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'Sarah W. Hunt'

New Zealand Bound

The Sarah W. Hunt, a 2 masted sealing schooner, of New Bedford sent two whaleboat loads of men ashore to search for herds of fur seals, and then sailed for New Zealand where he reported all hands lost. The Government Steamer Stella rescued men in December1883.

The Star Monday 10 December 1883 page 2
Arrived Lyttelton.
Dec. 8 - Sarah W. Hunt, schooner, 110 tons, Miser, from Campbell Island (on a sealing cruise, put in in distress.)

The Missing Crew
The Sarah W. Hunt, a shapely American-built fore-and aft schooner, of 115 tons gross register, whose great spars and immense spread of canvas denote a vessel of fine specs, arrived quite unexpectedly on Saturday night, at half-past seven o'clock. She is of wood, commanded by S.S. Miner, and her crew number 15 men all told. The schooner was built in 1876, at Middletown, Connecticut, but hails from Bath, State of Maine, U.S. She left New Bedford on July 10, on a sealing and whaling cruise and on Nov. 3 called at Macquarie Island, where she lost an anchor. Resumed her cruise on the 16th, for Campbell Island, arriving on the 20th, and anchored in Perseverance harbour. Campbell Island, high and rocky, is some hundred miles or so South of New Zealand. Here she lost 13 of her hands, and for a vessel of her size, only to be navigated by two men some hundreds of miles in about 11 days, show signs of no little pluck, seamanship, and endurance. The dimensions of the schooner are as follow:- length 88ft; 24ft beam; 8˝ ft depth of hold, and she draws a little over 10ft of water. These dimensions, with her lofty spars, show her to be a vessel of the regular American type. The history of the loss of the whole of her crew, save the Captain and steward, as told by her log, is given below. Surely some efforts should be made to ascertain whether any of the unfortunate men have survived, and are now on the island.
Dec. 3. Tried to make Port Chalmers, but was prevented by south-west winds, and ran for and made Lyttelton as above.


The Star Tuesday 11 December 1883 page 3
Is Our Civilisation A Failure? 
A party of thirteen men missing from the Sarah W. Hunt.


An obvious suggestion was made that the Government should either send the Stella or a chartered steamer on a possible life-saving expedition. The Collector of Customs telegraphed too the Government to the advisability of immediate action, and he got a reply that fills us with astonishment and indignation. That reply is to this effect:- "The Stella can't be spared; there are stores somewhere on Campbell Island, and the Government schooner Kekeno is supposed to be somewhere in that region; these men- common seamen - must take their chance."  This is official flippancy with a vengeance! It is possible that these thirteen men are alive' it is possible that they are lying on those inhospitable rocks, where only the albatross and the seal find a congenial resting place, lingering out that awful "death-in-life," which even to think of makes one's blood run cold. It is opposed to all ideas of civilisation, of Christianity, of common humanity, and we emphatically denounce it. Is our civilisation a failure?

The Star December Wednesday 12 December 1883 page 3
Official Inquiry

Sanford Stoddard Nimer deposed: I am master of the American schooner Sarah W. Hunt, of Middletown, Conn, official number 115482, signal letter J.N.R.H., register No. 1, 1882, of Middletown, U.S.A., register tonnage 109 87-100th tons. I produce the ship's register, &c. On July 10 last I cleared my vessel at New Bedford, bound on a sailing voyage in the South Seas. Nothing particular occurred on the voyage until Wednesday, Oct. 3, lat. 39 53 south, long. 52 45 east. Having sent a seaman named Julius C. Jaeger aloft on duty, he lost his footing and fell overboard, and by the time we got the boat out he had sunk. He was seen again, but before the boat could get to the spot he had disappeared, there being a heavy sea on. We searched for him about half an hour in all. On Nov. 8. we arrived at Macquarrie Island and on the 8th I lost an anchor (the starboard). On Nov. 20 we made Campbell's Island at 4 p.m., and anchored in a little bay on the west side. Stowed our sails and kept anchor watch. I went ashore, and coming back again decided to go round to the east side of the island. I did not get to anchor in the east side harbour till the 21st at 5. .m., when we anchored in five fathoms of water and took in sail. Then went ashore to look for water. Found plenty but hard to get at. We found a small hut and a small quantity of stores for castaway sailors. 22nd, 23rd, 24th employed in taking in water and washing clothes. On the 26th saw a seal alongside the vessel in the evening; the mate went with the boat to look for it and shot it, but it sank. On the 27th, whilst at Perseverance Harbour, Campbell Island, about 6 a.m., the port and starboard boats left the vessel with orders to search the shore for seals, a light breeze blowing from N.W.; the port boat being in charge of the first mate and five seaman, taking no provisions, with the intention of returning to the vessel for dinner, leaving the steward, with myself, in charge of the vessel. During the day no anxiety or fear was felt for their safety, although the weather became more squally towards the afternoon, and a succession of heavy squalls came down during the night, but abated between 2 and 3 a.m. on the 28th.

