Marine Paintings and Drawings
in the
Peabody Essex Museum


Burning of the OCEAN MONARCH off the Great Orme, 24 August 1848
Samuel Walters (1811-82)
Oil on canvas 41 in. by 52 in.

Launched only the previous year, and described as one of the finest and largest ships ever built in the United States, the OCEAN MONARCH was a notable addition to Enoch Train's White Diamond Line of Boston-to-Liverpool sailing packets. Her total loss with almost half of those on board aroused enormous public sympathy on both sides of the Atlantic.

Walters painted at least three pictures showing successive stages of the conflagration and rescue attempts, this being the intermediate one, when only the foremast was still standing. First on the scene was the cutter yacht QUEEN OF THE OCEAN, commanded by Thomas Littledale, Commodore of the Royal Mersey Yacht Club, seen on the left in the painting, having launched her boat to pick up survivors. On the right is the Liverpool-built Brazilian naval steam frigate AFFONZO. Having started in the after cabin, the inferno has now reached the bow, with only a small group crowding forward of the foremast and out onto the bowsprit. The jib boom has given way, and some desperate survivors are using it as a means of escape. Women and children too terrified to make any such attempt were rescued by Frederick Jerome, a British crew member of the nearby American sailing packet NEW WORLD. Climbing aboard by means of the trailing gear and rigging, he succeeded in lowering them to within reach of the waiting rescuers.

Shortly afterwards the foremast fell, as portrayed in another painting by Samuel Walters. Within a few hours the OCEAN MONARCH burned right down to the waterline, and subsequently sank. The hulk remnants still lie on the seabed northeast of the Great Orme, the outline of which is visible just astern of the AFFONZO.

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Last updated November 25, 1996