A MYSTERIOUS SHIPWRECK AND A BRAVE CAPTAIN.
(From the Wellington Evening Post. }
The wreck of the Bombay-India Steam Navigation Company's s.s. Vingorla, briefly reported in our cable news, appears to have been one of the most mysterious on record, and certainly not one - of the least exciting. As already reported, it resulted in the drowning of the commander (Captain Stuart), Mr. J. Byrne (chief engineer), Mr. 0. Knight (third engineer), Mr. G. Mowbray (clerk), and 59 native passengers. Among those on board, but who fortunately e-caped, was Mr. H. Cloefce, civil engineer, husband of a lady living at the Hutt, and an interesting narrative of the occurrence furnished by that gentleman appears in the Times of India,. From the account in this journal, it appears that the vessel was only built in 1875, and had been overhauled only two months previous to the wreck. She started from Bombay for Kurrachee on Saturday, 29th February, with eight firstclass, eight second-class, and 9u deck passengers on board. The weather was exceptionally fine, and all went well until about half-past 10 o’clock, when the officer on watch noticed that she did not obey her rudder. It was then discovered, on opening the main hatch that the water was within five feet of the main deck. There had been no shock and no collision, and how this happened will probably always remain a mystery, the nautical court of inquiry being unable to throw any light, on the matter. Boats were lowered as soon as possible. The ladies and some of the male passengers, including Mr. Cloete, wei’O placed in the mail boat. Although the captain’s wife was among the lady passengers, with her child, the brave officer never left his post, but bidding her a hurried farewell placed her in charge of a junior officer. One of the other boats was “ rushed ” by a number of native passengers, as it hung in the davits, and broke in two, all the passengers except one dropping into the sea. A number of other natives, helpless with terror, lay on the deck and could not he persuaded to move. Captain Stuart ordered a quantity of loose timber to be thrown overboard so as to give them a chance of safety, and then seeing the peril in which the ship was placed, and determined not to quit her so long as there was a soul on board, shouted to the boat in which his wife and child were to stand off, the others being already free of the vessel. They last saw him on the gangway burning a blue light. The last thing I saw,” says Mrs. Stuart, in her affecting narrative of the occurrence, “ was his hand holding out the rocket. I only saw the hand, and could not see the face. I don’t think the vessel was one minute going down. The bow dipped, with the screw out of the water; there was a loud hissing sound, and it seemed that in less than a minute she was gone, and I Saw nothing more.” Other spectators say that in addition there was a “ low moan” from the native passengers as the vessel plunged head-first into the water. As' the Times of India justly observes, the picture of the heroic captain .standing at his post to the last is as grand as anything in the history of the merchant navy. With the capt iin, as we ha ,r e said, perished the clerk and the three engineers, who remained working below in the engineroom till the last. Four only of those on the vessel when she went down were savoi, though of these the men in the boats knew nothing. The chief officer and two native passengers, after drifting about on spars till twilight on Sunday, were rescued by a passing steamer, and returned to their sorrowing friends like men from the grave. A third native actually floated till Sunday midnight, and startled another passing steamer by his cries through the gloom, and was rescued. The passengers in the boats suffered great hardships from the broiling sun, but were rescued after about 16 hours at sea by a passing steamer. Altogether, the narrative which the survivors had to tell was one of the most thrilling in the annals of shipwrecks, and there is not an Englishman in any part of the world but will feel his pulse stirred as he reads of the heroism of Captain Stuart, of the steamer ‘Vingorla.
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