Stories of the Sea

The Wreck Of The Barque Champion

Taken From:
Appendix to
The Record of
The Shipping of
Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Pages 168 - 170
Highslide JS
Barque Champion, built at Tusket in 1871. While on passage from Baltimore for Hamburg with a load of coal oil she was abandoned in the North Atlantic in January, 1884 with the loss of Capt. William C. Gardner, the Second Mate and six of her crew. The remainder were rescued.

Appendix to the Record of the Shipping of Yarmouth, NS. pp 168-170

1884. BARQUE CHAMPION, 799 tons, William C. Gardner master, sailed from Baltimore Maryland, on the 22nd January for Hamburg, with a cargo of coal oil, and on the 27th encountered severe weather. At 6 p.m. on that day the wind blew in heavy N.E. squalls with barometer falling rapidly, the ship being under two lower topsails only. At 10 p.m. the wind died away to a calm, leaving a heavy confused sea. At 11 p.m., the wind suddenly veered round to N.N.W., and blew with hurricane force.

At 1 a.m. on the 28th the main hatches were burst in, and the captain was called on deck who told the second mate to put the helm hard up, but before it could be done the ship capsized. The mate, who was in his room below, furnishes the rest of this sad account as follows:

'I tried to open my door, but could not, as the cabin was full of water, and it kept pouring in through my room window. I struggled to the window, when the ship righted a little, and got through, carrying the frame with me round my body. On reaching the deck I could see nothing but water. The fore and main masts were gone, together with houses and boats. I made my way aft and got into the mizzen rigging and remained there till daylight, being all but naked.'

'At daylight I saw one seaman hanging to the wreck by the main braces. I got him (Vinke) on board, and later on found the steward and two seamen aft in the cockpit, close by where the wheel had been. I could find no others. The captain, second mate and six men must have been washed overboard when the ship went over.'

'Till the 28th the wind blew hard from the N. with a heavy sea. At 11 p.m., saw a steamer's lights, but had nothing to make a torch. On the 29th, blowing hard and high sea, ship settled down more. Made a raft with spanker boom and gaff, one man keeping look-out. January 30th, same weather, nothing in sight, ship deeper in water, cargo floating out.'

'On the 31st, daylight saw a steamer's smoke. A high sea over the wreck. Saw steamer, which proved to be the 'Sirocco,' alter her course and keep towards us. She came close to us, put out a lifeboat, and took us all from the wreck to the 'Sirocco,' where were most kindly treated.'

At the time of her abandonment the 'Champion' was a complete wreck, and was settling down fast. The logbook and other papers, together with the crew's effects, were all lost. The 'Sirocco' arrived at Liverpool on the 11th February. The wreck was left by the 'Sirocco' at 9 a.m., January 31st, lat. 37.50 N., long. 67.32 W.

The master of the 'Sirocco' states that the rescued men were in a pitiable condition, all of them more or less bruised and cut, their clothes in tatters, their feet wrapped in sail cloth, and had neither eaten nor drank anything since the 27th, and all that time fully exposed to the weather.

Capt. Gardner was a native of South Shields England and was unmarried. The second mate was Mr. Henry Foster, a native of Gloucester, Massachusetts.

The 'Champion' was owned by John Murphy and others. Vessel and freight insured $6,000 in 'Commercial,' $4,000 in Killam Brother's Agency, $1,200 in 'Phoenix' and $700 in 'Boston Marine.' Disbursements insured $2,000 in 'Phoenix.'

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