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December 12


December 12, 1938

Two Pigeon Cove Young Men Lost
Left to Haul Trawls In Spite of Storm Warnings

Two young men and a mongrel dog on their first salt water fishing trip in a 30-year-old discarded Coast Guard surf-boat of 22-foot length, were given up by the authorities this forenoon as lost at sea, after 47 hours had elapsed since they were first reported as missing.  The young men are Rudolph Johnson, 26 years, single, former railroad section hand, and Albert Carter, 18 years, single.   Both were out of work at the time.

Six coastguard craft and two coastguard planes combed the seas all day yesterday from Halibut Point, Pigeon Cove, to Boone Island, Maine, and as far out as 30 miles to sea, but failed to find a trace of the boat.  It is feared that both boat and men are lost during the height of the strong northwest gale Saturday afternoon when hailstones rained down upon turbulent waters kicked up by a 40-mile-an-hour wind, according to small boat crews which scurried back into port.

Hope had been expressed that the young men might have been picked up by a passing trawler or lobster man and takes into some port along the Maine coast from where communication would be slow.

Both young men are members of large families, and were eager to do something to help.  They had found work scarce, being able only to secure odd jobs.   Johnson hit upon the idea of fishing, and suggested to Carter that the latter borrow a boat owned by Carter's brother, the aged coast guard craft which was considered one of the least seaworthy of the Pigeon Cove small boat fleet.  The fact that neither had ever gone fishing before did not discourage them, for they secured two tubs of trawl last Thursday and propelled by a four-cylinder Chevrolet motor went to a spot seven miles northeast of Halibut Point, and there set the trawls.  They returned to port, expecting to haul them Friday, but something came up to prevent them.

They decided to try Saturday morning and appeared at the Cove where the boat was moored, shortly after 9.  They had five sandwiches which Carter's mother had made for them.  Mrs. Carter said yesterday that she did not want Albert to go.   Two of this brothers were invited but had other engagements which probably saved them a similar fate.  Neither of the young fishermen had oilskins or hip boots, or protection against the elements except a spray hood on the boat.  They had difficulty in starting the engine and for over two hours worked on it until they borrowed a blow torch, and priming the engine with the flame, a risky action in itself, the motor finally turned, but worked only on three cylinders it is said.

Meanwhile, veteran fishermen along the shore counseled them against leaving port.  Storm warnings had been posted, they advised, while conditions outside were treacherous for well-conditioned small craft, let alone the venerable surfboat.   They left at 11:30, the motor skipping as they waved good-bye to those ashore.   That was the last seen of them.  Johnson's pet dog wagged its tail in evident enjoyment of the thrill.

That the elements were kicking up outside that afternoon as emphasized by Thomas J. Parks, Pigeon Cove fish dealer, who, with Ellsworth Reed, brother of Selectman William G. Reed, had left 15 minutes after the young men, to haul lobster pots.

"It took 25 minutes from the bell buoy off Straitsmouth into the Cove," said Parks, "and it has to blow mighty hard for it to take me that long.   It was bad weather all right."

Veteran fishermen at the Cove having in mind that the amateurs were out in the bay, and expecting them to return at least a half hour before dark, became anxious as 5 o'clock arrived with Carter and Johnson missing.   Two of their numbers, Pearson Hillier and Reed put out in Hillier's power boat Kyak in search.  They went to the point where they understood the young men were to haul their trawls, but saw no sign of the missing.

"It was hailing like all possessed," Hillier said, "and visibility was poor.  We had a tough time getting back, shipping plenty of water besides.  I don't see how that old boat could have lasted in that storm."  Johannes "Honey" Oman, veteran trap fisherman, returned form his traps somewhat later, but saw no sign of the missing young men.

Meanwhile others notified the Coast Guard at Straitsmouth, and immediately one of the most extensive Coast Guard searches that has ever been known in these waters was begun.  They toiled right through the night, in disagreeable weather but without success.  Boatswain Edward L. Silva, station commander, set out aboard the motor boat with Motor Machinist Harvey Lamson, and Surfmen Arthur Erickson and Peter Coyman.  They searched the waters for at least three hours when they returned to the station for more aid.  The commander notified Boston division headquarters, also Dolliver's Neck, Gloucester.  From the latter station at 8, Chief Boatswain George Joseph with Motor Machinist Donald R. McKinnon, Surfman Toby Wiberg and William V. Midgett, put out in the motor lifeboat.

Boston ordered the cutter, Algonquin, Lieut. Commander L. E. Welles, out of Boston, the patrol boat Harriet Lane, Chief Boatswain J. M. Vincent, and the patrol boat 158, Chief Boatswain Joseph Collins, out of Gloucester, to proceed to sea.  Charles Nelson of Curtis street, friend of the young men, went aboard the Harriet Lane to lend his knowledge of trawling waters, and to show where he thought the men might be.  All the larger craft kept searching all night, covering a wide area, while the surf boats only returned to port once during the night, going as far as Jeffrey's bank, covering more than 200 miles in all their cruising.  They continued the search until late yesterday afternoon when the larger boats continued.

The cutter Chelan relieved the Harriet Lane last evening, and the latter returned to Gloucester.   The Coast Guard amphibian plane V139 took off from Winter Island aviation station, Salem, at 7:30 yesterday morning in command of Lieut. George Holtzman, with Radioman Benjamin Bottom as his crew.  They cruised from Halibut Point to Boone island, and as far from shore as 30 miles, keeping in radio touch with the cutter and patrol boats.  They flew low and at times swooped close to the surface, returning to the base at 10:30.

Lieut. Holtzman took off again at 11:45 in the larger amphibian plane V166, with Radioman Angelo Serano, Co-pilot Vorgil Smith, and Aviation Mechanics Gray Hardy and Anthony Joseph.  They spent most of the afternoon in cruising abut, returning only after visibility became poor. 

The irony of the situation is that even if the young men had succeeded in hauling their trawls, they would have made only a dollar each for their two days' work after expenses were paid.  Both the young men were part of large families.

The life-boat from Straitsmouth station was again dispatched to continue the search at 9:15 this morning in command of Boatswain's Mate Mulland Mahar, accompanied by Motor Mechanist Harvey Lamson, and Surfman Julian R. Sherman and Edmund Viwetzky.  Practically all the men at the station have taken part in the search.  The life-boat had not returned by noon.   Both cutters Algonquin and Chelan continued the search this forenoon, and a plane from Salem base was scheduled to assist.   Their friend, Charles Nelson was on the patrol boat Harriet Lane to aid Coast Guardsmen all through the night yesterday.  The fact that the young men did not even have an anchor in case of trouble did not augur well for their safety.

Tuesday, December 13, 1938

The Coast Guard this forenoon gave up searching for the two Pigeon Cove young men who were lost at sea last Saturday afternoon, it is believed, off Halibut Point, where they went to haul their trawls.  The Coast Guard had six boats and two planes in the search Sunday, combing the waters from Boon Island, Maine to Halibut Point, but failed to find any trace of men, boat or wreckage.  The men, Rudolph Johnson, 26, and Albert Carter, were on their first fishing venture.  Little hope is entertained that either will ever return alive.  The last coast Guard craft to look for the young men were the cutters Chelan and Argo, who were called in from the search at 10:30 this morning.


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