Remembering – The wreck of the Metis

One hundred and forty-six years ago this month, a steamship sunk off the coast of Watch Hill, RI. It made the headlines of newspapers around the world.

About 5 a.m. on Aug. 30, 1872, the Metis, on an overnight journey from New York City to Providence, R.I. in high seas, was in a collision with the Nettie Cushing, a schooner out of Thomaston, Maine.

Initially, thinking there was no damage to the steamship, the captain searched for the schooner for about 20 minutes before realizing that his own ship was taking on water.

According to Page 1 of the Aug. 31, 1872 issue of The Hartford Courant, it was an appalling disaster. With many of the passengers on the upper hurricane deck, the ship steered for shore, but about 4 miles out, the hull plunged to the bottom, leaving the hurricane deck drifting in the ocean.

In rolling waves and strong winds, it was about an hour before the floating deck and its clinging passengers, most dressed in their night clothes, approached the crashing breakers of East Beach in Watch Hill.

The residents and visitors of Watch Hill, numbering about 150, woke to the sight of the deck and a couple of lifeboats approaching land and gathered on the beach waiting to help the passengers when they reached shore.

But when the deck touched the shore it immediately broke apart in the surf which was rolling mountain-high. The lifeboats were capsized and passengers were tossed about by the waves.

A group of young men visiting from Hartford, rushed into the surf with ropes about their waists and rescued many of the nearly drowned. They were later awarded with Medals of Honor for their heroic actions.

Forty-two additional survivors were rescued in the next six hours by the Revenue Cutter Moccasin, some as far away as Block Island. Many were plucked from the water floating on mattresses and bales of cotton, cargo from the Metis. The Mocassin also recovered 18 casualties.

The schooner A.H. Beldon pulled in to Newport, R.I., with two additional drowning victims of the sinking.

Back in Watch Hill, many of the passengers on the deck could not swim and perished in the breakers. Their bodies washed ashore in the strong waves.

Among the recovered bodies aboard the Moccasin, was a woman thought to be the wife of G.W. Howard, married just two days before in New York. They were on their honeymoon. Identified by the initials N.A. on the ring she wore, her body was sent by train to their hometown of Sharon Springs, N.Y., where funeral services were to be held.

Upon arrival in New York it was discovered that the Metis victim aboard the train was not the wife of G.W Howard. One of the two Newport victims was later identified as the real Mrs. Howard. Both women wore rings with the initials N.A.

The following are Special Dispatches that were published by The Hartford Courant, in the days and years following the wreck. From the Hartford Courant Sept. 3, 1872.

An Account of the sinking
by Wm E Sheridan, of the Globe Theatre, Boston

Wm E Sheridan, whose wife was among the missing and presumed dead, stated “I rushed out, to find the steamer sinking; I hurried my wife into a lifeboat; there were too many of us in the boat; we proceeded nearly to land, when a rough sea caused the boat to tip over; all were thrown into the water. It was a terrible moment; there were few of us who could swim. Only eight or ten succeeded in laying hold of the boat. My poor wife was not among them.”

Sheridan here became much affected; his face was buried in his hands. In a moment he resumed, with broken voice. “I have no physical trouble; my grief is elsewhere. I have telegraphed to Providence to learn if my poor girl is among those taken there by the cutter.”

“Our boat capsized close by the shore, and it was a sad sight to us when we had gained our lives to struggles of those unable to withstand the terrible undertow. They were drowned in our sight. Their upturned faces and sparking looks will haunt me to my dying day.

Sheridan also said, “Among the pathetic incidents of the disaster, I remember the death of two children. All evening they played about the saloon, prattling gayly with the passengers, seemingly wrapt up in each other. When bedtime came, one of them said: “Tiss me, Mamma; tiss me for I am going to sleep.” And I saw them no more alive. This morning their bodies washed ashore on the beach, clasped in each other’s arms. They were beautiful as in life; their countenances bore a placid smile, as if their death was painless.”

A follow-up article appeared in the Hartford Courant on Aug. 29, 1915.

Wreck of the METIS at Watch Hill
by Lois Willoughby

In the lobby of the Colonial hangs a cross-shaped segment of the steering wheel of theMetis. In the office of H. E. Burdick, one of the rescuers, is the quartermaster’s stool from the pilot house. And over in the Larkin cottage by the bathing beach is an icebox, still in service, on which one lucky traveler rode in to shore in safety.

Lewis Stanton recalled the rescue:

A crowd gathered on East Beach and waited for the hurricane deck to land. For an hour they watched it, dashed nearer and nearer by the tremendous surf. At times it was thrown up as high as sixty feet to crash down, and then up again – over and over the same wild experience. As the life saving boats fought their way toward the floating wreck, it struck the beach and turned completely over. With the smokestack as a lever, the big timbers snapped like kindling and the crashed wreck went back again with the surf into the sea.

There was no official manifest or headcount for the number of passengers and crew, which was thought to be about 150. Based on the number of survivors, the Metis fatalities are estimated to be about 70, with only 22 victims identified. Approximately 48 others are thought to have perished aboard the ship as it sunk.

