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Men who gave their lives in the line of duty.

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banner - unfortunate accident to party on the ship fathomer

(From the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey


No. 4, December 1931, pp. 123-124.)

(From the report of Lieutenant (j.g.) E. R. McCarthy on the accidental drowning, on fathomerOctober 11, 1931, of three members of the crew of the FATHOMER attached to a sub-party under his charge while engaged on surveys on the southwest coast of Palawan Island, P. I.)

* * * * Before daylight on the 17th the wind died down and the sky cleared to the southward about 6:00 A. M. so it was decided to run to the ship at Sepangow Bay to report on progress and to obtain provisions for the following week, stopping en route to add a target to Station Fish and to put cloth on the tripod at Station Isle. The men were given their choice of returning to the ship or remaining in camp. Those who decided to return were Crispin Alandruque, Santiago Longalong, Gonsalo Senitara, Domingo Nualla, Domingo Rangasajo and Marciano Kasupanan.

The party left camp at 8:00 A.M., the launch towing the skiff, and arrived at Station Fish on the reef at the mouth of the Arapitan River about 10:00. The launch sounded its way in as the water was extremely muddy due to the discharge from the river (it was about low tide) and anchored in two fathoms about one hundred fifty meters west of the signal at what was thought to be the edge of the mud bank. There was a light breeze from the southwest and small seas.

The skiff with Crispin Alandruque, Gonsalo Senitara, Domingo Nualla, Domingo Rangasajo and myself left the launch and rowed into the signal. On arriving there it was noticed that it had clouded up to the southwest, and so instead of building the target, the poles which had been cut at camp were left here and the skiff put back for the launch, with the four men rowing.

About one third of the way back a brief flurry of rain and wind was met but the skiff took no water and the flurry passed quickly. About half of the way back another flurry came and passed and the wind increased. The skiff shortly after began to take in water faster than it could be bailed out so the boat was turned around and headed for the reef to the north - the launch was nearer but the reef could be reached more quickly as the wind would be astern. Two men were rowing and two bailing.

About half way to the reef three or four short waves higher than the others came over the stern in succession, the water in the boat surged and it swamped, going down bow first at a sharp angle.

The men were left in the water. When I first noticed matters, Alandruque was leading toward the signal and was already some distance away. Senitara, Nualla and myself were floating, expecting the skiff to come to the surface; Rangasajo could not be seen. Nualla and Alandruque had oars and one was floating nearby, which I pushed over to Senitara. The skiff remained on the bottom so I waved to the launch and had just begun to take off my shirt and trousers, as they were becoming very heavy when I heard three shouts from the direction of the reef seemingly some distance away (Nualla said later that this was Rangasajo, who went down immediately afterward). I had considerable trouble removing my clothes and went below the surface a number of times. Upon coming up, Senitara was gone, Alandruque was still going toward the signal and Nualla was floating easily, so I started to swim for the reef, which I barely reached. Upon getting to my feet, I could see Nualla coming in about twenty yards away and no sign of Alandruque. The launch arrived then and I was hauled aboard and went out in the area where the skiff swamped. Nothing could be seen of clothes or any floating objects so the launch went back to the reef to pick up Nualla and went aground in doing so (this was about 10:25). It remained aground until three Moros arrived in a banca an hour later and carried out the anchor, after which the launch was pulled off. I dived a few times about where the accident occurred and dragged in the vicinity with a weight on a large fish hook for about twenty minutes, but could find nothing.

It was now more than an hour and a half since the men were drowned and as nothing further could be done and the chances of locating the bodies was rather small, since the wind had picked up and the banca, which was large and heavy and unstable, could not be used, a note was sent to camp by the Moros informing the men there of the accident and instructing them to look for the bodies while the launch ran to the ship.

The launch got into Marasi Bay, and since wind and sea were gradually increasing, it could not get out and remained there the 17th and 18th. On the 19th, after an unsuccessful attempt to go to the ship, we succeeded in returning to camp. On the way, the body of Senitara was picked up offshore, taken aboard and buried near camp.

The weather cleared on the 20th but with a heavy sea running. The afternoon was spent in fruitlessly searching for the bodies.

On the 21st a Moro reported a body in the mangrove, but it could not be reached until high tide the next day as the mud was too deep to wade there, the water too shoal for the launch and no small boats available. The launch returned to the ship on this day with the remainder of the party.

The wind at the time of the accident was no stronger than it had been many times during the preceding two weeks when the skiff was used in signal building and the area was partially sheltered by the point a mile to the southward so the waves were not high. All the men could swim, although the failure to remove their clothing probably pulled them down, as Nualla and myself succeeded in removing part of ours. The boat swamped - as close as could be estimated - about 50 meters off the reef.

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