Pond Island Light

Near Popham Beach, Maine

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A description of the storm of November 1849 and the wreck of the Hanover, written by Milton Spinney, son of the keeper of Pond Island Light -- quoted in Edward Rowe Snow's The Romance of Casco Bay.

The Hanover had sailed away in spring for a Russian port on the Black Sea where she had discharged her cargo, from there she sailed to Cadiz where she loaded salt for Bath, and was on her way home.

Without anything unusual happening to her she would be due at the mouth of the Kennebec about the first of November. As the time drew near for her to appear off the coast many pairs of eyes scanned the sea for a sight of the ship. It had been blowing a number of days with the wind east-north-east and it had created a heavy sea on the coast.

I was ashore with one of our neighbor boys and it was so rough that I could not get back to the island. I think it was on the fourth day of the blow that in the morning we saw Captain Rogers in the Hanover lying to the eastward of Seguin, which lies three miles off Pond Island.

There are two entrances to the Kennebec, one to the eastward and one to the westward of Seguin. Captain Rogers was considered a good pilot and fisherman and pilots on the shore wondered why he did not run into the river which he could easily have done with almost a fair wind by coming in the western way.

When it was seen by the men on shore what Captain Rogers intended to do they ran for a little hill that overlooked the beach and farther out the breaking on a bar. Behind them came the women and children, myself with the rest.

The ship, when she headed up, although close hauled by the wind, would have weathered the bar and Pond Island if the tide had been running in, but just after she got by the point of the treacherous sand spit she met the tide coming out which caught her on the weather bow making impossible the ship's passing the island on that tack.

Taking the western way was one of the many unexplainable things connected with this tragedy. After lying all the forenoon in a position where he could easily have entered the river, Captain Rogers was seen to square away his yard, run down to leeward of Seguin and try to get in the western way.

Then we saw from our lookout that the Captain was going to put his ship about. Slowly the vessel came up to wind, but a short distance from the seething foam of the bar and dead to windward of it.

When in the wind's eye she refused to go farther and with all her sails aback she slowly forged astern. Back, back, until every watcher's heart was ready to burst with suspense, back to that fearful maelstrom. Back, to the octopus whose arms were extended to receive the doomed ship and her crew. Back, till in the hollow of a huge wave her stempost struck the sand beneath and the story is told.

The ship, when she struck, fell off broadside to the sea and the next comber rolled her down on her broadside, then every man on board, twenty-four all told, were seen on her side. The next waves rolled her bottom-up, breaking her spars off. As she rolled over the crew clambered up over the bilge and strung themselves out, holding on to the keel.

The third and fourth seas broke the ship in pieces and left the crew to battle for their lives till death should end their troubles. We knew that no man could come through alive.

As the wreckage came floating ashore the men went on the beach, and as the bodies came ashore they were reverently carried up on the high ground and laid down. Before the end of the day the bodies had been secured and now lie buried in a little cemetery within sound of the roaring waves which beat them to death.


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© Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any images or text from this website without permission of the author.