The Asian Specie Network - P&O Steamers Company

The Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. ships
- The Asian Specie Network - Some losses…

compiled by Pascal Kainic

The Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company was founded in 1836 and the ship's company sailed from London to Spain, Portugal and the Mediterranean. Then, to Alexandria, Port Suez with a connection to India, to Singapore and the Far East later in 1845.

The overland route was the quickest way to India. Passengers disembarked at Alexandria, and journeyed for 12 hours up the Nile to Cairo. Special shallow-draft vessels then carried them to Cosseir and passengers then travelled in mule drawn carriages to Port Suez.

The distance was 250 miles and the scheduled transit time was 88 hours. With the completion of the Alexandria - Suez railway in December 1858 the route was changed.

The voyage from London to Bombay took 12½ days in the 1890s. The steamers left London every Saturday for India and fortnightly for Australia and China.
Fares were £55 first class to India; £35 - £37 10s for second class. To Australia the first class fare was £60 - £70 and second class was £35 - £40. First class to China or Japan was £73 10s. and second class was £42.

Voyages were always dangerous for various reasons and many ships were lost in their course. A selection...

Erin of 797 tons, lost 6th of June, 1857 Capt Bayley
Wrecked at Caltura on the west coast of Ceylon, on her way from Bombay to China with 1200 cases of opium, of which 400 were saved. Passengers and crew saved, together with the mails and treasure.

Ava of 1373 tons, lost 16of February 1858 Capt Kirton
Wrecked on Pigeon’s Island off Trincomalee harbour, on a voyage from Calcutta to Suez. Passengers and crew were saved together with nearly all specie, valued at £ 250.000, but her cargo of silk and other produce was entirely lost.

Rangoon of 1776 tons, lost 1st November 1871 Capt Skottowe
Struck the Kadir rock, about a mile from Point de Galle harbour, and sank in 6 hours. Passengers and crew were all saved but a portion of the mails and baggage lost.

Don Juan of 800 tons, lost 15th of September 1837 Capt J.R. Engledue
Wrecked off Tarifa point on the Spanish coast, on her way from Gibraltar on the peninsular service. Passengers, mails and specie saved.

Tiber of 762 tons, lost 21st of February 1847 Capt Bingham
Struck on a rock in fog off Vila de Cupa, north of Oporto in Portugal, homeward bound from Gibraltar. She sank in a minute in deep water. Passengers, crew saved but cargo, mails lost.

Alma of 2164 tons, lost 12th of June 1859 Capt Henry
Wrecked on a coral reef forming part of the desolated Isle of Harnish in the Red sea, one day from Aden, on a voyage from Calcutta to Suez. Passengers and crew together with the mails saved, but baggage and cargo lost.

Colombo of 1864 tons, lost 19th of November 1864 Capt Farquhar
Wrecked on the Island of Minicoy in the Arabian sea. Passengers and crew as well as part of the mails and cargo saved.

Niphon of 695 tons, lost 23rd of January 1868 Capt Arthur Peake
Struck a reef of House Hill near Amoy. The vessel broke in two the next day. 2 European, 11 Chinese passengers and crew lost. One bag of mail saved otherwise all mails and cargo lost.

Rangoon of 1776 tons, lost 1st of November 1871 Capt Scottowe
Struck on Kadir rock and sank. Passengers and crew saved but a large portion of the mails and baggage was lost.

Tasmania of 4493 tons, lost 17th of April 1887 Capt Charles Perrin
Stranded on the Monachi rocks off Corsica and became a total wreck. The captain, 5th officer, a quartermaster and 32 natives lost their lives. The cargo and effects were a total loss.

Aden of 3925 tons, lost 9th of June 1897 Capt R.E.L. Hill
Wrecked on a reef off the east end of Socotra with heavy loss of life. A total of 78 lives were lost (25 passengers, 20 European crew and 33 mixed crew). The survivors spent 18 days on the wreck before they were found by the Indian Marine steamship “Mayo”.

Oceana of 6610 tons 16th March 1912 Capt Thomas Herman Hyde
Bound for Bombay when the German iron barque “Pisagua” crashed into her off Beachy Head. Effort were made to tow her to Dover, but she began to sink by the head and settled in 90 feet of water, her masts still showing, off the Royal Sovereign lightship. 14 lives were lost due to one of the boats capsizing. Divers were sent and recovered the £ 750.000 bullion she carried, then the wreck was blown up owing to the dangers to navigation.

Egypt of 7912 tons, lost 19th May 1922 Capt Andrew Collier
Sank off Ushant after being run into by the French steamer “Seine” in dense fog. The ship heeled over almost immediately after impact and sank in about 20 minutes with the loss of 15 passengers and 71 crew. In addition to the general cargo, she was carrying £ 1.054.000 in gold and silver bars and coins, later recovered by the company Sorima of Genoa in 1932.

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