Topic Tornado at the Naval Shipyard
Town Seavey's Island, Kittery, ME
Date August 8, 1901
Author J. Dennis Robinson
A logbook from the Shipyard shows this entry on August 8, 1901: " Floating drydock breaks away in heavy gale. Stone cutter's shed of drydock contractors collapses during gale, killing 1 man and 1 woman."
The story appeared the next day in the Portsmouth Herald with a large front page headline reading -- "BRINGS DEATH: Cyclone Causes Disaster at the Navy Yard." An accompanying article in the Portsmouth Journal on August 10 lists two victims killed including Mrs. HV Mealey who had gone into the contractor's shack for shelter in the storm. She had a large timber thrown upon her chest in full view of her husband and son. A Boston quarryman Joel Pierson had both his legs crushed and later died at the hospital. A list of seven injured men is appended detailing every injury from cuts and bruises and man blown off his bicycle to another with his "finger torn out".
It appears the storm lasted only about 10 minutes. The huge shed was 150 by 60 feet and 200 men arrived quickly to offer aid. This is probably why Initial rumors, according to the paper, said 30 or 40 people died, but the total was only two. In Portsmouth only a few store signs were knocked down and windows splattered with mud from the street. The Herald reporter says the "dusky browed skirmisher" placed its full force on Seavey's Island at the Navy Yard where the roof blew off and the shed was lifted into the air and dropped from the sky. The big traveling crane came down and the operator, though 50 feet in the air, miraculously escaped injury. The floating dry dock broke partially loose, but did not float away.
SOURCE: Archival newspaper research by Nicole Luongo and Richard Winslow of the Portsmouth Public Library.
READER LETTER: This story was uncovered after we received the following reader letter. For more reader letters, click here.
THE GREAT DRY DOCK TRAGEDY
[ Dead Zone | New | Site Map | Talk | Store | Sponsors | History Themes ]