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Letters reveal life aboard doomed ship

By Sharon Dell
Bertie Historical Society

Buffalo was one of the busiest ports in the world at the turn of the century. Many ships sank in the dangerous waters and rocky shoals of Lake Erie around Point Abino.


Captain Williams and his family to whom he regularly wrote letters about living and working about the lightship which was lost in a storm of Point Abino in November 1913.

In 1912, in response to the need to warn ships of the dangers around the point, United States Lighthouse Services Vessel 82 was anchored in Lake Erie 4 1/2 miles off shore.

One of the most terrifying and destructive storms to ever hit the Great Lakes occurred in November 1913. Its 80 mph winds and blizzard-like conditions wreaked havoc. It crippled towns and villages, sank 19 ships and took the lives of 230 sailors.

Stationed aboard Light Vessel 82, Capt. Hugh Williams and his crew bravely fought the storm while being battered by wind and waves. The ship’s light, which had helped guide ships through the fury, was last seen on the storm’s final day in the early morning hours of Nov. 10.

Initial attempts to locate the ship and crew were unsuccessful. Searchers finally located the ship the following sprint 1 1/2 miles off Crystal Beach.

Raising the ship proved to be difficult and time-consuming. With the aid of pontoons, Lightship 82 was raised and towed to shallow water half a mile from the Crystal Beach dock where it was drained and later towed back to Buffalo.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship.

Here is a remarkable chain of events that has recently come to light in association with this historic event.

For the entire story, please download the newspaper in pdf format January 7, 2014-44. Approximately 1.7MB.

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