Baltic and Schooner Northern Light

I have read on several websites that The Baltic(ii)was involved in the rescue of the crew of the schooner Northern Lights in December 1929. I believe my Great Grandfather Captain James Kearney was captain of the Baltic at the time and I was wondering if anyone has a fuller account of the incident.

Mark Baber

Hello, Jo---

Yep, J. Kearney was Baltic's captain at the time, and I happen to have a copy of the article that appeared in The New York Times the next day. If you'd like a copy, email me with your mailing address.

P.S. Welcome. Nice to see you again.

Mark Baber

[MAB Note: Contrary to what's stated above and in the following article, Capt. Kearney was not Baltic's commander at the time of the Northern Light rescue. As will appear later, it was Capt. Evan Davies]

The New York Times, 7 December 1929

Baltic Saves Five of Six on Sinking Schooner;
Seaman Lost as High Wind Whips Heavy Seas

In a wind of hurricane force yesterday the White Star liner Baltic stood
by the stricken schooner Northern Light, out of St. John's, N. F., and
saved five of a crew of six men who were forced to abandon the light
vessel in the Winter storm. The lost man was Rex Parsons, 20 years old,
a seaman.

Yesterday's sea rescue was the second in two days, and was near the
spot where, on Thursday, the United States liner Republic took off the
entire crew of eleven men from the schooner Gander Deal. Both ships
are due in New York the first of next week, bearing the castaways.

So severe was the weather in which the boat crew cast away from the
side of the Baltic yesterday that it was impossible to reclaim the
lifeboat which made the rough trip between-the two vessels. In his
report to the offices of the White Star Line here Captain J. Kearney
said he had had to leave the lifeboat adrift after the five men were
hauled aboard. Only the casual details of the rescue were sent. The
message follows:

"Baltic. 9:30 E. S. T. Lat. 45.54 degrees N., Long, 42.32 degrees W.
Schooner Northern Light, bound from St. John's to Bonavista Bay, owners
Job Brothers, St. John's, abandoned in sinking condition and dangerous
to navigation. Out of crew of six we rescued five by Baltic lifeboat.
One seaman, Rex Parsons, aged 20, was drowned. Baltic lifeboat cast
adrift near derelict. Weather very bad, whole gale and very high,
dangerous sea."

The lost seaman has not been identified as such, but it is believed he
was the son of T. Parsons, who commanded the frail fishing craft out
of the Newfoundland port. The Northern Light and the Gander Deal were
in the little group of fishing craft reported missing from the fleet
last Friday when the storm broke over the North Atlantic. Two of them,
according to The Associated Press, the Lloyd Jack under command of
Captain Edward Bishop, and the Neptune, in command of Captain Joe
Barbour, are still unaccounted for. It is feared they have been lost.

Attempts were made yesterday to get more details of the Baltic rescue,
but officials of the White Star Line here declined to ask Captain
Kearney for more information. P. A. S. Franklin, head of the line in the
United States, is a passenger on the Baltic. The Baltic is a twin-screw
steamer of nearly 20,000 gross tons and plies between New York and


Mark Baber

[MAB Notes: 1. The bracketed words at the beginning of the tenth paragraph
do not appear in the original article; a line of type was evidently left

2. The bracketed words at the beginning of the third-from-last
paragraph, on the other hand, do appear in the original; they may be an
incorrectly-set subhead.]

The New York Times, 11 December 1929

Five of Six in Schooner's Crew Arrive on Baltic and Laud Heroism of
Then Were Hauled to Lifeboat Kept at Distance From Sinking Craft by
Crew of Second Schooner Picked Up Off Newfoundland Went Days Without
Food or Sleep
Two liners reached port yesterday with sixteen men rescued from two
schooners which fell prey to the savage storm off the Newfoundland coast
last week. The White Star liner Baltic brought five men in last night
and earlier in the day the United States liner Republic brought eleven.

The five who arrived on the Baltic were members of the crew of six of
the schooner Northern Light and were rescued in a whole gale 400 miles
from land last Friday. With the passengers who had watched the rescue,
they were lavish In praise of the heroism of the volunteer lifeboat crew
which saved them.

Sails gone and water pouring into the hold, the crew of the Northern
Light were in desperate straits after a two-day battle with the storm
when they were sighted by the Baltic at 9:40 last Friday morning.
Captain Evans Davis [sic; should be "Davies"] of the Baltic manoeuvred
his vessel to windward of the stricken schooner after sighting her
reversed ensign and called for volunteers to man a boat for her

Third officer J. H. Walker and nine seamen and petty officers after a
half hour's struggle launched a starboard lifeboat. While Captain Davis
kept the Baltic to windward of the stricken schooner, to form a lee for
the lifeboat, rescuers began the battle to cross the intervening 150
feet of storm-tossed water. So high were the seas running, passengers
said, that much of the time the lifeboat and the schooner were hidden
from those on the Baltic's deck.

