GUNDERSEN, Christian

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GUNDERSON, Christian (c. 1856-1916), Norwegian-born lobster fisherman camped at Blue Bank on the south side of Santa Cruz Island, who was killed on January 27, 1916 along with Peter Cruz, when a landslide covered their camp. Gunderson had been in California for 30 years and was widowed at the time of his death. His death certificate says he “was about 60” at the time of his death. He is buried in Harbor View Cemetery, San Pedro. Gunderson was survived by two daughters.

In the News~

February 1, 1916 [SBDN]: “Two men, one of them Peter Kruz and the other an unidentified Italian crawfisher [Gunderson], are believed to have been killed in a landslide which destroyed a crawfishers’ camp at Blue Bank, on the south side of Santa Cruz Island. The time of the camp’s destruction cannot be placed, but is believed to have occurred some time during the recent storms. The camp, which was occupied by Kruz and his companion, was completely wiped out by the slide. According to a report brought in this morning by Captain Frank Maglio of the boat Eagle, the Italians who were in camp cannot be found. Maglio went to the camp early this morning to collect the catch of the crawfish, which the Italians usually had waiting there for him. He found that the bank under which the crawfishers’ camp once stood had fallen into the ocean and that the skiff which the fishermen had used to tend their trap was filled with mud and rocks from the slide. No amount of shouting in the neighborhood of the camp succeeded in getting a response from the men who had occupied the camp. Maglio came to Santa Barbara with all possible speed and reported the matter to the coroner. Shortly before noon a search party composed of friends of the lost crawfishers and men who know the islands thoroughly, set out for Blue Bank. This boat is expected to return with definite news of the men’s fate this evening. This morning Captain Maglio was prevented from landing and searching the island because of a heavy wind. He had no skiff with his powerboat. There are yet many chances that the missing crawfishers may still be alive and well on some other part of the island. They may have realized that their camp was unsafe before the slide occurred and have tramped to some other fishing camp on the island or to the main ranch house on the island. However, reports from the island are that the last storm there was severe and under the best of conditions the lost fishermen must have suffered privations for a day or two.”

February 2, 1916 [SBMP]: “Two fishermen die in slide on island. Peter Cruz and Chris Gunderson meet disaster in crawfish camp. Frank Maglio, joint owner with the Larcos of the powerboat Eagle, came over from Santa Cruz Island yesterday afternoon after finding at Blue Bank on the south shore of the island, the bodies of two fishermen named Peter Cruz and Chris Gunderson, buried in the sand in a landslide that had occurred during the past few days. Maglio first suspected disaster for the two men who had a crawfish camp on the beach at this point, last Monday, when he called there with his boat to take their catch, as was his habit at intervals, and to bring it, with others, to the mainland for Larco and Company. When he approached the beach, he gave his usual whistle signal to notify the fishermen to bring their fish to the water’s edge, and there was no response. He also noticed the disappearance of the two tents that the men had been using, one to cook and eat in, and the other for sleeping. Futher, Maglio saw on the beach, half-filled with sand, the skiff that the two men used in their daily toil, and more significant than all else, evidence of an immense landslide on the beach. It looked to Maglio as though the landslide had engulfed the fishermen’s camp, completely burying the two men. Maglio found it impossible to land, with the turbulent sea that was running at the time, so he could do nothing but come across the channel with his load of crawfish and his story of probable disaster to the two luckless fishermen… He told his fears to Coroner Ruiz and the Larcos, and made arrangements to return to the islands yesterday morning for a further investigation in this matter, and with reinforcements to aid him in a long and hard search. if such should be needed. Maglio set out in his boat for Blue Bank at 4 o’clock in the morning, and within a short time after he and his men landed at Blue Bank and commenced their work digging in the huge pile of sand that had been displaced by the floods, they discovered the two tents of the fishermen’s camp and the bodies of the two men buried under the immense weight of the landslide. Maglio returned to the mainland again to report the matter to Coroner Ruiz… Cruz has a brother in Tacoma, and Gunderson is understood to have relatives at San Pedro…”

February 3, 1916 [SBMP]: “The bodies of Peter Cruz and Chris Gunderson, the two fishermen who were killed in a landslide at Blue Bank, on the south shore of Santa Cruz Island, last Monday, were brought over to the mainland yesterday afternoon. The expedition of recovery was made up of Stephen Valenzuela, who had been deputized by Coroner Ruiz to act in his place in this case; Frank Maglio, skipper of the powerboat Eagle, in which the party crossed the channel; Chris Holland of L. E. Gagnier’s force of undertakers; and the mate of the Eagle. The bodies which had been discovered last Tuesday by Captain Maglio, were brought to this side of the channel in the Eagle, arriving at 5 P.M… Yesterday Coroner Ruiz made earnest effort to locate some of the relatives of the two victims of this disaster, but he was not successful. He succeeded, however, in finding a San Pedro friend of Gunderson, and he will be here today.”

February 3, 1916 [SBDN]: “Accidental death resulting from a landslide on or about January 27, was the finding of the coroner’s jury today in the inquest into the deaths of Peter Kruz and Christian Gunderson, who were found dead at their camp on Santa Cruz Island Tuesday. Captain Frank Maglio, who discovered the destroyed camp, and Joe Arabas, who was with him when the bodies were brought to the mainland, testified that the camp was buried under about two feet of earth. Peter Kruz was 52 years old, single, and a native of Sweden. He will be buried in San Pedro at the request of his brother, who telegraphed instructions to Coroner Ruiz today. Christian Gunderson will also be buried in San Pedro where he has two daughters. His wife is dead. Gunderson was 60 years old.”

February 4, 1916 [SBMP]: “Coroner Ruiz held an inquest yesterday on the bodies of Peter Cruz and Christian Gunderson… The principal witness was Captain Frank Maglio who found the bodies… Several other witnesses were examined, but they could only corroborate the testimony of Captain Maglio… The remains of the victims were sent yesterday to San Pedro, which was home of both. Gunderson’s son-in-law had come from San Pedro to take charge of his remains, and from Cruz’s brother, at Tacoma, had been received by the coroner by wire instructions for the disposition of the other body.”

February 4, 1916 [LAT]: “The recent storms played havoc with the lobster fishermen on Santa Cruz Island, according to reports received here. Chris Gunderson and Pete Cruz are reported to have lost their lives and James Reed, son-in-law of Gunderson, left today to make arrangements to bring the bodies back. Six fishermen on San Nicolas and San Clemente islands have been missing since early January and a launch left today to find some trace of the marooned fishermen.”

February 5, 1916 [LAT]: “The bodies of Christian Gunderson and Peter Cruz, two pioneer fishermen of San Pedro, who were killed last Thursday by an earth slide on Santa Cruz Island, were brought here for burial from Santa Barbara. Gunderson was 60 years of age and leaves two daughters. Cruz was about 55 and the only known relative is a brother living in Oregon.”

February 9, 1916 [LAT]: “Wrecked on the loneliest spot in the world, Charles Eckhart of San Pedro was yesterday rescued from the coast of San Nicolas Island, where he had been marooned for a month. His friend and sailing partner, Henry Geberbauer, was drowned when the launch Selma, in which the two men were working, was driven into the surf on the island on January 8. Eckhart survived the buffeting of the waves and reached the shore. The launch was wrecked. The drowning of Geberbauer brings the channel’s death toll for the storm to three... The other victims of the channel storm were Christian Gunderson and Peter Cruz, fishermen lost in the storm on Santa Cruz Island January 27...”