Sunday, February 12, 2012

Schooner Mary S. Eskridge ~ 31 December 1911

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1912:

About noon the three-masted schooner Mary S. Eskridge, of Seaford, DE, from Baltimore, MD, to Wilmington, NC, with a cargo of acid fertilizer, anchored 1-3/4 miles southeast of the Big Kinnakeet (NC) Life Saving Station and a mile offshore in a waterlogged condition and hoisted a signal for assistance. The signal was observed from the Big Kinnakeet station and also from the Cape Hatteras station, 7 miles to the southward from the vessel. The crews of the two stations named and of the Little Kinnakeet station assembled as quickly as possible on the beach abreast of the schooner, and a boat’s crew in command of the station keeper from Cape Hatteras put off to her in a surfboat under oars. After a hard struggle through heavy seas and against a strong current they arrived alongside and found her in a sinking condition. As the weather was bad and rapidly growing worse, and there was a likelihood that she would go down at any moment, no time was lost in getting her crew of 6 into the surfboat. The rescued persons were taken to the Big Kinnakeet station, where they were given succor until January 5. The schooner being still afloat on the morning of January 1, the life saving crew carried her master out to ascertain her condition. They manner her pumps while aboard, but found them choked with fertilizer. On the morning of January 3, she sank in 5 fathoms. Both vessel and cargo valued at $35,000, were totally lost.

Schooner Mabel Rose ~ 11 October 1903

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1904:

This vessel, laden with lumber, became water logged in a strong NNE. gale and at 6 p.m., struck on the outer reef, ¾ of a mile SE. of the station. The life saving crew, who had observed her before she struck, were unable to reach her with wreck gun or lifeboat on account of the storm, high seas, and location of the wreck, but stood by with the beach apparatus, ready at the first opportunity to rescue the crew. At midnight the schooner beat over the reef, and, at 3 a.m., the receding tide enabled the surfmen to bring the Lyle gun within range. They soon fired a line on board the wreck, rigged gear, and safely landed the crew, 8 all told, by the breeches buoy.

Schooner Martha E. Wallace ~ 21 December 1910

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1911:

At 6.30 a.m. the south patrol of the Cape Lookout (N.C.) station discovered the four-masted schooner Martha E. Wallace, 1,108 tons register, stranded on Lookout Shoals, 3 miles south of the station and 1-1/2 miles offshore. She was bound from Brunswick, GA, to New York City with a cargo of pine cross ties, and had run out of her course my mistaking lights. The life-savers went out to her and stood by for a time while the ship's captain (Osborne Ray) was making up his mind whether or not to leave the vessel. The captain finally decided, however, to abandon her, as she was rapidly filling. Her crew of 9 men were accordingly landed. The next day, the sea having moderated, the personal belongings of the crew were saved from the wreck. The vessel became a total loss, and but a small portion of her cargo was salved.

Wreck of the Martha E. Wallace

Painting of the Martha E. Wallace provided by
Lisa Hanson, the Great Grandaughter of Capt. Ray.
She was built by the Mather Shipping Co.
On December 21, 1910, the schooner Martha E. Wallace, built in 1902 and owned by Amos D. Carver and others of New York City, stranded on Lookout Shoals due to the negligence of the second mate in mistaking the light house for the lightship. The incident occurred during clear weather and a moderate northwest gale. She was discovered by Surfman Walter M. Yeomans. Keeper Gaskill's report follows:

"Dec. 21st at 6:30 this a.m. the south patrol discovered a four masted Schooner a shore on the South Side of Cape Lookout Shoals about one and a half miles from the beach and three miles from the station. We got out the power life boat at once and went to her which proved to be the Sch. MARTHA E. WALLACE with cargo of cross ties from Brunswick, Geo bound to New York. A short time after we arrived the Capt. decided to leave the ship as she was pounding heavy and fast filling up having then four feet of water in the hole and the steam pump going steady. We went along side and took of the Capt. and crew, nine all tole with their personal effects. Also taking their large boat in tow and arrived at the station at 11:05 a.m.

December 22nd. Capt and crew still at the station. Storming, so that nothing could be done by wreckers.

Dec. 25th. Tug I.J. MERRITT went down to Schr early. Revenue Cutter SEMINOLE also came up in the early forenoon and anchored of the wreck. In the afternoon both steamers came up in the cove and we carted down their personal effects and the stores brought from ship and the Capt and crew went on board the tug in their own or Schr's boat having previously procured passage to Norfolk, Va."
Image from the Frank E. Claes Vintage Photograph Collection
at the Maine Maritime Museum.

Schooner Martin C. Ebel ~ 5 November 1895

Annual Report of the Operations of te United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1896:

At 3 a.m. the north patrol observed a vessel drifting in toward the beach. After burning his Coston signal he hastened to inform the keeper. Upon further examination she proved to be a three-masted schooner, apparently water logged, mainmast and light spars gone and no signal displayed. Surf was very high and bar too rough to cross. After telephoning to keepers of Little Kinnakeet and Cape Hatteras Stations for assistance, set out with surfboat, beach apparatus, medicine chest, and cork jackets. The crews which had been summoned arrived promptly. As soon as vessel struck a line was fired across her, but after waiting some time, and becoming convinced that no one was on board, it was hauled ashore. The weather being too thick and stormy to do anything further at that time, the crews of the neighboring stations returned. Kept a watch on vessel all night, wreckage coming ashore. In November 6 and 7 keeper made three attempts to board wreck, but was deterred therefrom by heavy surf, floating spars, the laboring of the hull and consequent apprehension for the safety of his crew and boat. Got on board on the 8th instant, found her to be the schooner Martin C. Ebel, lumber laden, cabin and rudder gone, and vessel about to break up. Conferred with wreck commissioner and turned vessel over to him. She went to pieces at 1.30 a.m., November 13, her cargo coming ashore badly broken up and being strewn along the beach for a distance of 7 miles.

