THE PRESIDENT FELIX FAURE.
WRECKED AT ANTIPODES ISLANDS.
&XTY DAYS ON AN ISLAND.
DJx Tkkgbaph Spkoial to The Post.]
CHRISTCHURCH, This Day. H.M.S. Pegasus^ which arrived at Lyttelton yesterday afternoon from a cruiso in the Southern Seas, brought a tale of the sea and incidents, not as thrilling, perhaps, as those of the wreck of the Dundonald at the Auckland Islands last year, but a wonderful story of the lives led by .some French sailors for sixty days on an island far Removed, from civilisation, and of 'their rescue, by the British sailors on board tfhe Pegasus. There was the entire ship's company, twenty-two all told, ,of the French fourmasted barque President Felix FaUre, .which, on the Voyage from New Caledonia to Havre, was, wrecked N dn the Antipodes Island lying about 460 miles south of New Zealand, on 13th March. They were driven out of their .course, and reached far , southern latitudes, where gales, fogs, a\id all kinds of bacj iVeather were more the rule than the ex-
ception. They were taken on board the Pegasus, where Captain Noel, master of < the wrecked, vessel, reported himself to. Captain Quayle, of the Pegasus, and gavean account of the wreck. The staff-sur-geon of the man-of-war was sent with the landing party, as it was thought there might be cases of accident and
sickness/ but his services were not need-, cd. No lives were- lost, and although the men suffered severe hardships, and provisions were very short, little sickness was noticeable amongst them. They ■bore signs of the hard life they had led, but when they were given warm clothing and good food all soon pulled round, ana the whole company was in excellent health and spirits .when, the pegasus reached Lyttejton yesterday 4 aitornoon! '
THE CAPTAIN'S STORY.
Captain Noel, who is a well-builf/ handsome man, about twenty-eight or, thirty years of age, with a fair, welli .trimmed beard 1 , has a good knowledge of 'English, and 'iie was ab|e to supply your reporter with an interesting' and graphic account of the wreck, of the men's tryr ing," experiences on- the island, and the rescue. As for the manner of the wreck, he said : "Well, it's just like any wreck that -any sailor might experience in perhaps any part of the world, only for the weather. Oh ! that is terrible down there— rain, fog, and wind; rain^ fog, and wind all day and every /day. We were wet all the time-^-that was perhaps the worst part of it. The island seems to never have good Veatheir. The sun seldom shir.es brightly there, and ittiere seems to be hardly any warmth in ~its rays. , '"'"When we left Puemboiit, New donia, we had bad weather, and it . clung to us nearly all the time. We 1m!tended to pass north of New Zealand, but strong winds drove us south. On 13th March the weather was exceptionally, bad. I found myself about seven Or ten miles south of the Antipodes. ■ , "In the afternoon, in a fog and thick ' weather. I suddenly saw breakers on the starboard side. I kept up, and was driven to north of the island, and then saW breakers everywhere. I J tried* to ,wearthe ship, and cleared the first capq, hut did not succeed in clearing the secnod, and the ship struck on the rocks, with cliffs rising up to the height of about 800 feet sheen out of water., PROVISIONING ,THE° LIFEBOAT
"I got provisions jntoVthe lifeboat and launched it, and all got into it-<-twenty-two of us, all' told. We "pulled for .the shore,, but the breakers wete running high, and we were' all thrown into thei water, and had to get ashore the best? way we , could. Fortunately all the mon landed without any -mishap. The boat was smashed into' a thousand pieces, and all our stores and, everything we possessed except what we stood up in were lost. The ntght was coming ou, but some of us went up the hill/ whioh yose in front of us, and on the other side m the hollow we wer,e overjoyed to " see a hut,, .which Avas^ afterwards 1 -found to be a provision! depot established by the New Zealand Government. . ' "We a! 2' reached the - hut the, same evening, but it'jjs built for about half a dozen- men only,, and there were twenty-two of us. We were exceedingly glad, however, to take advantage of the shelter it ilfforded, and' by "stack-ing-up' ' were able . to squeeze ourselves in. That is how we spent our first nieht . on^ the island."
- THE DAY AFTER. With the dawn next day all the men went about. Matches were obtained and a fire was lighted, and an attempt made to make the best of the circumstances. The food, in the hut was taken out and apportioned. It did not go far, however. The tinned meat was soon consumed, and the other provisions vanished very quickly. v It was- not, long, therefpre, before the hungry men had to seek other articles ' of food. These were found in the birds on the island. The albatrosses came first. They were nesting, .and as there . were thousands of them close to the " depot, there was no difficulty in killing the birds, which were knocked on the head with a stick. Their flesh was far from tasty, and Captain Noel states that it not veVjr nourishing. After the albatrosses came the penguins. Their numbers were, countless, and the food supplies • they dfferejd were . absolutely unlimited. On One day, however, Good Friday, it is stated- the birds deserted the place — in the evening there were sufficient to feed a regiment; on the following morning not one was left, and that source of supply was cut off, to the men's deep disappointment. FISHING UNDER, DIFFICULTIES. A good deal of fishing was done. Fishhooks were made rather ingeniously out of nails found in the depot. They were bent in the recognised form, and the points were sharpened by a file whioh
was amongst the toola found in the depot. Kelp, which clings ell round the •hoie of the island, however, interfered greatly with fishing operations, And as the men had no boat, and no means of
making one, or even a raft, they could not go outside the ridge of the kelp. Fishing operations, therefore, were not ■o successful as might be desired. The root of a low-growing plant that grows on the island was dug up and prepared, but found to be stringy and unnutritious. The sailors therefore had to keep mainly to birds for their principal supplies of food. Both albatrosses and' penguins were very unsavoury far A , but the young albatrosses were rather tender and t-asty.
