BACKBERG, Gus ( -1908), fisherman believed drowned off the west end of Santa Catalina Island on October 13, 1908.
In the News~
October 14, 1908 [LAH]: “Gus Backberg drowned Sunday. His skiff found bottom up in the kelp at the west end of Catalina. Alec Hemming reports disaster. Was crawfishing from Louie Harris' launch, after the Happy was wrecked. Gus Backberg, well known in this city among water front workers and seamen, lost his life some time last Sunday at the west end of Catalina Island. Backberg, in partnership with Alec Hemming, was fishing forty crawfish traps. The men were using a launch known as the Florence, the property of Louie Harris, of this city, and made camp on the west end of the island. Sunday morning Backberg started from the camp in a 16-foot skiff to tend his twenty traps, which were planted west of Seal Rock point in the kelp beds. He made the start at 4 o'clock, and has not been seen since. Alec Hemming left the camp at the same time that Blackberg did, to fish his twenty traps, on the east side of the island. Hemming waited until 2 o'clock Sunday afternoon, for Backberg and then made a tour of the fishing grounds in the launch, but could find no trace of the missing man or the skiff in which he left the camp. Hemming worked until dark and then anchored outside the kelp until about 4 o'clock Monday morning. The surf and swells were so heavy he could not get close to shore to make a search of the shore line of the reefs and inlets, and then headed for San Pedro for assistance. He reached here yesterday noon and securing help, went back to the island and made a thorough search of the west end of the island. Late last night, the skiff in which Backberg left the camp was found bottom up in the middle of the kelp bed, south and west of Seal Rock point, on the west end of the island. The oars, and all of the fishing gear was missing, and there was nothing to indicate how, when or exactly where Backberg had lost his life. That he was caught in the heavy surf and drowned is the belief of fishermen familiar with the ground on which he was fishing. Backberg and Hemming have had very bad luck this season. Three weeks ago, during a gale of wind they lost the launch Happy in very nearly the same spot where Backberg is supposed to have lost his life on Sunday. When the Happy was wrecked the two men had a narrow escape from drowning, being picked up in mid channel by Harry Lynch in the launch Luke Kelly. This makes the second death by drowning on the crawfish grounds this season.”
October 15, 1908 [LAH]: “Gus Backberg, marine diver, believed to be drowned off Catalina coast.”
October 19, 1908 [LAH]: “San Pedro, Oct. 18.—The friends of Gus Backberg, who is believed to have been drowned off the west end of Catalina Island while pulling his crawfish traps from a skiff last Sunday, have returned from their search and report that a fisherman named Williams found the oars and a pair of overalls and suspenders near the scene of the supposed drowning. These articles they have identified as belonging to the missing man. It is their belief that Backberg was able, after his skiff capsized, to keep afloat for a time, and succeeded in discarding his heavy boots and overalls in an effort to swim ashore. The party will visit the island again next week and hopes to find the body, which should be afloat by that time.”