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<<The S.S. Florizel •Back• Charles Connell & Co.>>

General History of the Florizel

The Florizel was commissioned and built for the New York, Newfoundland, Halifax Steam Ship Company (C.T. Bowring and Co. Ltd.) in 1909 to replace the wrecked 'Silvia' as the flagship of the Red Cross Line .

Built by Charles O. Connell and Co. Ltd. shipyard, Scotstoun, Glasgow, Scotland (Yard # 324), valued at $700,000. She was the second largest of the Bowring's Shakespearean fleet and also one of the world's first steel-hulled icebreakers with a triple expansion steam engine manufactured by Dunsmuir and Jackson Ltd., Glasgow.

The Florizel was registered in Liverpool and flagged as a British ship. She was rated as Class 100 A1 with a Lloyds rating of A4CP. The physical statistics of the Florizel include:

  • Thicker and stronger than normal Steel hull 1 1/2" of steel plate with deep framing
  • 305.5 feet length overall
  • 29.6 feet draft
  • 43.1 feet beam
  • 3081 tons of gross weight
  • 1980 net tons
  • Triple expansion engine with three cylinders of 24", 40" and 64" with a 42" stroke fed by 180 lbs/squ. inch of steam from three boilers
  • Bunker capacity 450 tons of coal
  • 437 NHP (nominal horse power)
  • Speed: 11 knots at 63 revolutions
  • Winter propeller allowed 75 revolutions
  • Summer propeller allowed 90 RPM
  • Six life boats including one of steel (capacity of 240 people all together)
  • 200 life belts
  • 24 man Jolly boat (removed at the time of disaster)
  • Four decks and four holds

Equipment on the Florizel included:

  • An automatic whistle
  • Multiple compasses
  • Sextants
  • Chronometer
  • Patent log
  • Patent lead
  • Hand lead
  • Two Kelvin's patent sounding
  • Fire extinguishers
  • A submarine signalling apparatus
  • Two propellers; bronze for summer, steel for winter
  • Electric lights
  • Electrical generator

Her normal daytime wireless range was 200 nautical miles using a wavelength of 300-600 meters with a spark gap 1.5kw transmitter. 80 - 100 Volts DC was supplied from the steam generator in the engine room and converted from DC to AC ( with a loss of 33% ). The antenna was a 350 ft. long wire with a Bradfield insulator on the roof of the Marconi House. The antenna radiated over 3 amps. Reception utilized a multiple tuner and magnetic detector and headphones. The Florizel's call sign was MZL. A second auxiliary set was also fitted using 24 volt power from 12 batteries in the Marconi House. The auxilliary range was 80 - 100 miles. If propogation conditions were good "freak" contacts could be made up to 750 miles.

The Florizel's accommodations were considered very luxurious and included 145 first class and 35 second class rooms. Rates of passage ranged from sixty dollars, for a first class round trip ticket from New York to St. John's to six dollars for a steerage one-way passage from Halifax to St. John's.

The Florizel carried out many roles during her lifetime; including a passenger liner, operating a service from St. John's, through Halifax to New York, and the occasional Caribbean cruise. She was also used as a mail carrier, transporting mail to be delivered throughout the Northern United States and Canada as well as England. Beginning in 1909, the Florizel served as a sealing vessel right up until her demise at Horn Head. She was the only Bowring ship to continue sealing during the war. Finally, she was used to transport the First 500 war volunteers, members of the "Blue Puttees", to England on October 14, 1914 for military service during WWI.

Important dates in Florizel history include:

1909 Commissioned for the New York, Newfoundland, Halifax S.S. Company (C.T. Bowring and Co. Ltd)

First year in the sealing industry.
1910 Second year in the seal hunt, the crew of the Florizel harvested 49,000 seals and broke the record for both number and weight.
1911 Marconi wireless equipment documented in U.S. Wireless act.
1912 On June 11th 1912 the Florizel returned to Halifax with the body of James McGrady a steward on the R.M.S Titanic. McGrady's body was the last of 328 to be recovered from the sea after the Titanic sank on April 15th 1912. The body was initially recovered by the S.S. Algerine also of the Red Cross Line.
1914 WWI troop convoy.
1915 H.M. (Admiralty) Wireless Station constructed in Mount Pearl.
1916 Because the rest of the steel steamers had been sent into the war, the Florizel was the only Bowring vessel still able to participate in the seal hunt.

Captain Abram Kean earned the largest salary paid (at that time) to a sealing captain; $5433.94 for a 20-day trip on the Florizel.
1918 The Florizel ran aground at Horn Head, Cappahayden; 93 people were killed.

The Disaster


  • Chief Engineer Reader - slowed down the engine without informing the Captain.
  • Captain W. Martin - failed to question the engineer even though he knew the ship had slowed.
  • Philip Jackman - knew Reader had slowed the ship but did not inform the Captain because of long-standing protocol between the bridge and the engine room.
  • The Florizel ran aground approximately 200 yards from shore.
  • Sunday, February 24th, 1918 at 4:50 A.M.
  • Horn Head, Cappahayden on the Southern Shore.
Why Contributing factors include:
  • Navigational error
  • Slowing of the engine
  • Speed reduced to 8 to 4 knots at her slowest (Enquiry)
  • Low visibility
  • Storm conditions and turbulent seas
  • Insufficient soundings taken
  • Communication was poor between the bridge and the engine room
How many?
  • 137 souls on board - 59 crew and 78 passengers 93 died (61 passengers) 44 survived (17 passengers).
  • 31 in Marconi Room, 9 in the fiddley, 2 in the forecastle, 1 below in the staterooms, 1 in the ventilator.
  1. Three impacts with engines Full Ahead.
  2. Engine put Astern and generator set to max.
  3. Engine room is abandoned, engine stopped.
  4. Water rushed into engine room.
  5. Fore top mast wrecked.
  6. No. 1 life boat destroyed.
  7. Lights went out (generator died).
  8. Upper bridge destroyed 9. Marconi room roof began to leak.
  9. Marconi room roof began to leak.
  10. Smoke room and bridge destroyed.

Post Disaster

The Florizel disaster was a great blow both financially and personally for the Bowring Company. The Red Cross line began to dwindle as the rest of their steamers had been used in the war effort. In later years, the Bowring Company created a successful and widely expanding business. While the Bowring Company was still thriving, their presence in Newfoundland and Labrador greatly declined during the Recession. Today, Bowring Brothers and Company no longer operate in the province; however, their shipping agents, Harvey and Co. still operate at 87 Water Street, St. John's.

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