Friday, March 17, 2006

 

A New England Shipwreck: The Etrusco

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CBS
By Mish Michaels
March 14, 2006




Fifty years ago a blinding blizzard caught mariners by surprise, and the last major maritime disaster played out along our coast in the wind and snow.

The storm of March 16, 1956 drove the ship ashore next to Scituate Light.

Dave Ball is a maritime historian in Scituate and recalls the terrible winter storm.

“Winds along the coastline were gusting 70-80 miles an hour maybe higher... visibility was down to zero in heavy snow,” Ball says.

On that day a 441 foot-long Italian freighter named the Etrusco was on the way to pick up grain in Boston Harbor. Unable to get to port, the captain attempted to ride out the surprise snowstorm.

“She was overpowered by the winds,” Ball says. “It was pretty much a low tide and that meant the ship was doomed.”

In the driving wind, huge waves, and heavy snow the Etrusco was driven ashore by Scituate Light.

“There was a lot of concern about the safety of the crew,” says Ball. “Each wave strike was sending the waves over the entire ship.”

Early the next morning the coast guard began the rescue, which was captured on video.

For several hours, the 30 person crew was rescued one by one, but the massive ship remained marooned on the coast for eight months.

“The ship was a huge tourist attraction,” Ball says. “It was very common on the nice spring weekends for 50,000 to come in to town… Hard to believe but it’s true.”

Ball says when the tide is at its lowest point, you can still see on the beach where the ship sat.

Over the last 50 years, advances in forecast skill and technology have helped avert other maritime disasters along our coast.


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