In a 7:30pm update, station manager Thomas F. Burley Jr. at WCAP radio told his listeners, The Morro Castle is adrift and heading for the shore.
The Mysterious Fate of the Morro Castle
In 1934 the Morro Castle Burned off the New Jersey Coast, Killing One Hundred and Thirty Five People. Was it a Terrible Accident, or Something More Sinister?
In the early morning hours of Saturday, September 8, 1934, the cruise ship Morro Castle on its 174th return voyage from Havana was only hours from docking in New York City but never reached her destination. A perfect storm of ominous developments, bad weather, the ship’s design and questionable decisions doomed the ship.
Christened in 1930, the SS Morro Castle was one of a pair of passenger and cargo liners designed by Naval architects for the Ward Line. Both the Morro Castle and her sister ship the SS Oriente were designed to hold 489 passengers and 240 crew. Named for the stone fortress that stands vigil over Havana bay, the Morro Castle was built to carry passengers from New York to Havana, Cuba—which was a popular stop during Prohibition.
For four years, the Morro Castle made the voyage regularly. However, on September 5, 1934, the Morro Castle began what was to be her last return voyage from Cuba. She would never again reach harbour.
By the morning of September 7, the ship was sailing alongside the coast of the United States and encountering increasing clouds, intermittent rain, and wind—the beginning of a savage nor’easter. While the weather drove many passengers into their berths, the storm would prove to be the least of the dangers facing the Morro Castle.
On the evening of September 7, Captain Robert Wilmott, who had been the captain of the Morro Castle through all her years of voyaging, asked for his dinner to be served in his quarters. Shortly thereafter he complained of stomach trouble and died, leaving Chief Officer William Warms in charge of the ship.
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