The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily Palladium (Oswego, NY), Monday, Nov. 8, 1880

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Our First November Gale
The Storm Which Swept the Lakes - A Story of Perils and Disasters - The Efforts to Rescue the Wood Duck at Oswego - Disasters to the Lake Ontario Fleet and Other Vessels - Lives Lost and Property Destroyed
The Storm.

There is reason to fear that yesterday's gale has been scarcely less disastrous than that of three weeks ago, which strewed the shores of the Great Lakes with the stark bodies of hundreds of men and the shattered wrecks of scores of vessels. it was much such a storm, coming on suddenly and with terrible ferocity. Of the craft out on this lake, two or three reached this port yesterday.

Their masters say, no doubt with truth, that they never encountered such terrific seas on this water. Certainly we never saw Ontario in such a tremendous fury. The waves were literally mountainous, and the extraordinary grandeur of the scene brought crowds of people to the beach. It seemed to be the opinion that nothing could live outside and, in fact, such vessels as struggled into port were boarded and buried by the seas. From midnight Saturday till 1:30 a.m. Sunday, the wind appears to have been about six miles an hour, and at 2 a.m. "flopped" around and was blowing 32 miles an hour.

The Wood Duck's Adventure

About 11:30 yesterday forenoon, a little vessel home in sight, buffeted around by the billows like a cockle shell, sometimes buried entirely from view and apparently unable to survive the storm. She came on rapidly and about noon was off this port. A tug crept out into that furious maelstrom, the amazement of every spectator. She tumbled and rolled about and plunged downward, buying herself as if she never would rise again.

Her struggles excited great anxiety and surprise. As the vessel comes along, the tug dashes out for her; the vessel sweeps by toward the beach; the tug follows up, apparently careless of the danger; both are buried in that howling sea, and everybody says they will be lost; the tug gets a line; she straightens up; something is the matter; the vessel hurries on and plunges ashore, while the tug struggles wearily back into port.

It was a gallant effort and deserved success. Hundreds of hearts along the shore testified to that and vowed that the master of the tug was a hero. It was the tug F. D. Wheeler, Capt. Charles W. Ferris, and the vessel was the Wood Duck, owned by Marks & Son of Frenchman's Bay, sailed by Geo. Marks, the junior owner, and laden with 4,688 bushels of barley for Irwin & Sloan. The captain tells the following story.

"We left Frenchman's Bay at one o'clock Saturday morning, wind s.w.; no sea until we got off Port Hope, when about 8 p.m. the wind shifted to the north; at midnight it shifted to the west and thence south; the sea increased fearfully, filling the cabin and wetting everything on board; we lost our boat and forestaysail; we had taken in the foresail, jaw lashed down. We lost our towline on the lake before we sighted Oswego. We got off here about noon but missed our line. We began drifting down the lake, and this time got our line but it was a short line and there was a kink in it. When the tug straightened up, the line ran off the timber head and the tug kept on her way in. We put the helm up and struck the beach. The life crew rescued us. I think the tug did nobly, coming almost too far for her own safety. Twice she filled with water and we could not see her. If we had a good towline I think the vessel would have been towed in all right. She was worth about $2,500 but is not insured."

A Palladium reporter found the crew enjoying the hospitality of Capt. Blackburn and his lifesaving crew, to whom the shipwrecked tars felt very grateful. Keeper Blackburn was on the end of the pier with a hawser. When he found that the tug had lost her line, with the mortar and other apparatus he got abreast of the vessel. He fired mortar No. 6 over the main boom the first time, set out the breeches buoy and with three-quarters of an hour has had the crew, which consisted of the captain, mate, two men and a cook, ashore with their bags.

The vessel was about 300 feet from the shore but was constantly working in and lay high out. It was evident that there were holes in her bottom, as the barley washed ashore. The vessel is not insured and will be got off. The cargo is insured. Captain Blackburn and his crew and all the sailors who saw Capt. Ferris's attempt to save the Wood Duck say it was one of the most daring marine feats ever done in this port.

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Monday, Nov. 8, 1880
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Daily Palladium (Oswego, NY), Monday, Nov. 8, 1880