News from 1907 Romanic Sinks the Fishing Schooner Natalie B Nickerson


Mark Baber

Staff member
The New York Times, 13 July 1907

The Romanic Runs Down Fishing Schooner in Fog off Nantucket
Gets Credit for Helping Save the Nickerson's Captain--Fourteen of the
Crew Also Picked Up
Cut almost in two by the steel bow of an ocean liner, the little fishing
schooner Nataile B. Nickerson lies in twenty-seven fathoms of water off
the Nantucket Lightship. Her skipper, Capt. John S. Seavey, and fourteen
members of the schooner's crew arrived yesterday in the White Star liner
Romanic, the vessel which sent their craft to the bottom with three of
their companions. Capt. Seavey, a Boothbay (Me.), fisherman, is
delirious in the ship's hospital, living over and over again the events
of the night that cost him his vessel.

The Romanic, Capt. Frank E. Beadnell, left Boston at noon on Thursday
for this port, where she is to load for the regular New York service of
the White Star Line. She brought no passengers. She passed out by Cape
Cod, and when off Highland Light met fog. It became very thick by 8
o'clock that night, and the vessel crept through the blanket of mist
under greatly reduced speed.

It was shortly after midnight when her bow was cutting through a fog so
thick on the water that the fo'cas'le could hardly be seen from the
bridge that she struck the Nickerson. There was the sudden gleam of the
vessel's flare as the two craft came together; hoarse cries from the men
on the tiny schooner over which the onward moving liner towered; the
roar of the fog horn, and then the schooner hung for an instant on the
liner's bow and swung astern almost sliced in half, with her masts
raking and scraping the Romanic's port side.

Instantly all was activity on the liner. Capt. Beadnell, who was on the
bridge, shouted his commands and almost as the engines ceased to throb
and the steamer lost her headway two boats were ready to be swung out
from her side. The first boat was commanded by First Officer T. M.
Winslow and the second left in charge of Third Officer G. E. Barton.

The officers knew that it would be a useless task to work in the
darkness so blue flare lights were burned on the steamer's deck, and
each of the boats carried a supply of them.

The boats made three trips before the survivors were safe on board, and
even then the Romanic's boats cruised around an hour hoping to locate
the three missing men.

Fisherman Tells the Story

Atwell P. Davis, a sturdy young man in a blue shirt, told of the loss of
the Nickerson yesterday. He and J. Alfred Miller, another fisherman,
were on watch at the time. The others were below.

"I was on deck," he said, "and, though it was very foggy on the water,
we were able to make out the running lights of the steamer, though we
could not see her sidelights. No one was at the wheel, for we were
jogging along under mainsail, foresail, and jumbo. We were heading south
with the wind southeast. Two days before we had left Newport, and our
catch had been so good that we then had about $1,000 worth of mackerel,
I should judge, below decks. I walked to the break of the quarterdeck,
and then turned to pace back again when suddenly there came the long
blast of a steamer's whistle. I ran to the companionway.

"'Al hands on deck!" I shouted. "There is a steamer on us!"

"They came tumbling out as I ran to the foghorn and also lit a flare

"As It flared up I caught one glimpse of the steamer's bow towering
above us, and then she came on and struck us with a sound like the end
of the world had come, and I pitched headlong to the deck. I was up
again in an instant and racing with the other men for the dory. The boat
astern was trailing, for we had been seining, and another we were
unable to get at. Most of us were able to get into the third boat, but
some jumped into the water. It was a tight pinch for we could feel the
decks slanting for the last plunge as we got aboard.

"As near as I could make out we were ten miles west-northwest of South
Shoals Lightship, Nantucket."

Say Dog Aided in Saving Captain

The survivors say there are two heroes to whom Capt. Seavey owes his
life, for he was one of those who jumped into the sea. He was not a good
swimmer, and was in trouble when William Farmer, a fisherman, and Spot,
the skipper's dog, went overboard. The men testify that the dog rendered
assistance in getting him into a boat. Indeed, it was probably because
of this that Capt. Beadnell entered on his log with the list of saved,
"Spat Seavey, a spaniel dog."

When the first of the survivors had climbed to the Romanic's deck an
officer said to the skipper of the fishing craft:

"Count your men, Captain, and see if you have them all."

"It is no use to count them for I know that we left at least three of my
men clinging to the wreckage," said Capt. Seavey.

The rescuers hastily got back into other boats and started again for the
wreck. They found the men clinging to their frail support. One of them
was Bert Wylie of Boothbay Harbor,. a one-armed man. When he was taken
to the steamer's side he was unable to climb up hand over hand and so
had to be hoisted with the ship's tackle.

"Count your men again, Captain," said the First Officer.

Skipper Seavey went down the line and, then announced that three were
missing. Again the boats started out. They searched the sea In vain.

Again the boats circled around, but after an hour's search they returned
and the boats were hoisted to the davits. It was then over an hour after
the accident, and the Romanic took up her trip to this port.

Liner Was Moving Slowly

Capt. Beadnell told of having left Boston and of the coming of fog.

"We were slowly crawling along," he said, "and as I had passed several
schooners I was very cautious. I picked up the submarine bell on
Nantucket Lightship and so I know my location. I was about one mile east
and one mile north of the Nantucket Lightship when I heard the sound of
a foghorn dead ahead.

"I knew by the sound that we must be nearly on to some craft so I tried
to swing to port. I did not have headway enough. If I had been going
faster the vessel would have responded and I would not have sunk the
Nickerson. As it was we were on her in an instant. We must have hit her
all over. There came a crash and then she swung astern with her masts
raking our side.

Two boats were lowered and we rescued most of the men. The boats cruised
about for an hour in hope that the others might be picked up, but we had
to steam away without them. The Nickerson sank in twenty-seven fathoms
of water:"

Those rescued are Fred Orne, engineer; J. Alfred Miller, William Merry,
William Farmer, Scott Abbott, Bert Wylie, and A. P. Davis of Boothbay
Harbor; Charles Greenleaf, cook, and Charles D. Bejette, of Trevett,
Me.; W. H. Brown and Nathaniel C. Day, of Gloucester; Winnett Arnold, of
Dortmunston, N. S.; James Donnovan, of East Boston,
and Samuel Dickinson of Wiscasset, Me.

The missing are William Winchester, Digby County, N. S.; Everett
Greenleaf and Elwell Greenleaf. The former Greenleaf is a father and
the latter an uncle of the schooner's cook.