Steamer M.C. Pierrepont ~ 4 April 1884

United States Life-Saving Service Report

During a strong northwester, early on the morning of April 4, the M.C. Pierpont came ashore 7 miles NE of the station. She was en route from Cape May, NJ to Hatteras under the command of Captain Averill.
     Keeper Howard mustered his crew and went to her in the surfboat only to discover that assistance was not needed. Evidently Howard was queried by his headquarters because a report wasn't filed until the following June, "... Not noing it to be my duty therfore I did not make out Ocracoke report witch I hope you will pardon me this time. I was told that it not duty inless assistance was rendered therfore I beg pardon it was not intentionly done."
     The Pierrepont was traveling in "ballace" with a crew of 7 and 5 passengers. The vessel and cargo was given up as lost and sold by the captain.

Schooner Mary J. Hanie ~ 24 May 1921

United States Life-Saving Service Report

Captain James Montague of Manteo, of the 15-ton schooner Mary J. Hanie, was en route to Hatteras from Elizabeth City with a cargo of musical instruments.He made a mistake in the channel and stranded on Inlet Shoals at 6 p.. on April 28. A distress signal was made and was spotted immediately by lookout surfman G.B. Gaskins at the Hatteras Inlet Station and by surfman J.B. Stowe across the inlet at the Durants Station.

Keeper Garrish, being closer to the vessel, arrived first. He was joined by Stowe a few minutes later, "... the master of the schooner requested that both boats remain by him as the schooner was leaking very badly and in a dangerous condition. ... after working continuously for eight hours succeeded in floating the schooner at 3:30 a.m., April 29, and towed her to Hatteras.

Less than a month later the Mary J. Hanie, with her sails blown away in a heavy nor'easter, was in trouble once again. Keeper James H. Garrish's report follows:

At 7:15 a.m., May 24, 1921, watchman (Surfman H.H. Howard) reported a schooner flying distress signals, about five miles NNW from this station; I at once manded power surf-boat and started scene ... found the schooner Mary J. Hanie fast aground on Howards Reef in Pamlico Sound, took crew ... landed them safely at this station and furnished them with food and clothing. At 10:30 a.m. left ... the second time to assist in saving cargo, as the schooner was breaking up. Succeeded in saving about $2,000 worth of musical instruments, with great dificulty, the sea and the force of wind and the breaking up on the schooner compelled us to leave the schooner, as there was great danger of the mast falling and of some person getting killed. Returned to station at 2:30 p.m. At 5 a.m. ... manded power surf-boat and put out to assist in saving balance of cargo, succeeded in saving five pianos which was all of cargo that could possibly be saved ... These pianos were damaged badly and worth approximately $1,000. Sails blown away, went aground, took off crew carried them to station for three days. Succeeded in saving about $3,000 worth of cargo.

The incident was closed with Captain Montague turned the schooner over to private individuals. The clothing furnished the three crewmen had been donated by the Blue Jacket Society.

Schooner Mary A. Trainer ~ 1 February 1889

United States Life-Saving Service Report

At 7:00 a.m. the morning of February 1, 1889 a lookout reported a vessel ashore on the north side of Hatteras Inlet about 5 miles N.E. of the Ocracoke Station. She proved to be the 188-ton schooner Mary A. Trainer, Captain Walston commanding with a crew of five bound for Wilmington from Philadelphia, PA. 

"... As wind blowing very fresh nothing could be done, not until cold get liter." The following morning they "...went to sead sch to render her relief." They succeeded in getting a liter alongside and in removing one load of phosphate rock before the tide fell. On the 3rd they returned to find the vessel afloat and "... tuck in her liter load, went on her way alright."

Schooner Mentor ~ 25 & 26 August 1827

On September 6, 1827 the Carolina Observer of Fayetteville, NC reported on the storm of August 24 & 25.

Disastrous Intelligence: Five vessels are ashore at Teache's Hole, and one has drifted into the Sound, her fate not known. There were but six vessels in Wallace's Channel, and all of them are said to be ashore. The schooner MENTOR, Captain Manson of New Bern was among them. The WILLIAM AND FREDERICK, and another Schr. are ashore at the marshes.

Schooner Maurice R. Thurlow / 13 October 1827

During a storm on October 13 the Maurice R. Thurlow grounded on Diamond Shoals about 10 miles NE of the Ocracoke Island Station. The crew from the Cape Hatteras Station answered the distress signal and saved the crew of 9. The next morning the Thurlow had vanished. Usually when a vessel washes off Diamond Shoals they find a resting place on the Ocracoke Beach. The Coast Guard Cutter Mascoutin from Norfolk searched for the vessel but to no avail. Almost two weeks later a Dutch oil tanker sighted the Thurlow in the North Atlantic. The Coast Guard renewed it's search, but again failed to locate the vessel, which had become known as The Phantom Ship.

The Evening Independent
St. Petersburg, Florida ~ Friday, October 28, 1927


Washington, Oct. 28.—(UP)—Crewless and with her sails bellied full, a derelict schooner is playing hide and seek with trans-Atlantic shipping and a full fleet of pursuing coast guard cutters.
     The “Flying Dutchman” of the North Atlantic, the abandoned Maurice Thurlow, with a valuable lumber cargo aboard, has eluded searchers since she went on the Diamond shoals off the (Virginia) coast and then slipped away 10 days ago.
     Yesterday the steamer Slidrecht wirelessed coast guard headquarters that it passed the phantom ship about 100 miles east of Nautucket, fully 600 miles from where it was lost.
     It was sailing along serenely “without a helmsman at the wheel or any sign of life aboard,” the Slidrecht reported. “The sails were full and the schooner was pushing steadily north by east.”
     The Maurice Thurlow is a four master schooner of about 1,200 tons. During the recent Atlantic coast storms she was abandoned by her crew off Diamond shoals. The crew was picked up by a coast guard cutter, which was later forced to the open seas by the storm. Returning 10 hours later the cutter found the schooner gone and the beach strewn with wreckage. It was thought the schooner had been bettered to pieces until it was reported sailing to the northward.

