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HMS CALLIOPE

Date: 1886-1890
Dimensions:
Overall: 236 mm
Display Dimensions: 234 x 181 mm
Medium: Photographic print on paper.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Photographs
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: 00003682

User Terms

    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 the ports during their voyages and foreign commercial interest soon developed in the region. In the late nineteenth 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 located in the port of Apia, which is a wide bay located near a reef, when a large tropical cyclone descended.

    Daylight on 16 March 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 ALDER 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 to the open sea and CALLIOPE started struggling through the storm, making slow headway. CALLIOPE passed OLGA and VANDALIA, both of which later beached, leaving only USS 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 the fore yard arm 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 eventually sank 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 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 CALLIOPE. In 1907 it was converted into a drill ship for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves in Newcastle. In 1915 it was renamed HELICON. It was sold in 1931, and reverted to the name CALLIOPE at that time. It was eventually sold for scrap in 1951.

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