Tragedy at Sea, 1928 the sinking of the Vestris
The cargo ship Vestris left Hoboken, N.J. Friday November 9, 1928,
her holds filled with agricultural equipment and automobiles bound for
Argentina. She carried 129 passengers and 199 crewmen. Off the coast
of Virginia she headed into heavy seas, and was immediately plummeted
from side-to-side by gigantic waves churned up by 65-mile-per-hour winds.
By ten o’clock Saturday night the constant pitching and rolling
shifted her cargo forcing the ship to list at an extreme angle. In short
time, water reached waist-level on the port side of the main deck. All
day Sunday and into the night the crew furiously manned the bailing pumps
in a futile effort to keep the sea at bay. At ten o’clock Monday
morning the captain realized all was lost and radioed his first SOS signal.
His distress calls ended at 1:25 PM with the message: “We are abandoning
ship. We are taking to the lifeboats.”
Crewman Fred Hansen had bought a small camera just before
leaving port. Now, he used it to record the chaotic scene on deck as
the gale-force winds and the angry sea continued to attack the ship. “When
I got on deck I started taking pictures,” he later reported. “Everyone
was screaming and yelling. I stayed until we thought all the lifeboats
had been launched except boat #1. There were only three men in the lifeboat.
We couldn’t man it and pull people in at the same time, so we cruised
over to boat #8 and yelled for two sailors to come aboard. It was filled
with people yelling like bulls. Only one sailor came over. As we pulled
away their boat began sinking. We picked up about thirty men and women
from the water."
The Vestris sank shortly after, with a loss of 124 lives.