Lorraine, a distant Ocracoke cousin, stopped by yesterday with a box full of papers her sister had collected. One included an account by C.C. Austin, master of the Diamond Shoals lightship during the 1933 hurricane. The ship was anchored thirteen miles off shore of Cape Hatteras. The hurricane hit the Outer Banks on September 15 and drove the ship, which was moored in place by a 5,500 pound mushroom anchor attached by 24,000 pounds of chain, five miles onto the Outer Diamond Shoals. Winds were clocked at 120 miles per hour. The first of many breakers to wash over the ship broke a port in the pilot house and struck the captain, lacerating his face and neck. One of the crew members was nearly washed overboard.
The lightship lay in the breakers for more than six hours as the storm sent wave after wave over the deck, carrying away life boats, ventilators, and anything else not bolted down. At times there was three feet of water in the engine-room bilges.
As the eye of the storm passed by Captain Austin was able to maneuver his ship into the open ocean. By 9 a.m. they were sixty miles east, northeast of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. They had survived one of the worst storms ever to have struck the Outer Banks.
Captain Austin received a commendation from President Roosevelt for the "exceptional character of the services performed in saving this vessel, and in the protection of the shipping along the coast...."
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Captain Rob's essay, "Schooner Windfall Sails into the Final Sunset." You can read it here:http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news052110.htm.