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Wreck of The SS. Cheviot., Te Aroha News, Volume V, Issue 228, 12 November 1887
Wreck of The SS. Cheviot.
Melbourne, September 21. The wreck of tho steamer Cheviot at Port, sea, which was briefly reported yesterday, was total, and disastrous to life. The Cheviot passed through the Heads on Wednesday evening at about 8 o'clock on her way to Sydney, while a heavy south west gale was bloAving, which deterred tho bteamer-i Wairovopa and Southern Cros3
•from leaving port. A a hour afterwards her propeller wqs carried away- by the sea or it dfOp'ped f<f otf fJei t*lB fJ 'f^wn^ l ose w*t>*of the* water, one account says, the engines "racced," and all the blades of the propeller were suddenly stripped off— and the vessel lay helpless^oiTa lee shore with so heavy a gale blowing that her anchors, which were let go to try and save her, were dragged, An attempt to handle the vessel under canvas also failed. She was tossed about helpltess upon the water, and in about an hour the steamer stranded, and soon parted "amidships. 'The" fore parfc broke up, and all the steerage passengers and most of the crew and officers, who were 'upon it, perished. A man managed to reach the shore, much cut and bruised by the rocks. The stern half of the vessel remained just upon the rock until daylight, when the Queenschff lifeboat crew, assisted by the artillery men at Point Nepean, and some men who were employed at the tort making pits ior the new guns, effected the rescue of the saloon passengers and captain by means of the life-saving apparatus brought fiom the lighthouse at Point Nepean. A rocket attached to a line was fired on boaid, which made it a comparatively easy matter to employ a haw&er to carry a "boatswain's chair" between the steamer "and the shore. The women were landed first, and then the male passengers were brought off. The captain, Kichaidson, was the last man to lea\e the ship. The shipwrecked people received every kindness at the PorUoa quarantine station, .which is close to the scene of the wreck, and after they had been attended to by Drs Browning and (Jiiliitha they weic sent on to Mel bourne. Thirty-five lived, chiefly those of sailor?, iirrmen, engineei, and stowage passengers, were lobt, and 24 were saved, 19 being got as-horc by the efforts of the lescuers. The shoie is thickly bti'ewn with wreckage and caigo from the ill-fated vessel. The caigo seems to have largely consisted of produce. This afternoon when the flood-tide leturned aciiin the stern part of the vessel, which still hold together resting on the rocks, was iircsifetibly swept by the south-west gale, w Inch continued with unabated force. The shin was
Pounded by Breakers on to a jaeged lecf, and was quickly split in two. Preparatory to going to pieces, she was for a time in two parts, and the company on the fore part were di\idcd by a •rult amidship from, the passengers. The captain was att. Both port-ions were kept above water by renting on the reef, but the hhip, after stranding broadside on, had drifted round -with her head to sea, so that the forecastle leceived the full force of the sea. She began to break up. The fore deck was acntinually being swept by bieakers, which, to some extent, broke their foice before they reached that part of the steamer. The sailois and steerage passengers weie locked in the deckhouse, and weie unable to vcntuie on deck for icar of being swept ovei board. They were unable, even had they reached the deck, to £jain the stem of the vessel, which was the- "safest portion. E^ery moment the fore half of the vessel was parting into fragments, and every moment approached nearer the inevitable, until one crowd, among whom where two women and a little girl, were tossed into the boiling abyss of suif, w Inch was grinding the broken vessel beneath their feet.
Terrible Suspense. The suspense, accoi cling to a survivor, was the eiucllebfc torture, but it extorted no unmanly cry. Even women behaved thomseh es with the utmost firmness. There were more than enough life-belts, but the passengers and sailors did not seek to obtain them while they were waiting for the end. The sailors were smoking and quietly discussing the chances of getting to shore alive ; and one of the women asked Fredeiick Campbell, the donkeyman, if she was sure to die. " I told her," said the man, "while there was life there was hope, ab I wished to cheer her, but my heart sank within me while I spoke." The poor woman's body was found stark and cold on the rocks at high water mark to-day, and she had no lifebelt on. Beside her was the corpse of an able-bodied sailor wearing a lifebelt. At last, after lingering in agony, those who were crowded in the fore-cabin knew the worst, and most of them were sacrificed, while their shipmates in sacbtein were reserved for further suspense and ultimate salvation. The stem had been breaking up piece by piece with every succeeding wave, and waves followed each other almost continuously. Then came the final catastiophe, and the battered wreck was lifted up and listed over before it difeappeared. There was a rush to open the door of the fore-cabin, behind which shelter had been sought from the pitiless foice of the tempest. The sailors leaped out to .make an attempt to reach the land, and some of them did so, while others, almost- within touch of land, were cmelly beaten to death by the wreckage and against jagged rocks. The passengers went down into the fore-cabin, and it is averred they were passive and unflinching.
A Half naked. Battered Lamp-trimmer named Calcrafb was the first to put himself out of the reach of the waves. He crawled up the cliff, and seeing the telegraph line, followed it to the fort at Port Nepean. The artillery men were poon groping their way down the rough mountain path leading to the scene of the wreck. One man was found clinging in the last stage of exhaustion to the edge of the rocks. He was lifted in a dying state on the shoulders of four gunners, who carried him to the barracks. Another heartbroken cry came from the island rock, which was soparated by only a few feet of water from the coast. Two sailors had been washed to this spot. They were told to be of good cheer until daylight, when they would be rescued. Meanwhile the efforts of the artillery men Avere devoted to any who came near the shore. Fires werelighted with the debris of the ship in order , to assist the survivors in their work. This also guided tho Queenscliff lifeboat crew, who were followed by their comi'ades in fishing: boats. All tlie crews could do wa& to search the coast ; but, the night being very dark, little could be seen. When daylight broke, the hull, which was seen indistinctly at first, soon stood out clearly enough from its surroundings to show there was a cluster of men and women on her quarter then.
