Tuesday, February 16, 2010


CABLE OR CATCH?Capt. James F. VanAmburg and a seagoing post-script

Even with the advent of transatlantic wireless, the cable line from Cape Cod, across the Atlantic to Brest was of war-time importance.

From “Cape Cod Pilot” by Jeremiah Diggs, published in 1937 we find the following:
“Again, at a crucial stage in the Italo-Ethiopian War, it (the cable) was bringing in widely awaited bulletins, and at that time Captain James VanAmburg of the fish dragger Andover was working in Cape waters when his net and steel lines became snared in the cable. The only way he could recover his gear, which is no small item in a fisherman’s equipment would have been to cut the cable. And the reason he didn’t do that was that he knew the whole western world was waiting to hear of the fortunes of war in Africa. He sailed away minus several hundred dollars of dredging gear.”

This has always been a familiar family story, though as passed down by my father (son of James VanAmburg) the ending was a bit different.

It was said that the loss of both gear and catch would be a hardship to owner and crew alike. He ordered the cable cut, the men hesitated, and he took the axe and cut it himself.

So - - what REALLY happened? Perhaps a story retold changes somewhat over a long period or perhaps not. Myth or Fact?