• The Arctic Stream

22nd February 1914 - ARCTIC STREAM-A TRULY MEMORABLE SERVICE. One of the most memorable services undertaken at Newbiggin occurred during 1914, the Lifeboat being under the command of Coxwain Watson T. Brown, aged 72 years, when nineteen crew and passengers of the wrecked three masted full rigged sailing ship, Arctic Stream, were rescued. This is the report that appeared in the Morpeth Herald at the time: "The dangerous rocks which skirt the Northumbrian shore twixt Cresswell and Lyne Burn were the scene of a shipwreck and thrilling rescue work on Sunday morning. The Arctic Stream, a sailing ship of fifteen hundred ton gross registered and owned by Mr. William Law of Glasgow, was the vessel wrecked and at the time of the occurrence had on board a crew of sixteen hands, the Captain's wife and son and the Steward's wife all of whom were brought ashore.

The Arctic Stream had been chartered for a voyage from Leith to San Fransisco via the Tyne and at the time was partly laden having in her holds six hundred tons of iron. The object of the visit to the Tyne was to complete the cargo and the journey southwards from the estuary of the Forth was commenced in charge of Shield's tug George V. Just as the day was breaking on Sunday, the coastguard at Cresswell noticed the tug and the Arctic Stream and the tug displaying towing lights indicating she had a sailer in tow.

A south easterly gale was raging and the sea was extremely heavy. When the tug and her charge got off Newbiggin Point it was then that the towing hawser snapped. The sailer was thus left practically at the mercy of the elements and was driven by the heavy seas and the wind onto the rocks in Cresswell Bay.

The vessel’s position gave rise to great anxiety to those in charge and distress signals rose from the doomed vessel. The alarm was quickly raised ashore and Coastguardsman Vowels from Cresswell turned out with the rocket apparatus. The lofty sand dunes made a good Station and from there attempts were made to get communication with the vessel by sending a rocket attached to a line over her. The first attempt whizzed across the rigging but even though the line could be made fast it was carried away.

Meantime those in charge of the Lifeboats at Cresswell and Newbiggin had been communicated with and despite the fact that the boats had to be brought across the moors willing helpers were numerous and both were on scene and ready for launching in a short time. Coxswain William Brown was in charge of the Cresswell boat which entered the water to the north of the stranded vessel while the Newbiggin boat under the direction of Coxswain Watson Brown took to the south of the vessel. The pull through the stormy seas proved a heavy one but by skilful manoeuvring both boats gained the lee side of the Arctic Stream. The positions taken up by the boats to the lee side of the vessel were considerably safe the hull acting as a breakwater and the work of transferring to the Lifeboats was began, the two women and the boy being the first to leave and the Captain the last. The Cresswell boat had received six of the occupants from the doomed ship while the other thirteen were accommodated in the Newbiggin boat.

In order to reach the shore the boat had to cross a ridge of rocks and in negotiating this lives aboard were placed in jeopardy. A huge wave struck the boat broadside on and nearly capsized her besides driving her nearer the rocks .She heeled over but the clever navigation of those in charge brought her to an even keel again, and she reached the shore without further mishap.

And all the time the storm fiend was busy tearing the fated Arctic Stream to pieces. It was soon evident that never again would she clear the harbour and spread her sails to the wind. Captain Stewart gave a graphic account of the voyage from Leith, which ended so disastrously. When off Newbiggin the hawser had parted and he did not see the tug again. His ship was at the mercy of the sea and being rapidly carried ashore before the gale. In response to the signals he saw a rocket apparatus at work and although the first line fell across the ship they were unable to hold it. When I saw the Lifeboat approach we did not attempt to connect with the rocket lines. Had this been the only means of rescue it is questionable whether any of the crew would have got ashore alive owing to the distance the ship was from the shore and the breakers through which the rescued would have been drawn.

The rescue was subsequently recognised by the RNLI with Newbiggin Coxswain Watson Taylor Brown aged 72 years and Coxswain William Brown of Cresswell Lifeboat both being awarded the Institution’s Thanks on Vellum.