What could be more disastrous than giant ships exploding in the middle of the vast ocean, claiming the lives of the people on board, probably before sinking to the bottom of the sea? Well, the movie Titanic gave us a bit of an idea of how it was like to be on a sinking ship (although it didn’t sink because of an explosion but due to an iceberg), except, of course, we couldn’t expect to see sinking ships as romantic as the film was, but you get the idea. Here are five ship explosions in the history of the United States that were just as disastrous, if not more.
During the American Revolution, the American colonies found their fate uncertain by October 1777. Philadelphia fell under the control of the British forces after they lost in the Battle of Brandywine a month before. New York was already in their hands, too. Fortunately, the Delaware River was still under the control of the American rebels. The river was the only route so that supply ships could reach Philadelphia. The Continental Army understood how crucial it was to never let the British take over it.
On the night of Oct. 22, 1777, the British ship HMS Augusta and several other warships, under the command of Admiral Francis Reynolds, went up the Delaware River to get a good position for a planned attack at Fort Mercer the following day. Unfortunately for them, the ship was stuck in a sandbar. The Continental Army woke up to the enemy’s ship that was just helplessly there. What followed was the ruthless bombardment that caused the ship to catch fire. Flames engulfed Augusta until it reached the section where loads of gunpowder were kept. The ship exploded and produced the loudest boom that rattled the windows in Trappe, Pennsylvania, which was a good 30 miles away from the explosion. As Thomas Paine described in a letter he sent to Benjamin Franklin, the sound was “like the peal of a hundred cannon at once.”
HMS Augusta was the largest ship that the British lost in the American Revolution.