1885 “Timely rescue by hardy men of Gloucester” Boston Globe interviews Captains from schooners Clytie and Alaska about the terrible hurricane at Christmas time

On this day, a rescue at sea, December 29, 1885. Boston Globe story presented accounts from both crews and was published January 2, 1886, (author possibly Tom Herbert)

DRIVEN TO THE SEA: In the terrible gale at Christmas Time. Facing Starvation and Cold on the Schooner Alaska. Timely Rescue by Hardy Men of Gloucester.

Still another is added to the long list of stories of terrible sufferings at sea and gallant rescues that will long make memorable the month of December, 1885. The schooner Clytie of Gloucester arrived in port Thursday night, with the schooner Alaska in tow, the latter vessel showing evidence of the trying ordeal through which she had passed. The story of the recue as told by Captain Courant of the Clytie, is one of thrilling interest.

“Tuesday morning,” said he, in his bluff, hearty manner, “just at daybreak, we sighted a vessel way off on the horizon. We could not make out shwa she was, or what she was doing. We couldn’t really make out whether there was anything the matter with her or not, she was so far away. I went up on the house with the glass. It looked then as if she was an anchor, but we knew that could not be so, as there was no bank there. By and by, as it grew lighter, and we worked up nearer, we saw the signals of distress flying. We were then under two reefed foresail, with bonnet off the jib. When we saw she was in distress we put two reefs in the mainsail and stood up for her. Remember all this time it was a howling hurricane. It was a different thing out there 150 miles at sea, with the great waves threatening to send us to Davy Jones’ locker every minute than what it is to tell of it here in comfortable quarters. When we got near the vessel we saw at once that it would be impossible to board her. So we laid by the rest of the day and all night, and the next morning, though it was still dangerous work,

We Got Out One of the Dories

and got aboard. I tell you it was a hard sight, and the story of terrible suffering from hunger and exposure was a pitiful one. The schooner was the Alaska from , N.B. She sailed Friday, with a crew of six besides the captain, but was met by a fearful gale when outside, and forced to drop anchor. The gale, however increased to such an extent that both cables parted, and the schooner drifted helplessly out to sea. From that time until Tuesday morning, when we discovered her in latitude 42 50 north, longitude 67 21’ west, she was driven about at the mercy of the wind and waves. Their provisions gave out, and death by starvation stared them in the face. They grew weaker and weaker, but still were obliged to do what they could to keep the vessel afloat. Their sails were gone, their decks swept with the waves, and they were drenched to the skin. The cold increased, and with it, their sufferings. Death must soon have ended all if we had not sighted them just as we did. But even under those circumstances the captain didn’t want to desert his schooner; he said she was all he owned in the world, and he had almost rather go down with her than lose her. There was, however, no water, no kerosene and nothing to eat on board, and the vessel was in a dangerous position. She had been loaded with hay and wood, but her deep load of wood had long ago been washed overboard. As I stepped on board the craft, which seemed just

Ready to Take Its Final Plunge,

the Captain stepped forward and said:

“Can you give me some men to help me work my vessel?”

“No, sir,” said I, as I glanced about the wreck; “in the first place, there isn’t a man aboard my vessel would take the risk of going with you.”

“And you won’t let me have even one man” said he in despair, as he began to see his last chance of saving his vessel disappearing.

“No,” said I, “I wouldn’t leave one of my men aboard this craft to take his chances with you if she was loaded with gold.”

He then offered me $100 for a man, but of course, I refused.

“I will,” said I, “do one of two things: I will take your crew aboard my boat, or I will put a crew aboard your vessel and try to work her in.” This last offer I made on condition that I should receive $1000 if I got the vessel in port safely. I was off on a fishing trip, and of course I couldn’t lose my voyage for nothing. It might pay me $1000, and it might not, but that was about fair for the loss of my voyage. He offered me $500 and then $700, but I told him I wouldn’t take $999; that $1000 was only the fair thing. He finally consented and signed the following agreement:

December 29, 1885

I hereby agree to pay the schooner Clytie the sum of one thousand dollars ($1000) to help save my vessel and crew. JOSEPH BISHOP.

Of course in doing even this I had to take my chances of losing my voyage, for we were in a dangerous position, and the chances of saving the vessel were poor. I told him I would take him into the first port I could. The wind was fair for the Nova Scotia coast, but it is a bad place there, and I told him I would try to get him into either Boston or Gloucester. I put six men aboard. The wind favored us, and here we are safe and sound.

