Unfortunately, not all memories of Northport are good ones. Such is the case with the wreck of the Gwendoline Steers, a 98-foot tugboat owned by the Steers Sand & Gravel Co. which foundered and sank off Eaton’s Neck on December 30, 1962.
The weather that day produced single digit temperatures and a fast moving squall brought in winds of up to 95 miles per hour. The tug was headed for its home port of Northport Harbor when it ran into trouble. With nine hands on board, the last radio transmission was the moment of twilight at 4:40 p.m. when they reported taking on water.
No one witnessed the actual sinking and it was presumed to have gone down in those dark, cold, rough seas. All on board perished and some were found at Sand City while others remained missing. The tug itself was not located for 109 days and, for a while, it was “the ghost ship that vanished.” All hands were eventually accounted for and the tug itself was found in 40 feet of water sitting upright off Eaton's Neck in Long island Sound.
Dec. 30 of this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the tragedy and, with heavy heart, many of the fallen crew members' families will mark their calendar and pause in memory of their loved one. During my research journey in writing this blog, I have come across a Facebook site that is dedicated to the memory of
those souls. Mr. Steve Knox who was only eight years old when his dad, Robert Knox died on that ill-fated voyage, maintains the site to honor the victims and to keep their memory alive for the surviving families. More than an impersonal stone monument, this is a place to clock-in and read about the history of the event, victims' families, friends' remembrances, and familial evolution over the past 50 years. It's a medium that allows for real people to reminisce and be heard-- something that was not even a distant concept on Dec. 30, 1962.
There is some talk of observing the date in a memorial ceremony in Northport this year, but I personally spoke with Steve on the phone and he is very tentative because there are four surviving families that are still unaccounted for. I salute Steve for his unselfish endeavor in keeping the memory alive not only for his own family but for the others as well.
It is my hope that information as to the whereabouts of the missing four families will be realized before Dec. 2012. Families who remain unaccounted for are those of crew members Roy Burnette, Claude Markel, John Iverson and Rasmus Nordvik. Information and leads can be relayed to the Gwendoline Steers website at http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/152881484728297/ or to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.