View Full Version : From the Gloucester Schooner "Thomas E. Lannon" web page... Good stuff!

Art Read
04-04-2003, 03:15 AM
"Desperate Chances Taken
The following is an account of a rescue at sea on October 30, 1908 as recounted by Capt. Albert Larkin of the Schooner Natalie J. Nelson. Spelling errors have not been corrected from the original handwritten account of the unnamed observer.

Desperate Chances Taken.
Rescue of Schooner Eric’s Crew a Most Sensational One.

Capt. Giffin and Crew of Schooner Conqueror Highly Praised.

Undoubtedly one of the bravest rescues ever attempted by a Gloucester fisherman was that of the saving of the captain and crew of the British Schooner Eric, coal laden, off Nauset a week ago last Friday by the men of the Schooner Conqueror of this port. At the time particulars were not obtainable but recently the story of Capt. Giffin of Schooner Conqueror has been published from which we make the following extracts.

As brave a rescue as men ever made at sea, a feat of indomitable daring for the performance of half of which medals of gold adorn the breasts of hundreds of heroes of the deep…..received scant mention in the news dispatches because a nation was busy with its politics. It was a tale worthy of the telling by a Kipling or a Connolly that Capt. Robertson Giffin recounted when the trawler Conqueror out of Gloucester, put in at Provincetown. Casually and evenly, merely as describing an incident of the day’s work, he told the habitues on the waterfront of the Cape Cod town how Alonzo Townsend, Charles Decker, William Meuse, Thomas Lannon and Charles White, sturdy seafaring men, defied death in dancing cockle shells of dories to snatch the men of the Schooner Eric, coal laden and low-squatted, from the furies of wind and wave as they clamored for victims off Nauset in the leaden morning of a fall day. When the simple story had been completed, the doughty captain buttoned his oilskins, rowed out to the Conqueror and headed for port with his fare of fish.

No matter though the gale had turned on yet another stop and the ocean’s diapason had become deafening, the trim wind jamming fishing schooner was soon bowling onward, slowly but surely winning her way into the teeth of the gale, and her crew said no more of the rescue. But real men will thrill when they hear the story.

Capt. Albert Larkin of the Schooner Natalie J. Nelson, which arrived at Boston Saturday, was in this city Saturday evening, and in talking with a number of skippers and vessel owners about the hard weather which had prevailed on the fishing grounds since a week ago Thursday, said that since that date none of the offshore fleet in the Channel or on George’s had a chance to have a set. Referring to the rescue of the crew of the coasting Schooner Eric, during the terrible gale of a week ago Friday, off Chatham, Cape Cod, by Schooner Conqueror Capt. Robertson Giffin of this port and five of his crew, he said, "There are no medals made that are any too large for Giffin and those five fellows. I have seen men and crews saved at sea, and had a hand at it myself, and sometimes under very hard weather conditions, but this act of Giffin and the chaps that went in those two dories was certainly the limit; yes, it was beyond the limit. Mind you, we were right there and saw it, so I know what I’m talking about. The wind that day, you know, was 70 miles an hour at Highland Light, and this was just down of Chatham, and you know no rougher spot could be picked out in a northeast gale. Why, the big Yale, that outsize steamer on the New York line, couldn't make up around the Highland that day and had to turn back and anchor, yet Giffin brought the Conqueror down abreast of that sinking craft and he was wagging his riding sail, foresail and jumbo. It did not seem possible that they could do any more than lay by until the gale went down and then pick them off." The Captain of the Eric told in Provincetown afterward that he never expected to see them make the attempt to take them off, and he could hardly believe his eyes when he saw them stick out two dories and row down to them in the face of all that wind and sea. And he took them off to windward mind you, which made it all the harder and all the more desperate. The dories could not get on her leeward side, as all the wreckage, booms, gaffs, etc. were slatting around on that side.

And so, the rescue of the men off the Schooner Eric was made off Nauset in 1908. Tom Lannon and his mates each received a medal for their heroic deed. Many other brave men did not fare as well and were not saved when their ships went down to the sea.

2001 Thomas Edward Lannon, Inc.
Page designed by Elliscom."

You know... Sometimes I think this world would be a better place if all men were "seamen"...

[ 04-04-2003, 03:36 AM: Message edited by: Art Read ]

imported_Steven Bauer
04-04-2003, 01:22 PM
Good one Art. I had a nice talk with Harold Burnham, builder of the Lannon, at the Maine Boatbuilder's Show. He's a real character. I'd love to take the family out lobstering with him on his Friendship Sloop 'Chrissy'. He does lobster hauling charters in August.

04-04-2003, 02:56 PM
A fine tale, Art. I know that I am preaching to the converted here on the WBF, but I think that very few people realize how brave and self-sacrificing the sailors of our east coast fishing fleets were (and still are), and how often the put themselves in utter peril for the sake of others and asked no thanks nor recognition for it. I have been fortunate during my life to have heard many stories of such exploits, often first-hand, by humble fishermen who honestly felt that "it warn't nuthin' special - anybody would done it, if they'd been there".

In hopes of adding to this body of work, and not in the least trying to diminish the magnitude of the events described above, I'd like to add an excerpt from a history of my area, which is closer to yours in spirit and common ancestry than in miles. Keep in mind that the schooner referred to was most likely around forty to fifty feet LOA and would have only the rudest of cuddies forward with no other accomodation space, and that the trip to Halifax would have normally been expected to last twelve hours or so:

Angeline's Wedding Dress

At dawn one December day (1868), the small schooner Industry sailed from Lahave to Halifax with a cargo of fish and cord wood. There were only three in the crew, but there were some passengers on board. One of the passengers was Angeline Publicover, a girl of eighteen, who was going to Halifax to buy her wedding dress.

The winds that drove the Industry toward Halifax were so light that the ship took seventeen hours to sail forty miles. The next morning, just as they could see the Sambro Light, the beacon for Halifax, a fierce snowstorm roared down on them. The foresail was split, other sails torn to rags, and the Industry was blown out into the Atlantic.

For three days and three nights the ship raced under bare poles straight out to sea. The can of kerosene had been spilled so the people on board had no light at night. Their small supply of food had been spoiled by the salt water, and all they had left were one or two potatoes. Worst of all, the water casks had been broken and only two gallons of water had been saved. For eighteen days, all that the seven people on board had to drink was a small wine glass of water each day. Their Christmas dinner was a boiled potato shared among the seven of them. Their tongues became so swollen that they could scarcely eat.

Day after day, starving and thirsty, the men worked on the tossing, windswept deck, pumping the water out as fast as it came in. When the men lost hope, Angeline told them that their prayers would be answered and that God would care for them.

Her faith was rewarded. Eighteen days after they had left Lahave, the Nova Scotian barque Providence from Canning sighted the battered Industry. Captain Hiram Coalfleet risked his ship and all on board to bring his big barque alongside the tiny schooner. Abel Coalfleet, the mate, let himself down on a rope to the pitching deck of the Industry. He fastened a line around Angeline and she was quickly drawn up on the deck of the Providence. The others were pulled on board by the crew. The Providence, although badly damaged, continued on her way to London where the weak and starved castaways were cared for. Angeline finally reached Halifax sixty-one days after she had left Lahave.

- from "Nova Scotia: A Brief History" by Phyllis Blakely

I can't begin to comprehend the range of emotions that Angelina's family and fiance went through during this ordeal in an age before radios and rapid trans-atlantic communication. Decendants of the Publicover family still reside in Lahave.