|Volume 12 Number 2/3
||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
||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.”
||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.
||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.
||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
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.