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  • Writer's pictureDon Wilding

Bernie Collins and the Castagna Rescue

The wheel of the Castagna, minus one spoke, now on display at the Eastham Historical Society's 1869 Schoolhouse Museum. (Photo by Don Wilding)

The surfmen of the U.S. Lifesaving Service and Coast Guard were known for putting their lives on the line every day during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They came from all walks of life, and all ages were represented, officially and unofficially.

One of the Lifesavers who served in an "unofficial" capacity was none other than Eastham's Bernard "Bernie" Collins, the son of the Nauset Station's No. 1 surfman, Lewis Collins.

He often accompanied his father to the seaside disasters, including the famous wreck of the Castagna, off Wellfleet on Feb. 17, 1914, at the age of 17.

The Castagna, an Italian bark carrying a load of guano, ran aground during a northeaster just south of the Marconi Wireless Station that morning. Heading for the Bradley Fertilizer Company in Weymouth from Montevideo, Uruguay, the crew of 13 wasn't prepared for the rapid change in climate upon reaching the Tropic of Cancer. The men were only clad in summer attire.

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