Fidelity (#) (-1930), 65-foot purse seiner lost off Santa Cruz Island the week of November 20, 1930 with eleven or twelve fishermen aboard—reports vary. One or two were unidentified last minute recruits. The boat owner captain, Anton Zabica, was Yugoslavian.
The three Esposito brothers who perished, Michael, Agostino and Vincent, were born in Campania, Italy. Five brothers had immigrated from Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples around the turn of the century. Brothers Lorenzo (1892-1972) and Antonio Esposito (1890-1982) worked on another fishing vessel. They were devastated by the loss of their brothers. Never in the history of commercial fishing within the small community of San Pedro had this many men disappeared in a single fishing accident; nor had three brothers of one family and two brothers from another family ever died while working on a single boat from the San Pedro fleet.
Also lost were brothers Tom and Ray Pugliese, also from Ischia, Italy.
- Captain Anton Zabica;
- Michael Esposito (46) [1886-1930];
- Agostino Esposito (53) [1878-1930];
- Vincent Esposito (33) [1875-1930];
- Ray Pugliese
- Tom Pugliese
- Tom Weed [Lee J. Weed (1893-1930)]
- A. Scott
- L. Lauro
- J. Barcot
There is a memorial to the three Esposito brothers lost at sea, Michael, Vincent and Agostino, at Green Hills Memorial Park, Rancho Palos Verdes.
In the News~
November 26, 1930 [San Pedro News Pilot]: “Fear felt for fishing craft. Coast Guard vessel hunts Fidelity and crew of 10 off Santa Cruz. Chief Botswain's Mate F. Coberly took the C.G. 255, U.S. coast guard patrol boat from the San Pedro base, to Santa Cruz Island this morning in search of the San Pedro purse seine fishing boat, Fidelity, whose safety is feared. The boat with her 10-man crew failed to return here with three other craft which sailed with her arousing fear in relatives of the crew. The coast guard believes she survived the recent storm and is seeking a full load of fish before returning to Fish Harbor. The 255 will search all bays and coves of Santa Cruz Island and offshore. It is believed the craft lay in over the storm and remained to fix nets before putting out after sardines. Capt. Anton Zazica lives at 369 Oliver Street, San Pedro, and the other nine men of the Fidelity's crew are San Pedrans. They are A. Esposito, 537 West 9th Street; M. Esposito, 594 West 9th Street; V. Esposito, 579 West 9th Street; Ray Pugliese, Tom Pugliese, Tom Weed, A. Scott, L. Lauro and J. Barcot.”
November 27, 1930 [San Pedro News Pilot]: “Fourth cutter joins search for fish boat. Coast Guard asks aid of planes in quest of missing Fidelity. Search for the missing San Pedro fishing boat Fidelity continued today as the navy joined with the coast guard in combing the sea. The craft, with ten men on board, is believed to have suffered trouble in the windstorm of last week-end. Today the coast guard service added a fourth cutter to the search. Three cutters were out yesterday searching waters from Santa Cruz Island on the north to the Coronados on the south. Lieut.-Comdr. J. A. Crutchfield, in charge of the San Pedro branch of the navy hydrographic office, wired to San Diego naval headquarters a request to have all planes in the air be on the lookout for the Fidelity. Captain Anton Zazica of 369 Oliver Street, San Pedro, is the master of the missing fishing boat. The craft, a purse seiner, left here a week ago with three other boats. They returned with the first threats of last Sunday's gale, but nothing has been heard from the Fidelity. She was last seen in the vicinity of Santa Cruz Island and some fears are had that she may have had engine trouble and been washed ashore. Another theory is that the craft may have drifted southward.”
November 28, 1930 [San Bernardino Sun]: “Destroyers and planes search for long lost fishing craft. Los Angeles, Nov. 27.—Three navy destroyers and two naval planes today joined three coast guard ships in a search for the fishing boat Fidelity, missing for a week. Lieutenants J. Blackwell and E. G. Perry of the North Island air station at San Diego took off today in the face of adverse weather conditions to seek the boat, which carries eleven men. The Fidelity, skippered by Captain Anton Zazica, left the fishing grounds off the Santa Barbara islands a week ago during the windstorm that swept the southern section of the state.”
November 28, 1930 [Indianapolis Star]: “Destroyers hunt boat. Los Angeles, Cal., Nov. 27.—Three baby destroyers and two planes from North Island were today added to the flotilla of craft searching for the missing fish boat Fidelity and her crew of eleven. The sixty-foot craft, commanded by Capt. Anton Zabica, its owner, is seven days overdue from Santa Barbara Islands and is thought to have been a victim of the recent storm.”
