From Islapedia

BARTA, John (1908-1946)

In the News~

March 18, 1946 [LAT]: “After being marooned 14 days on uninhabited Anacapa Island, Mrs. Bernice Brown of Van Nuys was rescued by the Coast Guard yesterday, and told a harrowing tale of a small boat wreck which presumably resulted in the death of her husband and a man friend. Mrs. Brown, who is still exhausted, told of how she, her 42-year-old husband Roy, both of 17430 Van Owen St., Van Nuys, and John Barta, 38, of 662 W. First St., Long Beach, sailed northwest from Santa Monica on the night of March 2 in the 50-foot fishing boat Nancy Lee. ‘It was a pleasure trip,’ she said. But the next day the trio ran into a heavy storm. The heavy rollers lashed the boat around like a feather in a wind tunnel until one of the waves flooded the engine room. With all power off the ill-fated passengers of the Nancy Lee were at the mercy of a ruthless sea. ‘We cast off in a small skiff,’ she said. My husband held the painter while Johnny and I got in. Another wave washed my husband overboard. He swam to the skiff. He got hold of it but the skiff capsized. When I came up,’ she continued, ‘I managed to swim to the fishing boat which was now swamped, and got on the bow. A huge wave washed me away as though I were a fly. When I came up again, Roy and Johnny were gone.’ The 43-year-old woman never saw her two companions again. Tossed from the tops of the white-capped waves to the depths of the troughs, strangling with seawater, trying in every way to keep alive, she suddenly saw two floating gas drums. She managed to flounder to one of them and held on from that afternoon until almost nightfall, although the sharp edges cut her hands to the bone. She could not guide the barrel so she just hung on helplessly and hopelessly in her desperate attempt to live. As night was beginning to fall, the great seas had washed her close to a rock. She called on what strength she had and managed to reach it. She dragged herself to safety and lay there exhausted and only semiconscious until morning, which was March 4. That morning the sea had calmed and, although in agony from her cuts and bruises, she managed to swim 300 yards to Anacapa Island. There she might well have expected to starve to death. The island is uninhabited and without food or water. She had told her daughter they would not return to Santa Monica until March 11 or 12. That meant eight more days of no food, no water, no shelter. But fate, as it has been in the water, was with Mrs. Brown on land. She found a hut, evidently once used by the Navy, which contained precious emergency rations, barrels of rainwater, a stove, blankets and a battery radio set. She collapsed for the rest of the day in front of these man-made answers to the threat of death. Until Friday, March 8, the woman was barely able to move enough to feed herself, but on that day she was able to stagger to the beach where she built a signal fire which she kept burning every day until she was saved. On the radio she was able to listen to programs and keep track of the days. She counted them off one by one as her wounds healed, amazing without infection, and the terrible soreness left her body. Meanwhile, the daughter went to Santa Monica on March 11 and 12 but did not become alarmed until yesterday that her parents were overdue because, she said, she thought they might have been forced into some cove by stormy weather, hence delayed. As the days passed, Mrs. Brown suffered, in addition to her physical agony, the mental agony of seeing several boats pass without noticing her fire. How long would the rations last? Then, yesterday, Mrs. Trader notified the Coast Guard and a crash boat investigated Anacapa, where Mrs. Brown was found. Mrs. Brown had recovered so completely it was unnecessary to hospitalize her and she was taken directly to her home by Coast Guard officers after she was landed at Port Hueneme. Lthough there seemed little possibility of finding the two men alive, the Coast Guard kept two boats and a patrol plane searching the Anacapa area looking for the men or their bodies. The Nancy Lee was owned by Bert Lackman, who operates a fleet of fishing boats out of Santa Monica.”