Out of Gloucester


 

September 22, 1949

Corinthian Torn In Two By Freighter According to Crew
Five Survivors Arrive Home Telling Grim Tales of Disaster That Cost Lives of Six Gloucester Fishermen Monday Night

Although the Gloucester dragger Corinthian was "lighted up like a Christmas tree" in an effort to make her presence know, the vessel was cut in two by the bow of the 7600-ton freighter Mormacfir and the fishing craft sank in one minute early Monday evening, according to statements by the five surviving members of the 11-man crew when they were landed at Portland, Me., last evening by a Coast Guard cutter.

The six other members of the crew were lost in the sea tragedy.  The cook and two engineers were below and apparently did not reach the deck before the demolished vessel sank.  Those lost were :

George E. Gordon, 55 years, Gloucester, engineer, married, two step-sons
Edgar W. "Ted" Decker, 38 years, Gloucester, second engineer, two children
Heinrich G. "Harry" Schluter, cook, 59 years, Dorchester, formerly of Gloucester, married, two children
Percy Noble, 46 years, Lynn, married, and cousin to the skipper
George A. Hemeon, 68 years, Gloucester, widower, has a son, Walter, of Nova Scotia and a daughter of this city, father-in-law of the skipper
Oke Peterson, 65 years, Rockport, has a wife and seven children

George Hemeon, was hurt in the terrific crash, and cried for help.  But his crewmates were unable to aid him before all were in the water.   There, Hemeon's grandson, Jerome Noble, Jr. grabbed the elderly man and held him up for 15 minutes until it was apparent that Hemeon was dead.  Oke Peterson, clung to three penboards for some minutes, but after a big wave only his hat was visible, according to Manley C. Goodick, of Gloucester, one of the survivors.  Goodick, who was first mate, survived a similar crash in 1931, when the Edith and Eleanor was rammed and sunk by the Gypsum Prince, also in Nova Scotia, and also with loss of six lives.  Goodick was off duty, and below, forward, when the crash occurred.  He jumped into the water after he came on deck and saw what had happened.

The introduction to disaster was the sound of a foghorn at an estimated distance of four miles to the westward.  It was one blast, indicating forward progress.  Two minutes later the blast was heard again.  Capt. Jerome Noble, 51 blew two blasts of the Corinthian's horn at intervals to signal that she was stationary.  When the oncoming ship blew the third blast, Capt. Noble, in the pilot house, saw the dim glow of the mast light of the Mormacfir.

Capt. Noble yelled down the speaking tube for the engineers to get on deck, and warned the others.  When he saw the ship looming and realized that there would be a crash, the captain climbed to the top of the pilot house, grabbing a life ring.  He jumped into the water just before the crash.  Just before he jumped he put on all the lights.  The freighter's bow crashed diagonally through the Corinthian, toward the stern, reducing four dories to splinters.  Almost immediately the dragger was awash and sinking.  The freighter hit about 14 feet forward of the stern.

Goodick recalls that is was two and a half minutes from the crash until the freighter disappeared into the fog.  The men in the water wondered whether the ship would ever get back to the spot to pick them up.  It did, but not for more than an hour. Goodick figures that he was in the water for two and a half hours.  The fishing trip had stared so well, with 100,000 pounds of fish aboard, and they were looking forward to being home by the 24th.

The men in the water shouted to each other to keep in touch, as they hung on to wreckage and life preserver rings, buffeted by a heavy ground swell and chop.  Stanley H. Zeeman, 44, suddenly found himself standing knee-deep in water, then in the ocean, where he grabbed a piece of the stern to cling to.  Jerome Noble, Jr. 25, son of the captain, was in the stern when the crash came.  He held on to a dory davit, then to the skin of the freighter until it rolled and his fingers scraped along the metal.  He swan to a keg after he came up and found the ship some distance away and clung to the keg and some drifting wood and a life ring, with Ulysses Amirault, 46, of Malden.

Aboard the Mormacfir, the survivors were treated well.  After the search for the other men was given up, the men were taken aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Coos Bay.  The freighter loaded with finished iron continued on to Scotland.  The captain of the Coos Bay, Comdr. George W. Holtzman of Hummelstown, PA, said the freighter apparently carried no radar.

Capt. Noble told reporters at Portland last evening that the Mormacfir had no business going as fast as she had been through the thick fog.  He said that those on the freighter said that she was going at 14 to 15 knots.

The dragger Corinthian was owned by Gorton-Pew Fisheries Co. Ltd. of Gloucester.  It was launched in 1917 at Essex, as a dory trawler, and she fished in North Atlantic waters, winter and summer, with her double nest of dories, for some 20 years.  With the redfish surge sweeping the ancient fishing port, she was converted at large expense into a dragger, about 1937, with Capt. Jerome as her skipper.  The expense of conversion was more than justified with so able a man at the helm for Capt. Jerome immediately established himself by his prowess as the "Redfish King" of Gloucester because his craft was high-liner of the entire fleet for two years in a row.  Ever since, he and his crew have been with the top boats in redfishing and the shares per trip were among the best.  Manley Goodick was at one time his engineer, and a mighty good one.  Later he has served as mate.  Skipper Jerome has had the pick of the redfish fishermen for many a year.  The Corinthian was 161 gross tonnage, 112 feet long, 23 feet beam, 10 feet draft.  She was valued at an estimated $90,000.  

 

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