Called to Men to Jump

The crew of the Northern Light floated a boom to their rescuers, who
drew as close to the schooner as they dared and called to the men
huddled on the deck to jump. One by one they did so, with Captain Thomas
Parsons the last man to leave his ship. Carvy Holloway, an able seaman,
timed his jump so well that he landed in the lifeboat. The others
plunged into the sea, but with one exception were quickly hauled into
the lifeboat.

The lone exception was Rex Parsons, 20 years old, elder son of the
captain. He had been ill of pneumonia and laughed deliriously as he
waited with the others for help to arrive. His father struggled with him
and tore off his heavy oilskins, but the feverish young seaman jumped
into the sea still wearing his heavy seaboots. He was not seen again.

The others rescued were Peter Parsons, 17, younger son of the captain,
who had shipped as cook; Frederick Wiseman, 48, the mate, and Richard
Russell, 23.

As they reached the Baltic the seas were so high that it was decided to
abandon the lifeboat. Bowlines were fastened beneath the armpits of
rescuers and rescued and they were hauled aboard the liner. All but
Russell of those saved were so exhausted that they completed the journey
in the ship's hospital.

Walker already holds two decorations for taking part in the rescue of
the crew of the French schooner Daisy on April 15, 1927. His companions
on his latest exploit were Chief Petty Officer J. Boylan, Storekeeper
John Whelan, Boatswain's Mate John Fitzgerald, Quartermasters Peter Codd
and W. H. Williams and Able Seamen Albert Cole, J. Roberts, G. Riley and
G. Delehay.

[P. A. S. Franklin, president of the] International Mercantile Marine
Company, was among the Baltic's passengers. He said that the rescue of
the men from the Northern Light was the finest thing he had ever seen.

Republic Brings 11 Men

The rescued crew of the frail schooner Gander Deal returned aboar [sic]
the Republic. Two of the crew who had been in the ship's hospital
recovering from the effects of exhaustion and long exposure were
completely recovered and the ten men and their captain were in excellent

The captain, Manual Barbour, told of abandoning his seventy-ton schooner
and the valuable cargo of Winter supplies and Christmas gifts which he
had loaded at St. John's after disposing of his cargo of fish. The
little town of Neutown, Newfoundland, will have a shortage of toys and
gifts this season and may even suffer for lack of necessary supplies,
Captain Barbour said, as the Gander Deal was one of eleven fishing ships
loaded with supplies which were carried out to sea.

Two of the fleet are as yet unaccounted for and it is feared they went
down in last week's storm.

On Nov. 30 a full [?] gale swept down on the fleet. Captain Barbour, who
was reluctant to tell his story, said he had to run before the storm
with sails stowed. One by one the deck pieces went overboard. A heavy
sea smashed a motor boat lashed to the deck. The crew had to chop it
away. Everything movable finally went, the battened hatches were
stove in and the little Gander Deal began to fill below.

Under bare masts the schooner was making more than five knots,
Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, when the rudder went. The crew
salvaged the rudder and rigged it in make-shift fashion. They had no
time to eat or sleep.

The captain said he had been lashed to the wheel in one-hour relays
after he and other men had nearly been washed overboard.

During these days and nights the crew saw three ships pass by. They
watched hopefully while the flares went up. But the lights of the ships
in the distance grew faint and finally disappeared.

Water Supply Gone

The schooner was out of water and the supply of flares was running low
when the Republic came into sight. It was 4:30 last Thursday morning and
the eleven buffeted, sick men were on deck because they could not go
below. The sea filled even the crew quarters.

The schooner had fled 550 miles before the storm when First Officer
Sobol of the Republic reported to Captain A. M. Moore that he had
sighted the Gander Deal's distress signal. The liner hove to and made
alee. Two boats were ready and one was cast off with Chief Officer H. L.
Winslow in command of eight men. This was at 6:15, Captain Moore

While the Republic manoeuvred to keep a lee over the tossing lifeboat,
the crew pulled hard for the Gander Deal and found the exhausted crew
hanging over the sinking rail. The men fell into the lifeboat, Winslow

[hauled aboard with all hands saved]
All but two of the men were able to scramble up the Republic's sides.
The two were hauled up as they lay in the boat.

Herbert Berry, a seaman, nephew of the Gander Deal's mate, Louis Berry,
developed bronchitis but had fully recovered when the Republic docked

The others of the crew were William Saunsberg, James Perry, Eric
Tolk, James Tolk, James Gill, Garfield Boland, Samuel Born and Daniel


[Another MAB Note: The day after this article was published, the
following paragraph appeared in another article about shipping delays
caused by the storm that doomed Northern Light:

"P. A. S. Franklin, president of the International Mercantile Marine
Company, who returned Tuesday from England on the Baltic, will give
Captain Thomas Parsons and the other four survivor of the crew of the
schooner Northern Light a passage to Halifax. N. S., on the Baltic,
which rescued them."]

