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
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
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
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.