Shipwrecks on the south west coast of the Isle of Wight


S.S. Eider
Came to grief: 31st January 1892 at/near Atherfield Ledge
Captain Heineke
Cargo: cotton, maize, eight and a half tons of gold and silver, and 500 sacks of mail
Crew of 167
Carrying 227 passengers
Lifeboats present:
Catherine Swift (Atherfield)Worcester Cadet (Brighstone)William Slaney Lewis (Brook)
Coxswain:
William (Rufus) CottonJames CottonJohn Hayter

S.S. Eider, out of New York bound for Bremen with 227 passengers and 167 crew, was a four masted, two funnelled screw steamer, gross weight over 4,700 tons and over 430 feet long.

She ran aground about half a mile from shore in a dense fog on Sunday night, January 31st, 1892.

The Atherfield Lifeboat, Catherine Swift (named after her donor, a lady living in Chale), was launched but assistance was refused. The Captain hoped to refloat on the next high tide.
The "Cotton Boat" as the lifeboat was known, returned to shore but remained on watch as the wind and sea were rapidly getting worse.
She was known as the "Cotton Boat" as, with a few exceptions, the crew was composed of the Cotton family - Coxswain William (Rufus) Cotton, Second Coxswain David (Daff) Cotton and Bowman James (Tonor) Cotton, Thomas Cotton, Frank Cotton, John Cotton, Charles Cotton.

The "Cotton Boat" launched just before 7am the next morning. Again help was refused, but some of the mail was brought ashore and taken charge of by officials from the Newport Post Office.
Tugs arrived, but could not tow her off.

The Brook and Brighstone lifeboats were summoned to assist.
The Brighstone boat, The Worcester Cadet successfully transported some passengers to the Atherfield shore. Eventually, after a five hour pull against wind and seas the William Slaney Lewis from Brook reached the Eider and carried women and children safely to shore. The Catherine Swift joined in the shuttle operation and after many trips by all the lifeboats the passengers and crew were all rescued.

This was a high profile, 4 day rescue. The Governor of the Island, HRH Prince Henry of Battenberg arrived on the Monday afternoon and later, on the Friday, The Prince of Wales came to Atherfield.
Wednesday saw the landing of the gold and silver, carefully supervised by armed coastguards and in the evening a congratulatory telegram from Queen Victoria was received.
Later, the German Emperor sent gold watches to the three coxswains and a gift of money to the Lifeboat Institution.

On March 29th, after many weeks of salvage operations, the Eider was towed off and taken to Southampton.

This was a memorable wreck - memorable for the size of the vessel and for the success of the lifeboat crews in rescuing all passengers, crew and valuable cargo.

William Slaney Lewis crew :
John Hayter (Cox), Ben Jacobs (2nd Cox), Robert Cooper, W. Jacobs, J. Cooke, G. White, W. Cassell, T. Hookey, J. Newbury, J. Cooper, J. Hookey, R. Woodford, M. Cassell, William Hayter, W. Blake, W. Hookey

Catherine Swift crew :
William (Rufus) Cotton (Cox), David (Daff) Cotton (2nd Cox), James (Tonor) Cotton, Thomas Cotton, Frank Cotton, John Cotton, Charles Cotton, Walter Woodford, Walter White, Charles Harding, B. Whillier

Worcester Cadet crew :
James Cotton (Cox), Robert Buckett (2nd Cox), Robert Salter, William Barton, Frank Edmunds, Frank Buckett, George New, George Morris, George Shotter, George Hawker, Edgar White, William Merwood, James Hedgecock.

(Crews listed in "Punch, or The London Charivari" March 19th 1892)

Fatalities: 0