Sunday, February 12, 2012

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

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