Volume 12 Number 2/3
October, 1996
earhart logoearhart logoParadise Lost
1825 Capt. Joshua Coffin of the Nantucket whaler Ganges charts the position of an uninhabited coral atoll known variously as Kemin’s Island and Mary Letitia’s Island. Coffin names the island after the ship’s owner (and apparently his father-in-law), U.S. Congressman Gideon Gardner.
1840 On August 19 the U.S.S. Vincennes of the U.S. Navy Exploring Expedition confirms the island’s position and name. In the first, but by no means the last, erroneous assumption about the island by the U.S. Navy, Commander Wilkes noted, “Believing this to be the island discovered by Captain Gardner, I have retained his name.”
1856 The island is claimed by C.A. Williams & Co. of New London, Connecticut under the American Guano Act but no worthwhile guano deposits are found. All claims are relinquished in 1882.
1892 On May 28 H.M.S. Curacao calls at Gardner Island to formally claim the island for Great Britain. Twenty Niue islanders are there planting coconuts under a British license granted (somewhat prematurely) to entrepreneur John T. Arundel. Drought forces the abandonment of the project sometime before 1894.
1929 Late on the stormy night of November 29, S.S. Norwich City, a 5,587 ton British freighter bound from Melbourne to Vancouver in ballast only (no cargo), runs hard aground on the reef at the island’s northwest end. An SOS is immediately sent out but the ship’s oil tanks have been ruptured and fire forces the crew over the side into the teeth of the storm. Eleven of the ship’s thirty-five men drown trying to reach shore. The survivors are rescued five days later. The wreck becomes a prominent landmark which slowly deteriorates over the years. Its massive triple-expansion steam engine is still visible today.

On August 18 H.M.S. Wellington calls at the island and collects information from which the first (somewhat) accurate map of the shoreline is made.

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