The loss of HMS Megaera in 1871
The loss of HMS Megaera in 1871


The Royal NavyLoss of Megaera
The Royal NavyLoss of Megaera


Despite misgivings in some circles about her suitability for the task, the 22 year old iron troopship Megaera was commissioned in 1871 to take new crews out to the Blanche and the Rosario on the Australian station. In the Indian Ocean she developed a leak and had to be beached on the remote St Paul's Island (Google mapExternal link). The crew of nearly 300 all survived this ordeal despite having to wait nearly three months before being rescued. This event led to accusations of sloppy administration and complacency at the Admiralty, accusations which were shown to be fully justified by a Royal Commission subsequently ordered to investigate the case. The investigations of this Commission showed that the Admiralty had lost track of the fact that the ship had not been properly examined since 1864, and that an experimental cement - to protect the inner surface of the iron hull - which had been proved to be quite unsuitable, and had been replaced in other vessels to which it had been applied, was never replaced in the Megaera. The personnel of the Royal Naval dockyards were also shown to take, apparently unbeknown to the Admiralty, a very restricted view of their responsibilities, only dealing with problems reported by the ships crew, and declaring ships to be fit for sea without proper investigation. These failures allowed the Megaera to be sent on a voyage to the other side of the world, with plates seriously weakened by the action of bilge water on the unprotected inner hull.

(See also the accounts and illustrations in the Illustrated London News, an eyewitness account by an anonymous officer, published in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, this description from the journal kept by the vessel's Surgeon, William Hogarth Adam, and the Report of the Royal Commission appointed to investigate the case.)


Extracts from the Times newspaper
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