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Historic Shipwreck Profile: Additional Information on Wreck Event



Newspaper clipping from San Francisco Examiner 4MAR1923 p3 col2 shipwreck Babinda

Source: San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, CA), 4 March 1923, p. 3, col. 1.
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Officers and Men Picked Up in Heavy Seas as Flames Sweep Freighter Off Monterey Bay

Rescued from the sea at dawn after they had been forced to take to the lifeboats when their ship took fire off Santa Cruz, the crew of the wooden motorship Babinda, numbering twenty-three officers and men, reached here yesterday afternoon on the steam schooner Celilo.

The Celilo, en route to San Francisco from San Pedro, picked them up after they had been drifting about in the lifeboats for a quarter of an hour. Heavy seas were running when the rescue was effected but there was no mishap and none injured.

The Babinda, burned to the water's edge, was a smouldering derelict last night and appeared to be drifting inshore near the Monterey coast line. The whaler Port Saunders was reported standing by but was unable to put a line on the charred bulk because of the intense heat and smoke.

It was a few minutes before 4 o'clock yesterday morning when the fire was discovered. Second Engineer Harry Hillstad, on watch, suddenly saw flames burst out over the dynamo. He immediately stopped the engines and, with other members of the crew, tried to put out the blaze. But the fire spread rapidly, and in a few minutes the entire engine room was enveloped in flames.

While other men started the electric pumps and fought the blaze with pony fire extinguishers. Hillstad rushed to the bridge and sounded the fire alarm. Captain Helge Maland saw that the fire was fast getting beyond control and ordered V. W. Watts, radio operator, to send out S. O. S. calls.

The first S. O. S. message was picked up here at 4:10 a. m. by the beach station of the Federal Telegraph Company. There was nothing to explain the call for help, and the operators, "listening in" awaited further word. Nothing came but the one S. O. S. call. Then silence.

But Watts had only been able to send out one message. The fire had, reached the ship's dynamo and the spark on the radio failed. And the electric lights went out.

Meanwhile the crew, directed by Captain Maland, were battling madly in the darkness to keep the fire away from the fuel oil tanks. The smoke was stifling; the heat intense. Yet they fought on. Slowly the blaze crept toward the tanks. It looked as if the crew were doomed.

Then came the captain's order, "Abandon ship!" This was forty minutes after the fire was discovered. There was a scurrying everywhere as the men rushed to their quarters to save what belongings they could. Some were able to save everything, while others had only time to grab their coats and hats and flee.

By this time, the after part of the Babinda, where the lifeboats were located, was a mass of flames, staggering through the smoke and fire, the crew took to the boats. All but the captain, Chief Engineer W. B. Bissner and three seamen were in the first boat, which was lowered with difficulty into the heavy sea. Then the second boat went over the side and the occupants rowed away.

Ten miles away was the steam schooner Celilo, steaming for this port with cargo and a few passengers. They saw the blazing Babinda, but had not picked up the Babinda's S O S. Fifteen minutes after the Babinda's lifeboats had been lowered, the Celilo reached the scene of the disaster and picked up the survivors.

Newspaper clipping from San Francisco Chronicle 5MAR1923 p15 col2 shipwreck Babinda

Source: San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, CA), 5 March 1923, p. 15, col. 2.
Courtesy of



The motor ship Babinda which caught afire early Saturday morning off of Santa Cruz, while en route to San Francisco from San Pedro burned to the water’s edge yesterday morning at 7:10 o’clock and sunk fifteen miles north of Point Sur. Several vessels, including the Red Stack tug Sea Lion and the cutter Shawnee were standing by at the time the burning craft sank.

Captain Darraugh of the Sea Lion which arrived her yesterday morning after the Babinda sank said that before sinking the vessel was a mass of flames from stem to stern and that there was no chance to salvage any part of the illfated craft. The crew of the Babinda arrived in San Francisco on the steamer Celilo Saturday night. The loss is estimated by local under-writer to be $200,000.

Reviewed: April 11, 2024
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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