Technology, Culture, & Emotional Intelligence

Anchors Away

Before the tragedy, if you had asked either of the captains they would have told you these two mistakes were not actually not mistakes at all.

Storms At Sea
Photo by JOHN TOWNER / Unsplash

On an early foggy morning at about 2 am on January 30th, 1914, the Monroe was navigating the waters of the Chesapeake Bay — headed out for the open ocean and up the eastern seaboard. The Monroe was a transport vessel capable of carrying up to 281 passengers, and it did so every week, back and forth between Virginia and New York City.

Captain Edward E. Johnson of the Monroe, announced himself and his heading, or at least what he thought was his heading (more on that later), over the radio to the other ships navigating the bay. Several minutes later, the horn of another vessel was heard in near proximity. Through the fog, he could not ascertain where exactly this other ship was or what direction it was headed. Captain Johnson called over the radio to discover the location of this other vessel.

As it so happened, the Nantucket was that other ship. Captain Osmyn Berry had heard Captain Johnson’s earlier report over the radio and saw no need to respond back. This time, when he came over the radio the two men were able to communicate, though sadly not in time. The two captains each made a grave mistake, and despite the size of the Chesapeake, these mistakes led Nantucket directly into the port side of the Monroe, at a nearly 90-degree angle.

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Jamie Larson