The Bishop's Search

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The Bishop's Search


This lengthy article (only the excerpt describing Palmyra has been transcribed), describes the search by the crew of the steam C.R. Bishop for the lost ship Lady Lampson and her crew.

They visited several islands and atolls in the Pacific, but found no evidence of the Lampson on Palmyra, though it was later learned she did wreck a few hundred miles from there. Perhaps the best line of the article describes the shark population found on Palmyra, and simply says, "Holy Moses, what a sight! There, seemingly packed in, wedged in in fact, were, not tens, nor hundreds, but thousands of sharks..."


Frank Godfrey



Hawaiian Gazette




Public Domain





Text Item Type Metadata



Palmyra Island and its Peculiarities

From a distance, Palmyra Island looks very inviting and its presentation as a spot of terra firma in the midst of the vast waste of the waters makes its presence, as the least, very interesting. We viewed the ever changing shape of the land as we neared it, and anxious eyes were engaged in searching for a spot on the side presented which was devoid of breakers and which would afford suitable landing. Suddenly, however, our attention was drawn nearer to ourselves by the sudden formation and almost bursting in full force of a monster breaker which had without the slightest warning reared its threatening, dangerous head, upon our port quarters.

A look over the side was indulged in while the cautious and careful Capt. Le Claire was backing out for less troublous quarters and, Holy Moses, what a sight! There, seemingly packed in, wedged in in fact, were, not tens, nor hundreds, but thousands of sharks, their dark forms plainly limned against the while coral of the bottom and contact with which would have been had we gone a ship’s length further. And if we had struck and heeled to port or starboard into deeper water, just think of the possible and most probably result? A picnic undoubtedly for some few of the “assembled pirates of the deep, and a hopeless search in the near future for the Bishop and her passengers. It was not a pleasant feeling that predominated in our various systems as we came in closer to the shore on the southern side of the island and saw between us and the proposed landing point innumerable fins flashing above the water.

But go, we must, and the boat being lowered a scouting party of three took passage for the distant beach. Landing had to be made through the surf, and as we rode the inward breaker our earnest hopes was that, if we spilled it would be in shallow water and away from sharks. Landing was safely made and a rapid but searching survey was made of the combination of islets which compose the island for indications of human inhabitant, but none was found. Return was made to the shore again way being made along the edge of the shallows of the deeper lagoon and even here, in two feet of water, young sharks darted at such a panic and dread, by their boldness, that a constant splashing was kept up even when in very shallow water.

The trees along the banks and in shore were loaded with the nests of goonies, boobies, man of war hawks and other sea fowl. Great flocks of birds circled overhead; their discordant cries awakening the echoes of the recesses of the tangled cocoanut jungles which flourished on every islet, while a constant watch had to be kept to avoid a sudden contact wit ha lumbering gooney frightened from its nest. The boat being reached then our troubles commend anew, for launching and pulling through the surf was altogether different to coming inshore on the crest of a willing breaker.

The Hawaiians with us were most nervous of the sharks and made more so as they saw hanging over the side of the Bishop a half a dozen bodies of captured man eaters from five to seven feet in length, and as a consequence had no wish to wade much in deep water. But it was necessary to go and we three whites, the chief officer, chief engineer and the writer had to lead. After two hours hard labor, being buffeted by the breakers, jammed and struck by the boat and oars, and filled with salt water the boat left the inhospitable beach of Palmyra Island and after cutting off the tops of a half a dozen breakers she floated half filled with water in the smoother sea and we were soon alongside our safer floating home.

Original Format



Frank Godfrey, “The Bishop's Search,” Palmyra Archive, accessed September 30, 2020,


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