Calliope returned the cheers and, soon after, she cleared the reef with 60 yards
to spare, reaching the open sea, badly bruised, with four boats smashed, spars
and rigging damaged, anchors and cables lost and the ornamental work at bow
and stern destroyed. The hull and the all-important engines were unharmed and
there was no difficulty in riding out the remainder of the storm.

Trenton dragged slowly all day, swerving from side to side but held off the
reef by the backwash. She hit Olga and finished against Vandalia where she
sank to the gundeck but with the loss of only one of her crew. Vandalia lost 43
men, mainly those attempting to swim 20 yards to the shore through the
confused sea where the swollen river met the waves coming in. The local
inhabitants showed great bravery in forming a human chain to rescue the

Olga collided with Nipsic and then hit Trenton twice, removing one quarter
gallery each time, before hitting Vandalia and ending on the beach. Since she
had neither power nor steering she cannot be blamed for this series of incidents
and, though damaged, she was the only German ship to be salvaged.

After the Hurricane.

Four days after the storm, Calliope returned to the harbour at Apia, the only
survivor of the 13 ships which had been in the harbour. Stevenson describes the
scene: 'The morning of the 17th displayed a scene of devastation rarely
equalled, the Adler high and dry, the Olga and Nipsic beached, the Trenton
partly piled on the Vandalia and herself sunk to the gundeck; no sail afloat and
the beach piled high with the debris of ships and wrecks of mountain forests'.
Culliope's wonderful achievement thrilled the country as much as any hard won
battle would have done. The Board expressed their deep admiration for
Captain Kane and his crew and acknowledgements came world-wide. As one
account said 'To do this it was necessary that the construction of the cruiser
should be faultless, that there should be no flaw in either the hull or machinery,
and no deviation by her officers and crew from one inflexible purpose'.

Calliope won the lower deck nickname of 'Hurricane Jumper' but her active
career was short; she returned home in 1890 and, though used as a sea-going
tender from 1897-1905, was then struck off the effective list. In 1907 she
became the RNVR drill ship on the Tyne, remaining there until 1957 when she
was broken up at Blyth. Today, such a historic ship would probably have been
preserved. Her sister ship, Calypso, was still afloat at Lewisport, Newfoundland,
in 1952-perhaps a reader can say what has happened to her?

The story of the Samoan hurricane was widely told in Victorian days as an
heroic epic of the Navy. The skill and courage of sailors and engineers, the
seaworthiness of the Calliope and the reliability of Rennie's engines are worth
remembering today.

TABLE II lists the main parameters of the other ships involved. It is clear that
Calliope was more highly powered in relation to displacement than any other
ship which must have been an important factor in her survival.

tab II.jpg

1. Report of Captain Kane.
2. Kimberly, Rear Admiral L.A.: Samoan hurricane; Washington Navy Yard Museum.
3. Osbon, G.A.: Notes on cruisers; Naval Photograph Club.
4. Wood, W.: With the flag at sea; London, Constable, 1901.
see also:
5. Koop, G.: The Imperial German Navy and the hurricane at Samoa; Warship no. 48, London,
Conway, Oct. 1988.


(A proper Old Stoker.)

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Old 23-06-2012, 16:14
Pontius Pontius is offline
Able Seaman
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: West Wiltshire,
Posts: 13
Default Re: A Stoker on HMS Calliope at Samoa 1889

Originally Posted by ap1 View Post
Another interesting view on this tragic incident.

Crown Copyright/MoD (1993).




(Consultant Naval Architect and Historian)


In 1907 she became the RNVR drill ship on the Tyne, remaining there until 1957 when she was broken up at Blyth. Today, such a historic ship would probably have been preserved.
As a follow up to this the the RNR shore establishment on the Tyne is still named HMS Calliope ( I was a member there in the early 1980s), and the wardroom still celebrates "Samoa Night" much as the rest of the RN celebrate Trafalgar or the FAA Taranto. One year a young sub lieutenant gave the Samoa Night speech and dared to suggest that a merchant ship also managed to leave Apia under sail alone. A moment which did not go down well with the older members!

Last edited by Pontius : 23-06-2012 at 16:14. Reason: missing word
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