December 4, 1930 [San Pedro News Pilot]: “New Clew [sic] to fate of lost purse seiner. Floating mast sighted off Santa Rosa; sack of flour washed up. A wireless message from Chief Botswain's Mate Brandigan, commander of cutter 257, received at base headquarters here shortly before 1 p.m. today, reported that a mast, believed to be from the missing fishing boat Fidelity, had been sighted yesterday floating in the sea four miles off Fraser Point, Santa Rosa [Cruz] Island. Sighting of the wreckage was reported to Brandigan by a lobster fisherman, the message stated. The fisherman, whose name was not given in the message, also reported that he had picked up a sack of flour which had washed up on the Santa Rosa [Cruz] beach. Coast Guard headquarters viewed the report as the most definite yet received regarding the possible fate of the Fidelity and her crew of twelve San Pedrans. The sack of flour will be brought here in an effort to ascertain if it was part of the Fidelity's stores. Aid of the Navy in searching the missing San Pedro purse seine fishing boat Fidelity, in Mexican waters was sought today in a telegram to Secretary of the Navy Adams by Anton F. Esposito, 438 West 9th Street, San Pedro, brother of three of the fishboat's 12-man crew. The brothers on the fishboat are: A. Esposito, 537 West 8th Street; M. Esposito, 594 West 9th Street; and V. Esposito, 579 West 8th Street. According to information given Anton, Adm. Frank B. Schofield, commander-in-chief battle fleet, is not authorized to search south of the Mexican border's seaward continuation for the missing boat. The Navy's part in the search was completed with a systematic scouting of the channel islands area by three airplanes and three destroyers from San Diego. Anton Esposito and other relatives of the missing fishermen believe the boat still is afloat, having been blown to sea by the easterly gale in which it is feared they may have perished. With engine disabled, the fishermen are trying to sail the craft to the mainland with jury rig. Their knowledge of currents and prevailing winds persuade fishermen here the craft is in Mexican waters. Meanwhile the final systematic search by the coast guard was launched this morning. Five boats from the San Pedro base, comprising one 125-footer and four 75-foot-ers, departed for San Miguel Island. According to Comdr. Roger C. Weightman, commander of the base, the plan is to extend the searching craft on a front of 50 miles and advance seaward 120 miles, then return on a new 50-mile front. In this way more than 100 square miles south and west of San Miguel Island will be combed by the coast guard rake. The search will proceed by day and night, it being believed the fishermen, if still afloat, will sight the coast guard crafts' lights and make themselves known. ”
December 12, 1930 [San Pedro News Pilot]: “Find body of man believed on Fidelity. Santa Barbara, Calif., Dec. 12—A body of a man believed to have been a member of the crew of the purse seiner Fidelity, unheard of for three weeks since it was caught in a Pacific storm, was found today at Skunk Point on the west end of Santa Rosa Island. The body was located by Captain James Larsen, skipper of a Santa Barbara fishing smack, and was not identified. The last word of the Fidelity was brought to the mainland by a fishing boat captain who said he saw the craft fighting the storm four miles off Skunk Point. A search for the Fidelity was made but no trace of it was found despite the fact the government battleships and airplanes participated to cover thousands of square miles.”
December 13, 1930 [San Pedro News Pilot]: “Body in sea unidentified. Brother of Fidelity victims will make second attempt to identify man. Anton F. Esposito of 438 West 9th Street, three of whose brothers sailed on the missing purse seiner, Fidelity, returned from Santa Barbara at 2 a.m. today after a fruitless trip to identify a body taken form the sea near Santa Rosa Island. The body had not yet been brought to the mainland from the island. Having been long in the water, the body is reported in a condition hard to identify, according to Mr. Esposito. Although ten of the Fidelity's crew are well known, the two others of the dozen who sail are unidentified, being last-minute recruits. Mr. Esposito will go to Santa Barbara when notified by the Santa Barbara county coroner the body had been received. Found floating alone in the sea off Skunk Point Thursday by a fisherman, the body has nothing definite about it to connect it with the Fidelity. No wreckage of the boat has yet been found. Cowboys employed by relatives here to ride the shore line of Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands have reported nothing as yet. They are continuing the search. ”
December 13, 1930 [San Pedro News Pilot]: “Looking for auto. Mrs. Cecelia Weed, wife of the engineer of the missing fishing boat Fidelity of San Pedro, today appealed to police for aid in finding the family automobile. It is a Jewett sedan, license number 5Y-36-49. Mrs. Weed said her husband, Lee J. Weed, had the car away from their home when he departed on the ill-fated fishing expedition. She has been unable to locate it. Mrs. Weed lives at 986 6th Street.”
December 13, 1930 [San Pedro News Pilot]: “Fidelity engineer's automobile found. A missing sedan belonging to Lee J. Weed, engineer of the ill-fated San Pedro fishing boat Fidelity, has been recovered by his wife, Mrs. Cecila Weed of 986 West 6th Street. Weed had taken the car away from their home just prior to his going to sea on November 20 aboard the Fidelity. Until yesterday his wife had been unable to locate it.”