Little Compass RoseCaribbean Compass   April 2007

 

 

Reappearing Wreck Linked to 1898 Hurricane

by Duncan Richardson

Our old shipwreck on the Langley Park beach near Georgetown, St. Vincent, refuses to go away. She visits for a short while then dives beneath the sands for months, only to reappear and show a bit more of herself. Sadly, whenever she does appear, a little bit more disintegrates, victim to the battering waves. It seems most probable that she is one of three large vessels blown ashore in St. Vincent by the great hurricane of September 10th and 11th, 1898.

The ships in question are:

• The British-registered sailing ship Loanda of 1,447 tons, which was commanded by Capt Dodge and built by J. Fraser in Courtenay Bay, New Brunswick, Canada in 1881. She hailed from Windsor, Ontario and was owned by Bennet Smith and Sons.

• The American-registered barque Grace Lynwood of 600 tons, normally commanded by Capt. H.A. Gilley but under Capt. Rafford for her last voyage. She hailed from New York and was owned by Miller, Bull & Knowlton. She was built in 1890 in Bucksport, Maine by Beazley & Co. and measured 156 feet long by 38 feet wide and 18 feet deep. She had sailed out of New York via Barbados for Trinidad with general cargo and had been dragged from her anchorage in Carlisle Bay, Barbados by the hurricane.

• The American-registered barque Lapland of 582 tons and commanded by Capt. Cates. She hailed from Boston and was built in 1881 in Bucksport, Maine. She measured 147.6 feet long by 32.9 feet wide by 18.7 feet deep. It was reported that she had been returning from Africa and it was not clear whether she was caught at sea or had been anchored. (Another ship lost was probably a barquentine, the Loveable.

The British man o' war HMS Alert had steamed out to sea from Bridgetown, Barbados and survived.) Newspaper reports at the time reported, "A terrible hurricane has swept over Barbados in the Windward group of the Lesser Antilles. Two hundred persons have been killed and over 40,000 rendered homeless St. Vincent has experienced the most violent and destructive cyclone ever known there" and mention these three vessels coming ashore and the crews escaping with their lives. They also reported that St. Vincent's coast was strewn with wrecks blown down by the storm. A few years ago on the extreme south end of the Georgetown beach, near Black Point, I did see a few ribs of another large vessel buried in the sand.

I have been able to measure what is left of the shipwreck at Langley Park beach; it measures 156 feet by 40 feet at its widest. All that remains would have been below the waterline. It appears to have been an immensely strong vessel because of the thickness of the hull - three layers totaling a thickness of 11 inches - and the size and close positioning of the ribs, particularly near the bow. There is a four-inch-thick, horizontal V-shaped reinforcement across the bow cut from a single slab of timber, and a diagonal beam on either side of the bow starting about 12 feet aft of the bow at deck level, moving down and forward to meet at a lower point on the bow itself. The inside of the keel is visible and the fastenings for the copper sheathing can still be seen on the exterior planking. There appears to be some distortion on the starboard side of the hull, indicating hull collapse outwards at some stage, but the port side seems to have the original shape.

The planking and central deck-support columns appear to be pitch pine and are well preserved, with a good pine-oil smell; the ribs are a darker wood. The iron fastenings are also still well preserved, as are the bracket seen on the bow and a round iron object, possibly part of a winch. She lies with her bow pointing southward at an angle of about ten degrees off the beach. The land has eroded sufficiently that the entire vessel is now lying on the beach, sometimes buried in the sand and at other times almost fully exposed.

From all the research I have done it seems most possible that she is the Loanda. Microfilm copies of newspaper reports in 1898 were obtained from newspaper archive.com, and registry information from www.mysticseaport.org.

     
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