OLSEN, Harry

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OLSEN, Harry ( - ), Norwegian captain of the Bell which was shipwrecked off Hueneme. Olsen was rescued off Goleta after floating for more than two weeks on the bottom of an overturned skiff.



In the News~

January 9, 1900 [LAH]: “The sloop Marblehead, Captain Harry Olsen, sailed the fore part of the week for San Clemente Island to catch a load of lobsters.”


April 2, 1901 [LAH]: “The schooner Anna, Captain Harry Olsen, returned on Thursday from Anacapa, the sea being so rough that he could not make a landing. He left for the island on Saturday to bring back the men he left there, the lobster season closing today.”


September 23, 1901 [LAH]: “Captain Harry Olsen has sold the schooner Amy to a couple of San Diego Chinese who will send her to Mexico and put her in the abalone trade.”


January 5, 1902 [LAT]: “San Pedro. Lobster schooner missing. The power schooner Bell, Captain Harry Olsen, engaged in the lobster trade, sailed from this port last week Friday, and since then no tidings have been received of her. While she is not entirely given up, there are grave fears for her safety. One other man whose name is not stated, was with Captain Olsen on the Bell. It was expected that the Bell would touch at Point Dume and visit Santa Cruz and Anacapa islands. If there had been no disablement of her engine she could have returned within three days. Captain Al Hyder of the powerboat Clemente will put out this evening and make further search for the Bell. It is possible that the missing boat has had an accident such as has made it necessary for her to put in to some of the Channel Islands for repairs.”


January 8, 1902 [LAT]: “No tidings of the little power schooner Bell, which was reported in Sunday’s Times as missing, have been received since she put out from this port on December 26, and the belief is general that she is lost. The powerboats Clemente and May are out in search for the missing craft. Harry Olsen, the skipper of the Bell, leaves a wife and two children.”


January 10, 1902 [LAT]: “There is little or no doubt remaining that the schooner Bell, captain Harry Olsen, has gone down somewhere not far from Anacapa Island. The power schooner Clemente, Captain Al Hyder, has returned from a search for the missing craft. A hatch cover, which was unmistakably recognized as belonging to the Bell, was found where it had washed ashore near the east end of that island. Along a stretch of a quarter or half mile of that insular coast there were found Olsen’s hat, the binnacle box of the Bell, and a number of lobster crates, which had undoubtedly carried by that boat. Captain Olsen carried several hundred dollars with which he was to pay the fishermen employed at lobster catching.”


January 10, 1902 [LAH]: “It is conceded here now that the schooner Bell, Captain Harry Olsen, is lost. She left here on December 26 last to go to Santa Cruz Island, and the last time she was seen was off Portuguese Bend. The schooner Clemente returned yesterday from the island, and brought a hatch and some crates that belonged to the Bell. It is thought the Bell was wrecked between Redondo and Santa Monica. Captain Olsen had followed thed, and the launce, and was a sobeveral miles from the nearest point of land. She turned until she was lying on her side and the masts were level with the water. Both men climbed on the hull and drifted with the wreck, in the hope of being picked up by a passing vessel. What little provisions they had were swept away and they were without food or drink. Time and again as the boat drifted with the tide their hopes ran high as they approached shore, only to give way to despair as the tide changed. At other times they approached rocky promontories, expecting to be dashed to pieces at any moment. Once or twice they saw a distant sail and did their best to attract attention, but all of no avail. As the hours went by and the two unfortunate men were slowly dying of thirst and hunger the wreck drifted around the islands with the average currents and entered the channel. To leave the hulk in their condition meant suicide, and they clung to the waterlogged craft and fought death. After two weeks of suffering, Wallace, the weaker of the two men, crazed by hunger and exhaustion, gave up the struggle and quietly slipped into the sea. Olsen, with the hardiness of the Norwegian, still clung to the wreck. Three days after his companion had disappeared, he was picked up a short distance beyond the kelp of Goleta, about eight miles north of this place, by a fishe, they encountered a fearful sea, which a much larger vessel could not have withstood, and the launch was capsized several miles from the nearest point of land. She turned until she was lying on her side and the masts were level with the water. Both men climbed on the hull and drifted with the wreck, in the hope of being picked up by a passing vessel. What little provisions they had were swept away and they were without food or drink. Time and again as the boat drifted with the tide their hopes ran high as they approached shore, only to give way to despair as the tide changed. At other times they approached rocky promontories, expecting to be dashed to pieces at any moment. Once or twice they saw a distant sail and did their best to attract attention, but all of no avail. As the hours went by and the two unfortunate men were slowly dying of thirst and hunger the wreck drifted around the islands with the average currents and entered the channel. To leave the hulk in their condition meant suicide, and they clung to the waterlogged craft and fought death. After two weeks of suffering, Wallace, the weaker of the two men, crazed by hunger and exhaustion, gave up the struggle and quietly slipped into the sea. Olsen, with the hardiness of the Norwegian, still clung to the wreck. Three days after his companion had disappeared, he was picked up a short distance beyond the kelp of Goleta, about eight miles north of this place, by a fisherman named Valdez, in the employ of Captain Larco of this city. He was more dead than alive and could have lasted but a few hours longer. He was quickly brought to this city, where Captain Larco took him to his home and everything was done for his comfort. Olsen, from all appearances, was a large, portly man, but today he is haggard, emaciated and barely has strength enough to stand alone. He is being carefully nursed at the Larco home and will be all right in a few days. Both Olsen and Wallace lived in San Pedro, and the former has a family residing there.”