The boats went adrift 26th ultimo with the intention of returning to vessel for dinner. Weather became squally that day. It was thought the boats were in some inlet on the island. Schooner waited till 1st instant. Both the captain and steward are of the opinion that had the sailors made the island the crew were aware of store-house and provisions on the island. Conclusion seems inevitable that they wee blown to sea. If the boats were blown off the shore it would have been almost impossible for them to get back as the sea was very high and the sailors had no provisions in boats. Stella goes South this week to Waipapa, and will go on if nothing heard meantime.

The first mate had a pocket compass. The boats were new 28ft whaleboats, and in good condition. I was not aware that it was illegal to be sealing in Campbell Island from Nov. 1 1881, to June 1 1884. I was in search of the kind known as flap matches and two year-old dogs, which are allowed to be killed in the U.S.A., Alaska sealing islands. I have reported myself to the Acting American Consular Agent at Christchurch.

George Duncan despose: I am a British subject and steward on board the American schooner Sarah W. Hunt. I have heard the evidence given by the captain. It is true in all particulars. I have been at sea about 20 years off and on. We could have done nothing more in aid of the missing crew, and I do not think that any steps would be successful in searching for them. I don't believe there is any chance of the crew being on the island as they might have walked over the island; of course it would be a satisfaction if a steamer were to go down.

The Star December Thursday 13 December 1883 page 3
The Government should be told of their dereliction of duty.

A public meeting of merchants and others was held to-day at the Chamber of Commerce, Christchurch. 650 pounds was guaranteed in the room. Why the captain left the island when he was safely anchored? The evidence showed that it was very possible for one or two left on board to search the island. They need not have left the position for another month. Again, why was not the schooner under weigh with a crew of volunteers or paid men within 12 hours after her arrival? A fair wind had been blowing during the last six days. That as a question of humanity it was the duty of every one to try and save the twelve men. Something should be done without delay. The Government had two steamers of their own, and a man-of-war at Auckland. If it was a question of money, the money would be forthcoming. 

The Star December Friday 14 December 1883 page 3
The Captain Missing!

The captain of the Sarah W. Hunt, who was to have gone to Wellington to join the Government steamer, was for some unexplained reason not on board or on the wharf when the steamer left for Wellington, although he was supposed to have arrived in Lyttelton at 8.50 by the Christchurch train. 

The Star December Thursday 27 December 1883 page 3
Otago Witness Dec. 29.
The Missing Seaman. Rescue of Six Survivors. Terrible Suffering.

The Government steamer Stella arrived at Port Chalmers at an early hour this morning. She left Wellington at 1 p.m. on Dec. 15 for Campbell Island, in search of the missing crew of the schooner Sarah W. Hunt. She arrived off the island at 10 pm. on Dec. 20 and at daylight on Dec. 21. searched round the island. Nothing was seen of the missing men or their boats. She then proceeded to Perseverance Harbour, and found one of the boat's crews, comprising of the second mate, and five men named Michael Crawford, Martain Tierney, Thomas Whittle, Alexander Henderson, William Hertwig and Emil Huber. They were all ill and unable to stand, owing to their feet being blistered and swollen. They were taken with the whaleboat on boat the Stella. After searching the island and finding no traces of the other boat's crew, the Stella sailed for the Auckland Islands, it being thought that there might be a chance of finding them down there. Reached the Auckland Islands on Dec. 28. Steamed to Sandy Inlet, and on landing found that the storehouse had been robbed, but there were no traces of any castaways. Proceeded to Sarah's Bosom, and found the storehouse there had also been opened, and its contents taken. Captain Gray is of the opinion that both houses had been plumbered by the same persons, as at Sarah' Bosom he found the cooking pot which had been left with the clothing and provisions in the storehouse at Sandy Inlet on the last visit of the Stella. The Stella left for Port Chalmers at noon on the Dec. 24. Experienced fresh gales with foggy weather.

