Oregon Liner Shipwreck-Fire Island, L.I., New York
SS Oregon
14 March 1886 

    The night before arriving in port it was Captain Philip Cottiers' custom
to supervise the OREGON'S entry into New York City. He went below leaving
word to be awakened at 5 A.M.to welcome the arrival of the Pilot boat. This
would give him enough time to be on the bridge before daybreak.
    As he went below he scanned the horizon and gazed out at the cool clear
night with great satisfaction. The OREGON made the crossing on schedule
again. He was pleased with the OREGON'S excellent performance making the
trip from Liverpool, England in just under 71/2 days. The watch was on deck
as always and the first mate was on the bridge nearby following the
Captain's orders. Captain Cottiers had complete confidence in his crew.
    Suddenly out of the blackness of night a three masted heavily laden
schooner struck the OREGON midships. The phantom ship, later identified as
the CHARLES R. MORSE, penetrated the OREGON'S steel hull and stove three
large holes in the luxury liner's port side. Temporarily they locked
together but just as suddenly they drifted apart. Cries of help filled the
quietness of the night as the schooner slipped mysteriously below the waves
taking her crew with her.
    No one seems to know with any certainty when, how or why the idea of the
Blue Riband was started. Recording speeds of steamship crossings began in
1838 and has continued since. In 1886 the OREGON was one of the speediest to
cross the Atlantic Ocean. Although materially the award never existed until
1935, the OREGON was the proud recipient of that prestigious title. Until
then her competition was not yet born. It was not until 1952, when the
U.S.S. United States won the title for the United States and recaptured the
award from other contenders. This time officially with the coveted Silver
cup of Victory. The OREGON, although
gone these many years held this victorious title in abeyance for The United
    When the OREGON left Liverpool at 10 A.M. on Saturday March 6, 1886
Captain Philip Cottiers, her skipper, intended to buoy the credibility of
her exceptionable speed. She carried her 520 foot length proudly with her
7,375 gross tons across her 40 foot beam. She could make 19 knots with ease.
Not only was she queen of the Atlantic she was also luxury par excellence.
The seasoned and experienced crew members catered to the whims of the more
than 650 passengers on board.
    The entire week of this momentous voyage the waves were glass top smooth
and comfortably calm. Billowing clouds could be seen in a 360 degree arc
painting a picture most passengers would never forget. It was a memorable
crossing in more ways than one could imagine. Captain Cottiers made his last
entry in the log before the morning docking, smiling as he flowingly wrote,
"Weather clear, seas calm, fresh breeze from the west, continuing at maximum
speed. All is well."
    At that time the OREGON was the biggest and the fastest ship afloat. It
was designed especially for Stephen Barker Guion, owner of the American
Lines, by Fairfield Ship Builders of Glasgow. She was exquisitely fitted
with the finest, most elaborate and costliest materials. Steve Guion's
penchant for splendor and speed became an obsession that eventually became
his downfall. The diminishing quotas of passenger crossings certainly did
not help either.
    With the invention of the compound steam engine in 1870 this four masted
barque now sported two impressive smoke stacks, burned 240 tons of coal per
day producing 12,000 horsepower. On her maiden voyage in 1881 she crossed
the Atlantic in 6 days ten hours and 40 minutes. An unheard of speed...yet
engineers predicted more improvements were on the drawing boards to increase
propulsion and fuel economy. This earned the OREGON the mystical Blue Riband
award ...and unfortunately the notoriety of being the largest ship to have
been sunk off Long Island.
    Stephen Guion's interests centered elsewhere after winning this prize
and as a result he went bankrupt. Cunard Line purchased the OREGON and
placed her in the passenger trade crossing the Atlantic on a regular basis.
As this giant forged forward approaching New York Harbor most of her
passengers went to bed anticipating her early morning arrival. The engineers
made certain she maintained full speed. The OREGON went down 107 years ago
becoming the largest wreck lost in the history of ship navigation on Long
Island. She is located on the 20 fathom curve just about 22 miles from the
Fire Island Inlet. Smaller vessels with sufficient fuel can make the trip
with ease. She is fairly easy to locate because the hull is still in one
piece and her twin smoke stacks stand out like sore thumbs on the depth
    Unlike the SAN DIEGO the OREGON is right side up as though in a deep
water drydock with her giant screw still buried in the sand. "At the time we
were under a full load of steam, hoping to arrive in New York City in time
for early Sunday church services. The weather was clear even at this early
hour of 4:30 A.M.", said Captain Cottiers. After the collision the OREGON
floated for more than 8 hours. He had earlier ordered all water tight
compartments closed. "We worked from the moment of the collision. We took
all the necessary precautions. The engineers attempted to seal the onrushing
sea with a large canvas patch, but it was
useless." The CHARLES R. MORSE, after colliding with the OREGON disappeared
completely. None of the nine man crew or any part of the wreckage was ever
found although a couple of masts were located about 17 miles from where the
OREGON now lies.
    "We wasted no time alerting the passengers. Some never heard or were
aware that a vessel had collided with us. The temporary repair kept us
afloat just a little longer", explained Captain Cottiers. At about 8 A.M.
upon hearing the distress signals the Pilot boat was the first to arrive.
THE OREGON'S crew had already lowered the boats as the F.A.GORHAM of Maine
came into view.
    Captain Cottiers was the last to leave his ship, later he commented to
reporters, "I'm thankful that there were so many people involved in the
rescue." Four hundred passengers and crew were transferred to the Pilot boat
and about 500 hundred more on the F.A.Gorham schooner. Everyone on the
OREGON was saved. It was a text book rescue.
    The OREGON'S cargo, worth about a million British pounds, all of the
passengers baggage with untold valuables and over 300 mail bags remained on
the OREGON as she majestically slid beneath the frigid waves.
    Rumor spread as to what caused the strange and unusual sinking.
Mistakenly it was said that it was caused by an engine room steam explosion,
quite common in those days. Some criticized the ability and qualifications
of the ship's personnel. At the hearing by the Board of Inquiry in
Liverpool, the panel concluded that no blame could be placed on the officers
or crew of the OREGON.
    Through out the many years the OREGON has become one of the most
interesting wrecks on the Eastern seaboard. All kinds of  artifacts have
been found there. Besides being one of the most popular dive area on the
East Coast, it has become a favorite fishing area for all types of game
fish....But the most important prize of all are the 20 lb lobsters said to
have spawned in the recesses of the OREGON.

This is an extract of the information found at: