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12 - A Sea Rescue

 

 

from The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

Every settlement in Newfoundland can boast of its past heroes I guess. So can the now-deserted settlement of Indian Islands.

Let us go back to June 28, 1912. The boats are out fishing. The sea is calm for most of the morning. Around noon the winds rises and the sky darkens. The fishermen need no further warning. Each boat hauls its nets in and the crews trim the billowing sails for a race to the nearest harbor, port of Tilting in the Indian Islands.

In one of these open fishing boats, Nicholas and Thomas Keefe, 60 and 62 respectively, are making good headway when they hit a "growler," a treacherous cake of submerged ice. In seconds the boat is sinking. And the nearest craft is half a mile to the windward.

Nathaniel Sheppard, his son Mark, and Mark's son Henry, a boy of only seven, are in this boat. Seeing that the Keefes are in trouble they change course.

Only 30 feet away from the Keefe boat, which is almost completely awash, Mark Sheppard let the jib fly in the wind, put an arm around the foremast, and with the boathook in the other hand, he caught the submerged stern as the Keefes struggled in the water up to their chests. Then a giant wave drove the stern of the Keefe boat through the hull of Sheppard's, leaving a gaping hole, so that now both vessels are in the same predicament.

Huddling in the cuddy of the Sheppard boat, young Henry plugged the hole with his coat, unknown to any of the others, and jumped to the deck.

Just then Nicholas Keefe scrambled onto the Sheppard boat but Thomas fell in the waves between the two craft, and was in danger of being crushed in the boiling seas. Grabbing a boat-hook, Mark fished him out. Then Henry Sheppard showed them where the rescuing ship had been stoved in. Undaunted they jammed another coat into the breach and reached port and a warm welcome with the remainder of the fleet.

For their rescue the Sheppards received the Carnegie bronze medal and $500.

 

 

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This page transcribed by James Butler, 2000
REVISED: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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