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Page 31 - The Heroic Rescue of the Crew of the Kismet II

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1996/6/1 (261 reads)

we were dancing pretty good together. Everyone left with all their boats could take. We couldn't take much. We only had small rowboats, and two and three of us in every boat. But we managed our liquor. Up until today, approximately 14 years later, we are finding buried rum and whiskey.... This year--14 years later--Mr. S. G. Mac? Lellan, my wife Ronie's father, was put? ting a basement under his house, and the house is approximately 40 feet long. And he couldn't get jacked enough to lift the house. So he made a remark: When he would get the house up there would be enough liquor under there from the Kismet to get everyone in the country drunk. The next day there were enough people there to lift the house and hold it up until he got the blocks under it. And the liquor? John Angus Fraser wrote his story 14 years after the event. He wrote It as something to hold onto during the rough months af? ter his wife Ronie died. The pain of his loss comes through clearly in his story. But what comes through as well is a vigor? ous storyteller at the centre of his tale. Our thanks to John An? gus for sharing this story with us. We admire, especially, his ability to keep alive the feel of good spoken storytelling in his writing. We are grateful to the Rasmussen family of Bay St Lawrence for having encouraged John Angus's writing and for preserving his work. Davkl and Tamara introduced us to this story. More and more people went aboard the Kismet II. They came from all around Cape Breton. Joe Curtis of Bay St. Lawrence told us that when they would be out tobster fishing, it seemed that "you just couldn't pass her without going aboard again." As an example, he took off 35 cans of paint, towed them away in the ship's own lifeboat. The AC/smef was so completely stripped that when a salvage crew from Halifax arrived, they found virtu? ally nothing left but the shell of the ship. It was a marvelous ex? ample of salvage, and of recycling! Brass pipes became drain? pipes. Clocks and barometers and valves found new homes. Even the anchor chain was gone. But portions of the ship were still on the shore nearly 20 years later. (See the photos on page 36.) The Heroic Rescue of the Crew of the Kismet U After we read John Angus Fraser's account of his adventure on the abandoned ship, we went back to learn what had happened days before to the crew of the Kismet II • a 2,848-ton freighter en route from Philadelphia to Summerslde, P.E.i., filling with water, lights and power gone. This led us to the 1955 newspapers and to the Shearwater Aviation Museum. It turns out that the rescue of the crew off the Kismet II is a cen? tral event at the museum. They have produced a colouring book called "The Shearwater Angel" honouring the pilots and the Sikorsky helicopter nicknamed "Iggy." The pilots who took the crew off the ship-'ack Beeman and Roger Fink • -were awarded the George Medal (presented by the Queen), an award "for acts of bravery...intended primarily for civilians and...miiitary services...confined to actions for which purely military honours are not normally granted." From various reports, here's some of what happened in northern Cape Breton in November 1955. HALIFAX HERALD, November 26,1955: "Her bat? tery and generator gone dead and her holds gradually filling with water, the grounded Liberian freighter Kismet II wallowed barely 50 feet from razor-edged rocks off the northern tip of Cape heavy Photo of the Kismet IIat the mercy of violent seas • the crew still trapped on board. Image from mrcrofilm. Photo credit: Donald Nugent. navy trucks with breeches buoy gear and experts to use it raced to the scene. "The trucks left Sydney around 8:30 p.m. and had to make a 150-mile trip to Cape St. Lawrence with emergency highway crews plowing the road ahead of them. "An emergency message was sent to ham ra? dio operator Mel Smith on the scene to have horses, bulldozers, tractors and all 31
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