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The Madiana was built in 1877 and originally named the Balmoral Castle. At just under 345 feet in length, and 40 feet wide, she displaced over 3,000 gross tons. In 1882 she was sold to Spanish owners, and named the San Augustin. Further on in her life, she bought by British owners, and had her name changed back to the Balmoral Castle. In the last few years of the 19th century, the Quebec S.S. Company Ltd., Montreal became her final owners, and changed her name to the Madiana.
On 10 February 1903, sailing from New York to the West Indies, she ran aground on the reefs near to North Rock. Although distress calls were made, and a tug came to give help, heavy seas meant that the tug was forced to take station about a mile away from the stricken ship. The first lifeboat launched was destroyed against the side of the Madiana, but the following attempts were successful. All passengers and crew reached safety, despite the arduous row to the waiting tug.
Interviewed by the New York Times, the captain claimed he was on deck at the time of the accident, and saw a fixed light. The captain decided that this was St David's lighthouse, as it was fixed. However, due to an earlier accident, Gibb's Hill lighthouse, a revolving light at the other end of Bermuda, had had it's reflectors replaced by tin. The tin had grown smoky, and gave the appearance of a fixed light. Originally found negligent, the captain of the Madiana was later cleared of any wrong doing.
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1 October 2006