On this day in 1891 the passenger ship SS Utopia sank near Gibraltar, taking with it a total of 562 passengers and crew members. In addition, two sailors from another ship died while attempting to assist the survivors. It was a rather unusual accident which happened after the passenger ship SS Utopia hit the bow of the British battleship HMS Anson. This battleship weighed around 10,000 tons and its armor was thicker than 40 centimeters in some places, which meant the collision caused it almost no damage. On the other hand, the SS Utopia sank very quickly, leading to the death of most of the people on board (562 of 880).
The SS Utopia was on its way from Trieste to New York. Along the way, it stopped at Naples, Genoa, and Gibraltar. However, her anchorage was already occupied by two British Admiral-class battleships, the HMS Anson and HMS Rodney. It was already dusk, so the captain of the passenger ship failed to see how close the HMS Anson really was. In addition, he was allegedly blinded by that ship’s reflector. Thus the SS Utopia hit the HMS Anson, which left a gaping hole in the former’s hull. She sank in around 20 minutes, so a large number of passengers didn’t even have the chance to get on deck and leave the ship. Many dead bodies were allegedly found within the ship, packed closely together. Two sailors from another ship, James Cotton and George Hales, died during a rescue attempt.