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WRECK OF THE SHIP BRITISH ADMIRAL.

The followiog particulars of the . wreck of this ship are compiled from the Melbourne papers : — After leaving the Mersey, heavy weather from the eastward was experienced until ths ship was clear of land, and a smart run was made to the latitude of Madeira. The N.E. trades were shortly afterwards fallen io witb, and were carried well to the southward, the S.E. trades being picked up about 2deg. north. These trade winds were also favorable, and the ship made such a good course, that great anticipations were indulged in of making a rapid passage out. After losing the S.E. trades, however, some dirty wbatber was experienced until after passing the meridian of the Cape of Good Hope. Captain Taylor evidently did not intend to run his eaßting down iv a very high latitude, as he kept well to the northward, and at the time of year necessarily met with some heavy weather. He was compelled to heave the ship to when off St. Paul's Island, and during this time she shipped some very heavy seas which somewhat disturbed the chronometers. That was the impression of Captain Taylor, who during the voyage made observations at every possible opportunity in order to correct the chronometers. For some days before the wreck the weather was too thick to take a meridian observation, and it may therefore be surmiseJ that Cuptain Taylor was unable to get the exact latitude of the vessel, a„d, being somewhat to the southward of his reckoning, brought his ship in too close a proximity to King's Island. There is no doubt, however, that he thought he had plenty of seaway in front of him, as on Friday, May 22ud, when tbe first watch was called, from 8 p.m. to midnight, tbe ship was running under two lower topsails, reefed foresail, fcretopmast staysail, and main staysail, the wind being on tbe stai board quarter and the course somewhat northward of east. The second officer, Mr Chas. H. Baker, had the first watch on the night of Friday, May 220 d, and when he first took charge of the deck the ship was making about Bis knots nn hour. When the watch was called at midnight the chief officer took charge of tbe deck, and an able seaman named Joseph Cunningham went on the forecastle as a look-out, and a man was also sent up occasionally to the topsail yard to look out for the land. Nothing was Been up to 2 a.m., when William Smith went to the wheel. About half an hour afterwards the chief officer, who was looking over the lee-side, saw the loom of land ahead. He at once called all hands, ordered tbe watch to "haul out the spanker," and put the helm down to bring her round, Tbe ship came quickly round before the spanker was set, and the mainsail and mizentopsail, together with the jib aud maintopmast staysail, were at once put on her in order to claw her off the land. She had not been standing on her now course five minufes when the look-out man eang out, " Breakers ahead." The captain was by this time on deck, but before he could give any orders the ship Btruck heavily, and for a few minutes it was expected tbat the masts would go by the board. Up to this time the passengers had been totally unacquainted with any possibility of danger, but the severe shock of the ship striking brought them rushing on deck, and a most heartrending scene occurred. There were several women on boird, together with many young girls, and the screams and prayers for rescue from these were appalling. The women and children had congregated on the poop, and were clinging to the.roizen rigging within a few minutes of the ship striking. The captain and mate at once gave orders to '• Clear away the boats." Mr Baker (the chief officer) at the same time ran towards tbe cabin for the purpose of getting an axe in order to cut away the masts. Tbe third mate (Mr M'Ewan), who had been confined to his cabin for a fortnight with fever, hearing the shock, rushed on deck, and, seeing the land close to, seized some clothing and took his station on the quarter-deck. Tbe carpenter bad sounded the pumps, and was reporting to the captain at the time the men were clearing away the boats. There was no hurry or confusion, but, according to orders, the starboard -watch went to the forward boats, the port watch clearing away the after boats. The forward boats were secured on the top of the house on deck, and the first attempt was made to cast loose the gig. The first and third mates, together with several seamen, cut the lashings loose and tried to launch the boat, but as the ship rolled heavily at the time the gig fell between the bulwarks and the bouse on deck, and was smashed. At the same moment a heavy sea swept across the 'midships of the vessel, and the chief officer, together with several seamen, were drowned. The third officer, seeing the sea coming, made a run for the fore-rigging, and with a couple of seamen who followed his example, made their escape. The next sea that came on board swept away the mizenmast, and with it tbe crowd of passengers who had taken to the poop and were clinging to the mizen rigging. Heavy seas continued to sweep across the ill-fated vessel, and a few minutes afterwards the mainmast went over the side. The effect of the heavy sea now began to tell, as the decks showed signs of bursting, and soon those individuals who were clinging on the forerigging found themselves washed away by a heavy sea that nearly swamped them; they had scarcely relieved them-

