The Samoa Hurricane of 1889.

The Men Who lost Their Lives on: USS Trenton, Vandalia, Nipsic and SMS Olga, Eber and Adler.

The American National Flag, 38 Stars, Navy Ensign The Imperial German Navy Flag The Samoan Flag

The un-attributed images on this page are taken from the American Naval History and Heritage Command. Translations into German by Google Translator.

There is some information regarding the names of the 51 men who perished on the American ships, the 93 on the German ships, and the 2 on the pilot boat. The names of the Americans are recorded in a number of places: Kimberly's early reports; newspaper reports; and a memorial plaque in the chapel of the Mare Island Navy Yard at San Francisco reproduced below. The names are usually spelt differently at each reference, and the variations are most likely phonetic caused by them perhaps being taken down from word-of-mouth. I guess the most reliable ought to be the plaque, presumably taken from official records. There is a German memorial in Apia and a German website which carries the names of the marines killed in Samoa battles in 1888 and the sailors who died in the hurricane in 1889, but this web page records two officer's names joined into one.

There are conflicting reports about whether any Samoans lost their lives in the rescue attempts. The article "Glory for the Squadron" published in the "Journal of the Australian Naval Institute" (see the Hurricane Bibliography page), quotes the death of the Samoan Tui indicating he was one of the men who died, and this may be based on a note in Stevenson's "A Footnote to History", see also the bibliography page. I have included him in this page in-case.

Wikipedia reports over 200 sailors were drowned; this is quite incorrect. It seems no sailors from the merchant ships except two from the pilot boat the Lily were lost.

I should point out that other reference sources (including Wikipedia) give different numbers for the totals of American and German losses. The numbers I have used here are the total number of names on each of the memorials, which I consider to be the most likely to be accurate.

There is a European Cemetery in Apia, and I should imagine some of the casualties would be buried there. But many of the bodies were dashed against the coral and washed along the shore, some ending up many miles from Apia, and the majority of those were buried near where they were found, and it is unlikely they were later moved to Apia. Probably, few would be identifiable. But the majority of all the bodies were washed out to sea and never recovered.

With reference to the image links at the top of this page, which are supposed to be those flags flown on the ships, and on land, at the time of the storm:

I have done a lot of research into the American Navy Flag, and found an "unofficial" flag had been adopted in 1864, see Wikipedia. But I think the ships will have flown "Old Glory". The American National Flag at the time had 38 stars, as shown in the image. I downloaded this from the "crwflags" Web Site but a request for permission to use the image went unanswered. If there is a problem with me using it, please contact me. An image I downloaded of USS Vandalia (unfortunately undated so possibly before 1889) shows a flag which looks very similar to the one I use here, click here to view it.

Früher habe ich vorher die deutsche Flagge als von Wikipedia als die von der Norddeutschen Bundes und des Deutschen Reiches (1866-1918) als derjenige sein, in Gebrauch zu der Zeit des Hurrikans angenommen angegeben, aber ich benutze jetzt die, die Sie erhalten, wenn das Netz für die "Imperial German Navy Flag" (Kaiserliche Marine Flagge) gesucht. Dies scheint auch die Flagge der deutschen Schiffe auf die Bilder geflogen zu sein, die ich heruntergeladen haben.

I previously used the German flag as indicated by Wikipedia as that adopted by the North German Confederation and the German Empire (1866-1918) as being the one to be in use at the time of the hurricane, but I now use the one you get when searching the net for the "Imperial German Navy Flag". This also seems to be the flag flown by the German ships on the images I have downloaded.

I have found a web-site which shows the Samoa National Flag history. It took me quite a while to establish that Samoa had a National flag in 1889. If anyone thinks I have got it wrong, contact me. I got the image used here from that web-site, but there is no way to contact the owner to get their permission to use it here.

I would like to be as accurate and contemporary as possible with these images.

