The Wreck of the SS QUETTA

It was the year of 1890, February 28,
when QUETTA steamed towards the strait.
The sea was calm the moonlight bright,
as the big ship rode the tide.

Her bell rang two clear strokes of nine,
when course was altered one last time.
In the channel five miles wide,
on this fateful Friday night.

On her bridge the master stood,
her pilot was there too.
The stars were gleaming up in heaven,
as the two men read the chart of '87.

Clear of danger it did show,
and the two men didn't know,
that the course that they did plot,
turned the ship towards the rock.

It was minutes after nine,
when they felt the ghastly grind,
and to add to their despair,
the cries of people filled the air.

At once the master knew his ship was doomed,
and many souls would perish in the gloom.
For granite is the rock there in the tide,
that tore the QUETTA's starboard side.

With awful suddeness and haste,
the once proud liner went to waste.
A mere three minutes and no more,
and QUETTA settled on the ocean floor.

So many lives she'd taken,
to the sleep that knows no waking.
For the souls lost to the sea,
numbered a hundred and thirty-three.

But what of those who did survive.
All night they struggled for their lives.
What thoughts went through their mind,
until morning, when rescue they did find.

The tears they shed in grief,
for friends the QUETTA took beneath.
So cruel and swiftly in one sweep,
she took them down twelve fathoms deep.

Amidst the tragedy and sorrow,
one child lived through the horror.
A crewman did support the waif,
the only one of twenty-five.

QUETTA's complement was two-nine-one,
when upon the rock she ran,
and the ones who had escaped,
made the number one-five-eight.

It was indeed a dreadful scene,
when on an evening so serene,
fate forced the QUETTA to resign,
that Friday night, few minutes after nine.

Hubert Hofer June 1986

SS Quetta in the Thames at Gravesend in 1885

Photo: National Maritime Museum London, GB

Ship's Bell on display at Thursday Island.

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Diver Jane Kennedy filming Quetta's propeller.

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