The ship was called Marine Electric, a 605 foot bulk carrier, and she was making what the crew of 34 men would call a “milk-run.” A normal, run of the mill passage to Brayton Point, Massachusetts, hauling 25,000 tons of coal. When they left Norfolk that freezing, February night, no one expected that their short, ill-fated voyage would change the course of maritime history.
The Nor’Easter into which they sail proves as violent and unpredictable as any. The weather bureau would end up calling the gale the worst East Coast storm in four decades. What began as 30 knot winds, turns into 40 knots. What began as 15 foot seas, turns into 20 foot seas. And then it got worse. The gale intensifies to winds over 60 knots. The waves became as large as 40 feet.