The Life - Saving Apparatus. There was opportunity for the life saving apparatus to do good service, for the lifeboat could not go outside tho Heads in such weather, much Jess take people off with the hurricane which was blowing. The craft was dead on the lee shore, and the lifeboat could not have lived in such a sea for five minutes, so that her .crew must —as they hurriedly decided to do— work in another and bettei way, by throwing a me on board. The necessary appliances i were stored at Point Nep.ean, close I by, and the artillerymen and lifeboat crew promptly started to get the tackle. Within an hour the carriers returned with load, and their re-appearance gave the liveliest satisfaction to the devoted band clinging to the quarter, and who manifested their joy by a round of cheers. A great shout went up from the shore and from the ship simultaneously as the rocket was fired, for its ainr was true, and the line which ie
carried went right over the vessel sideways. The wind caught it as it fell and threw _it into the outstretched hands of the captain, who was the first man to lead in saving life. The captain hauled on the line until the hawser was aboard, and then he attached it firmly to the taflrail. Next was despatched to the vessel a cradle or boatswain's chair. When all preparations were complete, the captain placed in the chair an elderly lady, after which he held up his arms as a signal to haul, and the trawlers who, composed ..the lifeboat's crew, the gunners, and contractors' men waded deep into the surf, and hauled with a will. The distance of the ship was so great that it was impossible to support the hawser in the middle. The tirst effort, however, was successful. All the women were removed in the same way, each in order of seniority of years, their landing being cheered by the ship and by the refccuers on shore. Then folloAved the saloon passengers, whose places were determined by the captain, without the slightest scrambling upon the same basis of preferment as the ladies. After this followed such members of the ship'^coinpany as were present. The captain himself, when the cradle -was returning for the last time for him, went below and brought up a small case, supposed to contain his sextant, and then dropping into the chair, he was pulled hvwards amid quite as loud an ovation as it wa& possible to raise. The captain, sas\s an eyc-witne^p, was overcome ; he laiscd his hat and chopped his head, while a tear stole into his eye. Then, after shaking hands with eUch of his crew who were saved, he vent to whete one of the dead sailors was lying and looked sorrowfully at his face. He could not stand it, and hastily covering his features, he tinned away silently, deeply moved at the awful fright.
The Scene After the Wreck, By the time the captain— -who was the last man to leave the wreck—had come to land, and the work of lescue had bccii Micce-ssfuJly oonsumnmted, ib was broad daylight, and the havoc which the catastiophc had wrought stood fully disclosed. The beach was strewn thickly with pieces of e\ery portion of the woodwoik of the \essel and flot&am and jetsam of all kinds. Her cargo, bioken boats, broken spars, pieces of deck-houses, harne^s-cas-ks, life-buoys, and fragments of the ligging, &ails, stores, and cases alto hundreds of bags of chaft filled up the space between water at ebb tide and highwater mark. As soon as the task of saving the lhing had been achieved searchers, weio sent up" and clown the beach for a mile. They found — without much trouble in seaiching — corpses, upon which crushing against the rocks had wi ought tenible effect. They all had lifebelts on, and their staring eyes showed that thoy had not been drowned, but had been suddenly rendered unconscious by being diiven against the rocks, or being struck on the head' by wreckage while .swimming for land. The line about " the hhong swimmer in his agony " was strongly impressed upon the observer by the expression of the faces the position of the arms was that of a man endeavouring to gain the shoie, when suddenly his
Skull was Stove in by the Boiling Sea chiving liiin against the rocks, and the evprev-ion petriiied in death. The eyes were open and bloodt-hot, quite unlike the closed eyes and peaceful aspect oi persons who have sunk into insensibility by diowning. One man, whose arms weie extended inthe attitude of making a breast stroke, was naked to the waist, shou ing that he had cast off everything- likely to impede the fice action of his limbs in struggling for dear Life, while all the bodies v ere very sparsely clothed. The injmies, too, were all upon the head ; and that abrasions, if not fractures, of the skull, liofc and cheekbone were inflicted dm ing life was proved by the appearance ol the wounds. On the sand, on a little hillock, were the bodies of sx young &ea"man and an elderly woman placed lull length together. The man had on a lifebelt, and it was evident from Ms attitude that he had been a lusty swimmer, full of life and muscular energy, to reach the land. The last bodies found up to late in the afternoon «ere those of a young Mian (who had the figure of a woman gaudily tattooed on his left arm, and wore a silver ring on the marriage finger of the left hand) and that of a little girl about 5 years of age. All the bodies were conveyed to the Quarantine Station, and subsequently conveyed to Melbourne. The Cheviot was -valued by the owners at from £20,000 to £25,000, and was insured for only about £10,000. The value of the cargo was about £8,000, believed to bo almost entirely covered by insurance.
Wreck of The SS. Cheviot., Te Aroha News, Volume V, Issue 228, 12 November 1887
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