Rotomahana of Liverpool, wrecked 1884 - Ships Nostalgia

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Rotomahana of Liverpool, wrecked 1884

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Old 7th February 2018, 21:42
chiefsub68 chiefsub68 is offline
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Rotomahana of Liverpool, wrecked 1884

Good evening,

I've just found that my gt gt grandfather George Unwin of Liverpool (b1839 and a sailmaker) died in Montevideo after his ship Rotomahana caught fire and sank near Elephant Cay Rock in the Falklands on August 19 1884.

Launched just three years previously, the Rotomahana was an iron-hulled ship owned by JR de Wolff of Liverpool.

She was en route to Wilmington (Delaware?) under the command of a Capt Shimmin when it seems her cargo of coal and salt coal self-combusted during a blinding snow squall.

Does anyone have any more information? I'd love to see a picture of this ship!
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Old 7th February 2018, 23:48
richardc richardc is offline  
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Hi chiefsub68,
I don't have any more info really I'm afraid, but as I've just got back from visiting my daughter in the Falklands I do know my way around a bit.
Can I suggest you contact the Museum in Stanley at [email protected] as they have allsorts of info and I've found them very helpful. Also if you look at it has a note of the wreck of the Rotomahana, no picture though and no more than you already know.
However, if you browse the list of wrecks you'll find that your gt gt grandfather was not alone in suffering shipwreck in the Falklands. It's also noticeable how many times coal fires are mentioned!!!
It's a wild place wind wise and very rugged. The population is only about 2500 now so back in 1884 I doubt if anyone saw the wreck. Elephant Cay is miles from anywhere at the SE end of Falkland Sound and the only witnesses I suspect would have been the wildlife and some of that is pretty nasty!!
Kind regards,
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Old 8th February 2018, 00:08
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spongebob spongebob is online now
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Rotomahana is a Maori word, I wonder what connection, if any , the ship had with NZ.

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Old 8th February 2018, 14:30
BillH BillH is offline
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A bit of info here
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Old 14th June 2018, 15:58
ajfarrall ajfarrall is offline
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Hi chiefsub68,

George Unwin was also my great-great grandfather. His widow Margaret (Williams) came to live with their daughter Florence's family (my great-grandparents Florence Unwin & Charles Farrall).

George Unwin's grave was still present in the English cemetery in Montevideo in the 1950s when George's grand-daughter Rhoda Farrall (my great-aunt) visited on a cruise. I don't know if it's still there now.

George Unwin was badly burnt in the fire which broke out in the Rotomahana but survived long enough to reach Montevideo, where he dies of complications from the burns.

I have some newspaper cuttings about the ship - the disaster actually triggered revision of ship safety & I think was even raised in parliament. I also have the ship's log book from Memorial University in Newfoundland. All are buried on a hard-drive which I can dig out over the next month or so. I did the family history research about 10 years ago now & have moved house, so it's all in a box somewhere in the basement.

Happy for you to discuss further here or via [email protected].

Best wishes,
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Old 23rd June 2018, 08:41
chiefsub68 chiefsub68 is offline
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Many thanks, Andrew. Email sent.

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Old 23rd June 2018, 08:42
chiefsub68 chiefsub68 is offline
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Thanks also to Bill, Spongebob and Richard C.
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