Fifty years ago, on November 13, 1965, the SS YARMOUTH CASTLE, an ocean liner and cruise ship that plied the waters between Miami and the Bahamas, caught fire and was lost in a spectacularly tragic disaster that almost no one remembers today.
The YARMOUTH CASTLE had departed Miami for Nassau on November 12, 1965, with 376 passengers and 176 crewmen aboard, a total of 552 people. The ship was due to arrive in Nassau the next day.
Shortly before 1:00 a.m. on November 13, a mattress stored too close to a lighting circuit in a storage room, Room 610, caught fire. The room was filled with mattresses and paint cans, which fed the flames. Two ships and four Coast Guard planes eventually arrived on the scene to try to do what they could. Four hours after the fire began; the flames were so hot that the YARMOUTH CASTLE’s hull was glowing red and the sea boiling around it. At 6AM the boilers blew up, the ship turned over and sank. A total of 90 people died. Most of their bodies were never recovered.
The Congressional Quarterly credits the YARMOUTH CASTLE disaster for spurring changes in a number of maritime laws. Now, all passenger ships must meet upgraded safety standards. Ships registered in other countries, as the YARMOUTH CASTLE was, must meet international safety standards to operate in the United States.