Ear: Haddingtonshire

"The wreck of the Haddingtonshire was sold in San Francisco last Saturday for $80 (now about $2,200)," The Daily Morning Astorian reported on Aug. 25, 1885. The cabin boy, William Murray, 16, gave an account of the wreck, which occurred near Point Reyes, California.

The vessel left Astoria July 4, with a full cargo and 21 aboard, heading for San Francisco. It was good sailing for three weeks until a squall hit, tipping the Haddingtonshire over. The carpenter and two able seamen were washed out to sea before the ship could be righted.

The next morning revealed the second mate dead on deck, the starboard lifeboat "smashed," the sails torn and the starboard forecastle gone. Worse yet, the captain’s navigational gear, the chronometer and sextants, were destroyed.

All Capt. John Frazier could do was guess their heading, set lookouts for land and get back underway. Four days later, in rough seas and foggy weather, sailing at about 8 knots with foghorns blowing, the lookout spotted land — too late. The Haddingtonshire ran hard aground.

When an attempt to board the remaining lifeboat failed, the captain ordered the crew up into the rigging and went below for signals and rockets. Once back on deck, the rockets were washed right out of his hands. Eventually the rigging gave way, and the crew was ordered back to the deck. On his way down, young William was washed overboard.

"I heard nothing but cries for help," he recalled. "I was in the breakers and so exhausted that I lay on my back and tried to swallow enough water to drown." But then his fingers touched sand, and he "swam and straggled" to the beach, where he fainted.

When he awoke, he made his way to the farm of Mr. Reinhold, who went down to the beach and found the only other survivor, Hans Markuson. The bodies of the captain and rest of the crew were never found.

When asked by a reporter what he planned to do next, William was certain of one thing. "Well," he replied, "I was thinking I have had enough of the sea for a while, sir."

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.