Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Steam Schooner Caspar Strikes Saunders Reef and Turns Clear Over -- April 27, 2010

From the 24-October-1897 San Francisco Call. WA Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper. This one shows the ill-fated steam schooner Caspar. Steam schooners carried lumber and passengers along the rough California coast.



M. MATSON, Second Mate.


JOHN KUHN, First Assistant Engineer.



A. ALDERSON. Seaman.



There are four others whose names are unknown
missing and it is thought two men were picked up by
the Alcazar, but who these two were is not known.




POINT ARENA, CAL., Oct. 23.— On the arrival of the stage from Cazadero at 10 o'clock this morning the driver reported a schooner capsized about four miles south of Point Arena, but could give no details.

Parties from Point Arena started at once for the wreck. The heavy sea had carried the hulk to within fifty feet of the high bluffs, and in a short time the tide had fallen so the wreck was reached by climbing down the steep cliff.

It was found that instead of being a schooner it was the steamer Caspar. Four black objects could be seen on what appeared to be a log or driftwood out in the kelp near the whistling buoy which marks the Saunders Reef.

Spyglasses were provided, and the black objects were discovered to be men. Word was immediately brought to Point Arena, but all the boats at this place had been broken up by the heavy sea of Wednesday night, so nothing could be done toward rescuing them from here.

The steamer Alcazar was loading at Greenwood, fifteen miles north of Point Arena, and the news of the wreck and men clinging to the log was telegraphed to W. H. White of the L. E. White Lumber Company.

He ordered the Alcazar to start at once for the wreck and rescue the men if possible. The Alcazar started from Greenwood at 1:30 and reached the wreck at 4 o'clock.

In the meantime the sea had gone down and two men, Adolph Peterson and Henry Anderson, launched a small boat, and after a hard struggle succeeded in getting through the breakers at Iversens landing, and pulled to the men outside. They found Captain Anfindsen and Seaman Chris Larson more dead than alive. They were on a few boards lashed together.

The small boat would only carry four men, so the brave rescuers returned to land, and after another hard struggle landed the two men, who had to be carried up the cliff, where they were wrapped in blankets, given brandy to revive them and then brought to Point Arena.

The Alcazar's boat picked up two men out in the kelp, but whether dead or alive could not be told from the shore, and nothing can be learned concerning them until the steamer returns to Greenwood.

In an interview this evening Captain Anfindsen said: "We were driven before a heavy gale and I was keeping close inshore to avoid the wind as much as possible. She was going along all right and I went on deck and changed the course one point, so as to be sure of clearing all reefs, but soon afterward she struck and began to fill rapidly. I ordered all the men forward and went forward myself to let go the anchor, so I could find out how badly she was damaged, as 1 did not like to risk going ahead until I knew what damage was done.

"The engine-room filled with water and the engineer, of course, could do nothing with the engine. After a short time she swung around and struck again. While we were working with the anchor the engineer was trying to get the boat ready for launching but as soon as she struck the second time we were all washed overboard. 1 struck out for shore but soon lost mv bearings and started for the ship when I heard some one call out to me telling me to come in that direction.

"I struck out in the direction of the voice and soon came up to Chris Larson, one of my sailors, who was on a raft made from some lumber tnat was used in carrying grain. He helped me upon the raft which was nothing more than a few boards hanging together. For several hours we could hear some of the others calling for help so I think they must have had something to live on or they could not have been alive so long.

"When daybreak came we could see nothing of our vessel and no sign of any of the men. We simply hung on and drifted until we were taken off by the men from Iversen's Landing."

"The men who were lost, as nearly as I can remember th?ir names were: Mate Morris Petersen, Second Mate M. Matson, Engineer George Offerman, first assistant engineer, name unknown; Firemen John Jacobson and Frank Conley, Sailors A. Anderson and N. Holverson. These are all the names I can remember. There were fifteen all told before we struck."

People living near where the wreck occurred say they heard the whistle of some steamer about midnight, but thought nothing more of it, and although there is a family living within 200 yards of where the wreck lies, they knew nothing of it until the stage-driver accidentally looked over the bluff as he was driving along and discovered the hull bottom up.

The reef where the Caspar evidently struck is known as the Saunders Reef, and is a dangerous place to northbound vessels running close inshore. There have been several vessels lost there. The Caspar is a total wreck, the machinery having dropped out through the deck, which is all broken to pieces.



Some of the Men Supposed to Have

Been Lost With the Ill-

Fated Caspar.

The Caspar was built here in 1888 and has been employed on the coast ever Since. she was 234.49 tons net burden, 132 feet 5 inches long, 33 feet broad and 11 feet deep. She was managed by the Caspar Lumber Company, but was owned by a syndicate, of whom Captain Afindsen was one. When the rush to Klondike was at its height the Caspar was chartered to go to St. Michael and $3000 of the charier money was paid on account. Deck houses were built and accommodation provided for 100 passengers, but the promoters backed out at the last minute. The Caspar made several trips up the coast with the deckhouses on, but finally when they proved to be a nuisance they were removed and the lumber is now piled up in the shipyard.

The Caspar carried a crew of fifteen all told — the captain, first and second officers, chief engineer and assistant engineer, two firemen, six sailors, a cook and cabin-boy. The names of the captain and chief engineer are the only ones kept on
the company's books, all the other records being in the possession of the master of the steamer. From the Marine Engineers' Association and the Seamen's Union of the Pacific the following names were obtained, however: Olaf Anfindsen, captain; Morris Peterson, first mate ; Andrew Anderson, second mate; George H. Offermann, chief engineer; John Kuhn, assistant engineer; Chris Larsen, sailor; N. C. Helverson, sailor. Louis Bruce, sailor. This was Kuhn's first voyage on the Caspar. The steamer left here Friday night for Usal and got caught in the gale that raged along the coast.



The Number of Ships That Have

Laid Their Bones on the Jagged


The Caspar makes the second steamer within the year lost in the immediate vicinity of Point Arena. On the night of November 20 last year the steamer San Benito went ashore just above the point; six of the crew were lost, the remainder being rescued by the steamer Point Arena and from the shore after hangiog in the rigging nearly twenty-four hours.

For the year ending June 30, 1896, two other vesaeis were wrecked in the same vicinity and for the ten years ending ihe same date the number comes up to fourteen and in nearly every case there was considerable loss of life, which might have been largely avoided had there been a properly equipped life-saving station within reach.

There are but twelve active stations on the whole Pacific Coast — five of them in California and three of these in the vicinity if the Golden Gate. Tne other two are situated at Point Reyes, some seventy five miles below Point Arena, and at Humboldt Bay about 120 nines above. For ten years past there has been on the strip of coast between these two stations an average of one vessel iost to every two miles.

Outside the Golden Gate Point Arena heads the list of fatal localities from the Straits of San Juan de Fuca to San Diego Bay, Humboldt bar coming next with ten wrecks. Point Reyes which is provided with a station, has but four in the same time.

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