Wednesday, March 30, 2011


To this day, no authentic information has been found that gives a complete list of the many vessels totally lost or the number of people drowned during the storms of July 12 and August 24, 1842, though the following newspaper article fits the time frame and lists several vessels. In total, more than 40 ships were lost.
     Nearly 30 ships ran aground near Ocracoke Inlet. Captain Etheridge of the Chicamacomico life saving station said that he saw large numbers of dead horses and cattle drifting down the sound; two unknown vessels capsized and beaten to pieces in the breakers on Diamond Shoals, their entire crews lost; and 7 men who drowned when they went out later to try and salvage some of the wrecked cargo.

     Fourteen vessels were reported ashore between Ocracoke and New Inlet, including a large English schooner, with the owner and one of his daughters on board—both of whom lost all their personal belongings when the vessel was destroyed. Fourteen more ships were reported aground on the sound side of Ocracoke Inlet and presumed lost.
     In late October, a message in a bottle was recovered at Bermuda with an account of the storm from the captain and first mate of the imperiled schooner Lexington, presumed lost at sea. Newspapers of the day made no more mention of the Lexington or her crew, but the storm Captain Morgan referred to was one of the most destructive ever recorded on the North Carolina coast:

“Schooner Lexington, off Cape Hatteras, July 15, 1842. This morning at half past two o’clock a.m., it commenced blowing a strong North Wester, which increased to such a degree that it was certain my vessel could not stand it. At 5 I tried the pumps and found that she made eleven inches. She being an old vessel, worked in her joints. At half past eleven, I determined to leave her with my crew (three men and myself) in our launch; but before leaving sounded the pumps, and found she had increased the water in her hold three feet. I write this and enclose it in a bottle, so that if we should not be saved and the bottle be found, it may be known what became of the vessel and us. At 1 p.m. got into the boat with provisions and water sufficient for six days, having beforehand offered up our prayers to God to protect and save us. Signed Wm. H. Morgan, Captain ; John Rider, Mate.”

The Evening Post, New York, NY, July 25, 1842

Residents had hardly begun clearing up the debris from the July hurricane when another storm, hardly less severe, struck the same area. This one blew in from the Atlantic on August 24, and by the time it was over many more vessels were known to have been lost, a number of others were reported aground (some of them listed below) and at least 12 mariners were killed:
  • Brig Kilgore, enroute from Trinidad to Baltimore in ballast, went ashore on Currituck Beach, bilged and became a total wreck. Her captain and crew reached shore safely. 
  • Brig Pioneer, out of the Truk Islands with a load of salt enroute to Norfolk, VA, went ashore on Ocracoke Island, 30 miles south of Cape Hatteras, with the loss of the cargo and one crewman.
  • Ship Congress, also loaded with salt from Turks Island, wrecked on Cape Hatteras. Seven on board were lost.
  • Schooner Granary, under the command of Capt. Hooper, also went ashore losing her crew and cargo.
  • Schooners W.H. Harrison and John Hughes and the brig Kimberly were lost on Ocracoke.
  • Ship John L. Durand bilged and sank while en route to the West Indies losing one crewman.

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