"I was born in Lower Economy, Nova Scotia seventy-five years ago. At the age of sixteen on July 21st 1878 I shipped on the brigantine “Busy Bee” with Capt. Robert Ellwood of Five Islands, Nova Scotia. We loaded lumber at Economy, N.S. and was bound for Newery, Ire. We arrived in thirty days. We discharged our cargo in Newery, Ireland; which took about a month, took in sand ballast and started back light. At thirty days out of Newery we were only half way across because of high winds and gales.
Around the 25th of Oct. we struck a gale and was love to for three days. The fourth morning at eight bells while the watch below was eating breakfast in the forward house the Captain saw a big sea coming and knew the ship could not ride on top. He called al hand aft. When the sea was about twenty feet away from the ship the top of the wave broke and smashed the forward house and life boats and heaved her right over on her broad side. The ballast shifted and took part of her bilsom with it. She stayed down on her side with the end of the end of the yards sticking in the water.
The captain gave orders to cut the spars out of her. We cut some of the riggings on the weather side and both masts broke flush with the deck. She then righted up and lay on her beam end. She started leaking badly and the pumps could not work because she was laying over too far. So we had to rig a barrel on a sling. Two men went forward on the life line and bailed water out of the hole. The two men were relieved every half hour. This continued or three days and three nights without food or water. The food and water were spoiled with salt water.
During the third night the Captain, thinking we had a slim chance of being saved, called all hands to-gether and wanted all to pray. We sat in a row and all prayed to be saved until was came to the second mate. He was a Norwegian, the captain asked why we would not pray. He answered that he would have to pray in Norwegian and it would be of no use because the Captain could not understand him. This did not seem funny at the time, but does as I recall it.
The fourth morning at day break, the Captain’s sister who was the cook’s wife, sighted a ship on the horizon. When the ship came nearer she sighted us and ran close by our stern.The rescue ship, with Capt. Joyce, was bound from Newfoundland to Italy, and was loaded with dry fish.
Capt. Joyce hailed us and asked how many in our crew we had. Our captain answered ten all told and that one was a woman. The sea was too rough to transfer us then, so Capt. Joyce said he would stand by for calmer seas. He stayed by all that day and that night, the next morning at sun rise he ran down close to the Busy Bee. We had to run and jump over-board as far from the ship as we could. The cook’s wife was afraid to jump so had to heave her overboard. The life boat from the ship standing by picked each one up as they jumped.
I was one of the last to leave the ship. Before we jumped overboard we had to set fire to the wrecked ship to sink it. Just as we two got aboard the rescue ship the Busy Bee exploded and sank.
Capt. Joyce kept in his course and landed at [illegible]. All hands lost everything except what we stood in. But the English counsel took care of us and sent us to Liverpool where we were able to ship for ourselves.
This was quite an experience for a sixteen-year-old boy, don’t you think.
I have lived in the United States for the last fifty years and am a naturalized citizen.
This is the first hand account of a ship wreck in 1878 in the Atlantic Ocean of which my great-great grandfather survived at the age of sixteen.He had sailed from the time he was 16 until he was 61 years old. My grandfather sent a photocopied letter of this account and I have written it just as Daniel did in 1939, 8 years before he passed away in Boston, Massachusetts.
Fair winds and following seas....