A Brief History Of The H.M.T.S. Alert

hmts alertThe H.M.T.S. Alert was a cable laying ship completed in 1918 and sunk during WWII on February 24, 1945.  During the sinking of this ship, all 59 hands, aged from 17 to 62 died.  Many of the crew members were from the East Kent area, where a memorial plaque to the ship was dedicated on February 24, 2011.  During its 27 years of service this ship provided several important tasks.

The H.M.T.S. Alert was built by shipbuilders Swan, Hunter and Wigman Richardson in 1918.  The vessel weighed 941 tons and was designed for laying cable under the ocean.  At that time it was built the primary cables being laid were telegraph cables.  The ship was being used to repair telegraph cable off of Dodman, North Goodwin Sands when it was sunk.  Its task on that day was the repair of the telegraph cable from Dumpton Gap, Kent to La Panne, Belgium, essential for the war communication.

In addition to being used to lay cable, the ship was used in the early PLUTO experiments where pipelines were laid under the ocean.  When enemy forces cut off the fuel supplys, this pipeline provided valuable services, especially in June 1944.

The vessel that sunk the H.M.T.S. Alert was a small 2 man German Submarine.  These small subs had a 17 ton displacement and carried tow G7e type torpedoes undlerslung to the sub.  The subs were limited to a 300 km range on the surface and 63 when submerged.  Their top speed was 7 knots at surface level and 3 knots when submerged.  Some of the subs had additional storage tanks that doubled their range.  These so called midget submarines were involved I several limited actions in the area, including the sinking of the H.M.T.S. Alert.

h.m.t.s. sunk

The H.M.T.S. Alert was not the intended target of the German sub.  In fact, the submariners reported they had sunk the French destroyer La Combattante; however, this ship had been mined the night before.

The crew of the H.M.T.S. Alert included members of the Merchant Navy as well as the Royal Navy.  These men played a vital part in the war efforts and gave the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives.  The sacrifice they made should be remembered by all.

8 Worst Maritime Disasters of All Time

The MV Wilhem Gustloff

mv wilhelm gustlof in a black and white photo

In all of the maritime recorded accidents and fatalities throughout history, this is by far the top of the charts maritime disaster, as it include the loss and deaths of thousands of people.

During the Nazi reign and wars this was used as a transportation ship, although the ship itself was said to have only been meant for humanitarian purposes.

It winded up having a multitude of Nazi officers and military personnel on it, and when it sailed out to the Baltic Sea it was struck with multiple torpedoes by the Prussian Red Army, sinking and killing everyone on-board; nearly 9,500 people total.

The Ferry Princess of the Stars

MV Princess of the Stars shipwreck 2008

In 2008, nearly 800 people died when The Ferry Princess of the Stars, a monstrous ship, fell victim to Typhoon Fengshen, off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon, Philippines.

While local Filipinos immediately responded via emergency services and a swath of volunteers, saving many lives was quite impossible, as less than 60 of the passengers were spared.

This was both a very sad, and critical moment for world news, as well as the maritime industry and ideally brought redevelopment of technologies and strategy in maritime communications, sea-beacons, SOS signals, and emergency response to maritime disasters while at sea.

SS Eastland

1915 wreck of the SS Eastland and its passengers

In 1915, while docked in the Chicago River, the SS Eastland tilted over and sank into the water, crashing and killing all 845 passengers and crew.

Emergency response efforts were delayed, citizen were unprepared, and likewise emergency response crews were incapable of reacting to such a large capacity human catastrophe, sadly.

While so many deaths were involved, the SS Eastland accident became a landmark case and example for more reliable, durable structural designs of ships, and emergency response, evacuation, and strategies in generally-especially for such a young era.

MS Estonia

Wreck of MS Estonia in 1994 under the sea

Commonly forgotten or unknown, the MS Estonia was a cruise-liner that got stuck and sank in heavy Baltic seas and storm conditions. Although being mid 90’s, Coast Guard and other emergency response personnel did not make it in time to intervene, and storm conditions prevented the majority efforts naturally.

The MS Estonia was an incredible, beautiful, and relatively modernized cruise-liner, and complications as well as procedures to date are still unknown, although standard theories and investigations yielded evidence demonstrating that as sturdy as she was built, such a ship was not well-equipped enough to withstand such heavy seas, battling, storms, and natural disaster.

RMS Titanic

RMS Titanic in its first and maiden voyage

While commonly unknown for its formal name, the RMS was built and believed to be the largest, strongest ship known to man. As engineers put it, they, as well as the general public, believed by all means that the Titanic was in fact ‘unsinkable’.

However, sadly, after crossing the Atlantic, en-route to New York City, the RMS Titanic averted, tapped, and ultimately struck a massive iceberg that lead to its sinking in the frigid, ice-cold, international (North Atlantic) waters, leaving over 1,500 people dead.

Lifeboats, emergency beacons, and other technology and rescue equipment failed the people dearly, ship-hands did not react properly, and the Captain as well as other crew failed to perform their due diligence in preparing, strategizing, and applying the most practical emergency-rescue and evacuation procedures possible on the RMS Titanic after it had struck the primary, final-hit iceberg.

The RMS Carpathia is responsible for evacuating and rescuing a multitude of ocean-bound evacuees of the RMS Titanic just hours after its final sinking and bow up dramatic, horrific ending.

