Saturday, October 29, 2011

Remembering the Hestia, October 25, 1909

At 1:10 am, on Monday, October 25, 1909, the old steamer Hestia struck the Old Proprietor Ledge, a lonely and treacherous reef off Grand Manan.  It was a nasty night with strong winds and rain, and the Captain decided to try to launch lifeboats.  Several lives were lost when one lifeboat dumped its occupants into the sea when one tackle came unhooked prematurely.  Two were rescued and hauled back aboard, but the cries and screams in the water below were gradually quenched as nine people were drowned right beside the ship.  Other boats were launched and most crowded into the remaining boats, but six of the crew opted to take their chances on the stranded steamer.  The life boats pulled away from the shipwreck and were blown by the wind across the Bay of Fundy to the Nova Scotia shore, but none survived the ordeal.

The six who stayed with the ship made the best of their precarious position until the weather cleared and the shipwreck was discovered, and a message was sent to the Life Saving Station at Seal Cove.  The painting depicts the stranded Hestia and the rescue of the remnants of crew by the Seal Cove men

Instead of using the lifeboat, Captain Frank L. Benson set out in his own sloop Dreadnought.  With him for crew were Guy Benson, Joseph Hatt, James Dalzell and George Russell.  And so I depicted a sloop in the painting, anchored off from the bow of the Hestia.

At the same time, Captain Loren Wilson set out from Seal Cove in his schooner Ethel, taking along with him his sons Arthur and John Wilson, Horace Schofield, Leonard Benson, Turner Ingalls, Ashton Guptill, Fletcher Harvey, Mabury Russell, George Stewart and Dr. B. F. Johnson..  And so I depicted a schooner drifting by the stern of the "Hestia"

The Ethel arrived at the Old Proprietor Ledge about one o'clock in the afternoon and laid by while Turner Ingalls and Leonard Benson took a dory alongside the Hestia, followed almost immediately by a dory from the Dreadnought.  The seas were still running high and the dorymen summoned all their skill and strength to stay in position alongside the wreck while holding lifelines to allow the shipwrecked men to come aboard. 

Dories are quite remarkable little craft in rough sea, particularly when expertly handled.  And so, while 35 lives were lost in the lifeboats, the six crewmen who stayed by the stranded ship were all saved from the shipwreck by the skilled seamen from Seal Cove.

Even 102 years later, as we contemplate fall storms with their gales force winds, we can be reminded of the loss of the Hestia and so many lives, and the heroic rescue by men of the sea from Grand Manan.

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