Tuesday, September 21, 2010

News from 1938: HURRICANE!

Damaged homes on Long Island, courtesy SUNY Suffolk.

The New England Hurricane of 1938 (aka the "Long Island Express") hit on Sept. 21, with a storm surge made even more powerful by the equinox and full moon. Some 700 people were killed between eastern Long Island and Massachusetts; property damage was estimated at $306 million ($4.72 billion in today's dollars), including half of the Northeast apple crop.

From the New York Times, Sept. 22:
Storm Batters All New England;
Providence Hit by Tidal Wave

Six Feet of Water in Streets of Business Section--Many Homeless in Area
Woonsocket Also Suffers

BOSTON, Sept. 21.--A terrific wind, touching 100-mile-an-hour hurricane force, tonight swept across New England, lashing sea water high into the streets of coastal cities, causing at least eighty known deaths and hundreds of injuries and resulting in damages reaching into tens of millions of dollars.
From the US Coast Guard:
Sept. 21, 1938--A hurricane hit the northeast coast, wreaking havoc among the lighthouses and the light keepers there. First assistant keeper Walter B. Eberle of the Whale Rock [RI] light was killed when his lighthouse was swept into the sea. The wife of head keeper Arthur A. Small was killed when she was swept away from the Palmer Island [MA] Light Station. The keeper of the Prudence Island [RI] Light Station's wife and son were drowned when that light station was swept into the sea. Many more stations and depots were severely damaged as well.
Watch this newsreel about the massive destruction and WPA's relief work:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

104 Years Ago Today: Steamship Wreck in Alaska

The U.S. Lighthouse Service tender Armeria, assigned to Ketchikan, Alaska, ran aground off Cape Hinchinbrook on 20 May 1912 while delivering supplies for the Cape Hinchinbrook lighthouse. Courtesy US Coast Guard.

From the New York Times, Sept. 16, 1906:

Passengers Take to Life Boats and Are Picked Up -- Steamer Doomed.

VALDEZ, Alaska, Sept. 15. -- Passengers and seamen of the steamer Oregon, which ran on the rocks at Hinchinbrook Island on Thursday night, took to the lifeboats the morning after the steamship struck, and were picked up several hours later by the lighthouse tender Columbine, which was surveying those waters for the lighthouse on Hinchinbrook.

The Columbine arrived at Valdez with the passengers and mail this morning. The revenue cutters sent to the wreck have not returned. The Oregon was three miles off her course east of Hinchinbrook and struck the rocks fifty yards from shore, where the bank is perpendicular. There was no chance to land. She slid off until she listed in a few feet of water with several fathoms under the stern. She is hard and fast aground, filled with water to the second deck, and probably will go to pieces in the first good swell from the ocean.

The Captain maintained good discipline and threatened to shoot men who were attempting to get off in a a lifeboat, after which his orders were obeyed without question, and all got off without accident.

If the weather remains calm there is a possible chance of lightening some of the Oregon’s cargo, but as the boat is on the ocean side of the island, exposed to the swell, such salvage is doubtful.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

112-Year-Old News: Rescue in Alaska

Icebound in Alaska by AJ Fuller, from Jaws Marine.

Look what we found while researching the lost lighthouse at Point Hope, Alaska--more than 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle and one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in North America.

From the New York Times, Sept. 14, 1898:

Revenue Cutter Rescues 116 Men from the Vessels
Crushed Off Point Barrow.
Government Vessel Unable to Move Through the Frozen Seas
for Thirteen Days—On Her Way South.

ST. MICHAEL, Aug. 26.—The revenue cutter Bear arrived in port this afternoon with 116 whalers belonging to vessels of the fleet that was crushed in the ice pack while in Winter quarters off Point Barrow on July 28, the first vessel of the season to arrive. She found the surviving members of the steamers Orca and Jessie H. Freeman and the schooner Rosario, and took them on board, giving them the first full meal they had enjoyed in many days.

The rescuing party found that provisions on the Belvidere, Newport, Jeannette, and Fearless, the vessels which escaped destruction in the ice floes, were getting low. Each vessel was supplied with sufficient until the arrival of tenders from the South.

On Aug. 17, having fulfilled her mission of rescue and relief, the Bear started South on her journey to St. Michael with the 116 whalers whose ships were lost. Shortly after her arrival at Point Barrow the Bear was caught in the ice, and the pressure was so tremendous that some of her planks started, and preparations were made for abandoning the ship. Fortunately the pressure subsided, but the Bear was unable to free herself from the pack for thirteen days after first being pinched.

