National Geographic : 1965 Sep
forecaster in Halifax, so we'll expect you." The walls of the shack were decorated with pin-up girls. "The only two women on the island," Harrington explained, "are married!" Two men watched a television screen. "Not a bad picture today," commented one. But hard as I looked, I could see only "snow" in the picture from Sydney, 150 miles north. "Don't think it's always this quiet here," said Harrington. "Storms are very dramatic." He told us about 60-foot waves exploding on the shoals and rolling up the beaches, then showed us window glass frosted opaque by sandstorms in a single season. Huts Save Castaways' Lives During such storms, refuge huts often saved lives. Doug Harrington showed me a log for 1855: "The Nisibis ... struck on the N. E. bar... during a most violent gale.... The crew clung to the wreck till... miracu lously thrown on shore.... It was next to im possible for our men to go the rounds; and if those poor fellows had not had... the house of refuge" with a fire to warm them and bread to eat, wrote the superintendent, they would have died before reaching "the eastern station, the distance... being seven miles." Doug broke out charts that located known shipwrecks by name and year. The dots-each one a terrible disaster-completely fringed the long crescent island (page 413). Navigator Gil was fascinated by the chart. "White Mist is anchored near here," he said, pointing to a dot. "What wreck is this?" "That would be the schooner Arno," Doug replied, "sunk in 1846. I'll show you the offi cial report by Superintendent Joseph Darby." An eyewitness, this colorful old sea captain commanded Sable Island station from 1830 to 1848. During a violent winter storm, he reported, giant waves piled up on the bars off the north shore. Across these very shallows White Mist had glided only this morning. "All of a sudden," Darby wrote, "we saw an object to the north side dead to windward, which we at first thought was a large bird, but shortly after discovered that it was a sail, distant five or six miles, and that she was run ning down right before this tremendous gale dead on a lee shore... incredible that any vessel could live to come so great a distance through such mountains of broken water....." Through his glass, Darby watched the schooner approach over waves that "appeared like certain destruction." Miraculously, the sea before the ship seemed to turn "smooth as glass.... When she approached a little near 421 er we could see... two men were making great exertions with their arms.... Another half mile brought her to the beach, and her bow struck the sand." Safely ashore, Arno's skipper explained how he had saved all hands. "He lashed himself to the helm," Darby's report continued, "sent all his men below but two, and nailed up the cabin doors. He had two large casks placed near the foreshrouds .... He then directed his two best men to... lash themselves firmly to the casks, which were partly filled with blubber and oil from the fish. They had each a wooden ladle about two feet long, and ... they dipped up the blub ber and oil and threw it up in the air as high as they could. The great violence of the wind carried it far to leeward [ahead], and, spread ing over the water, made the surface smooth before her, and left a shining path behind.... It was raging... but not a barrel of water fell upon her deck the whole distance." Thus wrote Captain Darby in 1846-offi cially, colorfully, perhaps even truthfully. Hay for the horses completes the autumn cargo run. Husky seamen lug 125 bales onto the beach. Tame animals get their feed from the mainland; wild ponies forage through the winter months. KODACHROMEBY WILLIAM ALBERT ALLARD © N.G.S.