Note: This image is a part of the Estus H. Magoon Collection, Item No. 1398. It was used to share this story and is not an actual image of the Kite..
The British sloop, Kite was a popular vessel sailing between the islands of Tortola and St. Thomas during the 1890s.
Like so many island boats, it was only a matter of time before she succumbed to Mother Nature in a sudden squall or hurricane.
Despite those ominous probabilities, owning a vessel or having access to one was important for a family’s survival.
A Sudden Storm
The Kite’s captain was Adolph O’Neal, most likely a BVIslander by birth, but he had strong ties to Sanchez in the Samana province of the Dominican Republic.
On a dark, rainy morning in July, as he and his crew members were still sleeping, an ominous storm was closing in that would turn an ordinary day into a tragic one.
The four were fishing for turtles in an area known as the fishing grounds in British waters.
On board were three brothers, Adolph, Nathaniel and Hubert O’ Neal and their friend, John Donovan.
The brothers were cousins of Mr. Maurice O’Neal, a grocer.
At three o’clock in the morning when it was pitch dark, the rainy weather suddenly became violent with what seemed like hurricane force winds.
So rough were the waves that they “picked up the boat and turned it bottom-up”!
Traumatized and confused, they made for the nearby shore swimming as fast as they could.
Three of the men climbed the jagged rocks to safety.
Nathaniel, one of the brothers, perished.
The following day, the newspapers reported the recovery of Nathaniel’s body, “half eaten by sharks.”
The group had been out fishing for two months and onboard was a valuable collection of turtle shells which they planned to sell.
Sadly, everything was gone; their loved one, their fishing gear, their boat and their livelihood from the proceeds of the shell collection.
As the sloop, Fame was returning to the Dominican Republic, she spotted by the survivors and stopped to rescue them.
The Fame was one of a handful of boats that transported passengers and freight directly between Road Town and S.P Macoris.
At the time, she was under the guidance of Captain J. Vanterpool with Henry O. Creque as her registered agent.
Lost Vessels of the British Virgin Islands
For years, no-one knew how many boats were lost, what their names were, or what happened to them.
With the digitization of old newspapers, it’s now possible to search for the missing.
We can finally learn the fates of those long forgotten vessels and their passengers.
Here are a few British boats that were recently re-discovered:
- The Kite ~ lost in a squall ~ 1901
- The Excell and Syria ~ both sunk in sudden squalls ~ 1907 and 1912
- The Come Back ~ disappeared without a trace ~ 1916
- The Spider and the Fancy Me ~ lost in hurricanes, 1916 and 1928
- The Lady Constance ~ driven onto the rocky shoreline ~ 1922
Stories Keep Maritime History Alive
Although the little fishing sloop, Kite, and other BVI vessels have long since disappeared, rediscovering their stories has given them new life.
They can finally tell their tales of tragedy and survival to new generations curious about their island’s maritime history. ⚓
Sept 9, 1895 Mrs. Sanberg & child, Angelina Daniel, Octavia Pursar, Sarah Williams
Jan 11, 1896 Maria Vanterpool and child
April 13, 1898 Henry O. Creque, our 2x great-grandfather and his sister, Evangeline Creque
May 20, 1898 Frederica Throne, Joseph Small, John Lucas
April 7, 1899 Regina Hodge, J. Jacobs
July 16, 1898 Sarah Ann Williams
Mar 28, 1899 E. Harrigan and Lorencine Rymer
April 8, 1899 Regina Hodge, J. Jacobs
Oct 26, 1899 J. A. Gonzalez and Mrs. Gonzalez
Nov 1, 1900 Mrs. Emilia Wells
Nov 17, 1900 Sarah Nibbs, Mrs. Herucles, and daughter
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