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Author Topic: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat  (Read 24186 times)

John Kada

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2012, 10:21:41 PM »

Andrew:

Thank you for finding the astronomical pier. What a difference a datum makes...

So, the Bushnell report wasn't in error about the location of the astronomical pier, and so I can't point to this non-error to suggest that the Bushnell report was wrong about how many boats were on shore in 1939. The Mystery of the 3rd Boat remains unsolved...

Bruce:

That looks like a piece of the map I am thinking of, but where is the rest of it?  Signs of Recent Habitation may contain another piece of the map you posted (see below). But maybe the full map never was posted--maybe my recollection of seeing the full map is in error and my imagination filled in a complete map from the available fragments. It would be nice to see the full map whose fragment appears in Signs...
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John Kada

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #16 on: October 26, 2012, 11:56:59 PM »

At the start of this thread I noted that the captain of the Bushnell reported 3 small boats on Gardner Island in late 1939, which he assumed were from the Norwich City. However the accounts of the Norwich City accident indicate that only two boats, the ship’s lifeboats, were dragged ashore by the Norwich City’s crew during the time they spent on Gardner. The Norwich City was equipped with two lifeboats on either side of a structure located just aft of the funnel and two ‘ship’s boats’, located on either side of a structure located just forward of the funnel (see the photo in the Ameliapedia article on the Norwich City). The accounts of the evacuation of the Norwich City after it hit Gardner’s reef make it clear the two boats removed from the ship on the night of the accident were the ship’s two lifeboats. So one can conclude that the third boat seen by the Bushnell survey party in ’39 was one of the two ship’s boats and that some sort of human intervention was involved in getting that boat firmly ashore on Gardner for the Bushnell party to see in 1939.

There is one aspect of this explanation which I find somewhat unsatisfying: when the Norwich City ran aground it caught fire and the structures forward and aft of the funnel were destroyed. According to Ric in the Ameliapedia article on the Norwich City:  “Photos of the ship prior to the accident show a white-painted superstructure just forward of the funnel and a smaller structure further aft that are missing in Bevington's 1937 photos of the wreck. These seem to have been of wooden construction and were consumed in the fire that engulfed the vessel at the time of its stranding.” What I find unsatisfying is that somehow one of these two ship’s boats managed to survive the fire that destroyed the wooden structure where these boats, also made of wood, were housed. I suppose it’s possible for that to happen, but it does seem a bit odd doesn’t it?

I looked at photos of the Norwich City taken after its collision with a bridge in Vancouver the year before it ran aground on Gardner and the one that best shows how the ship’s boats were stored is attached. These boats appear to have been hanging on davits located on an open deck that extended around a small closed structure with windows, which I’m guessing was the ship’s bridge. Even if one of these ship’s boats was still floatable after the fire that destroyed the forward structure, removing the boat from that wrecked structure to get it to shore would have been quite a task, wouldn’t it? The Debris Field Analysis report includes the earliest known picture of the Norwich City wreck, taken in 1935 (see attachment or go to link). At first glance I thought the white object  that can be seen on the port side of the ship forward of the funnel might actually be a ship’s boat, hanging atilt from its davits, but on second thought I think its too big to be a ship’s boat (perhaps the white object is a remaining unburnt piece of the forward structure?) In any case, from the damage I see in this photo I tend to think the ship’s boats were consumed in the fire or made inaccessible by the damage that the fire wreaked upon the forward structure. I’d be curious to know what other forum members think. Perhaps someone could look at the a more highly resolved version of the 1935 picture.

If the third boat wasn’t from the Norwich City where was it from? The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat continues…
« Last Edit: October 27, 2012, 12:00:49 AM by John Kada »
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John Kada

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2012, 10:18:24 PM »

Jeff,

The Bushnell Report could’ve been wrong about three boats on the beach; that would be one explanation for the mystery. If close examination of one of the early aerial photos of the area near the Norwich City happened to reveal that there really were three small boats on Gardner back then we’d still have the puzzle of how the third boat got there. One not totally satisfactory explanation, as discussed in my previous post, is that the third boat survived the Norwich City fire and was brought to shore by some later unknown person. Possibly Gallagher's castaway, possibly some other island visitor--it's unlikely we'd ever know. Another possibility is that the third boat came from some other ship and brought Gallagher’s castaway to the island. If we discovered that Naval Observatory sextant #1542 belonged to Thurston Howell the first then I'd say the third boat might be Thurston's lifeboat. Chances of proving that are pretty slim but who knows...

Not finding the third boat in a photo of the Norwich City area or elsewhere wouldn’t prove the third boat wasn't really there somewhere on the island. Most likely the mystery of the third boat will remain just that, a mystery. But if I had the best available photos of the shore near the Norwich City, I’d get out my magnifying glass and look real hard for small boats  ;).
« Last Edit: October 29, 2012, 11:08:33 PM by John Kada »
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tom howard

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #18 on: November 18, 2012, 09:04:49 AM »

If they had a hatchet, as was reported on previous inventories, and needed a round the clock fire, a lifeboat might be burned by castaways if they were on the island.
Dry cut timber burns a lot better, easier to light, and burns longer and hotter than green, wet sticks.
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Don Dollinger

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #19 on: February 01, 2013, 02:12:43 PM »

Quote
Another possibility is that the third boat came from some other ship and brought Gallagher’s castaway to the island. If we discovered that Naval Observatory sextant #1542 belonged to Thurston Howell the first then I'd say the third boat might be Thurston's lifeboat.

As I remember it, the SS Minnow had no life boats...

LTM,

Don
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