EXPLORING THE STEAMSHIP HESTIA
The feeling is strange, diving on the remains of a wreck where 30 men and 4 boys lost their lives … and the memories survive.
It was at 1:10 am, Monday, Oct. 25, 1909, when the Hestia crashed on the Old Proprietor ledge, southeast of Grand Manan as she was headed for Saint John carrying carpet, fabric, and rope … as well as a number of tombstones.
It was many years ago now, but a small group of divers met on Grand Manan to discuss items of mutual interest. Under the guidance of renowned wreck diver Eric Allaby, we dove on the wreck of the Steamship Hestia at Old Proprietor Ledge. Although many of the artifacts had been removed, debris remained on the site and some careful exploring yielded several treasures, including a partly full bottle of vintage Scotch that had lain on the ocean floor for over 60 years.
IS IT WORTH A VISIT?
Artifacts from the Hestia are maintained in the New Brunswick and Grand Manan museums. Displays change over time so check ahead. The Grand Manan Museum maintains excellent collections on display … make this a must visit if you are on the Island.
Diving on Grand Manan remains treacherous and visiting divers should only visit this site with experienced local divers.
THE STORY & LOCATION
THE NEW YORK TIMES, EASTPORT, Oct. 26, 1909.—A score or more lives were lost when the Donaldson Line steamer Hestia. was wrecked to-day on Old Proprietor's Ledge, off Seal Cove. Four of the victims, young Scotch boys, were passengers on the ill-fated steamer and the others were members of the crew.
Capt. Newman and twenty or more members of the crew were last seen this morning in a ship's boat which was being tossed and buffeted on the aggravated sea, making still more dangerous the treacherous tides which rush into and out of the Bay of Fundy.
Of the forty persons who were aboard the steamer when she piled up on the shoal at 1 A. M., this morning, only six are positively known to have been saved. They were forced to cling to their wrecked craft, shifting their precarious positions often, as the steamer was tossed by the great seas.
It was not until 3 P. M. to-day that life savers from the Seal Cove Station were able to man their boats and reach the stranded vessel. When rescued the survivors were in a weakened state, after fourteen hours’ ordeal.
Those known to have been saved are Third Mate Stewart, Second Engineer Morgan, and seamen Keen, McKenzie, Smith, and McVlckar.
A heavy northeasterly gale is believed to have been somewhat responsible for the Hestia’s fate, although it is supposed that a mistake of the man at the wheel aided. He thought he had picked up Gannet Rock light, it was thought, while he really saw the gleams of the lighthouse on Machias Seal Island, several miles southwest. This mistake carried the ship many miles off her course.
The sailors of the middle watch, had been out of their bunks an hour, and all others, together with the four boy passengers and most of the officers, were stowed in their bunks or hammocks when the crash came an hour after midnight. Their sleep had been broken by the violent movements of the steamer under the influence of a heavy gale from the northeast.
When the men of the midnight to 4 A. M. watch came on deck for their turn they were told by the relieved watch that the gale was a bad one —the worst of a succession which they had encountered on the passage across. But they did not expect the disaster which met them within an hour.
In the belief that he was leaving Grand Manan on the port tack, and following the usual course to St. John, the navigating officer sought the distinguishing marks of that route. But they were not to be seen. Instead, the steamer was heading for Seal Cove, between Gannett Rock and Machias Seal Island, over seas which barely covered a treacherous bottom of shoals. It was on one of these, just inside Old Proprietors Ledge. that the vessel’s nose became impaled, leaving the stern free in the surrounding sea. and subject to the violent movements of those aggravated waters.
Capt. Newman at once ordered his men to prepare to put the lifeboats overboard. Three of the lifeboats were available, and one by one they were swung from the deck, but while the tackle of one of the boats was being unfastened the small craft dropped from the davits into the sea and was soon beyond recovery.
Preparations were made to prevent a second similar mishap; Into another boat were placed the four boys and over a dozen members of the crew. They had barely taken their places when the tackle gave way and without warning the boat, with its occupants, was precipitated into the turbulent waters. The craft capsized but soon righted and one of the boys was seen clinging to the bottom holding with the grasp of fear of death and without strength to make another effort. Again the boat was capsized and this time disappeared.
Meanwhile those aboard the vessel launched the third boat. It was their last remaining hope and they tarried some little time to make certain that this craft should not go the way of its predecessors. Capt. Newman and all the remaining seamen except six entered the boat. These six were the ones rescued by the Seal Cove life savers this afternoon.
Capt. Newman and his men succeeded in dragging two of those struggling in the water into their overcrowded craft, but were unable to rescue others whose cries could be heard above the gale.
Third Mate Stewart, now in charge of the stranded steamer, and the remaining members of the crew in the meantime built a raft and placed it in readiness for launching. A supply of water and food was lashed to it.
Through the hours of darkness and dawn the Hestia gradually settled by the stern. At daylight Mate Stewart hoisted the Union Jack reversed as a signal of distress, but the wreck is not in the line of transatlantic or other steamship navigation. Only the hardy Grand Manan fishermen frequent those shoal waters, and the storm of this morning kept the fisher folk in port. It was late in the afternoon before the vessels plight was discovered by those on shore. But that did not mean immediate rescue for those aboard.
Against the gale which threatened to upset them, early a score of fishing craft set out to the assistance of the wrecked steamer. One after another was forced to turn back after answering the signal of the Hestia. Finally the Seal Cove life savers were able to board the Hestia, and after considerable difficulty succeeded in taking off the six men. The vessel is a total wreck.
Capt. Newman and his boat, which carried about twenty men was missing at a late hour to-night and may have perished. (They were later found on the shore near Yarmouth, NS)
The Hestia was a single-screw steamship of 2.434 tons. 365 feet length, 42.2 feet beam, and 27.8 feet depth of hold, with triple-expansion engines of 390 nominal horse power. She was built at Sunderland in 1890 by W. Doxford & Sons for the Donaldson Brothers of Glasgow. Published: October 27, 1909 Copyright © The New York Times.
Approximately 1300 words. Compiled by Art MacKay, 2018
The Hestia Archive - The Hestia Archive contains the images, articles and references collected while researching this topic. This includes newspaper reports and trial documents. Links and online postings have a way of going dead over time as web sites are changed and abandoned. Consequently, we have converted pertinent information to PDFs to preserve the information in this archive. Please note that these files are reference files and the copyrights remain with their owners unless they are in the public domain. New materials and information are added when encountered.
 "Shipwrecks - Grand Manan - Government of New Brunswick." https://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/gateways/about_nb/grand_manan/shipwrecks.html. Accessed 15 Nov. 2018.
 "Fundy Tides: Glasgow Steamer Hestia lost off Grand Manan - October ...." 12 Feb. 2013, https://fundytides.blogspot.com/2010/04/glasgow-steamer-hestia-lost-off-grand.html. Accessed 15 Nov. 2018.