Atlantic Transport Line’s Mohegan, bound from Dover to New York, sank in less than 20 minutes off Cornwall on 14 October 1898 after steering off course and hitting a reef.
Mohegan, originally built for Wilson & Furness-Leyland Line as Cleopatra (1898), was on only her second voyage—the first under her new name, carrying 57 passengers, 97 crewmembers, six cattlemen, one horseman and 1,286 tons of general cargo.
As dinner was being served, Mohegan’s engine stopped and, almost simultaneously, she hit the notorious Maen Voes rock. The impact tore off Mohegan’s rudder and the liner moved rapidly toward the Manacles, a ship-killing granite reef just 450 feet away. As Mohegan crashed onto the reef, passengers started assembling on deck and the ship’s crew began launching the lifeboats. Mohegan carried more than enough lifeboats for everyone on board, but with the liner perched on the reef it proved almost impossible to launch them. Of the two boats successfully lowered, one overturned and the other was swamped. As some passengers and crew members climbed onto the ship’s rigging to remain above the steadily rising water, most headed aft to the stern where they were soon washed overboard.
The Porthoustock shore lifeboat rescued most of the approximately 50 passengers and crew members saved that night. Yet 106 people died in the disaster. “The Mohegan Window,” a stained glass window, was presented by Atlantic Transport Company to St Keverne Church, Cornwall, in memory of the victims, most of whom are buried in a nearby mass grave.
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