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A SAD AFFAIR.

A well-known wool-buyer of Melbourne has written to his friends in that city a graphic account of the fatality on board the Alameda on her last voyage to San Francisco. Mr Adolph Durlach, of Melbourne, was a passenger from Sydney to San Francisco. For seveial years he had been employed as wool-buyer and valuer with Messrs Dalgety and Co., Limited. Early in the present year, however, deceased had entered into a partnership with Messrs Frederick Betz and Co.. and he left Sydney in March last by the s.s. Alameda to visit America and Europe with a view to seeing constituents and extending the business of the firm. The letter says : Honolulu, April 6, 1889.

My Dear H.,—We arrived here this morning at 7 a.m., after a rough sea voyage, which will be memorable to us all on account of melancholy events that have transpired since we left Auckland. . An event happened the night before last, Thursday, the 4th, which has affected all of us, and G and myself especially with a sadness, deeper and keener. We lost overboard, without the slightest warning, and in the twinkling of an eye, our personal friend, Durlach, When we reach San Francisco a cable message will be despatched by the purser of the Alameda to Fred. Betz and Co., of Sydney, announcing the lamentable occurrence; aud the mail steamer Zealandia, leaving here next week, will carry you this letter giving such details of the fatal accident as many of the deceased's friends in the colonies will be glad to learn. On Thursday, as on several previous days, a stiff head wind caused our lightly-freighted steamer to roll badly, though we shipped little or any sea. In the evening the wind blew colder and harder. Durlach, G , Dr S , and I were in the habit of playing whist every evening from eight to half-past nine, and we had our usual rubber on the evening of this eventful day, Durlach and I being partners. The port-holes of the saloon being closed on account of the heavy sea, the heat was so oppressive that we ceased playing rather earlier than usual, it being about a quarterpast nine when we left the table. On rising Durlach got into conversation with Mr S . G and I proceeded to our respective cabins on deck. I had been reading for fully half an hour when I was startled and alarmed at two minutes to ten with cries of " Man overboard ! Man overboard !" and, as it was the first time I had heard this cry on any steamer, I felt a peculiar stupefying thrill run through my brain. I was up from my chair in an instant, and immediately ascertained that the passenger belonged to the saloon. G met me in about a minute, and asked me excitedly if I had heard who had been lost. I said " No." " They tell me it is Durhch," he replied, but neither of us could realise this as the truth. We were shocked and stunned. On further inquiries, anxiously made, we found our information too true. In the meantime there were great commotion and excitement on deck, and a hundred passengers were gazing eagerly over the bulwarks on to the black, wild sea, trying hard to discern in the deep darkness trace of our missing friend. Captain Morse, a very intelligent seaman, was on board the bridge within a few seconds after tho alarm had been given, and jnst a minute had elapsed when the steamer's engines were stopped. As quickly as possible they were reversed, and we proceeded full speed astern. An ordinary buoy had been thrown out without loss of time in close proximity to the scene of the disaster ; but the night was dark, the now moon had gone down, the wind was high and the sea was running heavily, and the chances of rescuing poor Durlach were meagre in the extreme. In from twelve to fifteen minutes wo were back on the spot where the sad event occurred. A boat was lowered ; many eyes peered iuto tho waste of waters, and ears wero stretched to catch the faintest sound, but no indication whatever was given to anyone of the presence of our lost friend. We hovered about the place with restless hearts and bated breath for half an hour, without receiving the slightest hope or encouragement of Deing able to make a rescue. We had tho melancholy satisfaction, however, of picking up the buoy thrown into the sea when the alarm was first given. In forty minutes from the time the earnest cry " Man overboard " was first heard, our captain, giving up all idea of saving his unfortunate passenger, who, he was persuaded, already lay asleep in a watery grave, proceeded on hia course, leaving poor Durlach to the cold care of the winds and waves. Never in my life have I experienced such an unsatisfactory and distressing feeling as when, on our way again, we could only guess the nature of the sorrowful end of our genial and kindhearted friend.

I have been able since the event to gather full particulars regarding the cause of the accident. Shortly before ten o'clock Durlach came on deck. He had his ulster on his arm. On ooming out of the companion door from the music saloon on the port and leeward side he saw a rug lying on a chair just vacated by a lady, who had gone downstairs. He lifted the rng with the intention of carrying it after the lady, and wound it round his hands in the form of a muff. The ship at the moment gave a fearful lurch, which threw him off his balance, and slipping on the slimy deck he slid on his thick indiarubber shoes hastily down the incline caused by the heavy roll straight against the bulwarks, which caught him right in the pit of the stomach, and tilted him overboard in the form of a somersault, to the great horror and distress of the five or six passengers near him, who witnessed the tragic and calamitous affair. Descending into the sea head foremost, with his feet high in the air, was the last teen of poor Durlach. He uttered no cry, and was never heard of more.

Everything, I think, was done that the ship could do to recover our friend, but the saving appliances were, as I take it, lamentably deficient. It ia no wonder that our efficient commander, with such tools to work with, was able to do nothing. There was no buoy with a light attached, which burns brightly on touching the water, to throw over. A common round buoy was all that could be got, and there was scarcely a chance in a hundred of the poor fellow seeing anything of this kind in the darkness. But the worst feature of the occurrence is the fact that the bulwarks are only 3ft high, or barely that. Had they been of the height that we usually find on the P. andO., Orient, or Atlantic liners, there is scarcely a doubt in my mind, and that of nearly everyone on board, that this sad accident would never have taken place, The slippery state of the decks had also a good deal to do with the poor fellow losing his balance with the swing of the ship. The opinion is pretty general that he never rose again out of the trough of the sea. The accident occurred over the lee rail, just abaft tho fore rigging, and if he eame to the surface immediately there is a strong likelihood that he mu3t have been drawn in astern by the displacement of water at the Bcrew. He may have struck bis head againßt the side of the ship, and as an iron port-hole was open almost in a line with where he fell over, he might have come in contact with this, and been hurt insensibly. But everything is pure conjecture. All our passengers, and particularly those of us who knew him so well, are deeply moved at the sudden and mournful end of Durlach. The fact that he was starting on a new oareer, which promised to be successful, adds a deeper shade of sadness to the sorrowful occurrence.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890520.2.29

Bibliographic details

A SAD AFFAIR., Issue 7911, 20 May 1889

Word Count
1,379

A SAD AFFAIR. Issue 7911, 20 May 1889

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