January 14, 1902 [LAT/SB]: “Harrowing ordeal of two fishermen. Adrift on a capsized boat seventeen days. Captain Harry Olsen of the Bell, San Pedro, picked up and alive in Santa Barbara—Pete Wallace, his companion, under the ocean. Adrift on a capsized boat on the expansive Pacific Ocean for seventeen long, weary days, without food or drink, is the horrible fate which befell Captain Harry Olsen and Pete Wallace, two crawfishermen, and but one lives to tell the tale of suffering and privation… Captain Olsen, more dead than alive, still clung to the wrecked and drifting vessel, and three days after his companion had succumbed, was picked up by Arturo Valdez, who is a fisherman in the employ of A. Larco of this city, just beyond the kelp off Goleta. He was brought at once to the Larco’s home, where he was given every attention, and at a late hour last evening he was resting easy, although suffering somewhat from the strain of his harrowing experience. He has a family at San Pedro.”


January 14, 1902 [SBMP]: “…When seen last evening, Captain Olsen was more dead than alive, and suffering a great deal from his experience on the briny deep. He could scarcely talk, and his story was obtained in monosyllables. With good care and rest the captain will be all right in a few days.”


January 15, 1902 [LAT]: “The news of the rescue of Captain Harry Olsen of the power schooner Bell, as reported from Santa Barbara, is received with great rejoicing here, and Mrs. Olsen has been the object of many words of congratulation. If it were any other man than Olsen that was said to have lived in the open sea on a boat without food or water for seventeen days, the report would scarcely be believed. To Olsen, however, a much longer endurance than that of the average man is credited. Olsen came from the coast of Norway, where his earlier days were a period of hardship and a constant struggle to snatch a living from the greedy sea. TO perish in the water along that coast was an ordinary thing, and so Olsen grew to despise hardship and danger. He always looked at the bright side of the situation, and never saw things so bad that they might be worse. Only about a year ago he lost a good boat on the coast of one of the Channel Islands, and after the hull had struck and was going to pieces, he had to swim for his life through the very heavy breakers. When he talked about it afterward, he made light of his misfortune, and failed to see anything very serious about it. Olsen is a man of large frame, with plenty of bone and muscle, and the fact that he is alive after having passed through so severe an ordeal is attributed to his splendid physical condition, and to a disposition lofty enough to be above all misfortune.”


January 14, 1902 [SFChronicle]: “Active, although a mere skeleton. Harry Olsen, who was rescued from an overturned boat, says two vessels left him to his fate. Santa Barbara, January 14. — Captain Harry Olsen of the schooner Belle, who drifted about the sea off the coast upon an upturned boat, without food or water for seventeen days, and who was picked up by a fisherman in the Santa Barbara channel last evening more dead than alive, astounded physicians this morning by arising from bed, dressing himself and walking several blocks unassisted. When Olsen was placed in bed last night he was almost too weak to stand as a result of his terrible experience, and it was thought that he would be unable to be about again for several days. He is a mere skeleton, having lost nearly sixty pounds. Olsen says that after he and his companion — a fisherman named Peter Wallace — had been drifting about for a week a coal steamer passed within a short distance of them. He says the vessel changed its course as if to come to their assistance, but soon after stood out to sea without lowering a boat. A day later a lumber schooner passed. Olsen declares that he is certain that he and Wallace were observed in both instances by those on board. Olsen and Wallace ate seaweed and drank water from the sea to keep alive. Finally the latter gre violently insave and died in the greatest agony.”


January 15, 1902 [Ottawa Citizen]: “Santa Barbara, Cal. — Adrift on a capsized boat in the Pacific ocean 17 days without food or drink was the terrible experience of Captain Harry Olsen and Pete Wallace, two crab fishermen, and but one lives to tell the story of their terrible suffering. Olsen was picked up by Arthur Valdez, a fisherman, just beyond the kelp off Goleta. He was more dead than alive, but was able to tell of the wreck of the boat, the Belle, a staunch gasoline schooner which he and Wallace used in cruising about the fishing grounds, Olsen and Wallace were residents of San Pedro and left that port 17 days ago. While cruising several miles south of Santa Cruz Island a heavy sea rose and capsized their craft. Clinging to the capsized boat without food or water, they drifted, suffering great tortures. On the 14th day Wallace's strength gave out, and crazed and starving he slid off the boat and disappeared under the waters. For three days longer Olsen held on and was finally rescued half dead by Valdez. It is thought he will recover from the effects of his terrible experience.”