selves from this sea when the ship slipped off the rock and went into deep water. The third mate and somo others i managed to secure some timber which had floalel out. of the'hold, and made < towards t.<e shore. Thiß was a matter . of difficulty, but, trusting to tho tide and current, they manag.d, after con- j siderablc bruising and knocking nbout among the rocks, to secure a footing on dry land. As they found thoy bad timber, and that some pto,visions aud cargo bad been floated ashoro, they managed to provide some nccommoda- ■ tion for themselves. A cask of spirits was washed ashore, and this was found most useful. The sufferings of the survivors were very groat. Tho weather was bitterly cold on the morning of tho wreck, nnd during tbe hour and a half tbat tbey were holding on to the rigging before the ship went down.' besides tbe piercing blasts of the gale, wbicb nearly blew them from their hold, heavy showers of hail fell at intervals, causing them considerable pain. Then they were, tbey reckon, at least two hours in the water after the vessel sunk before they reached tbe shore in nn exhausted condition, by which time it was broad daylight. It was not until Sunday morning that they were sufficently recovered to be able to look to their comfort, and they then made a tent out of some bolts of calico which had been washed ashore from the wreck, which by this time bad been considerably broken up, and gathered some biscuit soaked in salt • water, upon which tbey hnd to subsist until the following day. Tbeir streuqth having by this time returned to them to a certain extent, they wandered down the beach in search of assistance, and fortunately met a party of hunters, who brought to tbe nearly starving sufferers their stock of provisions, nnd shared it with tbem. One of the seamen was somewhat injured by having been dashed against the rocks, and one of the hunters named Waite took him to his house, and attended him as he best, could with the limited rapans at his command. "Waite then proceeded to the yellow rock, a (ow miles from the scene of the shipwreck, where he knew "the fishing party belonging to the ketch Kangaroo were plying their occupation, and asked their aid. On the Thursday, the survivors, accompanied by two of tbe hunters, proceeded along the coast to see if they could find nny of their previous comrades. Most of the bodies were frightfully mutilated, baying been pecked almost to pieces by the seabirds. In eveiy case the eyes had been pecked out, nnd the head was almost completely severed from one of- the bodies. Yesterday being the ninth day from the date of the wreck, the remaining bodies of the drowned would rise to tbe surface, but it is not probable tbat any will he found, as sharks abound among tbe reefs about King's Island. Mr M'Ewan, the third officer, informs us that during the voyage out tbe ship, when off the Cape of Good Hope, was struck by a stupendous sea on tbe starboard quarter, and be beard the captain subsequently say that " that sea had put the chronometers wrong." No light was seen on King's Island. The cargo consisted of spirits, tobacco, timber, and general merchandise, and there was also on board a large quantity of railway iron and machinery. A number of cases of rum, brandy, beer, provisions, and general merchandise were washed ashore, but by the action of the surf were rapidly covered with sand. The survivors were unable to recover any of their effects, and they landed in Melbourne without a second suit of clothes, and penniless. The third officer remarked, " From what the hunters told us, I hope this wreck will be the means of a lighthouse being placed on that part of the island." Among tbe things washed ashore was the box containing the ship's papers, which were brought in, and are now in the custody of the Customs authorities. It appears that Captain Taylor had never sailed to this coast before. This was his first voyage to Australia, and various opinions are expressed by old masters of vessels as to how he got into the position he was in when his vessel was wrecked. Some aver that it must have been from a want of knowledge of. the coast, while others contend that he muß. have beeu careless. The latter supposition, however, holds no ground in the face of the statements of the surviving members of the crew, including his third officer, who all say that he was a very careful commander, and was on deck, a great deal oftener than was absolutely necessary.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NEM18740618.2.8

Bibliographic details

Nelson Evening Mail, Nelson Evening Mail, Volume IX, Issue 144, 18 June 1874

Word Count
1,768

WRECK OF THE SHIP BRITISH ADMIRAL. Nelson Evening Mail, Volume IX, Issue 144, 18 June 1874

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