Loss of bullions in the collision between the steamers Pasha and Erin

The "Pasha" and her bullions

By Pascal Kainic

Intelligence has been received from Batavia of a fatal accident off Formosa shoal, in the Straits of Malacca, from a collision between two of the Peninsular and Orient Company's steamers, on the night of 21st July, 1851.

We regret to announce that the "Pasha", iron paddler of 590 tons burden, Captain Miller, from Hong Kong and Singapore bound to Penang and Calcutta, with a few passengers, a crew of 51 and $ 430.000 in specie, was run down by the "Erin", from Calcutta, bound to China.

The former sank in about seven minutes, in 25 fathoms of water, losing two European and two Chinese passengers, and thirteen of her crew.

The "Erin" had her bows stove in, but being in three compartments, they managed to get her to Singapore. She had for China over 1.000 cases of opium, about 600 chests of which were damaged and were selling at Singapore at a very low rate.

The "Pasha" had a very valuable cargo of merchandise and specie amounting in the whole to $ 600.000, including 42 boxes of gold bars, 47 of dollars, 9 of gold dust, 6 of silver, jewellery and other valuable property.

The following graphic account of the catastrophe is from the pen of a party who was on board the "Pasha":

- We left Singapore at noon, on our passage to Penang and Calcutta, in her ordinary course up the Straits of Malacca. The weather was fair with a light breeze on, until twelve o'clock at night, when we met the "Erin".

In a few minutes she ran foul of us and the fine vessel "Pasha" foundered almost instantly.

The thing was so sudden that there was not a chance to do anything to save the people. The "Erin" cut right into the middle of the "Pasha"; I was asleep at the time.

I heard the Captain Miller"sing out starboard, hard a starboard", and I knew there was something wrong directly. I jumped up, put on my trousers and ran on deck; but before I could get up the companion, the "Erin" was right into the starboard side and the "Pasha's" foremast went directly.

I ran forward and was coming aft again, when the first engineer told me that the fore-hold was full of water and the ship was gradually settling down. We ran aft to the quarter boats and the people were lowering them down. I went to the companion for a tomahawk to cut them away.

The people were crowding into them, so I got one of the life buoys and put it on; then the "Pasha" gave a plunge and went down head foremost. I had only time to jump and clear the rail and boats' davits. The "Pasha" in going down sucked me under a considerable distance. It was certainly an awful moment to hear and see he waters gurgling and darkening over head; but, thanks God, in a short time I rose and found myself among a heap of spars and I cannot tell what of the wreck.

The scene around me was a fearful one. The "Erin" was a short distance off, with the forepart of her nearly gone; and to hear the poor fellows round me crying out for somebody to come and save them, was heartrending. The "Erin" immediately lowered down her boats and picked up fifteen of us that were floating; the remainders were got up the bows of the "Erin".

It is certainly miraculous how so many were saved, as it was only four minutes from the time of the collision taking place to the time the "Pasha's" sinking, and the "Erin" nearly as bad. There is not of us that have saved a rag of clothes. I had nothing but a shirt and trousers. -

Over the years, several salvage expeditions were successfully organized to recover the treasure.
Did they retrieve all the gold ? No one is totally sure...…


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