The Bear left St. Michael for the north on July 5, to rescue nine miners whose boat, a large steam launch, had been wrecked five miles south of Cape Ramanoff, while making the trip from Rampart City, on the Yukon River, to St. Michael, for provisions and supplies. All the miners were saved and the Bear proceeded on her way to Point Barrow. On the way several stops were made, and bills contracted by Lieut. Jarvis of the overland relief expedition were paid in goods wanted by the natives. At Point Hope, Lieut. Bertholf reported that the thirty-four reindeer which had strayed from the Laps’ herd while crossing Kotzebue Sound on the way to Point Barrow, had been brought back to Point Hope, and, although several had been killed for food, the herd had increased by the birth of fawns to forty-nine.

Capt. Sherman of the wrecked whaler Orca boarded the Bear at Point Day. He reported the wreck of the Rosario and the serious condition of the Belvidere. It being impossible for the Bear to pass the ice barrier, food was sent to the Belvidere’s men by a native in skin boats in charge of Lieut. Hamlet, who successfully accomplished his mission and reached Point Barrow only eighteen hours after the Bear’s arrival there.

The Newport, Fearless, and Jeannette arrived before Aug. 3, when the Bear became fast in the ice, where she remained for thirteen days, it being found impossible to blast her way out. Stores were, however, transferred to the whalers on sleds. Finally, on Aug. 17, the Bear got loose from the ice, and with the rescued whalers started on her way south. A stop was made at Point Hope on the 20th, where the schooner Louise J. Kinney was found on the beach, where she had been wrecked the day before. Her officers and crew were taken on board. After making several stops the Bear arrived at St. Michael on Aug. 25 and left on the following day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

99 Years Ago Today: Shipwreck in Alaska

Surf roars over Cape Decision, courtesy of NOAA.

From the New York Times, September 13, 1911. (Note the references to "the dangerous inside passage"--a popular route for today's cruise ships.)

Fishermen Rescue Thirty Passengers on Sinking Steamship Ramona.

SEATTLE, Sept. 12. -- A brief wireless message received here to-day tells of the loss of the steamer Ramona, which struck the rocks near Cape Decision in Frederick Sound, about 200 mi this side of Ketchikan, Alaska, late Sunday, in a dense fog, and was slowly pounded to pieces.

Wireless messages sent out for hours by the Ramona were finally picked up, and the crack liner of the Alaska Steamship Company, the Northwestern, Capt. J.C. Hunter, took aboard the passengers and crew.

The Ramona is a total loss.
The Ramona had a long list of first-class passengers, including many Eastern tourists. She was proceeding to Seattle via the dangerous inside passage. The Pacific Coast Company officials, owners of the Ramona, are unable to tell who was on board, and will not know until the ship’s records are received here.

The Northwestern had passed the scene of the wreck, which is quite out of the beaten path. Local marine men marvel at Capt. Hunter’s feat of turning the big Northwestern around in the dangerous inside passage and picking his way back to the wreck.

This is the third steamer the Pacific Coast Company has lost this season.

The passengers of the Ramona, who barely escaped with their lives, so speedily did the ship sink, saved nothing but the clothing they wore. Thirty of the passengers and crew were picked up by the fishing steamer Grant. The remainder landed on Spanish Island, which is timbered but uninhabited, and remained there a day and a night. The freight steamer Delhi came along, and the ship-wrecked voyagers rowed out to the Delhi and were taken aboard. Subsequently the Northwestern took the passengers from the Grant and the Delhi, and all are on their way to Seattle.

The Ramona left Skagway Sept. 8, and was calling at the various canneries to take passengers and freight. The vessel was valued at $200,000.

Cape Decision Lighthouse, by Tuggerdave

Friday, September 3, 2010

August visit to Maine

Our publisher and her Mostly Silent Partner had an enjoyable visit to Maine a couple of weeks ago.

First stop was Cape Neddick lighthouse. Since our visit last year, the lovely gift shop the Town of York operates near the light has become one of our most successful dealers.

We of course visited Lighthouse Depot and the wonderful DeLorme Map Store, two other valued dealers for our lighthouse maps.

Here are photos we took of three other lighthouses on this trip:


This lighthouse is at the end of a breakwater in South Portland Maine. We enjoyed brunch at Joe's Boathouse at the nearby marina and took in these views:

Our Publisher and Mostly Silent Partner


Located a short walk from Spring Point, this cute lighthouse is now located in a small park. We arrived at the end of a tugboat race in a light rain.


The rock formations at Pemaquid are reason enough to visit. But this is one of Maine's best known and most iconic lighthouses. We were pleased to learn that since its recent renovation, you can now climb to the lantern room and see the 4th order Fresnel lens up close.