Captain William J Weisbarth
His first documented visit to Palmyra was in 1904, though its very likely he had at least visited there before. Few personal details of his life are known and documented. In his youth he worked aboard various ships, but spent most of his career as a captain running salvage jobs, hauling scrap material and sometimes whole boats, from various wrecks.
He married a Gilbertese woman (after likely spending a good time on and around the Gilbert Islands) named Teoti, had a family with her, and when they grew older, sailed back to her home island, where they lived only a few years before his death around 1916.
One story tells of him burying gold he'd collected over his life near his final home on "Butaritorio" (likely Butaritari) in the Gilbert Islands, but it seems little more than a legend.
He was most well known in the Hawaiian and Polynesian Islands as Captain of the Lavinia, and for his entrepreneurial spirit. Despite a number of failed enterprises, he never lost hope, and pursued the dream on one big score his whole career. In 1904, he filled his ship to the brim with Coconuts harvested from Palmyra, only to have them all burnt on his return trip to Honolulu, as they were infested with "lepidopterous larvae".
Several months before that trip, he had sailed for Lisianski Island, hoping to find a fortune in bird skins left by Japanese sailors. Unfortunately, when they arrived there was nothing left but the empty huts of the recently departed sailors.
He tried on the same trip to bring a Coconut Crab into port, but the local authorities deemed it, "a destructive animal", and it was killed by fumigation, then interned at the Bishop Museum.
INDOMITABLE OLD MARINER WILL SAIL IN A FEW DAYS TO SOUTH SEA ISLAND AFTER COCOANUTS — MAY FIND SOME BIRD SKINS TOO—FRIENDS WISH HIM LUCK AND THINK HIM FOXY.
Captain Weisbarth, the Pacific Viking, is going to start on another expedition in a…
Alexander Craw, Superintendent of Entomology of the Board of Agriculture, made the following report on the cargo of cocoanuts recently brought here on the Lavinia by Capt. Weisbarth:
A local schooner, "Lavinia," brought a cargo of cocoanuts from…
To make his future home in the Gilbert Islands, which now claim a population of more than 45,000 people, Captain William J. Weisbarth, in a little two-masted schooner. is expecting to get away for the South Seas this afternoon. In addition to Mrs.…
Captain William Weisbarth, the hardy mariner, who left here on June 5 with his family and a crew of two Gilbert Islanders in the twenty-eight-foot ketch Teoti on a journey of nearly 3000 miles to the South Seas, arrived safely at Butaritorio in the…
Love of his wife and his wife's love of her home, the Gilbert's, originally sent Captain Weisbarth on the twenty-five hundred-mile journey. Teoti Weisbarth, the wife, was an islander, whose twenty-four years absence from her home had caused much…
- Captain William J Weisbarth