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HMS CALLIOPE steaming out of Apia (Samoa) against a hurricane Monday 16th March 1889

Date: c 1890
Overall: 920 x 1444 x 48 mm, 15.5 kg
Sight: 732 x 1251 mm
Medium: Watercolour paint, paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00019947
Place Manufactured:Sydney
Related Place:Samoa,

User Terms

    This work depicts the tropical cyclone of March 1889 in which HMS CALLIOPE was the sole surviving ship out of approximately fifteen in the area. Most of the others, including American and German warships struck reefs, were sunk, or beached.
    SignificanceThis work captures a significant moment in 19th century Pacific naval history.
    HistoryThe Samoan Islands lie in the Pacific Ocean and are a fertile chain of islands with available fresh water. Due to their convenient location and provisions, many European and American ships called into port during their voyages and foreign commercial interest soon developed in the region. In the late 19th century, Samoa was internally divided due to a rivalry between two prominent families and British, German and American warships subsequently arrived in the area to protect their respective interests. On 15 March 1889, approximately seven warships and six merchant ships were anchored in the port of Apia when a powerful tropical cyclone descended.

    Daylight on the 16th revealed that all of the ships, except USS TRENTON, had been forced towards the shore. The German warship EBER was the first to strike a reef in the evening, with only six of the 80 crew surviving. The other two German ships, OLGA and ADLER became locked together close to shore with a US ship, NIPSIC. The following morning, NIPSIC and ADLER were thrown against the reef with some loss of life. OLGA and another US ship, VANDALIA, started to box in HMS CALLIOPE, which had drifted perilously close to the reef. Captain Kane, of CALLIOPE, had the choice of beaching the ship or attempting to head to the relative safety of the open sea with the possibility of the steam engines failing. Kane chose to head out to sea and CALLIOPE started struggling through the storm, making slow headway.
    CALLIOPE passed OLGA and VANDALIA, both of which later ran ashore, which left only TRENTON to pass. This ship was struggling in the entrance of the harbour as its engines had failed and it had only one anchor cable left. CALLIOPE passed so close to TRENTON that her fore yardarm passed over TRENTON's deck and it was only due to a conveniently timed wave that a collision did not occur. CALLIOPE reached the open sea and was able to survive the rest of the storm relatively unscathed. TRENTON avoided the reef but continued to drift and was eventually sunk close to shore after colliding with OLGA.

    Built in 1884, HMS CALLIOPE was a steam corvette and the third ship of the Royal Navy to be named after the Greek goddess of heroic poetry. CALLIOPE was commissioned to serve on the Australia Station in 1886, from where it sailed to Samoa in 1889. After surviving the tropical cyclone, a special medal was struck by the British Admiralty to commemorate the fine seamanship that ensured the survival of the ship and crew. In 1907 it was converted into a drill ship for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves in Newcastle. In 1915 it was renamed HELICON and was sold in 1931, and renamed CALLIOPE at that time. It was eventually sold for scrap in 1951.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: HMS CALLIOPE steaming out of Apia (Samoa) against a hurricane Monday 16th March 1889

    Web title: HMS CALLIOPE steaming out of Apia (Samoa) against a hurricane Monday 16th March 1889

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