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Cape Cod Ship Afire In Snowstorm

On the morning of December 28, 1803, a small schooner cast off from a wharf in Boston and, under command of Capt. J. P. Schott, Jr., got underway for the West Indies. By afternoon, having arrived at Nantasket Roads, she anchored there until the day after New Year’s.

At last a favorable wind came up, and she spread her wings once more. Darkness had fallen, when the same night, about 8 o’clock, the cry of fire was raised, and the blaze was discovered under the hearth of the steerage fireplace. Despite all efforts to put the blaze out, it gained on the crew, and about 10:30 that night the skipper and men had to take to their life boat. The ship was well afire by then.

The small boat with its human freight was at this time about forty miles from Cape Cod Lighthouse, at North Truro. From the northwest a strong gale was blowing, pushing up heavy seas, and tossing the boat about. In their hurry to abandon ship, the men had taken neither food nor water. However, soon after midnight the wind dropped somewhat and then veered to come round from the east. Accordingly, the men steered westerly, hoping to make land, and by 9:30 a.m. they sighted land.

Unfortunately, the wind again blew very hard and with it came heavy snow. By about 2:30 p.m., they were close to shore, but there was a terrible surf on the east side of the beach at Orleans, extending far out. The unlucky boat was soon in its fury. A comber rising over them twelve or more feet, swamped her; the next comber capsized her. In another moment, all hands were swept out into the icy water. The skipper and two other men were carried by the surf inland to safety, five others were drowned. Two others who were carried by the waters to a point three miles farther along shore, were found drowned, the next day.

The survivors took shelter in a cold and fireless hut of the Humane Society, destitute of food and fuel. The people of Cape Cod when their plight was discovered, rendered every possible help, and the Captain, finally reaching Boston on January 9, gave to the Boston Gazette full particulars of this tragedy.

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Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 02/01/06
Categories: History
Keywords: maritime, shipwrecks, history


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