How the sailors of the Kate Harding were saved from shipwreck in 1892

The Mary Celeste

The New England Historical Society reports that there was a fierce gale on the late November night in 1892 when the British barque Kate Harding ran aground on Nauset Beach in Orleans, Massachusetts.

The sea was rough, and surfmen from life-saving stations at Highland and High Head in Truro rescued the crew of 10 using a breeches buoy after shoot a lifeline to the vessel.

The annual report of the operations of the United States Life-Saving Service showed that the British sailors were fed and cared for for four days before they left for home – and it also reports that no letter of acknowledgment was ever received by the rescuers.

I’d guess that we can’t know what happened to that letter. In those less literate times was it even written? Was it written but not sent? Was it lost or sent to the wrong address?

The captain will certainly have been literate enough to write, but the captain of a wrecked ship has serious pressures and problems to contend with, not least because his actions will be under close scrutiny by the vessel’s owners and the insurers. One can well imagine that there might be overwhelming psychological problems and possibly family difficulties also.

Another possibility, I guess, was that the letter arrived but some time after the record was closed – the Kate Harding shipwreck occurred near the end of the year.

If anyone out there is aware of having ancestors that were on the Kate Harding it would be rather nice if a letter could be sent – even if it would now seems a little late…

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