Saturday, March 13, 2010

Deadman's Island: British Whaling Captain Hanged by Mutineers

Deadman’s Island was a San Pedro landmark, a rocky isle about 800-feet long, 250-feet wide, and over 60-feet high that guarded the entrance to Los Angeles Harbor. It was removed in the late 1920s to make room for large ships in the growing harbor.

The following story is from the Evening News, June 1901:

Hanged by Mutineers
Pieces of Rope Found Clinging to Captain's Crumbling Skeleton

San Pedro, Cal, June 7 -- Through the caving down of a bank and the discovery of a mass of crumbling human bones a clew has been bound [sic] to a mystery that has existed for over a century.

A hundred years ago the captain of a British whaling ship, lying off this port, was killed by his crew, which mutinied.

It was known that they buried him on Deadman's Island, but the manner in which they accomplished the killing was kept a secret and, although in later years the subject was one of much inquiry, the direct cause of death was never determined.

Gradually the sea has washed away the base of Deadman's Island, which stands near the entrance to the inner harbor, and the upper part has kept caving away.

A party of boys fishing near the place Wednesday discovered the contents of the grave, which had fallen by the caving away of the bank.

The bones had fallen only a short distance from their resting place, so that the arrangement was only partly destroyed.

Although solid, as if preserved by the dryness of the sandy soil, the bones were greatly yellowed, showing
that they had been resting there probably a hundred years.

Looking more closely the boys found an old rope, rotted with age, wound about the skeleton, between the head and ribs.

The rope was of the size used by hangmen.

The discovery is taken to indicate that the unfortunate skipper was hanged by his crew, and that they buried him without removing the rope, with which he had been hanged.

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