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Shinnecook Light and the Wreck of the John Milton

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Postby island » Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:34 pm


On Feb. 20, 1858, Captain Ephraim Harding of the John Milton, a 1445 ton full-rigged ship, apparently mistook the new light at Shinnecook for Montauk Point thirty miles east. Montauk had until recently displayed a fixed white light but was changed to a flashing white light. Soon after, Shinnecook became operational with a fixed white light. Fire Island to the west was with a flashing white light. This was very poor decision on the part of the lighthouse service to implement these changes without giving advance notice months ahead. Capt.Harding had sailed the John Milton to San Fancisco in December 1856. On his return he had stopped at Norfolk for two day where he might have and probably should have learned of the changes in these lights from other shipmasters before sailing north on the 16th. However, this seems to be the most probable cause for this ship being wrecked but because the captain, his 15 year-old son and his entire crew of 31 or more all died it will never be known for certain. The ship's logbook was found on the beach after the wreck indicating the ship was being navigated in this storm by dead reckoning, the last fix being obtained more than a day or so before the ship was wrecked.

http://www.newsday.com/community/guide/lihistory/ny-past411,0,4948852.story?coll=ny-lihistory-navigation
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