M/V Zelma Rose served Spanish Wells, Current Cut, Eleuthera from Nassau – lost with 6 lives in 1952

MAILBOAT NAME: M/V Zelma Rose (confused with Selma Rose, see below)
PAST NAMES: not known 
DIMENSIONS: 30-tons, official # 178616
BUILDER: Benjamin Roberts’ father in Marsh Harbour, Abaco
EARLY CAREER: not known
BAHAMAS CAREER: at the time of her loss was transporting passengers (“excursionists”) between Nassau and Spanish Wells, Eleuthera carrying lumber, furniture, canisters of gasoline, etc. 
CAPTAINS: Captain Edison Higgs
FATE: sank in Fleeming/Fleming Channel, 40 miles east of Nassau in the morning of June 1st, 1952 with the loss of six lives – see below for details. The sloop “Sally” rescued 17 survivors. 
OWNERS: not known

Thanks to Mrs. Eldwyth J. Roberts and Danielle Roberts of Abaco, descendants of Sir George W. K. Roberts, for their assistance. Mrs. Eldwyth Roberts wrote to me about 

the Selma Rose, a freight/mail boat, which went between Nassau and Spanish Wells”.

Those who died when she sank were:
  1. Oona Newbold, 23 a nurse in Nassau
  2. Carol Newbold, 18, her sister, a clerk in Nassau
  3. Mary Constance Brace, 61, from the UK, a Sunday school teacher
  4. Welbourn Pinder, crewmember
  5. Ephram, of Andros
  6. Charles Algreen, 44, of Current, Eleuthera
Terrance Lightbourn was only 18 months old yet managed to survive the ordeal.

From http://www.projecteleuthera.org/underwater-sites-1

“Zelma Rose/Unknown wreck (Six Schilling Cay, 1952)

An unknown wreck is shown just north of the Quintus Rock pole beacon (now simply an empty pole) on the 1984 NGIA nautical chart entitled “Eleuthera – West Part.”  The chart is unfortunately somewhat inaccurate — no wreck exists at the specified coordinates (approximately N 25°15’31.26″, W 76°56’14.28″ on the zoomed “Fleming Channel” inlay), and the depths in this area far exceed those shown on the map (30+ meters versus the 15-17 meters shown).  As a result, only very nearby expanses of the bottom can be seen by a snorkeler (or from the deck of a boat, on a sufficiently still day), making a visual search a slow process.
This may be the wreck of the Zelma Rose, a 30-ton mail boat that went down somewhere near Six Schilling Cay.  In the early morning of June 1st, 1952, she ran into rough weather, and fifteen foot waves caused at-least-partially-unsecured cargo of lumber, furniture, and gasoline drums to suddenly shift to one side.  At 2:50 AM, the Selma Rose capsized almost instantly.  Survivors who could swim took turns in the water alongside a dingy, or clung to the wreck until she finally sank at 10:00 AM, or to floating fuel drums, but ultimately six lives were lost.  Seventeen people survived.  
One account suggests that Captain Edison Higgs swam east through the night, 11 miles to Current, to summon help.  For an account of the sinking and subsequent rescue, read this St. Petersburg Times article from June 5, 1952 (or click here for a text transcript of same).  See also this Nassau Tribune article, along with this one which indicates the origins of a song about the wreck of Zelma Rose which was available on phonograph records of popular Bahamian music by 1954.
It is not clear exactly where the Zelma Rose went down, and researching the results of the Board of Inquiry which studied the accident is in order.

The bottom here is predominantly sand, and this wreck may have been moved or covered by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.  The size and date of this wreck are unknown, and so such an explanation may or may not be plausible.”

(Transcription from the June 6, 1952 St. Petersburg Times)

Six Lives Lost When Excursion Ship
Sinks 40 Miles Northeast of Nassau

  NASSAU, Bahamas — (AP) — A
board of inquiry completed one
phase of its investigation yester-
day into the sinking of the island
motor vessel Zelma Rose on Sun-
day with the loss of six lives.

  Seventeen persons were res-
cued.  Some swam many hours in
the shark-infested waters.  Others
crowded aboard a small dingy or
took turns swimming alongside.

an 18-months-old boy who was
pulled unconscious from a cabin
by his father.  The child was re-
vived with artificial respiration
under direction of a nurse who
drowned a few minutes later.

  The inquiry board heard wit-
nesses describe how the 30-ton ex-
cursion vessel ran into rough
weather and 15-foot waves and fi-
nally rolled over “quick as a
flash” near Six Shilling Cay, about
40 miles northeast of Nassau.

  The skipper, Capt. Edison
Higgs, told the board before it
adjourned until June 12, that he
was at the wheel when the Zel-
ma Rose overturned.  He said he
pulled four persons from the
submerged dining room and did
his best to keep the others

  Paul Lightbourn said he and his
wife were on deck when the ves-
sel lurched and capsized at 2:50
a.m. Sunday enroute to Spanish-
Wells with excursionists and a
cargo of lumber, furniture and
gasoline filled drums.

  Their 18-months-old son, Ter-
rance, was asleep in a cabin be-
low decks.

  Lightbourn dove down into the
submerged cabin and after sever-
al unsuccessful attempts finally
grabbed the little boy’s foot and
pulled him unconscious to the sur-

  Oona Newbold, 23, a nurse from
Nassau, told Lightbourn how to re-
vive the lad and mother and child
were put into the dingy along
with others who were not capable

  Miss Newbold joined several
other persons in the water.  Mrs.
Harry Knowles of Nassau, told
rescuers: “Oone Newbold and I
were swimming along together
when she said she could go no
further.  Then she disappeared.”

  The other dead were listed as
Carol Newbold, 18, a Nassau clerk
and Oona’s sister; Mary Con-
stance Brace, 61, a native of
Hereford, England, and a Sunday
school teacher in Nassau; Wel-
bourn Pinder, a crewmember, of
Nassau, Ephram, a Negro native
of Andros Island and Charles Al-
green, 44, of Current Island.

  Thirteen of the survivors were
in or holding onto the dingy.  The
others clung to portions of the
Zelma Rose until it finally sank
at 10 a. m.  Then they swam until
the sloop Sally picked them up
off Six Shilling Cay.