For as long as Abaco has been inhabited, Abaconians have relied on the sea for their livelihoods. From sponging and sharking to shipping and transport, the work was often arduous and dangerous, and navigation aids and devices were rudimentary compared with what we have today.
On the morning of September 23, 1941, the 115-ft, 210-ton British ship M/V Arawak, departed Jacksonville, Florida, bound for the Bahamas. She carried an assortment of freight, including a saw mill destined for Abaco.
Aboard were five passengers, Mr. and Mrs. Burren Carroll and their daughters Patricia (11) and Allison (3) from Orlando, and Mr. Daniel Tyner, of Laurel Hill, Florida. Along with the ship’s captain, Roland Roberts, there were eight crew members: Basil Albury, George Roberts, Luddington (“Ludd”) Lowe, Ronald Hodgkins, Albert Lowe, Charlie Lowe, Oswald Malone and John D. (“De Glanville”) Gates. All were Abaco residents, and most were from Green Turtle Cay.
Five hours into their journey, the Arawak’s crew discovered a fire in the galley. Despite the crew’s effort to battle the flames, the fire spread rapidly, fanned by brisk winds. As the vessel had no radio, Captain Roberts was unable to call for help.
An hour later, with fire engulfing the Arawak, Captain Roberts called for all souls to abandon ship. Although the ship had two lifeboats, each designed to accommodate a dozen people, one had been damaged by the flames.
The remaining lifeboat was quickly lowered to the water, and all fifteen people clambered aboard. After sending up flares, they raised the lifeboat’s sails and began rowing.
Fortunately, the flares and burning ship were soon spotted by airplanes and a U.S. Coast Guard vessel was dispatched. It met the lifeboat four miles from shore and, at daybreak, towed it into Ponce de Leon Inlet, about 100 miles south of Jacksonville.
While the Arawak burned to the water line and ultimately sank, no major injuries were sustained by passengers or crew members.
Note: Thanks to LHBTF readers, we’ve been able to identify all of the Arawak crew members in the above photograph except for #5, #8 and #9. Based on the list of crew members that appeared in newspapers in September 1941, these three men are likely Oswald Malone, Charlie Lowe and Basil Albury. Can anyone match these names to the three unidentified men in the photo?