Well, the sun is shining again today after Irene passed through Maine Saturday night and Sunday. I hope everyone weathered the storm okay! 160 years ago, in October, there was a much worse hurricane that hit north of us, off of Prince Edward Island.
They didn’t name hurricanes in those days, but this one was later called The Yankee Gale of 1851, for so many fishing vessels from New England were lost – around 100, with many more damaged! Most were from Massachusetts, but many from Maine were involved as well. All were up there fishing for mackerel, for it was that time of year in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I read that at times there could be more than 20,000 ships fishing in the area; for mackerel as well as cod.
During the 2 day storm, and for months after, the folks on Prince Edward Island were overcome by debris, bodies, shipwrecks, barrels of mackerel, etc. all washing ashore. There were also many sailors who were saved by these good folks and taken into their own homes to be fed and clothed. All bodies found were given decent burials, and many were identified as to age, hair color, type of clothing so that living family members might know whether it was their loved one.
It must have been very difficult for families at home, waiting for news, because there were often mistakes made as to who was saved or not. It was a long time before a confirmed list of lost ships and crews was compiled. One wife, overcome with grief on hearing that her husband had drowned, committed suicide. A father, who lost 4 sons and a nephew, at the insistence of his wife, went to Prince Edward Island to find their bodies. He found all but his youngest son and made arrangements to have them shipped home. In a very ironic twist of fate, the ship they were on was lost at sea before making it to Maine, so the family lost them twice.
Thankfully, we now have ways to predict hurricanes, and though not always 100% accurate, are better than no warning at all.