Sunday, June 10, 2007

F.W. Abrams

Sonny Williamson has written a thorough account of virtually every shipwreck that has occurred on or near Ocracoke. Entitled Shipwrecks of Ocracoke Island he recounts the last days of the tanker F.W. Abrams on June 10, 1942.

"The F.W. Abrams departed the island of Aruba on June 2nd with over 90,000 barrels of fuel oil aboard, bound for New York City under the command of Captain Anthony Coumelis and a crew of 35. They arrived off Ocracoke around 6 p.m. on the 10th and were directed by the Coast Guard to anchor behind the protective mine field for the night. The following morning brought stormy and foggy weather. The Coast Guard cutter arrived to lead them out of the mine fields. Due to the limited visibility a white light was displayed on the stern of the cutter and Captain Coumelis was directed to follow at about 500 yards distance. At this distance it was difficult to keep the light in sight. They had temporarily lost sight of the cutter and unknowinly wandered off course. At 6:40 a.m. the ABRAMS suffered an explosion on the starboard bow. Full astern was ordered and by the time the vessel had come to a stop and a preliminary inspection made of the damage, what they believed to be an enemy submarine was sighted approaching them. An SOS was sent and Captain Courmelis ordered full ahead. Within a few minutes there was another explosion amidship. A boat was lowered and ordered to standby. The submarine was again sighted on the port side and within two minutes a third explosion occurred.

"The ABRAMS, already half sunk, began to go down fast and at 7:40 a.m. all hands had successfully abandoned ship in two lifeboats. The captain decided to attempt to reach shore and at about 1 p.m. they fetched up on Ocracoke beach and were taken to the Coast Guard Station. The entire crew had survived with only one injury.

"What actually happened was that the ABRAMS had accidently strayed into the protective mine field. The coast guard cutter hearing their SOS, returned to the scene only to be mistaken for an enemy submarine."

Take a journey back in time with our latest Ocracoke Newsletter. You can capture some of the thrill of riding on the old mailboat Aleta by clicking here.

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