The George Spencer and Amboy were bound for Duluth with coal when they were overpowered by the famous "Mataafa Storm." When the storm was over and the toll tallied, 18 ships were discovered to be disabled or destroyed by stranding, one had foundered with all hands, and nearly a dozen others suffered various degrees of injuries to hulls or superstructures. Five of the mishaps had fatalities. In lakes history, this is called the "Mataafa Blow," in memory of a major steel carrier wrecked at the Duluth entrance jetties. A total of 36 lives were lost in the storm on Lake Superior alone.
The Duluth Evening Herald of Dec. 1, 1905, describes the wreck of the two vessels:
Both boats lost their bearings in the snowstorm and landed on a sandy beach. As soon as they struck, buoys with lines were thrown over the side. When they floated ashore they were caught by fishermen and made fast. With an improvised life buoy rigged in the hawsers the entire crew were taken safely to shore preceded by Mrs. Harry Lawe, wife of the mate, who was acting as steward. The vessels ran on the rocks Tuesday morning, and for thirteen hours the situation of the crew on the battered hulks was desperate. Fishermen rushed into the surf almost to their necks and aided the sailors to escape. The Spencer's cargo can be lightered but there is little hope for saving the boat. The vessels were coming up without cargo to load ore. Capt. Frank Conland sailed the Spencer and Fred Watson was master of the Amboy. The Spencer was valued at $35,000 and the Amboy at $10,000.
The Duluth News Tribune of December 6, 1905, states that "Captain C.O. Flynn returned last evening from an inspection of the stranded steamer George Spencer and schooner Amboy. He said `the schooner Amboy is a total wreck...the steamer Spencer is still in good shape. Her hatches are intact, and she does not appear to be seriously damaged. As to the condition of her bottom that cannot be told at present.'"
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