January 19, 1902 [LAH]: “Captain Hyder will leave here tomorrow in his schooner, the Clemente, for Santa Barbara, to bring back the little schooner Belle, which belongs to Captain Harry Olsen. The vessel is not very badly damaged, and will be put into shape for a small amount of money.”


January 24, 1902 [LAH]: “Captain Harry Olsen, the shipwrecked fisherman, has arrived here and is doing splendidly. He lost seventy pounds of flesh during the seventeen days he was drifting on the ocean.”


February 19, 1902 [LAH]: prevented the vessel from making any headway so the captain gave the order to put the wheel hard down, intending to run before the wind under bare poles. Through some malfunction the vessel took the trough of the sea, and failed to answer her helm after the engine was stopped. They expected the wind to pay her head off, but she yawed into a trough, and a wave capsized her without a stitch of canvas being set. She turned on her side, and through the rest of the storm they clung to her side and dived through the seas as they rushed over the hull. Captain Olsen was below when the boat went over. Speaking of the cause of the accident, he says that the schooner was without ballast, which she


February 19, 1902 [LAH]: “Captain Harry Olsen gives additional particulars about the capsizing of his schooner, Belle. It seems that the captain was below, running the engine. Her sails were furled and his man, Pete Wallace, was at the wheel. Wallace had his orders for the course, but stood too far off to make Black Point south Hueneme.


April 8, 1902 [LAT]: “Avalon. Lying in the bay since Saturday night has been the little schooner Bell of San Pedro, the craft on which Harry Olsen and another man had one of the most trying experiences of shipwreck that ever came to a man. Their boat was capsized in a storm near the Channel Islands last winter, and, clinging to it, Olsen drifted at the mercy of the winds and waves for seventeen days, without water or food, though in the cabin beneath him was plenty of both. After fourteen days of indescribable agony, Olsen’s companion died, and three days later, Olsen, more dead than alive, was picked up by fishermen. He has sold his craft and taken employment on land, after many years of seafaring.”


December 1, 1902 [LAT]: “The five-ton power schooner Bell of San Pedro is ashore on a rocky beach at Seal Rocks and will probably prove a total wreck. The Bell is owned by the Evich brothers of San Pedro, and is engaged in the fishing business, the Evichs having a crew of fishermen on San Clemente Island, and the schooner has been used to convey the fish to market at San Pedro… This is not the Bell’s first misadventure. She will be remembered as the boat on which Harry Olsen and a sailor named Wallace were wrecked near Point Dumas last January, and Wallace, after fourteen days of sufferings and hunger and thirst and exposure, died while Olsen clung to the bottom of the overturned craft for seventeen days, without food or drink, and was finally rescued by some fishermen near Santa Barbara…”


December 1, 1902 [LAT]: “The five-ton power schooner Bell of San Pedro is ashore on a rocky beach at Seal Rocks and will probably prove a total wreck. The Bell is owned by the Evich brothers of San Pedro, and is engaged in the fishing business, the Evichs having a crew of fishermen on San Clemente Island, and the schooner has been used to convey the fish to market at San Pedro… This is not the Bell’s first misadventure. She will be remembered as the boat on which Harry Olsen and a sailor named Wallace were wrecked near Point Dumas last January, and Wallace, after fourteen days of sufferings and hunger and thirst and exposure, died, while Olsen clung to the bottom of the overturned craft for seventeen days, without food or drink, and was finally rescued by some fishermen near Santa Barbara…”


January 15, 1914 [LAT]: “The heaviest ocean swell ever known at San Clemente Island has been running during the past few weeks, according to Captain Harry Olsen, a well-known fisherman on the island, who is here on business. On the seaward side, Olsen says the swells have been breaking in ten fathoms, whereas he has never known them to break before in more than six fathoms. Olsen is well-known along the coast, he having the distinction of having furnished, fourteen years ago, one of the most remarkable cases of human endurance ever known. He was shipwrecked off Hueneme and floated for fourteen days on the bottom of an overturned skiff, without food or water.”


September 6, 1933 [Santa Cruz Sentinel]: “The large power cruiser Folly II, which has been in the bay since Saturday, steamed out of the harbor yesterday. On board was the owner, John Marino, with Captain Harry Olsen as the skipper. This boat had 17 aboard and participated in the race from San Francisco.”