Schooner Milton ~ 27 April 1898

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1898:

Sprung a leak in NE. gale and was run ashore as a last resort, about a mile S. of station. Keeper called up Nags Head Station for assistance, and both crews hastened to the scene with beach apparatus. Two attempts failed to lay the shotline across the wreck, but the third was successful, and the whipline and hawser were soon set up and the crew of 7 were brought ashore, one by one, in the breeches buoy. The ship was broken in two and the foremast and main topmast went by the board before the last man was landed. The castaways were all taken to the station and provided with necessary dry clothing from the stores of the Women’s National Relief Association.

Steamer Metropolis ~ 31 January 1878

The Metropolis
Mariner's Museum, Newport News, VA
The State
November 3, 1951
by Bill Sharpe


Nothing good could come out of such a ghastly, pitiful wreck as that of the Metropolis, it seemed. The steamship came ashore in a heavy sea below Whaleshead (Currituck) Light January 31, 1878 and 102 lives were lost.

Everything about the tragedy was shameful. The owners were charged with concealing defects in the ship, inspectors with collusion, the chartering company was accused of overloading her and the captain was accused of imprudent handling of his ship. The Life-Saving crew reached the wreck late, and then without sufficient equipment.

Worst of all, natives of the Bank as well as passengers were accused of inhospitality and looting. Coming on the heels of the scandalous wreck of the warship Huron in 1877 off Kitty Hawk, the disaster threw the county into an uproar. The New York Tribune carried columns of the story on its front pages, and even months later reverberations ... in the form of charges, counter-charges, investigation and reports ... were being heard.

Brought Remedy

It is not unlikely that this wreck and that of the ill-fated Huron, the two of them remarkably similar, started the legend that North Carolina bankers preyed up castaways. Almost certainly, the two wreck hastened, if they did not indeed prompt, the creation of our modern Coast Guard with its year-around vigil and modern equipment. So even this black cloud had its silver lining.

The Metropolis had a sad sailing from Philadelphia. She was loaded with 500 tons of rails and machinery and 200 tons of stores, destined for the Madeira and Mamore Railway, then building in the jungles of Brazil. Also aboard were some 215 passengers ... laborers and foremen recruited to work on the railroad. These were mostly simple people, unaccustomed to travel, and it is easy to imagine the scenes on the dock as mothers, wives and children bid tearful farewells to their menfolks embarking on such a long journey. But the contemporary reporters left nothing to the imagination.

Tearful Farewells

"The incidents were frequently exceedingly pathetic," said the Tribune. "One fine-looking woman, wife of one of the foremen, after a dozen passionate farewells, finally clung to her husband with such intense sorrow that the latter was compelled to remain on the wharf."

The Metropolis had been built in 1861 and used by the Navy in blockading Confederate ports.  After the war the vessel was cut in two, lengthened 40 feet and rebuilt with a length of 198.5 feet and a 34-foot beam. She was brig-rigged and powered with two engines.

For months debate rages as to why she foundered, why she broke up so quickly in the surf and why so many lives were lost, but the stark fact is that shortly after clearing the Cape of Delaware, the ship began to leak. She had put to sea in heavy weather, but no heavier, said the Captain, than he had braved before. Before long she was in a violent southeast gale and the master, Captain J.H. Aukers, kept away from the Virginia Capes, intending to make Hampton Roads. However, he fell to leeward and the weather worsened. The pumps would not discharge water as fast as it was coming in and the captain, no doubt now thoroughly aware of his grave situation, decided to lighten ship by throwing coal overboard. At midnight on the 30th, his circulating pump gave out.

Passengers Frantic

Aboard the ship the passengers' mood changed from one of restive anxiety to clamorous fear. Little by little the early reassurances given by crew members were dissipated by the grim activity aboard ship. The vessel pitched in the darkness, throwing the passengers around. They saw the efforts of the sailors redoubled, and head the hoarse shouts of the captain as he gave orders through his speaking trumpet. They heard the pumps cease, they saw the effort to throw coal overboard.

At 3 a.m. a heavy sea boarded the vessel, carrying away smokestack, lifeboats, engine rooms and doors of the forward saloon, and flooding the ship with a large quantity of water.

Now panic reigned. Having boarded the vessel with apprehension, the men finally gave way to an uncontrollable frenzy. All discipline was gone even before the fires of the boilers were extinguished. Captain Aukers, in a desperate attempt to save lives, knowing now that his ship was doomed, decided to beach her beneath Currituck light.

The Metropolis was all but unmanageable, but at 6 a.m. the vessel reached land under her sails. But instead of relief, both crew and passengers screamed at the frightening prospect they saw. The surf they entered was a crashing hell and at 6:15 a.m. the ship struck the outer reef and failed to ride over it, as the captain had hoped.

Now began the worst ordeal of all. Within sight of land, with safety only a few hundred yards away, those who survived helplessly watched as their companions one by one were dashed to death in the icy waters, or crushed by the crumbling ship as it was ground to pieces by the waves.

Currituck now is a lonely beach, but it was even lonelier in 1878. At about 8 a.m. on the morning of Jan. 31, N.E.K. Jones and James E. Capps happened along the beach and through the fog glimpsed the wreck. Capps immediately went to borrow a horse to ride to the Life Saving Station with the news, and Jones went to work hauling men, living and dead, out of the surf.

