The beginning of Japan-Turkey friendship and goodwill:Sinking of the Ottoman frigate Ertuğrul

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The Ottoman frigate Ertuğrul sunk off the Kii Peninsula during a typhoon on September 16, 1890. The courage of the villagers who tried to save the crew despite the typhoon and the efforts as a nation to save those lives touched the hearts of many Turkish people. This became the foundation of Japan-Turkey friendship and goodwill.

This year, 125 years after the sinking, a film, “Kainan 1890,” based on this incident was made and is going to be released on December 5.

It occurred in the Kumano Nada Sea, off the southern coast of the Kii Peninsula. The Ertuğrul had just begun its homeward journey after the courtesy visit to the Emperor Meiji when she encountered a typhoon. Around 600 crew members were thrown into the sea. The villagers near Kii-Oshima-mura (currently Kushimoto-cho, Wakayama Prefecture) rescued 69 of them.

Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) took charge of aiding the survivors, who were sent to a temporary hospital in Wada Cape, Kobe. JRCS sent four doctors and nurses by the request from the Imperial Household Ministry, saying that “We have a good reason to give aid to this extraordinary disaster.”

Although differences in language and religion initially caused some problems, the dedicated attitude of JRCS members won trust of the crew. Once the crew was strong enough to endure a long voyage, they boarded the Japanese warships Hiei and Kongō and started their homeward journey on October 11.

This incident was the first time JRCS had supported the rescue of foreign nationals. Their preparation for wartime relief activities—building hospitals and registering doctors and nurses—made prompt dispatch possible. Moreover, they drew on their experience from their first relief operation in 1888 when Mount Bandai erupted.