Tuesday, April 27, 2010

SS Sultana Explosion and Fire Anniversary – April 27, 1865

145 years ago today, the United States experienced its most significant marine casualty in terms of lives lost. On that day the steamship Sultana exploded and caught fire. An estimated 1,700 of the approximately 2,400 passengers and crew died after one of the ship’s boilers exploded.

The vessel had a certificated capacity of 376. The ship had just left Vicksburg en route St. Louis. She was carrying numerous Union Army veterans home, many recently released from Confederate prisons. The Sultana was severely overcrowded, and many of her passengers had been weakened by their incarceration and associated illnesses.

Subsequently, inspection standards for steamboats were strengthened and the Steamboat Inspection Service was created in 1871.

Sometimes it is good to remember just how far we have come in marine safety.