MV Doña Paz

MV Doña Paz burned after the fire

This massive Philippine passenger-ferry struck a super-gasoline transportation ship in the middle of the night, without adequate access to lifejackets and escape-boats, the MV Doña Paz caught on fire, and sank, killing most passengers by drowning.

Of the nearly 4,500 passengers and crew, many were subjected to jumping into ice-cold, uncharted international waters that happen to also be shark-infested. This, in combination with the gasoline spilling and lighting the water on fire conjointly, little passengers had any realistic opportunity of survival.

MV Goya

MV Goya German wreck

A German transport ship in the early 1940’s was traveling in the Baltic Sea during WWII and was struck by a Soviet submarine, leading to its sinking and the drowning, hypothermia induced-death of over 6,000 passengers—civilians. Additional undocumented citizens were on-board, and of the nearly 100 children, hardly 5 survived the catastrophe and wreckage.

MV Le Joola

MV Le Joola also known as the Titanic of Africa

A Senegalese-government owned ferry capsized off the coast during 2002 as it was overloaded to capacity, and after coming into the mouth of a storm failed quickly, sunk, and drown nearly 2,000 passengers. This is by far, maritime histories second-most large non-military related human catastrophe and level of casualties.

The history of mankind over the past 200 years has shown both great strife, but also lessons and development of more effective maritime rules, laws, expectations, and emergency-response reaction time, utilization, and further development.

Sadly, however, of course at the cost of thousands and thousands of both military and non-military related incidents, catastrophes, and life.

Listing Of 10 Most Famous Shipwrecks


Only a few of the millions of ships built over many centuries have approached some note of fame. Those that have were innovative vessels looked at as prototypes in the ship evolution process, or warships of some sort. There were some others though that made their name through some sort of catastrophic failure.

Truly, history has left us with many examples of both human propensity and nature towards bad luck, miscalculations and violence. Only some vessels that met a fate which was a tragic one are recalled today by the public. The reasons they are recalled are as different as the people doing the recalling.

Many are war vessels whose contribution to some sort of major conflict keeps them in people’s thoughts and remembrances. Others are remembered for the huge loss of life incurred, or the vast fortunes they took down with them. Still others remain famous because their loss was so totally unexpected to ever happen. The truth is that picking 10 from the many to choose from is not the simplest of tasks.

1. Titanic:

For it’s time, the Titanic which was built in Ireland, was the largest cruise ship ever built. It was also considered to be the safest one ever built as well. Unfortunately though, as history points out, on the 14th of April, 1912, a collision with an iceberg in the Atlantic took it down. In one of the largest tragedies ever, 1517 people lost their lives.

2. Sultana:

Over 1800 people died in this less remembered disaster. Explosions of four boilers engulfed the whole ship in fire and 80% of all on board perished. One of the reasons for lack of coverage in the press was because the preceding day marked the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It is near Memphis, Tennessee that the wreckage lays.

3. Joola:

This ship which was designed to hold about 500 passengers was owned by the Senegalese government. There were however over 2000 passengers when it launched on September 22, 2006. When off the coast of Gambia it hit bad weather, it sank. In only 5 minutes, most passengers were thrown into the sea when the ship capsized. Mariama Diouf was the one woman out of 600 on-board who survived, and she was pregnant at the time. Most of the other passengers who survived the capsizing died in the freezing water waiting to be saved.

4. The Estonia:

The Estonia, which was built by Meyer Werft in Germany, sank in the Baltic Sea on September 28, 1994. The causes for this tragedy were very controversial, and more than 800 people lost their lives in it.

5. USS Oriskany:

One of the 24 Essex class ships that were to the US Navy commissioned, this ship had the nickname the mighty O. Many battles were seen by it from Cuba (Guantanamo Bay), to the war in Vietnam. The ship was to an artificial reef transferred in 2004, and is now widely considered one of the great diving sites in the world, and home also to millions of fish!

6. Mont-Blanc:

The ship, en-route to France was completely loaded with explosives and ammunition when docking at Halifax, Nova Scotia it collided with the SS Imo causing a massive explosion. More than 2,000 were killed, and the injury toll topped 9,000.

7. Halifax Explosion:

Prior to the testing of the atom bomb, the largest explosion ever recorded came on September 16th, 1917, when the SS Imo collided with the Mont Blanc right off the coast. The explosions and fires following were responsible for more than 2,000 deaths and over 9,000 injured. The ensuing tsunami that the crash fostered went on to devastate land and buildings in the Halifax Harbor as well.

8. Rms Rhone:

On October 26th, 1867, off the coast of Salt island which is part of the British Virgin Islands, this beautiful ship ran into a hurricane that destroyed it and was responsible for the loss of 123 lives. Today, it serves as a preferred diving site in the Caribbean, where so many fish, eels and even sharks call home.

9. The Mary Rose:

A warship in King Henry VIII’s fleet, the Mary Rose was destroyed in the Isle of Wight while leading an attack against the French navy ships there. In 1982, the wreck was salvaged and today in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, one can see many arte-facts displayed. Many of these are totally unique and offer people great knowledge of that era’s ships.

10. MV Dona Paz:

This Philippine registered ferry heading to Manila collided with another ship with the net result being the deaths of at least 1,749 people. It is the worst peace time accident ever, and many believe the death toll to be much higher as there apparently were more on-board, perhaps as many as 4,000.