The Life-Saving crew did not reach the wreck until about noon. It is easy to imagine the bitter hours in which the survivors on the wreck looked for help. They had seen the two men on the beach and had supposed aid would come immediately.

Wild Confusion

When the crew reached the scene it was on of "terror and wild confusion, of struggling heroes and perishing victims in the greedy seas, while the air was filled with encouraging shouts and despairing shrieks."

The surf now was running high and it was full of deadly wreckage and swimming people, some washed overboard, some who deliberately cast themselves in the water in an effort to reach shore. The surfmen and other natives waded out and saved many--a hundred or more, said an affidavit.

"Even a noble Newfoundland dog, incited by the example before him, plunged into the surf and brought to shore a half-drowned man," says one eye-witness report.

What effort was made to save those clinging to the wreck? When the Life Saving cart reached the scene, the men prepared to shoot a line aboard so as to rig up a breeches buoy. The first shot carried too high, but the second shot lodged a line in the fore-topsail yard. What a shout of mistaken joy went up from the poor survivors still on the wreck! One clambered up and obtained the light line, and with it the men hauled the cable aboard, working with waning strength and numbed fingers.

And now came the heartbreaking incident.  The line was pulled across the fore stay wire, and it chafed the rope. Just as the "block of the whip" (the pulley needed to operate the buoy), was half way to the boar, the rope parted and an anguished scream rose from the ship, striking despair into those fortunate few who had reached shore and were looking back at their kin and comrades still aboard. The line was "faked"--coiled--again and fired, but the shot line parted. Another shot, another line parted.

There were no more efforts, because the powder was gone. In the excitement of the departure for the wreck, the keeper had failed to check his supply and had only half a horn of powder. A man was dispatched for more but it was too late, and this omission echoed for years through the controversy aroused by the disaster.

Fires had been built on the beach, and from time to time exhausted rescue workers came to them to renew their strength. The wind and surf roared loudly, but even above it could be heard the pitiful appeals for help from the ship and the sobbing of those on the beach. At about 3 o'clock the rescue work slacked up since those on board, seeing so many who had jumped overboard drowned before their eyes, were holding to their dangerous refuge.

However, one man on board took a light line in his teeth and jumped overboard, hoping to take it ashore, and thus set up the means of hauling the breeches buoy aboard. But those on board did not play out the line fast enough and so it jerked from his mouth, though he himself made land safely.

Shortly after this the foremast fell, killing a number and crippling others and knocking still others overboard, the fallen sail covering the miserable wretches still alive, many of them now about to die.

Then the ship broke up rapidly and began to disappear. At this, all on shore rushed into the water as far as they dared to save the last of the passengers.

Bodies Stripped

Was there looting of the crippled and the dead? There can be little doubt that there was. N.E.K. Jones himself said that he customarily went out on the beach after a hard blow to see if any wreck or flotsam was to be found, and after seeing the vessel go under, he testifies that he "went up the beach to look for wrecked stuff, the fragments of which was strewn as far as Whales Head."

Old Whaleshead Light at Corolla was burning, but she was unable
to keep the Metropolis from doom. (Photo Aycock Brown)
He also saw a trunk broken open, but says that one of the passengers looted it. Other passengers later testified that people--white and Negro--came over from the mainland and joined in stripping the bodies of clothing and jewelry and in picking up trunks and other personal belongings.

The Life-Saving Service conducted a lengthy on-the-spot investigation and published affidavits from many witnesses. These indicate that while there was both indifference and looting on the part of some--both by survivors of the wreck and by natives--there also were examples of extraordinary heroism and generosity. All passengers were taken in, clothed and fed, and it must be considered that the resources of the local people were very slender indeed.

It also must be remembered that the delay in the rescuers reaching the wreck, which the terrified passengers mistook for indifference, the magnitude of the calamity and the hysteria incident to such a disaster led to many wild and unfounded or exaggerated reports, many of which were printed and faithfully believed.

"If" was a big word around which debate raged so hotly. If the captain had delayed sailing, and if he had stood out to sea, and if he had plunged his ship across the outer reef onto dry land, as he forlornly hoped to do, things would have been different. And if the cart had reached the wreck by 8 o'clock instead of at noon, all would have been save, witnesses said, for the wreck was still in fair shape at that hour. If the cart had been adequately supplied with powder, and if a line, once landing on the tossing vessel, would have remained intact, few would have been lost.

But no matter. As long as men trod that lonely, violent beach, they will always remember the Metropolis as one of the too-often times when man's mistakes and inadequacies and greed coincided with a cruel mood of nature to shock the nation with a brutal episode of the sea.

In all the hundreds of thousands of words written about the Metropolis, then and since, no single person involved in the tragedy escaped ugly charges or bemoaning insinuations.

Even today, 73 years later, it seems that the only unblemished hero of the wreck of the Metropolis was that nameless Newfoundland dog of Currituck Bank.

New York Times
February 1, 1878


At an early hour last evening, news was received at Washington from the Kitty Hawk Signal Station, that the steamer METROPOLIS had gone ashore off Currituck Beach, on the North Carolina Coast, and that between 150 and 200 lives had been lost. Fifty persons are said to have been washed ashore, but with these exceptions it is though that all of the 248 persons on board were drowned. The accounts from the wreck thus far are meagre, owing to the remoteness of the place where it occurred.

Special Dispatch to the New York Times.

