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Strange Times 173: Victims of Pirates
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Today we have a single story of sailors vanished in the South Atlantic. Throw a message overboard on…
June 22, 1921
In Wisconsin, women secure the right to appear on juries, while in Chicago, a judge dismisses a case that would have allowed the women of Cook County to do the same.
During a series of army and navy bombing tests, the former German submarine U-117 is sunk off the coast of Virginia in sixteen minutes.
The American Federation of Labor declares its support for “total exclusion of Japanese and other Orientals from the United States,” claiming that any agreement with Japan is automatically void, “because the Japanese in a cunning and stealthy manner have outwitted the intent of the law.”
The mysterious woman known only by the pseudonym “Grace Roberts,” imprisoned in Newark for passing bogus checks, escapes along with another inmate by stealing clothes from the laundry and walking off the reformatory grounds.
In Cork, twenty armed rebels kidnap the 70-year-old Earl of Bandon, imprison is family and set his mansion ablaze.
The Weather: Partly cloudy today and Thursday; not much change in temperature; fresh southwest winds.
More details emerge in the baffling story of the schooner Carroll A. Deering, which was found adrift off Cape Hatteras with all its crew missing. Was it pirates? Bolsheviks? Mutineers? Only time will tell!
WASHINGTON, June 21.—The names of three other vessels which have disappeared off the Atlantic coast of the United States in mysterious circumstances were added by the Department of Commerce today to the list of those whose failure to appear is attributed by the Government to circumstances more or less related to the supposed kidnapping of hte crew of the American schooner Carroll A. Deering off Diamond Shoals, North Carolina, last January. It is not asserted that all the missing vessels were the victims of pirates or possibly Bolshevist sympathizers intending to dispose of ships and cargoes to the Government of Soviet Russia, but the fact that all these vessels disappeared at about the same time, and that none of them left a trace, is considered significant.
Four of the missing ships disappeared off the Southern Atlantic Coast in February. Three of them sailed from Norfolk about the same time. Ordinarily ships that disappear leave some trace either in the way of boats, wreckage or dead bodies, but it is said that none of the ships added to the list today left any trace whatever. They were sunk “spurios versenkt,” as the Germans expressed the effort of their submarines to leave no tell-tale vestage of merchant vessels they sent to the bottom.
Disappearance of Yute and Albyan
Two of the vessels whose disappearance has made the Government authorities suspicious since they learned recently of the kidnapping of the Deering’s crew off Diamond Shoals in January are the Spanish steamer Yute and the Russian bark Albyan.
The Yute sailed from Balitmore for Dunkirk on Nov. 14, 1920. On Nov. 17 she was heard calling for help and gave her position as about 240 miles off the New Jersey coast. Government vessels and other ships put out to her assistance, but were never able to get any trace of her.
The Albyan sailed from Norfolk for Gotenberg on Oct. 1. She has never been heard from, and not the slightest trace of any wreckage from her has been found.
These were the four ships that disappeared in February:
The Italian steamer Monte San Michele, from New York, Feb. 2, for Reggio.
The British tank steamer Ottawa, from Port Lobos for Manchester; stopped at Norfolk and sailed thence Feb. 2; was in wireless communication on Feb. 6 with the steamer Dorlington Court and since then has never been heard from.
Yesterday, in making known the circumstances of the disappearance of the crew of the Deering, Government officials said that the American steamer Hewitt had disappeared in mysterious circumstances in January, and that two other vessels had also disappeared in a way to excite suspicion.
Further details concerning the Hewitt were obtained today. She sailed from Sabine Pass, Texas, on Jan. 20 and soon after was sighted and spoken about 250 miles north of Jupiter Inlet, Fla. That was the last heard of her. For some reason the Department of Commerce officials were unable to identify the two other vessels whose disappearance excited suspicion. It is probable that they are included in this list obtained today and given in this dispatch.
Text of Supposed Deering Message
The State Department today issued a statement concerning the information it had in regard to the disappearance of the Deering. The statement failed to say that the department had instructed consular officials of the United States at ports in various parts of the world to keep a lookout for the Deering’s missing crew and a mysterious vessel on which they were supposed to have been made prisoner. Officials admitted, however, that such instructions had been sent.
The department’s official statement gives the correct text of the message supposed to have been put in a bottle and thrown overboard by the mate of the Deering. The supposed text of the message obtained yesterday is not the same as that furnished to the State Department. The department’s official statement says in this connection:
“On April 11, 1921, the following message was picked up in a bottle near Cape Hatteras:
“’Deering captured by oil-burning boat something like chaser, taking off everything, handcuffing crew. Crew hiding all over ship. No chance to make escape. Finder please notify headquarters of Deering.’”
The department’s statement throws suspicion on the conduct of a steamer which passed the Cape Lookout Lightship soon after the Deering did so and refused to pay any attention to signals from the lightship which desired it to take a message for forwarding. The name of the steamer was not ascertained.
“Every Suspicion of Foul Play”
The text of the State Department’s statement, with the exception of that part relating to the message found in the bottle, reads:
“The Department of State is in possession of the following information concerning the disappearance of the crew of the American schooner Carroll A. Deering:
“On Jan. 29, 1921, the American schooner Carroll A. Deering, sailing at the rate of about five miles per hour, passed Cate Lookout lightship, North Carolina, and on Jan 31, 1921, it was found a few miles north of that point in such condition that there is every suspicion of foul play having occurred. The vessel cleared for Norfolk, Va., from Rio de Janeiro and put into Barbados for orders, but, receiving no different orders, proceeded on its voyage to Norfolk. After passing Cape Lookout lightship, the vessel was not again seen until it was found as a wreck, and nothing has been heard from the members of the crew. The master of hte vessel, Captain Wormwell, is reported to have been experienced as a navigator and thoroughly reliable.
“At the time the Carroll A. Deering passed the Cape Lookout Lightship a man on board other than the Captain hailed the lightship and reported that the vessel had lost both anchors and asked to be reported to his owners. Otherwise the Deering appeared to be in very good condition. A short time after the schooner passed the lightship a steamer, the name of which cannot be ascertained, which was passing, was asked to stop and take a message for forwarding, and, in spite of numerous attempts on the part of the master of the lightship to attract the vessel’s attention, no response to his efforts was received.
“The Carroll A. Deering carried a motor lifeboat and a dory, but none of them has been picked up and no wreckage from them has been found. Most of the provisions, clothing and supplies of the vessel had been removed.”
Hale Advances Mutiny Theory
WASHINGTON, June 21 (Associated Press).—Senator Hale of Maine, who first asked for a Government investigation of the disappearance of the Hewitt and of the Deering’s crew, advanced today the theory that mutiny and not piracy was the explanation of the sea mysteries. He declared that he did not take any stock in the reports that a Russian or other submarine raider was in operation. He called attention to the statement in the unsigned message in the bottle, picked up off the Capes in April, that the Deering’s crew had been taken off forcibly by another ship.
“I think it will be found to be a plain case of mutiny in at least one of the cases,” said Senator Hale. “Possibly the mutinous crew of one vessel boarded the other to get a navigator.”
Actually it won’t—this remains a mystery to this day.