Isabelita Hyne the Victim Of Mutiny?
ton barque Isabelita Hyne was a clipper-hulled freight hauler active on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It was laden
with tea, sugar and rice bound from China to San Francisco when it went aground and wrecked off Half Moon Bay, California
on the night of January 1, 1856.
of the wreck of this eight-year-old ship, and the mystery of what happened to its crew and cargo have been the cause of much
speculation. Historians theorize that the wreck may not have been accidental, but the ship was steered into the rocks on purpose
to hide a mutiny by the crew and murder of the skipper, a Captain Calhoun and First Mate Beatty.
of old news clippings and reports by California historian Marie Barnett revealed that Calhoun’s body was seen “lashed
to the rigging with his head cut off” and Beatty’s body washed ashore several days after the wreck. All other
members of the ship’s crew went missing along with their personal belongings. Also lost were the ship’s charts,
papers and compasses. Only the logbook was found. Calhoun made only two entries in the log.
report said Captain Calhoun fell ill at about mid-way through the 70-day voyage from Hong Kong which suggests that the vessel
was under command of Mate Beatty during the final weeks. Did he drive the crew to mutiny?
wrote that shortly after the Isabelita Hyne grounded, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle received a tip that there
had been a mutiny and that the “crew had intentionally wrecked the Isabelita Hyne to conceal evidence.”
oddities about the wreck was that the ship’s cargo, valued at over $100,000, mysteriously disappeared before the owners,
the Nye Brothers and Company of China, could get salvagers to the scene. People living along the coast were thought to have
scavenged the wreck for the cargo but this was never proven.
inconsistency about this wreck story is that the Chronicle reported the wreck completely destroyed by breakers within two
weeks of the grounding. Yet Barnett writes that there are records of the sale of the hull, sails, rigging, anchor, chains
and other parts at auction on Jan. 15, 1856. That was just two weeks after the ship reportedly went aground.
The Isabelita Hyne was launched at Philadelphia in 1848. Her clipper hull was coated with
copper to give it less resistance, thus it was known as a fast sailor.
The vessel made two voyages from New York to San Francisco. The first was a 125-day trip
with Captain Samuel F. Dewing, in 1851. The next year Captain Lamson took the baroque on a second trip to San Francisco and
back in 124 days. After that the ship began running for the China trade.