SS Belgic (1873)

SS Belgic was a steamship of the White Star Line. The first of the company’s four ships bearing this name, she was first assigned, with her sister ship, the Gaelic on the route to France and South America, where the company has recently tried to establish itself. The experience was short-lived, however, and at the end of the year, the Belgic was the last White Star Line steamer to serve on this route. She was then moved to the North Atlantic route.

For other ships with the same name, see SS Belgic.

  • SS Belgic (1873-1883)
  • SS Goefredo (1883-1884)
  • White Star Line (1873–1875)
  • Occidental and Oriental Steamship Company (1875-1883)
  • Cia de Nav. ‘La Flecha’ (1883-1884)
Port of registry Liverpool
Builder Harland and Wolff, Belfast
Yard number 81
Launched 14 January 1873
Completed 29 March 1873
Maiden voyage 29 March 1873
In service 29 March 1873
Out of service 26 February 1884
Fate Wrecked on 26 February 1884
Notes First of four “Belgic”s for the White Star Line.
General characteristics
Class and type Cargo ship
Tonnage 2,652 GRT
Length 370 feet (112.78 m)
Beam 36 feet 4 inches (11.07 m)
Propulsion Single screw
Speed 12 knots (22 km/h)
Capacity 40 first-class passengers

The following year, she and her sister ship were considered surplus, and were loaned to the fledgling Occidental and Oriental Steamship Company, which chartered them on the Pacific route. This agreement continued for eight years, before the two ships were withdrawn from service in 1883 and sold to the Spanish company Cia de Nav. La Flecha. Renamed Goefredo, the ship was about to have a promising career under a new flag, a career that was ultimately short-lived. She experienced two successive groundings, the second in February 1884 proving fatal to the ship.

. . . SS Belgic (1873) . . .

The Belgic and her sister ship, the Gaelic, were originally under construction in the Harland and Wolff shipyards on behalf of a Liverpool company, the J. J. Bibby. The two ships were, however, bought by White Star Line even before their launch. Shortly after the launch of the Gaelic, the Belgic, like her, received a compound machine built by a company in Liverpool and was launched on 14 January, 1873.[1] Like the other ships of the company at the time, she was propelled by steam by a propeller, but also under sails thanks to her four masts.[2] The ship sported a shape close to those of the Ocean-class, with a tapered shape (her ratio between length and breadth was 10 to 1). She was originally intended to be only a cargo ship, however White Star Line added cabins to accommodate 40 first-class passengers.[3]

When it acquired this ship, White Star Line had been trying somehow to establish, since the end of 1872, a service to South America, briefly inaugurated with the Republic, the Asiatic and the Tropic.[4] It was within this framework that the Belgic left, on 29 March 1873, for her maiden voyage between Liverpool and Valparaiso.[5] By this time, however, Thomas Henry Ismay and his associates had already abandoned the idea of having their larger ships frequented this route and were gradually withdrawing from it. The Belgic was the last steamship to remain there, until December 1873, after which the company only operated sailboats there.[6] The Belgic was then moved to the route between Liverpool and New York, on which she made a single crossing in May 1874 before being moved with the Gaelic to the London to New York route.[1] It was during her first crossing on this route that she rescued the Spanish steamer Tornas, which had broken down, and towed her to America.[5]

Despite this service, the Belgic, like her sister ship, remained surplus ships to the company, a situation which was further reinforced in 1875 when the Germanic was put into service, following her sister-ship, the Britannic, which had arrived the previous year. The company thus tried to find a use for the surplus vessels. The opportunity arose that same year when George Bradbury, president of the Occidental and Oriental Steamship Company asked Ismay to set up a regular service on the Pacific Ocean.[7] White Star Line then agreed to let the new company charter the Gaelic, the Belgic, but also the prestigious Oceanic.[8]

On 29 May, 1875, the two ships were therefore chartered on the route between San Francisco, Yokohama, and Hong Kong, originally for a five-year contract that was then extended.[9] For the Belgic, an uneventful period began, and the charter contract was extended to eight years. [1]

In 1883, the Belgic (like the Gaelic) was sold to the Compañia de Navigacion La Flecha in Bilbao for £30,000. She then continued her career under the Spanish flag with the new name Goefredo.[5] This new career turned out to be short-lived, however. On 27 January, 1884, she ran aground while leaving Santiago de Cuba, and returned to Liverpool for repairs. When she left this port on 26 February for Havana, she ran aground again in the mouth of the River Mersey. This time, too much damage led to the permanent loss of the ship.[1]

. . . SS Belgic (1873) . . .

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. . . SS Belgic (1873) . . .