United States Navy and Marines

German Memorial

This plaque resides at the Chapel in the Mare Island Navy Yard in San Francisco, erected presumably soon after the hurricane in 1889. The navy yard also holds the twisted propeller from USS Nipsic which was dismantled when the ship was returned for repair. For a picture of this propeller, visit the site American Naval History and Heritage Command and search the "Our Collections - Photography" section, or click the following links: "NH 44710" and "NH 63082".

With relation to "Ah Keau" from USS Vandalia, check out the "Vandalia Crew Stories" page for perhaps a little more information.

If any American visitors to this page can give me any information about any of these men, please contact me with the details so I can include the data in this site. I have had a few American visitors so far, but more would be very welcome.

A visitor to this site, a member of Joshua Heap's family, provided me with information I had not been aware of before, that the bodies of 19 American service-men were exhumed from their graves on Samoa, and repatriated to the United States in June 1891. The links to the newspaper article she provided is: San Francisco Call, Volume 70, Number 25, 25 June 1891. This gives the names of nine of the men, the others not being known: John Roche; T.G. Dowey; Frank Lassman; Corporal Kinsella; Aylmer Montgomerie; William Howatt; Joseph Howelett; Joshua Heap; F.H. Arms. Many of these names use a different spelling to those on the memorial plaque, as reproduced in the lists below.
  • USS Nipsic

  • G. W. Callan
  • J. Gill
  • J. Heap
  • T. Johnson
  • D. P. Kelleher
  • H. Pontseel
  • W. Watson
See the Nipsic, Vandalia and Trenton crew stories pages for stories about some of the American sailors at Samoa, including a few of those who survived the storm. Underlined names in the tables above are links to those pages.

German Navy and Marines

German Memorial in Apia

Image source details unfortunately lost. If the web-site owner where I snaffled this image would like to contact me, I'll ask permission to use the image.

Die deutsche Memorial in Apia, ich glaube, an der Küstenstraße auf der Halbinsel Mulinu'u. Es erfasst die Namen von 93 Matrosen und Marinesoldaten in der 1889 Hurrikan verloren. Es ist ein anderer Name auf einer separaten Plaque vermutlich dort platziert wurde von der Familie eines Mannes, dessen Name versehentlich von der Haupt Gedenkstätte weggelassen (oder es von seiner Familie ein Ergebnis eines Besuches gewesen sein mag), aber er starb im 1888-Konflikt. Sie können es in grau im Vordergrund des Bildes zu sehen. Auf einer anderen Seite, zeichnet er die Namen der anderen Matrosen und Marinesoldaten, die im Kampf gegen die auf der Insel im späten 1888. Mehr Informationen getötet wurden, können auf dieser Webseite zu finden: Apia Samoa Ozeanien. Es ist in Deutsch.

If irgendwelchen deutschen Besucher auf dieser Seite können keine Informationen über eine dieser Männer geben Sie mir, vorzugsweise in Englisch, bitte kontaktieren Sie mich mit den Details so schließe ich kann die Angaben in dieser Website. Ich scheine nicht so weit keine deutschen Besucher gehabt zu haben, vielleicht nicht überraschend, da die Seite auf Englisch ist, aber ich lebe in der Hoffnung.

The German Memorial at Apia, I think on the coast road on the Mulinu'u peninsula. It records the names of 93 sailors and marines lost in the 1889 hurricane. There is another name on a separate plaque placed there by the family of a man whose name was presumably inadvertently omitted from the main memorial (or it may have been a result of a visit by his family), but he died in the 1888 conflict. You can see it in gray in the foreground of the image. On another side, it records the names of the other sailors and marines who were killed in fighting on the island in late 1888. More information can be found at this web site: Apia Samoa Ozeanien. It is in German.

