One day, before what is now known as National Lighthouse Day, on August 6, 1931, the United States Lighthouse Service lighthouse tender Shrub sank in York Harbor, Maine while attempting to place a navigational buoy into place.
For William Gifford, the captain of the Shrub, it was the worst possible accident to happen to a captain of a lighthouse tender. An accident like this could easily end his career.
The disaster happened when a large hole was ripped into the bottom of the vessel by jagged rocks, which were the reason for the crew to place a buoy at the site.
The rising tide stopped the bilge pumps from working as the ship settled upon a sandy bottom, leaving only the upper deck and smoke stack above water. The crew of 15 men was never in any real danger and were able to safely abandon ship.
The salvage operators who were sent to raise the vessel encountered numerous problems, and it took them several months to refloat the vessel. Once refloated, it was towed to Browns Wharf in Portland, Maine where it was hauled out and up onto the rails at high tide and allowed to settle in place so that the ship could be restored, which must have been an immense project.
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2017 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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