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Florida woman investigates slice of sea history

Searching for Samoan descendants part of her quest
reporters@samoanews.com
Linda Jeanne Dickinson Brown said her father, Russell Dickinson, was the 2nd mate on the four-masted ship, the Seth Parker, that left here on July 13, 1935 with 17 American Samoan men on board, bound for Honolulu, Hawaii. The voyage may well prove to be the first known exodus of American Samoans to the US – predating the ‘fitafita’ exodus. [photo: JH]

A woman hailing from Clearwater, Florida is in American Samoa searching for information about the “Seth Parker”, a ship that set sail from the territory on July 13, 1935 with seventeen American Samoan men on board, bound for Honolulu, Hawaii.

Linda Jeanne Dickinson Brown said her father, Russell Dickinson, was the 2nd mate on the four-masted ship .

After 77 years, Dickinson's daughter has come to the territory searching for information from family members of the 17 Samoan men that were on the vessel.

According to Brown, even before this once-famous vessel left American Samoa the odds were that she would sink en route due to problems such as frozen propellers, worthless engines, serious hurricane damage, no working radio, a worm-eaten hull, no spare sails, and only half of the necessary food rations for a two-month voyage.

“What food they did have was palagi food, such as pork and beans, fish chowder and canned beans and corn; not the fresh food the Samoan sailors needed."

“Formerly a famous U.S. radio broadcast ship, the damaged Seth Parker's reputation as a jinxed ship fell to a new low after sailing: that of a Hungry Ship, once the naval tender, the Ontario, had towed her out of the harbor,” she said.  

Brown added that food wasn't the only missing necessity. “Basic equipment, carpentry supplies; medicines, and sufficient fuel for two faulty bilge pumps, were all non-existent. Also not on the roster was a competent, qualified Captain.

“The one assigned by new owners in Hawaii proved to be an alcoholic drug addict, whose only sailing experience seemed to have been acquired during his years as a Seattle longshoreman," said Brown, who told Samoa News there was good reason to believe that this recipe for disaster was no accident.

“It happened, after all, at the height of the Depression Era when insurance scams figured prominently in corporate bottom lines.”

She further states that although evidence of the Seth Parker's presence in Pago Pago Harbor the spring and summer of 1935 surely exists in local port records, the entire story is contained in great detail in a manuscript written in 1939 by her father, Russell Dickinson, who served as second mate during that final voyage between American Samoa and Hawaii.

She told Samoa News that apparently, the story is unknown to local citizens today, even though two very strange, and hugely important historical realities are probably true:

1.            This voyage might well prove to be the first exodus of American Samoans from this island; predating the formation of the Fita-Fita, which is currently believed to be the first time that natives were transplanted to other locations.

2.            Several hundred islanders would never have been born, if The Seth Parker had been lost at sea with all hands, which would have been her fate except for a benevolent mutiny on the part of the junior officers. The 1st and 2nd Mate and the Bosun took command of the ship when the Captain refused to call for a tow ship out of Hawaii. The crew was probably completely unaware that a mutiny had occurred.

Brown 75, said she’s here in the territory hoping to locate her Virtual Family... the descendants of the young Samoan crew. “Today's almost-not-born individuals are united as "Survivors" of the Seth Parker as well”, she states.

Brown told Samoa News that before she left the United States in July, she contacted Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin in Washington D.C., who immediately gave his encouragement and blessings to the project and her visit to American Samoa. 

Brown's father Russell Dickinson, at age 24, had sailed into Pago Pago on the famous 35-ft. Schooner, The Cimba, attempting an around-the-world voyage. The resulting book about that celebrated voyage is The Saga of Cimba by Richard Maury, published five times since 1939, and released by McGraw-Hill in 2000 as a Sailor's Classic.

Brown said it can be found at Amazon.com.

She further states that Dickinson left the Cimba in Pago Pago and signed on as 2nd Mate aboard the Seth Parker as a way to return to the States.

Brown said she inherited a thirty-page manuscript describing that disastrous voyage, and immediately recognized its potential as an epic movie script, beginning a many decade attempt to create a worthy sea saga.

She is now following in her father's footsteps, albeit on land, by hosteling alone around the world for the second time since 2005.

However, she plans to remain in American Samoa as long as it takes to realize her two objectives: To bring the story to safe harbor where it legitimately belongs — with the people who lived it; and to write the best possible movie script and then pitch it to a major movie producer.

No stranger to adversity herself, she is undaunted by the difficulties ahead in merely getting an appointment to speak to someone in the movie industry.

Wellington, New Zealand will be her next destination.

Brown is a published author with three books listed for sale on amazon.com; as well as an accomplished scriptwriter. Nine scripts, in various genres, are posted on the Warner Brothers/Amazon interactive website and Brown's studio is http://studios.amazon.com/users/10660.

She said the script, based on the true story of the Seth Parker voyage, is titled "The Insatiable Sea" and is free to be downloaded, printed, corrected, rewritten and resubmitted to her site.

Anyone who is interested in creating a trailer, artwork, storyboard, audio script-reading or a filmed version of all or part of the script, is encouraged to do so, as Warner Brothers has teamed with Amazon.com, seeking talent in this win-win situation.

Brown has a two-pronged plan and will remain in American Samoa for several months hoping, first of all, to share copies of her father's original manuscript and to locate supporting documentation.

“I hope to consult with interested parties and crew descendants and would like to conduct recorded interviews and public speeches or readings, so that this unknown local history will be openly accessible in the future.

“I also want to insure that this story becomes a major motion picture and spread far beyond the bounds of this small South Pacific island.

“All facts of the case have been faithfully adhered to, but Brown has created character backstories to bring the mere, bare-bones facts to life in the best dramatic fashion. She will continue to rewrite and expand these characterizations as more is learned about the actual crew. 

“Discovery or imaginative creation of a Samoan love story is at the top of the list.

“Also, guidance as to how to represent the Samoan culture of the 1930's and the emotions of the families involved will be welcomed,” said Brown.

According to Brown, Peter Jackson, Director of Lord of The Rings, and The Hobbit (to be released in December) will eventually receive a call requesting an opportunity to pitch the resulting script, “which will come of my work in Pago Pago”, said Brown.

She added that she hopes to travel with blessings and assurances of cooperation from the authorities and citizens of American Samoa buoying her along.

A freelance travel writer, whose Social Security income takes her frugally around the Southern Hemisphere, Brown says she has no doubt whatsoever that Jackson will be happy to see her coming with script tucked under her arm.

Brown said she is a "survivor" of The Seth Parker debacle, who wouldn't have been born if her Daddy hadn’t mutinied.

“I believe that fellow American Samoan survivors also exhibit a fearless, world-conquering attitude, born of that mysterious brush with Non-Existence, seventy-seven years ago," she said, adding that the suspicion has already been confirmed upon meeting her first Seth Parker Survivor, Janet Utu Mulipola, owner of Afio Mai Aviation Ground Services at the Pago Pago Airport, whose father and uncle sailed on the historic voyage,” said Brown.

Brown noted that if there are any parties who wish to contact her, they may do so through the Jean P. Haydon Museum or directly, at 770-9733.



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