If any German visitors to this page can give me any information about any of these men, preferably in English, please contact me with the details so I can include the data in this site. I don't seem to have had any German visitors so far, perhaps not surprising as the site is in English, but I live in hope.
  • SMS Adler

  • Aviszus Hch.
  • Blaul Bernh.
  • Busch Charl.
  • Fischer Frdr.
  • Fischer Pl.
  • Jannusch Frdr.
  • Jungmann Hch.
  • Keila Ptr.
  • Lafsen Hns.
  • Lenke Rob.
  • Loser Wilh.
  • Markus Pl.
  • Meisinger Leo
  • Paeters Wilh.
  • Raschke Frz.
  • Remus Alb.
  • Schneegotzki Alb.
  • Wahrenberg Krl.
  • Wenk Herm.
  • Wilhelm Hgo.
  • SMS Eber

  • Arnemann Aug.
  • Bahr Gust.
  • Balke Christ.
  • Bathke Gust.
  • Borgmann Wilhm.
  • Braasch Grg.
  • Bunnies Krl.
  • Burmeister Krl.
  • Delp Grg.
  • Dietrich Ad.
  • Dormann Johns
  • Eckhardt
  • Eilart Krl.
  • Engel Aug.
  • Ernsthausen von
  • Fabricius Hch.
  • Fick II Theod.
  • Gross Johs.
  • Hoenemann Oo.
  • Jacob Ed.
  • Jahnke Alb.
  • Jansen Ad.
  • John Grg.
  • Jordan Wilh.
  • Jost Hch.

  • Keitel Joh.
  • Keyer Fred.
  • Kiaups Johs.
  • Klee Gerh.
  • Kluck Herm.
  • Kluge Ed.
  • Kuhwede Krl.
  • Kukowsky Boleslv.
  • Kunze
  • Kusabs Mart.
  • Lammert Oo.
  • Leppke Ech.
  • Lewandowski Frz.
  • Linke II Herm.
  • Machenhauer Dr.
  • Maffry Ant.
  • Malachinski Wilh.
  • Manhold Joh.
  • Metzentien Eml.
  • Michel Bruno
  • Mohr Rud.
  • Moldenhauer Alb.
  • Molzow Gust.
  • Muller Krl.

  • Muller II aug.
  • Nagraczus Jul.
  • Noack Hch.
  • Norck Mart.
  • Oldenburg Aug.
  • Pahlow Ewd.
  • Pulow Aug.
  • Pusch Frz.
  • Rehann Ptr.
  • Rohde Eml.
  • Sagert Oo
  • Scharf Hnry.
  • Schoodt Ernst
  • Sinner Grg.
  • Stein Hlmth.
  • Tamm Ad.
  • Teuber Theod.
  • Uhrhammer Hch.
  • Vandrey Wilh.
  • Wallis Eugen
  • Wentzien Krl.
  • Weyher Dan.
  • Witt Herm.
  • Wolschon Aug.

Samoan Natives


I have already mentioned (on the Samoa Hurricane page) a book written by Laulii, a daughter of Samoa. In it, she talks of her brother, Tui, short for Tuietufuga. It is tempting to wonder if this may be the same person, but I rather think Tui might be an abbreviation for any number of Samoan names. Having been unable to locate the source of the data in the Australian Naval Insitute article which names the Samoan casualty as Tui, it is too tenuous to say he is Laulii's relative.


Most of the crews of the merchant ships had prudently left their vessels on the Friday, and survived the storm. On the Lily, two men were lost when she was run down by USS Nipsic on the Saturday. If there are any visitors to this site who have more information they would like to share, please contact me and let me know.

  • Anthony Ormsby
  • Unknown Hawaiian Mate
Anthony Ormsby, Trader.

This man was a trader with McArthur & Co. and perished when the Lily was run down by USS Nipsic during the storm. He was a Maori half-caste from Alexandra, Waikato, New Zealand, born 1858 to Robert Pumi Ormsby and Rangihuihia (Pianika)(Mary) Ormsby (born Te Raaku) and had 13 siblings. He had lived on the island of Tutuila for some 5 years. It seems he had married into a Samoan family possibly named Aumavae and owned land on the island. His family have created a web-page to him, which contains a lot more interesting data and a better photograph, click on his image to load it. As of 2018, the link is unfortunately broken. Unfortunately, the web-site gives no way for me to ask the family's permission to use his image; if they object, they should contact me and I'll remove it immediately.

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