The Day The Penguin Was Sunk

The Penguin Post knows all about the illustrious history of various nations navy ships named after penguins.  But, on this day in Penguin history the HMS Penguin, the first ship ever named after the flightless, waddling bird was commissioned and soon set sail from England, only to meet a watery grave a few months later.   In what was the first recorded engagement of a penguin named naval ship didn’t end well for the HMS Penguin and her proud crew nearly 200 years ago.

h01857Though the United States had ratified the 24 December 1814 Treaty of Ghent on 18 February 1815, thus formally bringing the War of 1812  with England to an end, this information took a long time to reach ships at sea.  Thus, in the late morning of 23 March 1815, when the U.S. Sloop of War Hornet (Master Commandant James Biddle) sighted the British brig-sloop Penguin (of similar size and force) off Tristan d’Acunha island in the south Atlantic, neither vessel was aware that their two nations were now at peace.h55463

The two sloops approached each other on roughly parallel courses, Penguin to windward, and opened fire at about 1:40PM. They exchanged broadsides (Hornet firing to starboard, Penguin to port) for some fifteen minutes when the British commanding officer was mortally wounded while attempting to run down his adversary. The Penguin‘s bowsprit then caught in the Hornet‘s rigging and, as the two separated, broke away, taking with it her foremast. Disabled and very much the worse off from American gunfire, the British warship surrendered shortly after 2PM. She was too badly damaged to save, and her Penguin crew was sent to Rio de Janeiro in the U.S. Schooner Tom Bowline, which arrived on the scene in company with U.S. Sloop of War Peacock soon after the battle.

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One Response to “The Day The Penguin Was Sunk”

  1. Pat Plasterer Ruhl Says:

    Awwww, so sad. But us penguin lovers are still proud to know we have had ships!!

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