Norfolk, Va., Jan. 31. -- During the south-east gale this afternoon the steamship METROPOLIS, of New York, from Philadelphia for Para, South America, with stores and laborers on board, grounded on the outer bar off Currituck Beach, about three miles south of the light, and 10 miles north of Kitty Hawk Signal Station. She at once bilged and floated broadside to the sea. Fifty of the passengers and crew got on shore, and the rest, about 150 in number, were lost, no assistance being rendered from the shore, from life stations, or fishermen.
     Capt. TRUXTON, of the Navy yard here, and Capt. PICKUP, of the towing company, received information of the disaster, whereupon the tug Croatan was coaled up, and will leave for the wreck via Albemarle Sound. The scene of the wreck is about 20 miles north of where the Huron was lost. As yet the news is vague as to the number lost, but only 50 have reached shore. The authorities in Washington have ordered an operator to a place near the scene of wreck.
     Ten P. M. -- One of the men saved states that all last night the vessel encountered heavy weather, with a strong gale from south-east. About 6:30 this evening the ship struck, when all was confusion on board, the sea making a complete breach over the vessel, washing the passengers and crew into the seething foam. Amid the howling of the tempest and the roaring of the surf, the orders of the officers could not be heard. When the vessel struck, several of her boats were swept from the decks. Those who reached the shore, managed to do so by holding on to pieces of the wreck. Efforts are being made by the signal observer to get the names of the survivors. The tug Croaton, Capt. PICKUP, leaves here for the scene at 11 o'clock. It is learned from another source that when the vessel struck she was heading south-south-east. The wind was blowing a perfect hurricane, and she using all the power her machinery afforded to keep her head to wind.
     No assistance was given to the wreck by the signal stations or by the life saving crew in the vicinity. As soon as connection is made with the scene other and more important details will be send. The Navy Department has ordered assistance sent to the wreck, but what it will be no one can learn, as the Government has no steamer here capable of rendering any service at present.

     Feb. 1 -- One A. M. -- The chief officer of the METROPOLIS was among the saved, and set the message to the signal operator at Kitty Hawk. The vessel went ashore this morning. The Captain has not been seen or heard of since the vessel struck.

Survivor List and more ... click HERE.

Schooner Minnie Bergen ~ 18 August 1899

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1900:

Sprung a leak during the severe storm and anchored 3 miles offshore. Her master, seeing that he could not keep her afloat, slipped her cables and let her drift onto the beach in order to save the lives on board. Life saving crew were watching her, and were on hand with their beach apparatus when she struck. Communication was established with the wreck by the use of the Lyle gun at a distance of 300 yards, and the beach apparatus was set up. The crew of 7 men were hauled ashore safely in the breeches buoy, none too soon, however, as the heavy seas were breaking over the wreck and it was fast going to pieces. They were taken to station, and, having lost all their effects, were supplied with necessary clothing from the stores donated by the Women’s National Relief Association. The shipwrecked crew were succored at the station until the 21st. The master remained until the 30th, when, having sold the part of the cargo of oil which had washed ashore, he left for his home. (See letter of acknowledgment.)


DEAR SIR: I wish through you to return the tanks of my crew and myself to the brave keeper and crew of this station for their prompt and valuable service in rescuing us with the breeches buoy on the morning of August 18, during a severe gale of wind and rain. Schooner was fast breaking up and seas were sweeping across her. We also thank them for their general treatment while we stopped at the station.
     Please thank for us all the Women’s National Relief Association for their generous supply of clothing. Heaven bless these noble-hearted women! Yours, respectfully, S. BOEMAN, Master of the Schooner Minnie Bergen

Fisherman & Farmer, August 25, 1899

Schooner Mary ~ 29 October 1859

The New York Shipping and Commercial List, 1815-1873, reported that on October 29th the schooner Mary, home port Elizabeth City, was en route from Inagua Islands to Baltimore with a cargo of guano, when she "went ashore on Ocacock Bar ... an will be a total loss." The captain, his wife and crew were all drowned.

Steamer Mountaineer ~ 25 December 1852

Marc Corbett may have found the Steamer Mountaineer!
Read about his discovery here ...

Schooner Mary ~ 22 December 1839

The schooner Mary, home port Wilmington, DE, wrecked on Bulkhead Shoal near Ocracoke harbor. Her crew, and part of her cargo of white pine lumber, was saved. According to Captain String of the Mary, several other vessels were wrecked at the same time, including a brig.

Schooner Mercy T. Trundy ~ 24 April 1882

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1882:

The schooner Mercy T. Trundy, of Calais, ME, bound from Philadelphia, PA, to Wilmington, NC, with a cargo of railroad iron, and carrying a crew of 6 men, ran ashore on Frying Pan Shoals, Cape Fear, NC, at half past four in the morning, during prevalence of thick weather, the captain having mistaken his position in supposing he was outside the Frying Pan Shoals light-ship, as in the case of the Minnie, wrecked a few days previous on the same shoals. The schooner was discovered soon after daylight by the patrol from Station No. 25 (6th District), 8 miles distant (Smith’s Island), and as quickly as possible the life saving crew put off to her. With a favoring wind from the north they made good progress, and when about halfway out to the schooner spoke the tug Italian, bound in, which reported passing the wreck, and that the crew were still on board with a signal of distress flying. The vessel was reached at 8 o’clock. She lay, as the keeper described it in his report, in a bed of breakers, with the seas dashing completely over her, and there was no one on board. It was evident that the crew had either been washed away, or that they had sought refuge in their boat, the absence of the latter from its davits creating this presumption. The schooner had commenced breaking up, and as nothing could be done in way of salvage, and they had about all they could do to prevent their boat from swamping in the heavy sea, it was resolved to turn back and keep a sharp lookout for the missing crew.
     Upon heading about, the wind was full in their teeth, and after pulling steadily for three hours, during which time they made but four miles headway, the wrecking schooner Charlotte Ann Pigott, of Wilmington, was fallen in with on her way to the wreck. Anxious for the safety of the wrecked crew, the life savers boarded the Pigott and accompanied her out, believing such a course would afford them a better chance of finding the missing boat. This action was fully justified, for upon arriving the second time in the vicinity of the stranded vessel, their search was rewarded by the discovery of the yawl in tow of pilot boat No. 6, which was standing in, on the wind, towards Cape Fear. They at once shoved off from the Pigott, and upon reaching the pilot boat found the wrecked crew safe on board of her, the yawl having been picked up some miles to leeward. Upon comparing notes it was learned that the sailors must have abandoned their vessel but a few minutes before the station crew arrived, the roughness of the sea, no doubt, preventing their seeing one another. They were at one transferred to the surf boat and taken ashore to the station to await an opportunity to save their effect, the men having brought nothing but what they stood in. An unsuccessful attempt was made the following day (25th to board the vessel, but the sea was still too rough and breaking clean over her. The weather moderated, however, during the following night, and on the 26th the life saving crew again went out, hoping to save something. The vessel had then become a complete wreck, and everything belonging to the crew was swept away. Under these circumstances there was no need of the wrecked crew remaining longer at the station, and they were therefore conducted the same day in the surfboat to Smithfield, several miles distant, whence they could take passage to their home.