“The names of my crew who ran down in the Alaska? Oh, they were Pat Foley, Dick Welch, King Silva, Frank Tijer, John Shea and John McNulty—a good set of boys they are, too.”

“How are the crew of the Alaska getting along?”

“Well, they suffered terribly, but will be all right in a few days. The mate is the worst off, his feet and fingers being frozen. It was a close call for them all, but you know we seafaring men have to take our chances.”

Captain Courant, sch. Clytie

A “Sully Miracle on the” Sea story! Now from the sch. Alaska point of view:

LASHED TO THE WHEEL: Experience of the Crew of the Alaska Given by Captain Bishop—Their Miraculous Escape

Captain Bishop of the schooner Alaska was found aboard his vessel, which is lying on the north side of Union wharf. When asked about his trip, he said it was the roughest weather he had seen for over thirty years.

“We started,” said he, “from Harvey, N.S., Christmas afternoon, with a deckload of cordwood and hay in the hold for James Stevenson of this port. It was blowing pretty hard at the time, but we supposed it would soon moderate. After running about two miles, and when off Grindstone Island, we decided to anchor, as the wind appeared to be increasing. We placed two anchors ahead and let out 210 fathoms of chain. At 2 o’clock the next afternoon the chains parted, and the vessel drifted into the Bay of Fundy. It was then snowing hard, the sea was tremendously high, and it was blowing a terrific gale from the northeast by east. It was impossible to carry any canvas, so we rode along under bare poles. At midnight the storm was fearful. The high seas washed continually over the decks, and the two men at the wheel had to be lashed, otherwise it would have been impossible for them to remain on deck. At 3 o’clock Monday morning we hove the vessel too by a peak in the mainsail. At 7 o’clock we were to north-northwest, with part of the three-reefed foresail and peak of the mainsail, the rest of the mainsail and two jibs having been blown away. At 3 o’clock that afternoon we found ourselves near the breakers, on the southern point of Grand Manan. In the meantime it changed from snow to hail and were then able to see ahead for the first time since Saturday. The first thing we saw was that we were going ashore inside of Gannet rock.

Our stern was close into the breakers when the keeper of the light motioned to us to steer to the south, which we did, and the vessel passed out safely. All this time the sea was mountains high and washing clear over the lighthouse.

Cpt. Bishop, sch. Alaska
Gannet Rock lighthouse – photograph Canadian Coast Guard collection shared on Lighhousefriends.com

The mate and two seamen had their hands and feet badly frostbitten, while my limbs were partially paralyzed Monday evening the wind veered around to north-northwest. At 10 o’clock Tuesday morning, when 130 miles east by south of Cape Ann, we met the fishing schooner Clytie, which towed us to this port. The Alaska had her boat and deckload carried away.

Boston Globe report published Jan 2, 1886

The vessels:

Itemized on List of vessels district of Gloucester August 1878, Gloucester archives 

 Gloucester Harbor. Alaska. 63.87 tonnage.
 Master’s name M.M. Murray Number 455 
 Built in Gloucester in 1867 by George Norwood & Sons
  
 Gloucester Harbor. Clytie. 72.17 tonnage.
 Master’s name A.C. Browell #125,125
 Built in Gloucester 1873 Rowe & Jordan 

2019 article about the history of the (now deteriorating) Gannet lighthouse (yes, for the birds that were there) with interview of former lighthouse keeper: “The Gannet Rock lighthouse soars above a rocky islet off Grand Manan, an old beacon of light for fisherman. But the tower, built in 1831, is battered from years of neglect. It was abandoned in the early 2000s and stopped being maintained by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2010. “


Winslow Homer, Ship building Gloucester Harbor, 1873

Same year as Clytie was built


Scenes of vessels/fishing industry in Gloucester harbor and accounts of winter storms

1876

Ten years earlier, “The December Gales of 1876” chapter from The Fishermen’s Own Book comprising The List of Men and Vessels Lost from Gloucester, Mass., from 1874 – April 1, 1882 AND a Table of Losses From 1830, together with Valuable Statistics of the Fisheries, ALSO Notable Fares, Narrow Escapes, Startling Adventures, Fishermen’s Off-Hand Sketches, Ballads, Descriptions of Fishing Trips, AND Other Interesting Facts and Incidents Connected with This Branch of Maritime Industry, Entered according to Act of Congress, 1882, Procter Bros., Lib of Congress

1902

Clarence Manning Falt

1920s & 1930s

Leslie Jones, others

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