In 1904 the SS Norge struck Rockall bank. At the time it was the worst civilian maritime disaster in history. Sailor Carl Mathiesen gave a number of interviews about the wreck, and this piece is based on translations of these.
NARRATOR: In 1904 the SS Norge struck Rockall bank. Until the sinking of the Titanic, this was the worst civilian maritime disaster in history. 23-year-old Danish sailor Carl Mathiesen gave one of the first accounts of the wreck
CARL MATHIESEN: I awoke from the shock of the impact. I ran up on deck in just my nightshirt – I thought it was an accident – but I had no idea at the time the ship would sink. I ran back down, pulled on some trousers, and came back out to hear the Captain commanding the lifeboats be launched. Passengers started to come up. They screamed and cried in many languages; I didn’t understand what they said, but all were dressed in bedclothes.
On the deck ruled the wildest panic, and men, women and children went from one side to the other. By rescue boats there were wild brawls. The captain commanded from the bridge: “Away with the men! Women and children first in the boats!” But there were men who fought fiercely for their lives – and got the room, because they were the strongest.
I helped to swing the boats out. I put two boats on the water. I boarded the third because I thought I could be useful there. I didn’t think at that point that the Norge would sink.
NARRATOR: More than 630 people died when the Norge went down. Few, if any, will have seen the island responsible.
AboutA Lonely Isle is a collection of anecdotes about Rockall, a remote island in the Atlantic ocean. Each chapter is based on accounts written by visitors over the last two hundred years.
The project came together by a process of dead reckoning. Researched in 2012, written in 2014, recorded in 2015, scored in 2017, and published in 2018, it’s a product of guessing and sun-sights, serendipity and cumulative error.
The Last Outpost of Empire (music for A Lonely Isle)
by Richard J. Birkin
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