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The Lena F. Oxner

 

January 3, 1917

Saved Crew in Teeth of Gale
Capt. Archie McLeod's Sturdy Lads of Sch. Catherine Dared Death
to Pick Off Frozen Men of Sinking Collier

Life seems sweet to five beggared castaways from the British sch. Lena F. Oxner, brought in at Boston yesterday by the fishing sch. Catherine after being rescued from what seemed certain death by Capt. Archie McLeod and his husky crew.   They had endured fearful exposure and privation while the tiny coaster succumbed to a blizzard miles off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Hope had fled when the nearly frozen men were rescued, clothing frozen to bodies, losing all except the icy tatters in which they stood.   That was on Friday, last, 32 days out.

The rescued, Capt. Edward Hook, Halifax, N. S.; Mate Robert Percy, St. John's, N. F.; Cook Richard Maitland, New York city; Seamen Henry Jones and John James, Halifax.

The Oxner was bound from New York for Halifax with 170 tons of coal.  Cook Maitland declared a hoodoo pursued the schooner from the moment she passed through Hail Gate, and subsequent events appear to bear out the cook, who insists he was never born to be drowned, though this recent experience almost caused him to hedge in that respect.  And Maitland has been 12 years at sea, never experiencing anything like what befell the Oxner.

After rough experience with several gales, twice near being lost, the craft was caught off Cape Sable last Thursday in the fierce northeast blizzard that swept the coast.

No sooner was the Oxner well away from land than the blizzard smote her, the temperature dropped and the sea was running white and gray in tumbling processions.  The beleaguered vessel began to leak, then water crushed into the hold, as if she had spewed her oakum or slunk a butt.   Two men clanked at the pump till they dropped, when two more took their job, with the sea from the hold cascading from scuppers.

That night water froze where it struck and the pumps could not be forced to suck.  The crew chopped to no purpose and the Oxner was settling.  Clothing became stiff as sheet metal, the fresh water cask was washed from the deck and it was impossible to start the galley fire.

Thus, the Oxner's crew knelt in prayer, the sea clamoring and the cutting blast screeching in disheveled rigging.  Nothing remained but scant hope.  The Oxner might stay on top till a schooner, a long way off, would send a boat.  The freezing men saw the schooner heave to, but no boat was put overboard, the captain evidently thinking the sea too rough.  All the while the Oxner was setting quietly, as if posing for the final plunge.  Another sail was sighted, and the Oxner's flag, union down, snapped its appeal.  This vessel came up rapidly and circled about the Oxner.  She was the Catherine, Capt. Archie McLeod.

The spectacle of masterful seamanship fanned a spark of life in the benumbed sailors as the Catherine was maneuvered and dropped two dories.  Fishermen moved quickly in this work of rescue for the Oxner was now a sodden hulk against which seas breached in clouds of spray.  Two men in a dory they crept across the mad waste and under the Oxner's lee.  The freezing men dragged themselves to the battered rail.  All were in one dory, which proved to be overloaded and nearly swamped.  Unless a transfer to the other dory could be effected all must be drowned.  In midst of mountainous combers the fishermen dragged two of the Oxner's almost helpless men into the more buoyant boat.  They reached the Catherine with 15 men overhanging the rail to haul them on board.  This took place 50 miles off Shelburne, N. S., and the Oxner soon foundered.

Capt. McLeod and crew provided the poor fellows with dry clothing and food.  At Boston the British consul took them in charge.  Last night the men were sheltered at the Mariner's House North square, and wanted everybody to know that Capt. Archie McLeod's a prince, and so's his crew.

The Catherine on her maiden voyage

 

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