A FORTUNATE DISCOVERY.
On one occasion a discovery was made that gladdened all hearts. In roaming over the isiand tracks of cattle were found. Some years ago the Hinemoai placed on the islands a bull ac<? a cow. There was a calf, and! this was ought, Jailed and eaten. It was a large animal at the time of the wreck, ondF afforded* splendid beef. Both bull and cow had died, and their skeletons 'were found. Some sheep had *]co been placed on the island, but none were seen, although a few skeletons
were discovered. It is supposed that all died. The skin of the cow killed was used for mending the men's boots, which , were then badly needing repairs. On a few occasions' some of the parakeets on the island were killed and eaten. The sailors, of course, did not know then that this was forbidden food. They say that in any case it was excellent.
No jags were se«m', and no seals put in an a,ppeanance.
EJECTION OF SHELTER.
The cold winds and! general bleakness of the. climate' were the most dreaded enemies. Clothing was scarce, and there were, only a few blankets to help to keep them, warm at niglit. As soon as possible two additional huts were erected at the side of the depot. They were made of branches of koromiko — a plant which grows in a strong but stunted form on the island — and peat, and with tussock grass, bub drenching rain soaked through the roofs and dripped into the interiors, making the little huts anything taut \ desirable residences even in summer. There is no large timber, on the island. The stunted trees are almost useless- for anything in the. way of building operations. The men kept themselves as warm as possible by moving about. A fire was kept alight for a long time, but much difficulty was experienced in obtaining dry wood for iuel, and after a time fcho fire was allowed, to go out, being lighted again by the supply of matches.
Later on some rough carpentering was done, and benches run round t^e Government hut like bunks, to give additional sleeping accommodation.
The men passed 1 the days as cheerfully as they could. Captain , Noel himself found somo amusement in the literature left in the depot. This, of course, was of use to only a few. One of the men cannot speak English, but can read. it. The literature consisted) principally of copies of The "King,, the Army and Navy, and The . Strand! and other magazines.
Much time was spent in catching and preparing birds and\ fishing, attending to the fire, and so on. At first the birds, notably the parrakeet, were very tame, but' they sodn learnt that their Visitors' room was better than their company." The first week they were as tame as possible." Captain Noel says. "The second week * they seemed to be frightened, the third week they shunned us, and «. the fourth week we had some trouble in getting them." '' , WINGED MESSENGERS. "One of the favourite methods of passing time was to send out "messengers," as ;thß men called them, to the outside- world, telling briefly the story of tho shipwreck. They used the quills of albatrosses as receptacles for the, messages giving the name of the vessel and the fact that she had been wrecked. Large numbers of these "messengers" were liberated, and were watched as they flew away from the island carrying with them tho> hopes of the men that they would be captured on some vessel where the messages could be read. Day after da/- went by, and the mens', hopes odE rescue became- less. They kept a keen look-out, but it was not, with the. same hope as at first, and there came a time when they were almost indifferent. THE RESCUE VESSEL ARRIVES.
"It was about eleven, o'clock in the morning' when the Pegasus came in sight. The man-of-war sighted the island at 8.30. A firo had been kept alight all that night, and smoke was seen by those on boardj The wrecked sailors saw her in the distance, evidently ' bearing down upon the island ; then the seemed to change her course; 'She is net- coming — she is going away from us," i.liey said ; and their hopes changed to bitter disappointment. Then she came closo, a boat was lowered, and came- through breakers with some difficulty ; and then the sailors , were taken on bo*ard. "It is hard for me to express my feelings at that time," Captain Noel said. "1 had become resigned to our position, and believe that 1 was actually indifferent. Ifc was not until I was standing on the deck pi the Pegasus that I fully realised that I. had been rescued, and would leave behind for ever that rough little island, with its gales and rain and inclement, inhospitable climate." ' Captain Noel says he is indebted to the New Zealand Government for the use of the depot and its provisions, and is deeply grateful to Captain Quayle and the officers of tha Pegasus for their splendid hospitality.
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CASTAWAYS RESCUED, Evening Post, Volume LXXV, Issue LXXV, 16 May 1908
CASTAWAYS RESCUED Evening Post, Volume LXXV, Issue LXXV, 16 May 1908
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