22nd March 1924 – Olympic in New York collision

olympic departs new yorkOn 22nd March 1924, as Olympic was backing out from Pier 59 in New York, with 1,170 passengers aboard, she collided with Furness Withy’s Fort St George. The Furness ship had been heading down the Hudson, apparently in a race with Royal Mail’s Arcadian: both vessels were competitors on the service to Bermuda. The damage to the smaller vessel was quite extensive: the mainmast was snapped off and there was considerable damage to her decks, later estimated at £35,000. Passengers were transferred to Arcadian, which had also stopped at the scene.

Furness Withy's Fort St GeorgeInitially it was thought that damage to Olympic was relatively slight, and after an hour at Quarantine while the steering mechanism was checked, she continued with her crossing. However it was later found that the cast steel stern frame had been broken and would need extensive and expensive repairs. On a later arrival at Southampton on 16th October 1925, Olympic was sent back to Belfast for an overhaul and refit, during which her stern frame was replaced, a major operation. The three castings needed were delivered in December and by early January had been fitted. The opportunity was also taken to weld repairs to hull cracks that had been found. Unfortunately the new stern frame was not successful, and in following years various efforts were made to reinforce it and to stop the corrosion that was occurring. In July 1927 a Federal Court attributed complete fault for the collision to Fort St George proceeding at high speed and not navigating far enough to the New Jersey shore, and then not porting soon enough when she saw Olympic.

wandillaFort St George had been built by Beardmore’s for Adelaide Steamship Co., as Wandilla, in 1912. After serving as a troop transport in the Great War, she was acquired by Furness Withy for the Bermuda service in 1921. In 1935 she was sold to Lloyd Triestino and renamed Cesarea, and in 1940 was requisitioned by the Italian navy and renamed Arno. She was sunk on 10th September 1942 by aerial torpedoes dropped by the RAF.