This Was Then: The Augusta

The hurricane of 1924 took its toll.

The freighter Augusta, stuck fast in the sand at Eastville after the unnamed hurricane of 1924. Courtesy Chris Baer.

On August 26, 1924, a hurricane swept the coast of New England. Crops were ruined, trees uprooted, highways flooded, and shipping virtually stopped along the Eastern Seaboard.

In heavy rain and fierce northeast winds, the freighter Augusta, an intercoastal shipping steamer which normally plied the waters between Boston and New York, was beached at Eastville. The crew remained aboard, as high seas prevented their escape, but they managed to stay out of danger.

Not far away, on the rocks off Cuttyhunk, the whaling bark Wanderer — the last of New Bedford’s square-riggers — was wrecked on what was to have been its final voyage to the South Atlantic whaling grounds. Its crew abandoned ship in two open whaleboats. One boat was rescued by the Coast Guard and brought to Cuttyhunk; the other sheltered for the night on the lightship at Sow and Pigs Reef, and came ashore the next day.

Meanwhile, off Nantucket Shoals, a 100-foot wave swept over the White Star liner Arabic, injuring 75 transatlantic passengers, mostly immigrants, headed from Hamburg to New York City.

In Oak Bluffs, Siloam Avenue summer residents Dr. W. Louis Chapman, a Providence physician, and his wife Geneva were feared lost in the storm, as their small yacht had left the Vineyard just before the hurricane hit, and they were not heard from for days afterward. (Fortunately, they later turned up intact.)

A horse in Vineyard Haven was electrocuted after stepping on a fallen wire, and in East Chop, roofs and porches were blown off. In Eastville, not far from where the Augusta beached, a summer bungalow was toppled from its foundations.

The day after the storm, the Coast Guard’s revenue cutter Acushnet arrived to help pull the Augusta off the beach. By the end of the week, with the help of a wrecking lighter and heavy beach gear, the Acushnet managed to pull the grounded steamer’s bow 20 feet offshore. The minimally damaged vessel was eventually freed.
Chris Baer teaches photography and graphic design at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. He’s been collecting vintage photographs for many years.