Schooner Minnie ~ 12 April 1882

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1882:

The schooner Minnie, of and from New York for Charleston, SC, with a cargo of guano and empty barrels, stranded on Frying Pan Shoals, Cape Fear at 3 o’clock in the morning, during the prevalence of a severe northeast rain storm. It was high water on the shoals when she struck and the sea was very rough. There were 8 persons all told on board the schooner, including the captain’s wife. The captain had mistaken his position by supposing he was to the southward of the Frying Pan Shoals lightship and did not discover his error until the vessel grounded in the breakers about five miles south of Smith’s Island. The crew of Station No. 25 (6th District), Smith’s Island, North Carolina, discovered the vessel at daylight (5:30), and at once went off in the surf boat to render assistance, reaching her at 7 o’clock. It was at first thought that by throwing cargo overboard the vessel might be saved. The men, therefore, bent their energies in that direction, keeping the pumps going to free the vessel of water. They soon found, however, that she had bilged and that all efforts to relieve her would be futile. Her abandonment was therefore reluctantly determined upon by the captain, who was part owner of the vessel. After consultation as to the safest way of reaching the island, it was decided to use the schooner’s yawl in conjunction with the surf boat. The former was therefore hoisted overboard and five men took passage in it, while the rest, including the captain’s wife, went in the surf boat, and after a hard and dangerous pull for nearly three hours all hands raced the shore in safety, the life savers beaching their boat first and then assisting the other boat to land. The rescued party were sheltered at the station until the next day (13th), when the weather having moderated they were conducted to Smithville, Cape Far River. A wrecking company was employed by the captain to save all the property possible, but beyond the recovery of the sails and rigging and some empty barrels nothing could be done, the vessel and the rest of the cargo becoming a total loss. This simple narrative of the rescue of the Minnie would be incomplete were the statement omitted that the entire affair, in the opinion of seafaring men in the vicinity, reflected much credit on the crew of the station, some of the bar pilots at Smithville marveling greatly that such a gallant feat as reaching the vessel through so rough a sea and boarding her in the midst of the breakers during the severity of the tempest could be accomplished.

Schooner Monterey ~ 7 March 1851

On this day in 1851 the schooner Monterey ran ashore 1 mile north of Cape Lookout. The ship was out of Norfolk and en route from Charleston, South Carolina, SC to Baltimore, MD. 

New York Daily Tribune

Catboat Maud ~ found 3 May 1896

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1896:

Pea Island’s south patrolman, while on duty from midnight to 3 a.m. (Sunday), discovered the catboat Maud in the edge of the surf. The following day the lifesaving crew hauled her well upon the beach above the high-water mark, finding the craft considerably damaged. She was turned over to the wreck commissioner, and finally sold by him on May 19.

Schooner Mary L. Vankirk ~ 5 February 1882

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1882:

The schooner Mary L. Vankirk, of Philadelphia, PA, to which port she was bound from South Creek, Pamlico Sound, NC, with a cargo of pine lumber and carrying a crew of 5 men, encountered heavy weather during the trip, and lost sails and sprung a leak, so that before long she became water-logged and almost unmanageable. In this condition it was determined to run to leeward and seek refuge in Hatteras Inlet. Before that point could be reached, however, matters became so much worse that it was decided to beach the vessel to save the lives of those on board, her crew being apprehensive of her capsizing at any moment. She was discovered heading for the land by the crew of Station No. 18 (6th district), Chicamicomico, North Carolina, with her colors in the rigging, union down, at about seven in the morning (February 5). The surf boat was at once run out on its carriage for service, but the life saving crew finding there was little prospect of getting off to the vessel against the heavy surf then tumbling in upon the beach, returned to the station for the breeches buoy apparatus, the latter arriving abreast of the schooner at a quarter past eight, fifteen minutes after she struck the bar about half a mile north of the station. The schooner came so close in that the keeper was able, by wading out into the water, waist deep, to cast a heaving line to the people who were huddled together in te rigging. The sea at that time was breaking all over the ill-fated craft, and the situation was critical.
     As quickly as possible the men in the rigging hauled off the whip line, and that being followed by the hawser, the breeches buoy was soon rigged and went spinning out to the vessel. From that onward the work was comparatively easy, the 5 men being safely landed within 15 minutes after the hawser was set up; all being profoundly thankful for their escape. It was extremely fortunate that the tide was high, the vessel coming in over the bar and much nearer the beach than would have been the case with the receding tide. The rescued men were conducted at once to the station and made comfortable, the life saving crew going on board at low water and saving their effects. From the time the men arrived with the apparatus abreast of the vessel not a hitch occurred to mar the success of their operations, the entire affair being very skillfully managed. A portion of the schooner’s cargo was subsequently saved, but the vessel became a total wreck. It is due to the crew of the adjacent station north (No. 17) to state that as soon as the wreck was discovered they proceeded down the beach to the assistance of their comrades of No. 18, with all the dispatch possible, although the soft and yielding condition of the beach rendered travel so difficult that participation in the work of rescue was impossible, the sailors being snugly housed at the station long before their arrival on the ground. The captain of the vessel sent the following statement to the general superintendent, in acknowledgement of the services of the life saving crew:

FEBRUARY 5, 1882

When a little north of Winter Quarter Shoals I lost my sails and vessel sprung a lead and became unmanageable, and about 8 a.m. stranded about half a mile north of Station No. 18, when there was the promptest assistance rendered by the keeper and crew in landing me and my crew. They were abreast of the wreck in a few minutes after she struck, and in fifteen minutes after they arrived we were all safely landed on the beach and taken to the station and cared for. J.G. BALANCE, Master Schooner M. Vankirk 

Shooner Maggie J. Lawrence ~ 10 February 1896

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1896:

The Maggie J. Lawrence stranded during a strong northwest wind, at 3:30 a.m. She was discovered by a patrolman and reported at the station, and also at the Oregon Inlet Station. The keeper and crew hauled beach apparatus and a surfboat abreast of the vessel and awaited daylight before beginning action, as the schooner was gradually working inshore, and in no immediate danger of going to pieces. As it grew light, it was found that the surfboat could be used to advantage. This was soon launched, and the wreck was reached. A crew of seven and their baggage were taken off and landed without mishap. The Oregon Inlet crew arrived in time to assist in landing and hauling the surfboat upon the beach. They sheltered the crew at their station for six days, while engaged in saving stores, rigging and sails of the wrecked vessel. Her master was cared for during fifteen days while this work was in progress, and was aided by the station crew. The schooner was a total loss.

Schooner Matilda D. Borda ~ 16 July 1906

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1907:

This vessel, coal laden and bound from Port Johnson, NY, to Savannah, GA, stranded on the North Carolina coast during smoky weather, striking the beach ¾ mile from the Gull Shoal station and 1 mile from the Little Kinnakeet station at 2.30 a.m. The keeper at Gull Shoal notified Little Kinnakeet station of the wreck, then launched surfboat and proceeded to her assistance, arriving alongside at 6 a.m. As nothing could be done toward floating the schooner, the surfmen landed the crew with their effects. The shipwrecked sailors were taken to the station, where they remained for 8 days. The vessel proved a total loss.

Schooner Momie T. ~ 27 January 1920

The 475 ton American 4-masted schooner, Momie T., was built as the George F. Scannell in Mystic, Conn. While en route from West Indies to Philadelphia, she was lost after running aground at Caffey's Inlet, Currituck.

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1920:

Stranded in thick weather; took off crew with breeches buoy; gave mate's wife, who was injured and unconscious, restorative treatment and called doctor to attend her. Succor and clothing furnished by station No. 170; vessel a total loss.

Schooner Mary S. Bradshaw ~ 1 June 1889

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1889:

This fatality occurred June 1, 1889, about a quarter of a mile from the Creed’s Hill Station (Sixth District) coast of North Carolina, during the inactive season when the regular life-saving crew were off duty.
     The schooner Mary S. Bradshaw, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, sailed from Charleston, South Carolina, May 28th, bound for her home port. She had a crew of seven men and a cargo of phosphate rock. In a southeast gale which she encountered, her sails were blown away and she began to drift towards the Diamond shoals, off Cape Hatteras. The weather was foggy, with a high sea running, and the vessel being old began to leak badly. She was therefore brought to an anchor; this at about daybreak of June 1st. The captain knowing, under the conditions that prevailed, that he was beyond signaling distance from the shore, being some nine miles off, determined, in view of the critical situation of the schooner, to attempt to gain the land in his small boat. The crew accordingly abandoned the vessel and pulled for shore. 

     When they had reached the outer bar the yawl was discovered by the wife of the keeper of the Creed’s Hill Station, who immediately send a boy for her husband, he having but a short time previously started for a store about three miles distant to obtain necessary provisions. The sailors, instead of waiting outside the line of breakers to see whether any assistance could be rendered them from the beach, started through the surf, which was sweeping in with great fury, when their boat was quickly turned end over end and the occupants dashed out. All except the steward, Thomas Williams, reached the shore in safety. The latter was not seen alive after the capsize, and from the bruises which were found upon his head when the body was recovered three days later, it was judged that he was fatally injured at the time the boat upset, and was consequently drowned immediately. The keeper, who put back with all haste when the messenger overtook him, reached the scene just as the survivors were landing. He at once conducted them to the station, where were properly cared for and furnished with dry clothing from the stores placed at the disposal of the Service by the Women’s National Relief Association.
     At the time of the accident the surf was so heavy along the beach that it would have been impossible to launch a boat and go to the rescue of the imperiled men. The only chance of aiding them would have been by means of a line which might have been fired to them when they were outside the breakers. It appears, however, that the captain fully realized that a boat could not be got clear of the shore to their assistance, and so he resolved to take the desperate risk of landing, the chance of success seeming to be as one in a hundred. It is little less than a miracle that all were not drowned.
     It is plain that the loss of this life happened under conditions which made its prevention by the Life Saving Service practically out of the question. The keeper, on the 4th, found the body of the steward and gave it a decent burial.
     The schooner, the day after being abandoned, was taken in tow by a steamer to Baltimore. She was badly damaged although not more than one-fifth of her cargo proved a loss.

