LaHave Islands Shipwrecks

Shipwrecks of the August Gales

Shipwrecks of 1926

In 1926, two vessels were lost in a storm on August 7th: the Sadie A. Knickle and the Sylvia Mosher. These two wrecks had a huge toll on local families, with 48 men from the LaHave area lost on these two vessels. In the 1926 fishing season, the wrecks of these two vessels brought the death toll of men from the LaHave area to 52.

Sadie A. Knickle

The Sadie A. Knickle was built in Liverpool, NS in 1918 by Nova Scotia Shipbuilding and Transportation Co. Ltd.. The original owner was Captain Roland Knickle, but in 1925 the vessel was purchased by Captain Charles Corkum of Mount Pleasant. At the time of the wreck, with a crew of 23, there were 3 men on board from the LaHave Islands (Simon, Robert and Harvey Bush) and 9 from the surrounding areas. The ship was lost off the East side of Sable Island, with wreckage recovered in the following days on Sable Island’s shore. An example of this was a flour barrel, which would have been below deck, proving the vessel had in fact been wrecked in the storm.

Sylvia Mosher

The Sylvia Mosher was built in Mahone Bay, NS by John McLean and Sons Ltd. for the cost of $2,496. The owners were John D. Mosher, Samuel E. Mack and Christian Iverson, all from Lunenburg. John D. Mosher became captain and managing owner of the vessel and it was named after his infant daughter, Sylvia Mosher. At the time of the wreck there were 25 men on board, with all but one of them from Lunenburg County. Eight of those lost were from the LaHave Islands, including Caleb Baker, Guy Baker, Carman Baker, Arthur Baker, Melvin Richards, Frank Walfield, John Bell, and Hastings Himmelman. The ship was found on the north side of Sable Island, on the outer sand bar, laying on its side but there was no sign of the crew. Following the tragedy 6 empty dories from the vessel were found washed up on shore, disbanding any hope the crew may have survived.

In the November following the tragedy, a small wooden box belonging to Freeman Corkum, one of the crew on the Sylvia Mosher, was found on Sable Island. It contained personal articles, including a memorandum book, a jack knife and papers identifying it as property of Mr. Corkum (from Feltzen South, Lunenburg Co., NS).

Shipwrecks of 1927

In 1927, four Lunenburg schooners were lost in the August Gales off of Sable Island. They were the Mahala, Clayton Walters, Uda R. Corkum and Joyce M. Smith. Other schooners from other fleets were lost including the Vienna, Loretta, Valena and Loughlan which floundered with all hands. The famous Columbia from Gloucester was also lost.

There were no survivors from the wrecked vessels. One of the great tragedies of this disaster were several instances where multiple members were lost from the same family. Captain Edward Maxner and his son were lost on the Joyce M. Smith, while Captain Warren Knickle, his two brothers and his brother in-law were all lost on the Mahala. Captain Wilfred Andrews and his two brothers were also lost on the Uda R. Corkum.

Sable Island Shipwrecks
Uda R. Corkum

Various agencies including the government offered monetary support for those who suffered the loss of loved ones during the August Gales. One woman, for example, who had lost two unmarried sons in the gale received $15/month for several years. The amount was calculated at $10 for one son, who was an experienced fisherman, and $5 for the other who was not. In a few cases, widows who received over $30/month found it necessary to leave their homes and move into a house with other widows and their families. In this way their combined funds enabled them to survive.

These disasters have become ingrained in the memories of our communities. Small fishing villages such as Blue Rocks and the LaHave Islands suffered greatly.

The Amanda, Isabella, & Lillian (1893)

On April 18, 1893, a heavy gale claimed three ships in the LaHave Islands area. The Schooner, Amanda, under the command of Captain Spright and laden with coal went ashore on the north side of the Spectacle Islands. The same gale also caused the Schooners Isabella, under Captain Pettipas, and the Lillian, under Captain Sangster, to run aground on Moshers Island. The Amanda and Isabella were broke to pieces by the winds of the storm and the beating of the surf.

Moshers Island rocks

Ships Grounded on Black Rock

The Schooner, Allison H. Maxner, ran aground on Black Rock on March 15, 1918. The Maxner was returning from Turks Island in the Bahamas when it ran aground and was a total loss with all hands.

The M.V. Baffin, a hydrographic vessel, also ran aground on Black Rock on July 5, 1957, while performing hydrographic surveys in the area. It took 6 days to free the Baffin from the rock and it sailed away for repairs.

Mount Temple (1907)

On December 2, 1907, during a blinding snowstorm and early in the morning the Canadian Pacific steamship, Mount Temple ran aground on West Ironbound Island. The ship was headed for Saint John New Brunswick and carried over six hundred passengers, mostly immigrants from Eastern Europe.

At two o’clock in the morning, Charles Wolfe, a resident of Ironbound, was awakened by his dog Busco’s barking, and the blaring of a horn. He listened for a minute or so and then heard the sound again and saw the flare of rockets somewhere near at hand. Charles awakened his son, Fred. After getting dressed and lighting lanterns to guide them, they proceeded out into the stormy night, heading for where they thought the sound of the rockets came from. They soon came to a place where they were able to see the outlines of something larger than an ordinary fishing vessel. This was the S.S. Mount Temple and it had gone aground at Shag Rock about 500 feet from the island.

Woman holding a cable used to tie the Mount Temple to the shore.
The Mount Temple aground on West Ironbound Island.
Image courtesy of Great Ships.

Because of the storm and poor visibility, Charles and Fred were unable to help the stranded steamship that night, so they returned home to wait for daylight. Busco, sensing danger, refused to leave the scene and was found again the next morning still watching over the ship.

By daylight, the storm had died down and the process of getting lines ashore was started. Using a rocket, a running line was thrown to the men who were told to pull it ashore. The small line was attached to a larger, much heavier rope and that was attached to a cable. They tied the rope to one of the trees on that part of the island, while the Chief Officer of the ship tied his end of the cable to the mast on the steamer. A breeches buoy was then used for the Chief Officer to come ashore and determine where they were. This buoy was also used to unload the passengers from the ship, which began immediately.

The passengers were housed in the basement of the lighthouse and other buildings on the island. Sixteen mothers with small babies were on board the ship and they were taken care of in Mrs. Wolf’s own home. Food and blankets were taken from the Mount Temple and the passenger’s stay on Ironbound Island was quite comfortable.

Captain H. Boothby and three officers from the Mount Temple remained on Ironbound Island all winter. Boothby stayed at the Wolfe home, while his officers remained on board the ship as they began to remove cargo from the vessel. Most of the cargo was salvaged and on April 15, 1908, the Beazley Brothers Salvage Firm from Halifax was able to use compressed air and tugs to refloat the vessel.

Jack Hilton

In the 1850’s, before the lighthouse on West Ironbound was built, the Schooner, Jack Hilton, from Liverpool, was shipwrecked on the west side of Ironbound Island. Charles and William Gooseley owned this vessel and onboard were Thomas, James, and William Gooseley in addition to three others. All the crew survived but the ship was a total loss.