Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Schooner Annie E. Pierce ~ 22 February 1892

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30 1892:

On February 22, 1892, the schooner Annie E. Pierce, of Somers Point, NJ, bound from Bogue Inlet, North Carolina, to New Bedford, MA, was beached by her master at a point two and one quarter miles south of the Little Kinnakeet Station (6th District), North Carolina, and the death of Alonzo Driscoll, the mate of the vessel, occurred in consequence. As the schooner came into view from seaward through the rain and mist of that stormy February morning, she was espied by a small boy, who called attention to her. At once the keeper saw from the direction she was steering that the vessel would soon be aground, and he made immediate preparations to render assistance. The adjoining stations were spoken by telephone, and in response the keeper and crew of the Gull Shoal Station immediately repaired to the spot indicated, while the keeper of the Big Kinnakeet Station came with horses to assist in hauling the beach cart. In about three-quarters of an hour from the time the vessel was first seen the three life saving crews were upon the beach near the vessel, which had stranded about 150 yards out. Operations began forthwith, under the direction of the keeper of the Little Kinnakeet Station. Communication was soon established, and in less than an hour the entire crew were landed with the beach apparatus, excepting the mate, who had been killed by a heavy sea before the vessel stranded.
     It appears from the testimony of the master that in the forenoon of the preceding date, when off Cape Henry, VA, the weather became thick and the wind came out from the northeast, increasing to the force of a gale and creating a rough sea. The vessel was then hove to under a close-reefer mainsail, and made good weather until the straps of the main sheet block suddenly parted, carrying away the main boom. This unfortunate accident made it necessary to run back down the coast before the wind, but finding that a course clear of the Hatteras Shoals could not be made, as the soundings on the morning of February 22 indicated that the current was sweeping the vessel toward the land, the master resolved to beach her as a final means of safety. The beakers were seen at about 11 0’clock, although the land was not then visible. Putting the helm to port, so as to run head on, the captain ordered all hands into the cabin, as the safest place when passing through the breakers. While going over the outer bar an immense sea broke over the stern, smashing the yawl and bursting into the cabin with terrific force. At this time the mate, Alonzo Driscoll, of Atlantic City, NJ, stood within the cabin holding the doors together, and was therefore directly in the path of the wave, which tore away the doors and sent one of them with fatal violence against him, to all appearances causing instant death. The crew rushed out of the cabin and climbed into the rigging. The captain followed, after hastily examining the mate; but while he was making his way forward the vessel was again swept by a sea, which left him helpless with a broken leg. By slow and painful movements he crawled to the cabin and remained there until two members of his crew placed him in the buoy, which by this time had been sent off. Upon landing, the captain was carefully wrapped in blankets and sent to the Little Kinnakeet Station in the keeper’s cart, where he received all possible attention, the keeper doing the best he could with the appliances and remedies of the station medicine chest in dressing the injured limb and alleviating its pain.
     The crew were also cared for at the station, where they remained for a period of 9 days, until the state of the weather permitted their departure across the sound to the mainland. The isolation of the narrow strip of land on which the life saving station is situated is such that no physician could be secured to give the captain needed treatment. Efforts were made to obtain surgical aid from the mainland, but the severe gale and high sea which continued several days prevented until March 1, when the revenue cutter Winona, from Newbern, bearing a surgeon of the Marine Hospital Service, reached the station in response to a dispatch from the Department. The master then received proper professional care, and on the following day was conveyed to Newbern on the cutter. The high surf prevented the launching of the boat until the third day after the occurrence of the wreck, when a successful trip was made to her, and the mate’s body and the clothing of the crew were brought on shore. The body was prepared for burial at the station, and then carefully laid to rest in the cemetery of the neighborhood, after funeral ceremonies befitting sad occasion, in the presence of his late comrades. The clothing supplied by the Women’s National Relief Association was drawn upon for the urgent necessities of the master, as well as in preparing for burial the remains of the mate.
     In addition to many verbal expressions of gratitude for the kind attentions received while sojourning at the station, written statements were made by the master and crew of the lost vessel. A disposition, executed February 25, 1892, before Samuel R. Hazen, a notary public, previous to the official investigation of the unhappy accident is given below:

We, the undersigned, captain and crew of the schooner Annie E. Pierce, which was wrecked near Little Kinnakeet Life-Saving Station, despose and say that the made, Alonzo Driscoll, was instantly killed by the sea as the schooner was crossing the outer bar; also, just before the vessel stranded, the captain’s leg was broken by the violence of the sea. This loss of life and injury to limb happened before the vessel struck the shore, and was in nowise the fault of the life-saving crew. We also state that the crew of the Little Kinnakeet Station were promptly on hand and rendered all possible assistance. JOSEPH R. SOMERS, RISLEY SOMERS, GEO. J. LODER, EDWARD DRISCOLL, of the schooner Annie E. Pierce

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