Mark Baber

The New York Times, 6 March 1930

Liner Back From Mediterranean, Stood By in Plane Mishap

Two White Star liners arrived yesterday, the Adriatic from a
Mediterranean cruise, and the Baltic from Liverpool via Queenstown.
Captain J. Kearney, master of the Adriatic, said that after he had left
Naples he received a radio message from the Italian Navy depot at
Spezia that a seaplane was in trouble and needed immediate assistance.
Captain Kearney said he was all ready to go to the position given, about
120 miles away from his ship, when he received a second message that a
destroyer was speeding to the aid of the seaplane, and he continued on
his course for Gibraltar and New York.

Among the passengers on the Adriatic was Colonel Julius Ochs Adler and
Mrs. Adler, who have been spending a few weeks at Monte Carlo and Nice.

The day the Baltic left Liverpool, Captain Evan Davies, master of the
ship; Third Officer J. J. Walker and the nine seamen who manned the
lifeboat that rescued the crew of the Newfoundland schooner Northern
Light recently, received medals from Lloyd's Society.

Hi Mark,
Thanks for that last post. Another story to file away. I wonder who Col. and Mrs Adler were? Must have been nice to "spend a few weeks" in Nice and Monte Carlo.

Mark Baber

Hello, Jo---

1. Welcome back; nice to see you here again.

2. Adler was a prominent figure in both military and journalism circles. A nephew of Adolph S. Ochs, owner and publisher of The New York Times, he was publisher of The Chatanooga Times (also owned by Ochs) and became general manager of The New York Times after Ochs' death. He was also a field commander in both World Wars, achieving the rank of Colonel in the first and Brigadier General in the second.

Mark Baber

The New York Times, 26 June 1930

Purse Also Will Be Presented to Them for Saving Fishermen in Winter Gale

Almost seven months after they had risked their lives in a Winter gale
to save five fishermen, Captain Evan Davies, master of the White Star
liner Baltic, Chief Officer J. H. Jones and ten members of the crew will
receive medals and a money award from the Life Saving Benevolent
Association of New York. The presentation will be made aboard the ship
this afternoon at her Chelsea pier for rescuing the crew of the
shipwrecked Northern Light in a severe storm off St. John's, N. F.

Herbert K. Satterlee, brother-in-law of J. P. Morgan and president of
the association, will make the presentation at 1 P. M. after a luncheon
on the ship. The crew of the lifeboat that on last Dec. 6 rescued all
but one of the men of the Northern Light comprised J. H. Walker, third
officer; John Fitzgerald, boatswain's mate; John Boylan, chief petty
officer; John Whelan, storekeeper; Peter Codd and F. H. Williams,
quartermasters; George A. Riley, John Roberts, George Delaney and Albert
E. Cole, seamen.

The Northern Light was one of a group of fishing craft reported missing
when a heavy storm swept the North Atlantic early in December. So severe
was the weather at the time of the rescue that the Baltic abandoned the
lifeboat when the men were hauled aboard.

Hello Mark,

Thanks for the articles, most interesting! Seems to have been quite the storm and an heroic rescue. I see the name J.H. Walker popping up - that would be James Holland Walker; who had been on Britannic as third Officer during the first few voyages.

Have you been able to find anything of the rescue of the schooner Daisy, in 1927?

Thanks again,

Best regards,

Mark Baber

Have you been able to find anything of the rescue of the schooner Daisy, in 1927?

No, but then again, I've never specifically looked. What ship made the rescue, Remco?
White Star Line Magazine February 1930

The Luck of the “Northern Light”: Heroes of the Atlantic
By E.P Ortweiler
This narrative contained in a letter from a passenger in the “Baltic,” Mr. E.P .Ortweiler, is reprinted from “The Times” by kind permission of the Editor of that paper.

