DESTRUCTION AT SEA BY FIRE OF THE " MAHOMED SHAH."
The following detailed account of this catastrophe is extracted from a private letter received in Geelong, and published in the Geelong Advertiser :—~
" We left Firlay on the 15th February, and everything went on pretty well until the 18th April last, when the vessel was discovered to be on fire in the fore hold. At about half-past five a.m. everything was instantly in confusion. The passengers rushed on deck in their night clothes, aroused from their sleep by the suffocating smoke ; and the scenes on
the decks were truly horrifying. For a few short minutes we attempted to extinguish the fire by pumping water down the hatches ; but it was evident that the fire had taken too firm a hold to be easily extinguished by such means, and no one could stand for two minutes together near the scuttles, as the smoke was pouring up in dense volumes. Nothing now was left but to batten down the hatches, and, by stopping up every hole and crevice through which air might be admitted, to smother the fire.
We were in about 13 deg. 46 mm. S. lat., and 118 deg. E. long. ; the nearest land to us was Cape Lewin, distant about 600 miles, and bearing due west. Happily we had the wind from the south, and we squared the yards and altered our course immediately for it, although we entertained very little hope of ever reaching it. As soon as daylight came, every eye was strained, as they anxiously scanned every point of the horizon, but in vain, for a sail. The passengers, thirty-one in number (including eleven children under seven years of age), now mustered on the poop, out of the cabin, to be ready for taking to the boats at any moment. The 'tween deck passengers, after rushing on deck naked upon, the first alarm, had not even time to go for their clothes, for the hatches were immediately battened down. The main staysail was unbent and thrown upon the fore scuttle, where the smoke prevailed the most, and the hatches were constantly kept wet. A look-out was kept at the masthead for ships, but none hove in sight. To add to our distress, we had no bread on deck, for the hatches were closed, and rice and water was all we had to eat. Evening was now coming on, and we now determined to draw lots to decide who should go in the different boats, of which we had four — the long-boat, gig, whale-boat, and life-boat. There were twenty-two for the longboat, fourteen for the whale-boat, eight for the gig, and six for the life-boat. There was such a sea running as to render it almost impossible for the boats to live should they attempt to leave the ship. About midnight the swinging-boom and the larboard gangway was cut away, so as to be ready to launch out the long-boat, should the foremast be cut away, which was our chief dread. We kept drawing and pumping water during the whole of the night, and at length day broke, but no sail hove in sight. At noon we were about 3C6 miles from the nearest land, but, from the appearance of the fire, we could not possibly hope to keep the ship until we made it. Upon pumping the ship during the afternoon a great quantity of oil was noticed amongst the water, and in the wake of the vessel a complete sleep was seen, as if oil or grease had been poured overboard.
At length, about half-past four o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, the joyful sound was heard from aloft of " sail ho !" and was repeated by every person on deck. The second officer, Mr. Robertson, sprung aloft with a telescope, and soon announced that it was a brig about ten miles to windward, and nearing. We immediately shaped our course so as to cross her bow, and hoisted our ensign at the main, union down, a signal of distress, and fired a gun, but the brig did not seem to notice us, until we fired a second, and then she bore down upon iis. We backed the main yard, and she passed under our stern. Our captain hailed her, and, upon learning our condition, &he promised to take on board the passengers at once, and to lay by us all night. We immediately took them on board in the whale-boat, excepting two or three who were to remain until the morning. The brig proved to be the Ellen, of London, Captain S. Paddon, from the Mauritius to Hobart Town. The smoke now began to come up from the hatches worse than ever, and we were nearly all suffocated. The cook was taken out of the galley apparently dead, and it was a long time before he was restored to consciousness. We still hoped to hold on until daylight, when about halfpast 4 a.m., the carpenter sang out that the fore rigging looked very slack, and immediately after that the foremast was settling down.
"We immediately burned blue lights to attract the attention of the brig, but in the confusion all had lost sight of her, and the cry was, " Where is the brig ?" It was an awful moment, but at length the brig's light was seen on the lee quarter. We all hurried into the boats, and at length the gig, with 10 men in it, got clear of the ship ; and the next was the whale-boat, with thirteen, in which were Henry M'Dougall and myself; and last of all, the life-boat, with captain and five others. We, in the whale-boat, pulled for about three-quarters of an hour in a very heavy sea, until we reached the brig, when it was near half an hour before, we could get alongside, a work of great danger, as the sea was very high. At length we all got safe on board the brig as daylight began to dawn, and offered up heart-felt thanks to God for our preservation. All were uninjured except Henry M'Dougall, who, in overhauling the davit tackle fall, in lowering the boat, had the tips of two of his fingers on his right hand completely smashed, by being jammed in the filock. We were placed upon an allowance of 1 lb. of bread and a pint and a. half of water, with a little rice and pork. This was the 21st of April, and afier a long passage of sixteen clays, we anchored in liobart Town on the 6th of may, thankful to God for preserving our lives. The passengers were taken to the emigration depot, and the others were turned on shore friendless and penniless, in a strange place, with nothing belonging to them but what they had on their backs."
The following are the names of the parties who have been landed in Hobart Town from the Mahomed Shah .—Passengers— Mr. and Mrs. Jeffries, Mr. and Mrs. Hall and three children, Messrs. Herbert, Oswald, Custis, Smith, Halland, Mrs. Wheeldon, sen., Mr. and Mrs. Wheeldon, jun., Mrs." Roddy, Mr. and Mrs. Powell and seven children, Mr. and Mrs. Challis and one child, Mary Knowler, Mr. Drummond, Ann Williams; W. Winter, master; Dr.. H. Schenk, surgeon ; Thomas Burgess, Ist mate; Thomas Robertson, 2nd mate, and 23 seamen. It is stated that Lady Denison, with her ac customed liberality, has largely contributed to the assistance of the crew and passengers of the above ill-fated vessel, great quantities of clothing, &c, having been forwarded for their use from the Governor's house.
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