The twin girls were identified as the Girard Twins but no record of their birth has been found so their first names have been lost to history. Their father, Frederick, was a Blacksmith living in Providence in 1877. Their mother, Mrs Girard, initially thought to have perished, was listed as a survivor a few days after the wreck occurred.

The wreck of the Metis is located a few miles off the coast of Watch Hill, and was discovered by Scuba Shack’s former owners, Tom Misenti and Bill Roe in 1981. It sits upright in about 140 feet of water. Over time, Tom, Bill, current Scuba Shack Divemaster Dave Lockrow and a few others salvaged several items – brass portholes, brass knobs, coins and one of two safes.

In 1994 Tom and Bill raised the anchor belonging to the Metis from the ocean floor.

Maybe you have seen it? The anchor has been on display at Scuba Shack for more than 25 years.

Scuba Shack is 100% AWARE!

As divers we are fascinated and in awe of our magnificent oceans and the underwater world. I can still remember my first dives in the Florida Keys & Hawaii, thinking about how lucky I was to explore this unique environment. My first trip to Nassau was another major turning point as I first encountered reef sharks. I wasn’t afraid of them. I respected them and marveled at their beauty.

So these oceans and everything that lives within them need to be protected. So how can one person, one dive shop in central Connecticut possibly help?

Here is how we will start to make a difference. Scuba Shack is now a proud participant in 100% AWARE. What does that mean? Well, with every PADI certification we issue, we will donate $10 to Project AWARE.

Project AWARE connects the passion for ocean adventure with the purpose of marine conservation.

We want to make a difference. This is just one small step that we can take right now. 70% of the planet is blue! Let’s keep it that way.


Staff Review: Aqua Lung i300C dive computer

As part of our commitment to improving our training, Scuba Shack has invested in a fleet of Aqua Lung computers. Our main training computer is the Aqua Lung i100. We also added an i300C. Both computers are an outstanding value for the functionality.

I thought I’d take a minute to tell you about my recent experience with the i300C while at Dutch Springs earlier this month. The i100 and i300C have pretty much an identical menu structure, display and model. The i300C provides a backlight (which I rarely use, but is nice to have). The i300C also has two buttons versus one on the i100. Two buttons made cycling through the menus a little easier.

Setting up for 32 percent Enriched Air Nitrox was simple. The underwater display is big enough and readable even at 85 feet in 43 degree water. The buttons are easy to manipulate with 5 mm gloves. I left deep stops on, and at 42 feet I got a two minute hold. The safety stop starts at 20 feet with a nice count down timer showing minutes and seconds remaining – for the impatient bunch!

Both computers can be downloaded to your computer with an interface cable and placed into the DiverLog application. Pretty neat.

The i300C has an additional really cool feature – Bluetooth. With the DiverLog+ app on my iPhone, I was able to synch the dives into my phone and update my gas usage, weights, gear bag and other dive info. The app then calculated my SAC. Way cool. But there is more. I can actually set the computer from the phone.

We’re impressed with the Aqua Lung line of affordable, reliable and safe dive computers. Stop by and check them out. The i100 is a great deal for either a primary or backup, while the i300C provides that added technology that a lot of folks like.

And hey – you can replace your own battery!

Your Logbook – Remembering your first scuba dive

Do you keep a scuba diving logbook? I do, and I think it’s a great idea for you to do the same.

It is an incredibly cold day here in New England. This morning it was about 5 degrees F NOT C with a brutal wind chill. We are still a couple of weeks away from heading to Grand Cayman and I need some way to warm up or at least think about some warm water diving.

So, I started to think about my very first real dive (after finishing my scuba diving certified). I knew it was in Key Largo and the old disposable underwater film prints have long been lost. But hey, I could pull out my dive logbook and it would help me relive that dive. It was the wreck of the City of Washington on Elbow Reef. How cool is that – to get your first dive on a real wreck? A wreck of a ship that once docked in Havana Harbor near the USS Maine when it exploded.

My Scuba Logbook

The logbook told me all about the dive – the water temperature, my exposure protection, weight, bottom time, depth and what we experienced on the dive and much more. By the way, the water temperature on Elbow Reef in Key Largo that day was 86 degrees.

Keeping your logbook up-to-date is a perfect way to document your dive experience with a lot of great and relevant information to make your future diving more fun and perhaps to remind you of some fantastic warm weather destinations or other interesting dives when it is too cold to scuba in Connecticut or when you just want to remember why we dive.

City of Washington Wreck - In my logbook

Photo courtesy NOAA – In 25 feet of water east of Key Largo, the remains of the City of Washington lie on Elbow Reef. On July 10, 1917, while being towed by a tug, the City of Washington ran aground on and was a total loss within minutes.

Scuba video from Grand Cayman

Scuba Shack instructor Gary Woods visited Sunset House in Grand Cayman for some excellent diving. Here is his video recap of the trip.

GUE Fundamentals, Doubles & Dry Suit Classes at Dutch Springs

This past weekend, three students took part in a Global Underwater Explorers Fundamentals Class at Dutch Springs in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Students enrolled in programs covering double tank configurations, primary light use, and one completed their dry suit specialty course.