At about 10am on Friday, December 6th, I saw two bare masts swaying violently on the Horizon. At times they would disappear entirely behind the crests of waves. I thought, at the time, that we should probably come abreast of the vessel later in the morning and made a mental note that it might be an interesting sight. About three-quarters of an hour later, as I was sitting in the lounge, a fellow passenger asked me to come on deck to look at what he called a fishing vessel in distress.
“I followed him and saw on our port side a small two-masted sailing vessel. No sails were set, and there was no auxiliary motor, as could be seen by the absence of a propeller each time the stern lifted out of the water. As we came nearer we veered round to give the vessel the lee of our bulk, though this could not help much, as we had to stand off some distance. Through glasses it’s name was now decipherable — the Northern Light. Some four or five men could be seen on the deck. The agonizing angles at which it rode the waves made one catch one’s breath. The hull continually disappeared behind the waves, even when viewed from so high a perch as the boat deck of a 25,000-ton liner.
“Meanwhile with singularly little commotion, one of the Baltic’s lifeboats had been manned by a volunteer crew of nine under the third officer --- Mr. J.H. Walker, who already holds two medals for saving life at sea. The Lifeboat crew seemed to compromise every conceivable type in age, from 15 to 50, and in shape as varied as the human form allows; but one was full of admiration for their stout hearts ----(they knew they hadn’t much chance of getting back). The davits were swung out and the lifeboat lowered to within some feet of the crests of the waves. It was a long, long way from the davits on the top deck to the water, and even a slight roll entails great danger of the lifeboat swinging against the ship’s side and upsetting its occupants into the sea.
“ By skilful handling, however, this was avoided. Buckets of oil were poured into the water (and also over the third officer, who made some audible comments about in nautical language). The oil had little effect, and the lifeboat swung above the water. At the next big wave it was dropped with a splash and rowed away from the ship’s side as quickly as possible. Then began a 20 minutes’ struggle to cover the 300 yards to the schooner. The lifeboat rode the waves in the most amazing fashion.
“ When it came within hailing distance the crew of the schooner threw over a line attached to a piece of wood. This was picked up by the lifeboat and made fast to its bows. One by one the crew of the schooner let themselves over the stern, dragged themselves through the water by means of the line, and were hauled onboard the lifeboat. The line was about 50 ft. long, but the waves sometimes brought the two vessels so close together for a moment that one of the schooner’s crew jumped straight from his ship into the lifeboat — full on the stomach of one of its crew. The last man but one went over the stern and grasped the line, which was slack at the moment. A wave separated the two boats and thereby tautened the line suddenly, just as the man was reaching the lifeboat. The line was wrenched out of his hand, and though the man in the bow of the lifeboat grabbed at him he sank like a stone.
For what seemed a long time the master of the Northern Light --- the last man in his ship --- could be seen behaving like a man possessed, waving his arms in gestures of despair and looking over the side of the vessel. They say he made several attempts to cast off the line and leave himself to his fate. Eventually he seemed to hurl himself over the stern and tear himself along the line till he was hauled on board the lifeboat. The lifeboat cut the line and made it’s way back to the Baltic.
“Apparently in order to give the lifeboat smooth water, the Baltic backed down, as it approached. In an incredibly short space of time the lifeboat was swept round the Baltic’s bows to windward. For a quarter of an hour my heart never left my mouth. There was hardly a dog’s chance of their getting back again without being smashed up against the ship’s bows or against it’s anchor as they and the Baltic pounded up and down. It was so sickening that I had to turn away at times.
“After a long struggle and by way of manoeuvring the Baltic as much as possible, the lifeboat regained our lee and one saw the rescued men, their faces black with grime, huddled up in their soaking rags. One by one, the rescued first, the crew next and last the third officer were hauled on board by lines slipped under their armpits. It was too rough to use a ladder, and it was too rough to get the lifeboat back on board. It was left to drift in the Atlantic until it sank.
“That is the story from a spectator’s point of view. But a bare recital of the facts learned from the rescued skipper makes the thing an epic. The vessel was a schooner bound from St John’s, Newfoundland, to Bona Vista, (sic) Newfoundland, with a cargo of 90 tons. This is a trip, in sight of land all the way, which normally takes 12 hours, but in bad weather anything up to 24. They started off in perfect weather and had sailed for 39 of the ninety-odd miles when the storm blew up. It carried away all the spars and rigging one by one, and they had been drifting in a howling gale for seven days. They had had no water for two days, no heat at all for five days.
Mark, I have an extra photocopy of the above article which includes a picture of Capt. Davies and the lifeboat crew being presented with medals by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool. There is also a picture of the Northern Light taken from the Baltic. If you would like the photocopies just let me know and I will gladly send them.
Hello Mark,

That was the ageing Ionic. Would be great if you find anything.


Many thanks for that story! Great read, although it's similar to the newspaper story, it has a few nice 'extras'. I can't stop wondering how Officer Walker must have looked when he got back aboard the Baltic...

Brave bunch of men.

Best regards,
Remco, Yeah it's interesting to read the two different accounts of the incident. I think this account really gives a good idea of the risk the lifeboat crew took. It's one thing to have to take to a lifeboat in an emergency but to choose to leave a perfectly safe ocean liner, for a lifeboat, in these conditions took real courage.
And the part about the 3rd officer's "comments in nautical language" made me chuckle. :)