We are pained to record one of the most fearful disasters that has ever taken place on our coast, in the wreck of the new ship New Era, freighted with 427 passengers from Bremen to New-York. On the morning of November 13th, after a passage of 46 days, the New Era neared our coast, where, in thick weather, the soundings alone furnish the only tangible evidence of a vessel's position. At the call of the morning watch, the Captain, after attending to the cast of the lead, retired to his cabin, leaving the second mate in charge of the deck. Added to the discomforts of a lengthy passage, the ship proved leaky, and the working of the pumps had been apportioned as a part of the duties of both passengers and crew. On the last night of the fatal voyage the wind blew a stiff breeze from S.E., which caused considerable sea, and the ship being enveloped in fog, which was scarely illumined by the dawn of day, when the fearful echo of breakers ran through the crowded decks of the doomed vessel — and before six o'clock the ship struck on Deal Beach, swung broad-side to, and as she settled in the sand the sea made a clear breach over her; a few feeble and abortive efforts were made to get a line to the shore, and failing in this, by means of the boats, the Captain, officers and most of the crew escaped to the shore, and six hours after stranding the deserted ship had no commander, or a single man on board who understood what was being done on shore for the assistance of the unfortunate passengers, none of whom could speak the English language.
On the following morning after every living person had been rescued from the ship, only 143 (including the crew) of the 427 embarked at Bremen, were found to have escaped; making a loss of 284 lives.
A more frightful loss of life on ship-board has scarcely ever been recoded in the annals of emigrant voyages, reckless as these are sometimes made. Such a shameful neglect of the commonest precautions on approaching the coast, and the subsequent desertion of the helpless passengers, calls for a searching inquiry into the loose conduct and inhumanity of those in charge of the fated ship. It is a grave question of most significant import, whether there shall, or shall not be (as at present), a remedy for such culpable recklessness as this which consigns the thrusting passenger to the tender mercies of fate, whenever he sets foot on ship-board. It is notorious that emigrants are landed here safer from their own vessels than from ours, in many cases. We do not hesitate to say, that some one should be made responsible for the safe termination of a voyage by sea, in the same manner that land conveyancers are held for the safety of life and limb. Too many abuses are arising from the common loose construction of that stereotyped proviso found in all bills of lading, viz., "the dangers of the seas excepted," to permit this time-worn maxim in marine risks to pass unchallenged by scrutinizing investigation. The public mind is fast becoming awakened, and will not fail to adopt some measure for securing the better protection of human life, when it is intrusted to the skill of the nautical mechanic or the fidelity of the mariner. A far greater degree of responsibility must be imposed somewhere.
Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius
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