Learn about shipwrecks
Seen here at the opening of the exhibit are (left to right): Lee Gavin (Hank Gavin’s son), Paula Daniel (Frank Daniel’s daughter) and Sam Wood.

Photo courtesy of LIMM

Learn about shipwrecks

Story By: ANTHONY PERROTTA
4/5/2018


WEST SAYVILLE – The Long Island Maritime Museum unveiled last week two new exhibits honoring those who manned our shores during the late-19th and early-20th centuries. There was a time when stations of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, a precursor to the U.S. Coast Guard, wasn’t manned year-round by full-time crews. Should a ship come ashore during the “inactive” summer months, residents and even vacationers would rush to the shore to volunteer their services and offer assistance while the lifesavers were alerted. 

The museum’s first new exhibit, “Wrecks, Rescues & Guided Lights,” uses a 12-foot mural, which includes several interactive touch screens, to help bring the stories of the island’s lifesavers, lighthouses and shipwrecks to life. The exhibit had been in development for a number of years, according to the museum. Friends of the late Frank Daniel, a docent and longtime friend of the museum, initially funded the exhibit.  

But, much like the ships grounded in the summer months all those years ago, the exhibit wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the help of numerous friends and volunteers. Seafood Festival volunteers jumpstarted the project two years ago by giving a sizable donation. Sam Wood, a Fire Island contractor and avid supporter of the museum, then joined the cause with a birthday that raised several thousand dollars. 

The exhibit is dedicated to Daniel, also known as “Captain Rogue,” who, throughout his many years as tour guide, shared his knowledge of the sea and shipwrecks, as well as the wonders of the waters around us, with hundreds of visitors and schoolchildren. 

The second exhibit, “Shipwreck: A Journey Through Time,” links 19th-century shipwrecks to contemporary wreck diving. The exhibit includes artifacts recovered from the Oregon, a British passenger liner that collided with a schooner while approaching New York in 1886, as well as several other well-known Long Island shipwrecks. All persons on board the Oregon were rescued before the ship sank, 18 miles east of Long Island. 

There are also some artifacts from the Andrea Doria, an Italian ocean liner that collided with the MS Stockholm off the coast of Nantucket, Mass., while bound for New York City in 1956. The shipwreck, which killed 46 people, remains the worst maritime disaster to occur in U.S. waters since the sinking of the SS Eastland, a Chicago-based passenger ship that rolled over on her side while tied to a dock in the Chicago River, killing 844 people in 1915. Some might know the Andrea Doria from the eponymous episode of “Seinfeld,” where George (Jason Alexander) goes up against a survivor from the infamous shipwreck to become the lessee of an apartment. 

The majority of the artifacts on display in this exhibit were from the collection of renowned wreck diver and captain Hank Gavin. 

“Wrecks, Rescues & Guided Lights” will be on display permanently in the North Gallery, while “Shipwreck: A journey Though Time” runs until Friday, Nov. 16, in the Main Gallery. For more information, visit www.limaritime.org.