Built in 1871 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast, the White Star Line’s Baltic, one of the four ‘Oceanic’ class liners, was launched on 8 March 1871 as the Pacific. However, this name was soon amended to Baltic due to negative press reports recalling the loss in the Atlantic of the Collin’s paddle steamer Pacific fifteen years earlier, preying on the potential superstition of passengers. On 14 September the Baltic left Liverpool for her maiden voyage to New York, stopping in Queenstown en route. She quickly built up a reputation for speed and in January 1873 she gained the ‘Blue Riband’ following a crossing of the Atlantic in 7 days 20 hours and 9 minutes at an average speed of 15.09 knots.
Over the course of 1870s a series of tremendous storms swept the Atlantic and the White Star Line’s ships proved not only their seaworthiness in surviving these gales, but also their importance in saving lives, rescuing several ships and saving many sailors from a watery grave. On 18 November 1875, on her return to Liverpool, the Baltic came across the waterlogged ship Oriental of Glasgow. Sending out lifeboats they managed to rescue 26 men from the foundering ship and returned them to safety. Buttersworth was presumably commissioned to record the incident by one of the officers of the Baltic upon her return to New York.
The Baltic continued to ply the Atlantic trade for the White Star Line, and then the Inman Line until 1888 when she was laid up at Birkenhead before being sold for £32,000 to the Holland America Line, who renamed her Veendam. On 6 February 1898 she struck a submerged derelict in the North Atlantic and sank the following day, miraculously with no loss of life.
We are grateful to Michael Naxton for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.