News from 1894: Runic I Rescues a Burning Ship's Crew

Mark Baber

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[MAB Note: "Tuesday" was 17 July.]

The New-York Times, 19 July 1894

OIL SHIP BURNED AT SEA
---
NARROW ESCAPE OF THE CREW OF THE EMMA T. CROWELL
---
The Ship a Dangerous Wreck Near Fire Island---Flames Discovered
Soon After She Sailed for Shanghai---Capt. Pendleton, His Wife, and Crew
of Sixteen Men Driven Hurriedly from the Burning Ship---Rescued by the
Runic
---
The bark Emma T. Crowell, loaded with 39,332 cases of petroleum, was
burned to the water's edge twelve miles south of Fire Island Tuesday
evening, and her master, Capt. A. S. Pendleton, his wife, and the crew
of sixteen men had a narrow escape from death by fire. The wreck is in
the track of ships and is very dangerous to navigation.

For some time those on board the bark were in extreme danger from the
fire that raged beneath them, but they succeeded in escaping in a boat
and were picked up by the steamship Runic, Capt. Haddock, bound for
Liverpool. The Runic transferred them to the Sandy Hook Lightship, and
they reached this city yesterday morning. Little except the clothes they
wore was saved.

Capt. Pendleton, who has been master of the Crowell for fourteen years,
told his thrilling experience yesterday with tears in his eyes. The
Crowell was bound for Shanghai. She was towed to sea Tuesday morning,
and, after discharging her pilot, was put on her course. All went well
until 6:20 P. M., when the bark was twelve miles south of Fire Island.

"Then," said Capt. Pendleton yesterday, " I saw black smoke pouring from
the fore hatch. It was denser than that from a soft-coal furnace. A cry
of fire at once ran along the deck, and a hurried examination showed
that flames were raging fiercely between decks. All hands at once set to
work to fasten down the hatches.

"It was soon plain, however, that nothing could be done to save the
ship, and I ordered the boats to be lowered. The port boat was capsized
the moment it touched the water.

"The starboard boat was at once provisioned and lowered carefully. The
crew of sixteen men, although excited, behaved well. My wife, who has
made many trips with me, was as calm as anyone. She saved her shawl and
watch and a rug, and was the first to enter the boat.

"I called my first mate, Trefey, to follow, but he refused. 'I'll see
the men in first,' he said, and one by one the sixteen men jumped into
the boat. I saved the chronometer and the ship's papers, but nothing
else.

"When we were all in the boat we rowed off a short distance and watched
the ship burn. The Runic, meanwhile, was steaming up toward us, and in a
few moments we were all on board, and our boat with us.

"It was then that the flames burst forth all over my vessel, caught the
sails, ran up and down the masts and rigging, and, with a loud
explosion, shot up in a great sheet of fire. Nelson, my second mate,
tells me she was afire aft as well as forward when he last saw her. She
was burning low down on the water's edge.

"The Runic was twelve hours late, but every thing possible was done for
us by her officers. Capt. Haddock wanted to take my crew to Europe with
him, but as they did not want to go, he put his ship about and put us
aboard the Sandy Hook Lightship. The Dutch oil-tank steamship Ocean,
Capt. Cassens, took us and our boat from the lightship and landed us at
Bayonne, N. J., and this morning the tug America brought us to the city.

"I have been Master of the Crowell for fourteen years, and my wife has
made many voyages in her with me."

Capt. Pendleton is about fifty years old, and his wife is about the same
age. Mrs. Pendleton was much affected by the loss of the ship.

"I was not afraid," she said. "I was the first to get into the boat,
and, once there, felt safe. We were provisioned for one day, the sea was
calm, and we were only twelve miles from shore."

On his arrival in the city Capt. Pendleton reported the disaster to
Pendleton, Carver & Nichols the senior member of which firm is his
cousin.

The Crowell was valued at $20,000, and was owned by Eugene Carver of
Boston and others, Capt. Pendleton owning nine sixty-fourths of the
ship. The cargo, which belonged to the Standard Oil Company, was, valued
at $25,000, and was not insured. The bark was built at Bath, Me., in
1873, and her tonnage was 1,086.

The burned bark is in the track of ships, and is dangerous to
navigation. The steamship Teutonic, which arrived in port yesterday,
reported passing the bark still on fire, at 10:40 A. M., in latitude 40
degrees 30 minutes and longitude 73 degrees and 15 minutes. The
steamship was stopped, and proceeded again when no signs of life were
seen on board the Crowell. The steamer Maracaibo, Capt. Sukeforth, from
Maracaibo July 8, reported last night that she had passed a very
dangerous wreck awash, probably a schooner, in latitude 39 degrees 40
minutes and longitude 73 degrees 20 minutes. It was in the track of
ships, and could only be seen at close quarters. This is probably the
Crowell.

At 8:30 P. M. last night, the marine observer at Fire Island reported
that he saw the reflection of a fire, with dense black smoke, in the
southwest offing. It appeared to be an oil fire, but no vessel was in
sight.

Capt. Pendleton and his wife, on behalf of themselves and the crew,
expressed themselves yesterday as most grateful to Capt. Haddock of the
Runic, Capt. Cassens of the Ocean, and the Captain of the Sandy Hook
Lightship for their assistance and kindness.

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Sep 13, 2003
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131
Hi Mark
I see that you have contributed another interesting article from the NYT. I have been researching an article on the Republic (1903-1909). I've read the article you supplied from the NYT. I have also photocopied a number of articles from the NYT on microfilm from that era. Can you suggest any other newspapers in New York that are likely to have reported on the event. I'm from Australia and are not sure of the better newpapers from that part of the century and New York.

Kindest Regards

Richard