SS Copenhagen

The Copenhagen, a single screw steamer built in Sunderland, England in 1898 and belonged to the Glasgow Shipowners Company, Ltd. The steel-hulled ship was rated at 3,279 tons and was 325 feet in length and 47 feet in beam, with 25.6 feet depth of hold. Copenhagen was powered by three triple expansion steam engines, and also carried schooner rigging to take advantage of fair winds and to provide a means of propulsion in case the steam engines failed.

Her last voyage began on May 20, 1900, out of Philadelphia, bound for Havana with 4,940 tons of coal. Captain William S. Jones was in command of the ship and a crew of 26 men. Six days later, traveling south off the Florida coast, the ship approached Jupiter Lighthouse at 0220 hours and the captain ordered the course altered to SSE, reckoning their position to be one and three-quarter miles offshore. The vessel was steaming at about eight knots, her full speed. At 0420 Capt. Jones retired and left the chief officer in charge with instructions to stay one and one-half miles from shore.

As morning dawned over a calm sea, the chief calculated the ship’s position at two miles from shore. Capt. Jones returned on deck at 0800; reckoning the ship to be two and one-half to three miles off-shore, he steered SSW to avoid the strong northerly Gulf Stream current. At approximately 0850, Copenhagen suddenly crashed into a reef three-quarters of a mile off present-day
come routine in England by the 1890s. In addition to containing adjustable water ballast tanks to offset various cargo conditions, double bottoms afforded a safety measure against minor groundings. In the case of Copenhagen, the ship’s double bottom apparently did not prevent initial flooding of the hull; grounding at full speed on a shallow rocky ledge may have sealed her fate.

The wreck of Copenhagen remained visible above the water for some time. As the ship’s remains gradually became totally submerged, her identity was forgotten. Skin and scuba divers eventually rediscovered the site as a colorful haven for fish and corals. Research by the
The ship’s engines were stopped, then reversed, but to no avail. A large kedge anchor was deployed from the port side of the stranded vessel and hove taught but the ship would not budge. Word came from below decks that the number one ballast tank and the forepeak were taking on water. At 1100 hours, Capt. Jones went ashore to telegraph Key West for assistance. The crew was put to work unloading the cargo of coal.
Two days later, a salvage steamer arrived to free the stricken steamship. More hands from shore were employed to unload the cargo, and three pumps were put in operation. Another anchor was deployed from the port quarter in a vain attempt to pull her off the reef. Merritt and Chapman Wrecking Company, whose local agent Ralph M. Monroe had wired news of the accident to New York, also sent salvage vessels to the scene. Although the ship’s cargo was completely unloaded, Copenhagen was finally abandoned as a total wreck.