From Islapedia

Berkeley (#) (-1908)

In the News~

November 15, 1907 [SFCall]: “Passing vessel refuses aid to ship in flames. Steam schooner Berkeley totally destroyed near Point Conception. Oil used as fuel. Men narrowly escape death as flames envelop doomed craft. Big tanks blow up. Freight steamer Coos Bay passes near wreck, but fails to give aid. Gaviota, Nov. 14 — Captain Nicolson of the coast freight steamship Coos Bay, owned by the Pacific Coast Steamship Company, stands accused of having refused to go to the assistance of the imperiled crew of a steamship which was burning at sea. The vessel was the new steam schooner Berkeley, in ballast from San Pedro to San Francisco. It was destroyed by fire at 4 o'clock this morning, about six miles off Point Concepcion. All of the crew escaped in the boats and reached this place. When the Berkeley's officers and seamen arrived here they made the sensational charge that they had been refused assistance by the Coos Bay and left to their fate. The Berkeley was an oil burner, and the fire started in the engine room. Within a few minutes the schooner was enveloped in flames and the crew, 19 in all, were forced to take to the boats. All were saved, but the vessel is a total loss. Its officers were: Captain A. B. Higgins; first mate, John Sorenson; second mate, Eric Anderson; chief engineer, J. H. Johnson. The vessel was engaged in the lumber trade and was owned by Charles H. Higgins of San Francisco. It was valued at $75,000. When Captain Higgins ordered the crew to abandon ship they went for the starboard boat, but that was already in flames. The port lifeboat was launched in the face of great peril, for it lay almost directly over the fuel tanks. There were three of the tanks — two amidships and one forward — and they contained 400 barrels of oil. The port boat was launched and the 19 men piled into it. Some of the men had not time to get clothing and escaped in their night dress. One of the cabin boys, A. Weldon, was asleep below and he barely got out, his hair being burned off as he rushed through the flames. John Bird, the assistant engineer, had his face and hands badly burned while fighting the fire. Hardly had the crew pushed clear when the tanks blew up with terrific force, snapping the schooner's mainmast short off and wrecking the house. The small boat with its heavy load remained near the ship in the vain hope that the fire would go out. But as daylight neared the men bent to the oars and rowed toward land. They came ashore at Alcatraz and went to Gaviota, where the most of them boarded a train for San Francisco. The burning hull was last seen at 1 o'clock this afternoon about three miles off Point Conception, drifting northward. While the Berkeley was burning early this morning the freight steamer, Coos Bay, owned by the Pacific Coast Steamship Company, passed. Its crew saw the light of the fire and the second mate notified Captain Nicolson, but the Coos Bay continued on its course without offering assistance. When the steamer reached Santa Barbara at 6 o'clock this morning, word had been received from Alcatraz that a steamer was burning off that place and after awaiting to discharge its cargo at Santa Barbara the Coos Bay was turned north again to the rescue of the men of the Berkeley. Captain Nicolson explained that the failure of the Coos Bay to go to the rescue was due to a misunderstanding. When the mate notified him, he said, he was asleep and in his drowsy condition he understood the mate to say that fire was seen coming from the smokestack of the steamer some miles distant. The mate defended his course of continuing to Santa Barbara by saying that the responsibility lay with the captain. The Coos Bay found the Berkeley's lifeboat making its way to shore and offered to take the men on board. But by this time the shipwrecked men not far from land and they refused assistance.”

April 7, 1908 [SFCall]: “San Pedro, April 6. The hulk of the ill-fated steam schooner Berkeley, which burned at sea several months ago, has drifted ashore on the north end of San Miguel Island.”