The Hesperides was a steamer of British registry, home port of Liverpool, England, Official Number of 87978. She was built in Liverpool by R&J Evans & Company in 1884. Constructed on Iron, the ship was 2404 GRT and had 2 decks. She was 286.5 feet in length, 38.3 in the beam and 24.3 in depth with five main bulkheads. The steamer was powered by an engine, also made in Liverpool by G. Forrester & Company, that has two cylinders - one 33" in diameter, the other 66" - with a stroke of 48". This steam engine could produce 182 HP and could move the ship along at 11knots under power. Even though she was steam powered, the Hesperides carried sails and was schooner rigged.
According to the Lloyd's of London registry, the vessel was owned by the S.S. Hesperides & Co. (R.P. Houston & Co.). She was involved in "The Plate Trade" a vessel which carried cargo and passengers between the River Plate Ports in Argentina (to include Buenos Ayres) and the markets of Europe.
The ship left from St. Jago de Cuba (Daiquiri, Cuba) for Baltimore, Maryland on October 4th, with a crew of 24 and was transporting a cargo of 1394 net tons of iron ore or "pig iron". She ran aground upon the Diamond Shoals on October 9th, 1897, and was stranded there.
According to the ship's log, at noon on October 8th, the Hesperides should have been 202 miles away from Cape Hatteras and the Diamond Shoals. Based upon the believed location of the vessel, the ship's master, Captain Owen Williams, set a course to pass at least 20 miles to the East of the deadly shoals. He did not expect to be at the latitude of the shoals until 1PM on the 9th at the earliest. The weather and seas were exceptionally calm as Hesperides made her way North in what she knew to be deep water, so no soundings with the lead line were made. The Hesperides continued on her course of North by 3/4 East True, as a thick fog developed. In the early morning of the 9th, the ship suddenly struck upon the shoals, stuck fast, and was stranded.
The thick fog continued throughout the day of October 9th, preventing the surfmen on the beach from sighting the ship until the next morning. Though the ship was firmly aground with six feet of water in the engine room the crew was in no immediate danger, as she could not sink any further. When the surfmen from Hatteras arrived, they had to convince the Captain, and reported owner of the vessel, to abandon the ship as there was no hope of freeing her from the death grip of the sands of the shoals. The entire crew of 24 persons were successfully rescued and taken ashore by lifeboat. The ship was declared a total loss valued at $70,000 (a great deal of money in 1897) not including the cargo which was valued at $30,000.
On October 28th and 29th, 1897, the British Naval Court convened a trial at the British Consulate in Baltimore, MD, which tried the facts of the shipwrecks and actions of the Master and First Mate, Morris Jones. The court heard testimony and examined the ship's log. It was determined that a strong current set the Hesperides West of her course and into a position to strand upon the shoal. They also cited that the calm weather and fog did not allow the crew to notice the crossing of the Gulf Stream edge or the approach to the shoals as they steamed closer to shore. In the end, the trial board determined that both the Captain and the First Mate (who was on watch at the time of the stranding) had conducted themselves properly. Both Mariners were returned their Naval Certificates at the conclusion of the investigation and returned to duty.
The shipping line replaced the lost Hesperides with another steamer that was built in 1899, which they also named Hesperides
CAPE HATTERAS LIFE-SAVING STATION,
October 11, 1897
We, the undersigned, members of the crew of the British steamer Hesperides, bound from Cuba to Baltimore, with a cargo of iron ore, wish to make the following statement:
On the 9th instant, at 9.30 a.m. (presuming ourselves well clear of shallow water), made out Cape Hatteras lighthouse for a few minutes, the weather at the time being very hazy on the land. Soon afterwards the steamer took the ground on the outer Diamond Shoal. The weather being very fine and the water smooth, we did not anticipate any anger and made no signal of distress, but during the remainder of the day we could see neither the land nor the lighthouse.
On October 10, at 6.30 a.m., could make out the land distinctly, the weather still continuing fine, and at 8 a.m., could make out the land distinctly, the weather still continuing fine, and at 8 a.m., sighted a boat under sails bearing toward us from the lighthouse, which on coming alongside proved to be the Cape Hatteras life saving boat, and soon afterwards the lifeboat of the Creeds Hill Station came alongside.
After a long consultation, we came to the decision that the floating of the ship was an impossibility and decided upon abandoning her.
We have great pleasure in expressing our heartfelt thanks for the splendid service rendered and the kindness displayed by all in aiding us to gather together our personal effects and bringing us ashore; and afterwards in attending to our wants and comfort.
We also wish to extend to all connected with this humane institution our warmest thanks.
G.O. WILLIAMS, Master ;
MORRIS JONES, Chief Officer ;
LLEWELLYN T. GRIFFITH, Chief Engineer