The Morro Castle Ship Disaster

The Morro Castle burning at sea.

The Morro Castle burning at sea.

The Morro Castle was a luxury cruise ship that made regular runs between New York and Havana in the first part of the twentieth century.  On September 8, 1934 disaster struck the ship, and my third great-grandmother, Kate Dulk, and her twin Michael were on board.  They were 72 years old at the time.

That night, the Morro Castle experienced a series of misfortunes.  The captain was discovered dead that evening after dinner, from an apparent heart attack and the ship fell to the command of the first officer.  The weather was becoming problematic, as a nor’easter approached.  After midnight, a fire was reported onboard, and the crew moved quickly to evacuate the vessel.  The ship’s controls were damaged by the fire and the lights went out, forcing he first officer to anchor off the coast of New Jersey.  The fire moved quickly, forcing passengers to choose between burning to death or jumping overboard into a sea roiled by the approaching storm.

Michael, who was a retired firefighter with the New York Fire Department, immediately jumped in to try to help fight the fire.  He manned a hose and worked with the crew to attack the fire in the writing room, where it started.  He and Kate stayed onboard the ship until after day break, only jumping overboard in the end.  Kate was picked up by a lifeboat from the Monarch of Bermuda, and Michael was rescued by the US Coast Guard.  Both of them survived.

In the end, 135 crew and passengers died, and the ship was a total loss after smoldering for two days.

Kate and Michael made that trip, staying in cabins 343 and 345, respectively, on D Deck.  Kate roomed with a Miss Dinah Levy, and Michael roomed with a Mr. Thomas Cannon.  Their cabin mates also survived the disaster.

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