The Star December Friday 28 December 1883 page 3The following statement has been made by the second mate, Michael Crawford: On the arrival of the Sarah W. Hunt at Campbell Island the chief officer went on shore and broke open the chest in the storehouse, taking out the blankets, coats, pots, axe and two pannikins; also a bottle, containing instructions for castaways. On bringing them on board the schooner the steward complained of the mate's action, and stated that the articles had been left on the island for the sole use of castaways, and therefore they ought to be taken on shore again. The captain took the paper out of the bottle, and after reading the instructions ordered the things to be put the lazarette until the next morning, when he would send them on shore. This was done. On Nov. 16. the captain went on shore, and wounded a seal,, but did not succeeded in capturing it. On the same day the mate launched a boat, and after giving chase to a seal shot it, but it sank before the boat could reach it. Early on the morning of Nov. 27, the Captain ordered two boats to be got ready. This was done, clubs, skinning knives, and steel, for killing seal, being placed in each boat, together with 1˝lb biscuits and a gallon of water. At 5 a.m. the captain ordered the two boats' crews to go and search all the creeks and bays for seal. The schooner was then lying at anchor. In an hour and a half after leaving the vessel, a fresh west-south-west breeze sprang up, increasing to a heavy gale, which blew both boats off the land, and they parted company at about dusk. At 6. am. on Nov. 28, it was still blowing hard, they sighted the other boat, two or three miles distant, but lost sight of her two hours afterwards, and saw nothing of her crew from that time. For two days they could not see land, but for the next five days they were in sight of it. During this time they had had nothing to eat except one pound and a half of biscuits between the six men, and for five days they had not a drop of water. On the evening of the seventh day they succeeded in making the land, entering one of the small bays on the west side, where they got water. They then attempted to reach the bay where they supposed the schooner to be lying at anchor, but they had no compass. Upon landing again they found they were too much to the southward, but owning to a heavy gale setting in, they were compelled to remain there until Dec. 4. During the whole of this time they had no food of any description. On the afternoon of Dec. 4, the gale having abated, they made another start, and reached Perseverance Harbour, when they left the schooner, but found her gone. In a hut they discovered provisions left by the Government. After remaining there for ten days, the schooner Kekeno, Captain Craig, arrived, having been blown in by a heavy gale of wind. Captain Craig supplied them with provisions and everything requisite. At this time the men could not stand on their feet on account of them being swollen. The Stella then arrived, and they were carried on board. The Kekeno intended to go as far as Macquarie Island in search of the other boat's crew. The whole of the men desire to express their gratitude to the Government for despatching the vessels to their assistance, also Captain James Brown Greig (of the Kekeno), Captain Gray, and the crew of the Stella, for their kindness and attention.

The Star December Friday 28 December 1883 page 3
The following are the names of the missing men:
Charles Streibert (chief officer)
Louis Scharffenorth
James Judson
Aylmer Barnis
Thomas Ennis
J.M. Arthur (whose real name is stated to be Max. Augenstein

Although the men bear visible marks of the sufferings they have undergone, they are a very respectable and intelligent lot of young fellows, who despite the treatment they seem to have met at the hands of the master of the schooner, speak with great moderation, and evidently strive to make matters appear as bright as possible, and bear their sufferings in a manly spirit. This speaks volumes from them, particularly when we consider that for a week they were entirely without water, and only had a pound and a half of biscuit in the boat when they left the Sarah W. Hunt with orders to search "inshore for seals; " while their supply of water was about a gallon, put into a bucket, which capsized shortly after they left the vessel, and it was painful to hear the poor fellows describe their sufferings from thirst, and the methods they adopted to quench their craving for sea water; indeed some of them tried to drink it, they became delirious, and were compelled to refrain. Yet still more painful is it to state that a last they were compelled to moisten their lips with urine, its use being apparently less injurious to them than salt water. Their feet and legs have also been greatly injured by swellings and excoriations, and it will be some time before they are fit for duty again.

We joined the schooner in July, and left New Bedford, on July 10th, on a sealing cruise. We are not upon wages, but upon shares - each man gets the 180th lay.


North Otago Times, 4 March 1884, Page 2
WELLINGTON. March 1.
George Duncan, steward of the brig Sarah W. Hunt, was arrested on the arrival of the s s. Wairarapa from Lyttelton as a stowaway. He said he came to Wellington to try and see the American consul, as he had serious charges to make against the captain of the Sarah W. Hunt, he was fined L5.


Coastmaster
The Story of Captain James B Greig
John McCraw Paperback, 195 pages, 170 x 250mm, NZ, 1999. $34.95  Contains many historic b/w illustrations.
James Brown Greig was a major figure in the maritime history of Southern New Zealand. He was harbourmaster at Invercargill during its boom period as a port. He held many government appointments including resident magistrate and customs officer on Stewart Island. In 1882 he was given command of a schooner to patrol the ocean south of New Zealand for seal poachers, an occupation he pursued for four years. He built castaway depots and rescued shipwrecked sailors from the waters of the Southern Oceans.