The classes were taught by Scuba Shack’s resident GUE Instructor Ed Hayes, and assisted by instructor Gary Woods. All students worked very hard to take their diving skills to the next level.

If you are interested in learning more about Global Underwater Explorers, the advantages of diving with doubles, a dry suit or a primary light, please contact the shop for more information.

GUE Fundamentals class at Dutch Springs

On Thursday Aug. 10, five students from Scuba Shack in Rocky Hill, Connecticut took part in a Global Underwater Explores Fundamentals Class at Dutch Springs in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The class was taught by GUE Instructor Ed Hayes and assisted by Gary Woods. The intense training lasted until Sunday afternoon with multiple dives and lectures each day. Divers were trained in pre-dive, ascents and descents, buoyancy control, forward and backward propulsion, turns, air shares, “basic five,” surface marker buoy deployment, team diving skills and much more.

All dives were videotaped, reviewed and critiqued by the instructor and the students. Congratulations to all the students who participated and trained very hard to improve their diving skills.

If you are interested in taking your diving to the next level, the GUE Fundamentals Class could be for you. Please contact the shop for more information.

Students complete GUE Prep Class

On July 21 and 22, five divers completed the open water sessions for the GUE Prep Class that was conducted by Scuba Shack Instructor Gary Woods and GUE Instructor Ed Hayes. The two day in water class was preceded two classroom and pool sessions.

The intense training was held at Dutch Springs in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Students were trained in pre-dive, forward and backward propulsion, ascents and descent drills, air shares and “basic five” drills. This class was designed for students wishing to further their diving skills and to reach the goal of total control in the water. If you’re interested in the GUE Prep Class, or any other GUE programs, contact Scuba Shack today.

Congratulations to all the participants who worked very hard over two long days of diving with very good results.


Annual trip to the Bahamas – Hundreds of Sharks!

It’s hard to believe that a month has passed since May 24, the day the Scuba Shack gang invaded Nassau, Bahamas, for the annual Scuba Shack Memorial Day Weekend. Twenty one adventurers participated in another fun filled weekend led by Scuba Shack instructor Peter Katz. Our usual haunt, Orange Hill Beach Inn, had sustained significant damage during Hurricane Matthew back in October but managed to accommodate us. Perhaps not in the lap of luxury, more like Motel 6 only no light left on for us since it had burnt out years ago and no one has gotten around to replace it. But they managed to feed us breakfast every morning and provided an excellent BBQ on our last night.

The Stuart Cove dive staff were terrific! Unfortunately, our previous crew was no longer at the shop but our new crew, Captain Wendell, Divemasters Katie and Alex were able to fill the void. They did an excellent job and were more than willing and able to inject energy and enthusiasm into the trip.

Many of the dive sites have undergone changes since Matthew passed through which made for interesting dives. By far the dive highlight was the trip to the Lost Blue Hole and Rose Island. This year we did two dives at the hole. The first included a visit from a huge loggerhead turtle and a school of 100-150 sharpnosed sharks exiting from the depths of the hole, en masse. The second dive was a shark feed with eight Caribbean Reef Sharks up close and personal. How close you ask? Ask Anja whose mask was knocked off by one of the sharks as it swam by to partake of the feed.

Our evening out encompassed our usual favorites, Capriccio’s, Café Matisse, and Luciano’s. We were surprised to find that we were joined for dinner by Dan Marino and former Miami Dolphins as well as the mascot and cheerleaders. It turns out that Pete Walden went to college with Dan. The next thing we knew, people were posing for pictures with Dan. It made for an exciting evening.

Although we were missing a few of our regulars, the “newbies” joined right in and in no time felt like “regulars”. The best thing was we “old timers” were able to tell the same old stories and jokes to a new audience. All in all, everyone had a spectacular time and are looking forward to next year’s trip.

Nassau Trip Video

Nassau Trip Photo Gallery

Hundreds of Sharks!

Posted by Doug Shuckra on Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Grand Cayman Trip Report

I just got back from a five day trip to the Sunset House on Grand Cayman. It was a promotional deal to check out their facilities and the dive operation. The flight from Bradley was easy and fairly quick on American Airlines. The taxi ride to the resort took about 10 minutes and a smooth check in at the front desk. I stayed in a courtyard room which was clean and nice with two double beds, a front porch and a great view.

The resort has a nice pool with a waterfall, three ladders to access the beautiful Caribbean Sea for diving or swimming, a large covered bar with plenty of table seating, and a restaurant that serves three meals a day with waterside dining available.

The dive operations were exceptional. The Sunset House is designed for scuba divers and every aspect of the diving is smooth and easy. The dive boats are clean and in good condition with plenty of room on board, even with a large group. The shore diving was great with easy access to the water, and the house reef is as good as many of the dive boat sites. The crew was very accommodating and provided some of the best service I have seen.

If you are looking for a warm tropical getaway with great diving at a reasonable price, consider joining Scuba Shack in October for a week long adventure at the Sunset House on Grand Cayman.

Trip Photos

Trip Video