Schooner Myrtle Tunnell ~ 9 March 1906

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1906:

Ran aground on Frying Pan Shoals, 12 miles from shore, during a fresh SW. wind and smoky weather. The keeper notified the commanding officer of the revenue cutter Seminole, also a tug, then launched surfboat and boarded the stranded craft at 6.30 a.m. Part of her cargo was jettisoned and the Seminole and the tug pulled on her but failed to float her. The crew then abandoned the wreck and were conveyed to Southport. Later her hull filled with water and she was lost.

Schooner Montana ~ 11 December 1904

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1905:

Shortly before midnight, during a heavy NNW. Gale with thick snowstorm and rough sea, the Montana, a three-masted schooner laden with salt and carrying a crew of 7, all told, struck the beach ¼ mile N. of station and 300 yards from shore. Heavy seas swept over her, and the crew, after burning a torch for help, took refuge in the fore rigging. The N. patrol promptly reported the disaster, and keeper and crew, provided with beach apparatus, reached the shore abreast of the wreck at 12.10 a.m., the keeper having telephoned for assistance to Oregon Inlet and New Inlet stations, the former crew arriving at 1 a.m. and the later some time later. It was impossible to launch a boat through the heavy surf, and after lighting a bonfire the lifesavers placed the wreck gun and fired several lines, some of them going adrift and some to the wreck, but none in such position that the shipwrecked crew could reach it. At daylight the surfmen laid a line over the spring stay, which the crew succeeded in reaching, and after several hours of difficult work 6 men were landed. The seventh man, the ship’s cook, being of advanced years, was washed overboard during the night and lost. Four of the rescued men were sheltered at the station for 11 days, and two for 16 days. The Montana became a total wreck, and was sold by the master for a small sum. (For detailed account see caption “Loss of Life.”)

Wreck of the Schooner Montana

The total wreck of the three-masted schooner Montana, of Somers Point, NJ, near the Pea Island Station, a few miles above New Inlet, NC, on December 11, 1904, resulted in the loss of one man, Harry Edwards, the cook of the vessel. It is not definitely known, even by his shipmates, at what time he met his death, as he either fell or was washed from the rigging during the night unseen by anyone, and when no aid could possibly reach him. The rest of the crew, 6 in all, were rescued by the crews of the Pea Island, Oregon Inlet, and New Inlet stations. The Montana was a vessel of about 377 tons register, built and owned in Somers Point, and carried a crew of 7 men. She was commanded by Captain Japhat Booye, and was from New York, NY, with a cargo of salt, bound to Charleston, SC. Soon after leaving port she encountered bad weather, which continued all the way down the coast and eventually wrought her destruction. At the time of her stranding, about 11 o’clock in the night, a fresh gale was blowing from the NNW., with a thick snowstorm, and unusually rough sea. The schooner was running before the wind under double-reefed mainsail and fore staysail. Soundings of 17 fathoms had been obtained, and it seems but a short time elapsed after that when she struck in the outer breakers, one-fourth of a mile NE. of the station, and filled in 20 minutes. Signals of distress were displayed, the crew seeking refuge in the fore rigging from the heavy seas which swept her decks fore and aft. The signal of distress from the stranded schooner was discovered through the gloom by the north patrol, who, after replying with a Coston light to assure her crew that their helpless situation was observed, ran to the station and immediately gave the alarm. Fifteen minutes later the Pea Island crew were on the scene with the beach apparatus. The surfboat was also brought down to be used if required. Owing to the darkness ad thick, blinding snow, those on board could not see the shore nor the life-savers see the wreck. A bonfire was built on the beach, by which the dim outlines of the hull became faintly discernible. No signals of any kind on board could be distinguished nor cries for help be heard above the constant thunder of the surf.
     The Lyle gun having been placed in position, a shot was fired with 6 ounces of powder and a No. 9 line, which latter being hauled upon from the shore without any response, was allowed to remain out, with the hope that it might have fallen aboard and be discovered by the sailors as the day approached. By 1 a.m. the crew from the Oregon Inlet Station, having previously been advised of the disaster by telephone, arrived upon the scene, reinforced a little later on by the men from the New Inlet Station. At intervals the dark shadow of the hull, at which they had vaguely fired, would disappear, lost amidst sleet and snow, which now fell wit unabated severity. Still there was no strain on the line to indicate that it had been found. At daylight the vessel could again be seen, and a second shot was fired, which landed over the headstay. By this time some of the crew could be made out in the fore rigging and on the crosstrees, but apparently were unable to reach the line from their position. A number of shots followed, whenever circumstances seemed most favorable, but owing to the great distance of the vessel from the shore all of them fell short and were swept to leeward by the sea and current. Just before midday a No. 9 line was sent out with an 8-ounce charge, which went over the main topmast stay and slid down almost into the hands of the men in the crosstrees, great care and judgment, however, being exercised to avoid hitting them. Benumbed by the cold, it was some time before they succeeded in hauling off the whip and securing the tailblock to the foremast head. The hawser was then sent aboard and made fast, and, the gear having been set up on shore, it was the work of only a few minutes to heave the hawser taut and establish communications with the breeches buoy.
     The first man was landed at 1.30 p.m., and the last—there were 6 in all—nearly an hour later. The rescued men, all of whom were more or less exhausted and frost-bitten from long exposure in freezing weather, were speedily removed to the station, where everything was done to alleviate their condition. They were sheltered and comfortably cared for by the surfmen for 11 days, having recovered sufficiently by that time to start for their homes. All had been rescued save one. It appears, from what could be learned from the survivors, that Edwards, being a man of advanced years and a cripple, was only able to reach the sidelight screen when the vessel filled and the others took refuge aloft to save themselves. Here he had lashed himself to the lower shroud, and when last seen by those above him seemed to be secure, but at dawn he was missing. Torn from his lashings and swept away by the sea, he was never again seen. The Montana became a total wreck, and was sold by the master for a small sum.
Schooner Montana
Newspaper Article:
New York Times, December 12, 1904