Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ghost Ship: HMS Eurydice

Too proud, too proud, what a press she bore!
Royal and all her royals wore.
Sharp with her shorten sail.
Too late; lost; gone with the gale.

                        --Gerald Manley Hopkins

The HMS Eurydice, a 26-gun Royal Navy corvette * that capsized and sank in Sundown Bay during a blizzard in 1878 is a famous ghost ship. 

Since she was lost, witnesses including sailors and Prince Edward of England have seen her. She is spotted off the Isle of Wight, near the area where she sank. She is unique in that many of the sightings of her have occurred in recent years.

The Eurydice was the victim of one of Britain’s worst peacetime disasters. When she sank, she took 300 souls with her. 

Admiral George Elliot originally designed her with a very shallow draught so she could operate in shallow waters. She was also designed for speed. 

She was commanded under active commissions from 1843 until 1857. During this time she served in North America and the West Indies. She spent time in South Africa--“Cape of Good Hope” and was briefly used in the White Sea during the Crimean War. 

For the next twenty years, she didn’t participate in active service, then starting in 1861, she was used as a stationary training ship. In 1877, she was refitted and placed back in service.

Eurydice Figure Head
It is said that the young Winston Churchill, who was visiting the Isle of Wight with his nurse, watched from a clifftop as the Eurydice capsized in 1878. 

On the very afternoon, she sank in this violent winter storm the Bishop of Ripon was hosting a dinner party. 

Abruptly, one of his guests who had a vision proclaimed, “Good Heavens! Why don’t they close the portholes and reef the sails?” 

Disturbed, his companions asked him about his odd outburst. He then stated, “he had just seen a ship coming up the Channel under full sail with her gun ports open while a great black squall attacked her.”

Ghost Ship

The phantom Eurydice has been spotted by many sailors over the years. One witness to this phenomenon was F. Lipscomb, who commanded a royal navy submarine. He and his crew, observing this ship, took evasive action to avoid hitting her only to see her disappear into thin air. 

Another recent witness, Robin Ford, a retired teacher, was attending a beach barbecue with friends when they spotted the eerie form of this galleon. He states, “It moved slowly forward to the shore, then it just seemed to up-end and slipped silently out of view.”

The most notable sighting of the Eurydice happened in October of 1998. Prince Edward then aged 34 was filming an episode for the British television series called “Crown and Country” on the Isle of Wight. 

Ironically,  during filming, he was telling the story of the Eurydice. He and his film crew then spotted what they first thought was a training ship—a three-masted schooner. They began filming it as it neared the shore, thinking it would be great footage for the story that was being told.

They decided to wait a while, so they could film it as it sailed into the horizon. The crew briefly turned away to start packing up the equipment. But a moment later when these men looked up, they were startled to see the ship they had just filmed was gone.

When they looked at earlier footage of the ship their tape jammed in the machine. Despite this, they were able to show footage of this phantom ship on their program. 

This mystery took on even more depth when most of the ship sailing enthusiasts on the Isle stated that there weren’t any old-fashioned vessels at sea that day—that matched the crew’s film footage.

*   A corvette is a small, maneuverable, lightly armed warship used for fast attacks. So the Eurydice was smaller than the frigates of her day.

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