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HEROIC SEAMEN.

.«. The following extract is from a Liverpool paper, the name of which has unfortunately been omitted in tbe " slip " sent to us. The committee of Shipwreck and Humane Society-met on Friday, when the society's gold medal and a vote of thanks on vellum were presented to Capt. Frederick Williams, master of tho ship Sam Cearns, and late chief officer of the ship Blue Jacket, for his great humanity in remaining by the ship Knight Errant when the latter vessel was in a disabled and sinking condition in a heavy gale off Cape Horn on the 22nd June last. Captain Williams returned thanks on behalf of himself and his crew, who were unfortunately not present. It will be remembered that on the above occasion Mr Edwin J. Wright, mate of the Sam Cearns, together with William Dawson, a seaman, were drowned through the capsizing of the boat after they had made three successful trips to the Knight Errant and brought off twenty-four of the crew. The society have presented to the widow of Mr Wright a testimonial commemorative of her husband's heroism, an annuity of £10 for five years, and a gift of £20. A subscription has been raised for the benefit of Mrs Wright, and we are de-

sired to state that Mr Robert Simpson, tho secretary of the society, will be most happy to receive any contributions. The society has also awarded to each of the crew of the boat a silver medal and a sum of £5. Captain Williams, well known to many in Canterbury from his connection with the Blue Jacket, and very highly respected for his many good qualities, tells the story briefly alluded to above in the following letter to a gentleman now in this province : — 1 Princes Terrace, Birkenhead, Oct. 15, 1871. My Dear , — As the letter that Capt. White was bringing to you was returned to me, I write this so that you will receive it on your arrival in New Zealand, which I hope you will, after a prosperous . and a pleasant passage, without any of the misfortunes that attended me. However, I must not complain as I have not done so badly ; and no blame can be attached to me, as I lost my own ship assisting another ship that was on the point of foundering. As you will not have heard the particulars, I will spin you the yarn from the commencement of my voyage. Four days out from Liverpool smallpox broke out in the ship, and I had that to fight against for 30 days ; from that to the River Plate all went well, until I fell in with a most violent gale of i wind with terrific squalls, during one of which I the cargo (coals) shifted, laying the ship 'on j her beam ends. My crew got so scared that I they would do nothmg unless I promised to rUOi'the ship back to Rio % and I had no alterI native but to cut the canvas from the yards, j leaving enough aft to heave the ship to ; howi ever, after being for two days in a state of mutiny, I persuaded them to return to their duty, and trim the ship up right, which took three days more. You may f ancy how pleased I felt at this; however, I got over this also, and got the ship in trim for bad weather I bending all new sails, and sending down light | spars, I rounded Statenland all right on June 20, and was blazing away round the Horn, ' thinking luck had turned. So it had with a | vengeance. On the 22nd„,at noon, I sighted a I large ship to leeward, the *wind at S. — strong : gale ; she looked very strange, and had no i sail set, but a large flag at the main. I conI eluded he wanted help, and therefore put my helm up, and ran down to - hira ; he ran up the signal : "We want to quit the ship, but our boats are all gone— ship foundering." I at once shortened sail, and ran my ship close past his stern. 1 then saw he was in a very bad way, his decks completely swept, bulwarks, boats, deck-houses, and poop ; his wheel gone, and all his lower and top-sail yards. I hailed him, saying, " All right old man, I will stand by you, and send my lifeboat for you." There was a very heavy sea running, and as it was a very dangerous and difficult job, I asked for volunteers ; five men and the mate jumped out, and all hands set to work to get the life-boat off the skids and over the side. You can fancy the sea that was running when I tell you that just as the boat was being run up to the main-yard a sea broke aboard, although the ship was hove-to with two lower top-sails, and smashed her all to pieces, and washed all hands aft. It was I now dark and snowing hard ; however, I J would not give it up, but turned up another boat, and hoisted her up from the skids to the main-yard, the crew that were going in her coming down tho tackle from the yard to the | boat. I then watched a good time, lowered her quick, and cut away everything, and I they got her clear of the ship safely. [ The other ship, the Knight Errant was her name, had by this time drifted a long way, and I had to wear ship. You may think how anxious I felt for the safety of 'my boat and men. The wind had now increased to a furious gale, and I at one time never thought to see the boat again, but after two anxious hours we heard them hail and saw the Knight Errant looming through tho snow, and the boat soon came alongside with seven men from the other ship. I had now to make sail to get away, as the two ships were drawing together. My mate said ho would l'cturn again, and he did so, bringiug off seven more, this he repeated three times, fetching off 24 men and officers. I do not believe such a thing has ever been done before. He had now one more trip to make to bring all on board my ship. He went again, and came alongside safely, bringing the captain of the Knight Errant; the boat rose high on the top of the sea and fell heavily, as she rose again the captain thought she would founder, and made a jump out of her to catch tho fore brace ; he missed it and fell overboard, the boat sheered to, at the same time the ship made a heavy roll to leeward right on to the boat, smashing her to pieces, killing and drowning seven out of the eleven that were in her. My poor mate being one of tho killed, and the captain of the other ship. We could only save four, and in tho darkness with tho sea and wind it was almost a miracle theso were saved. I had now only one more boat ; wo hove everything over the side that was possible, thinking that perhaps some one might get hold and float until the other boat could be got out. She had to be patched with lead, having been broken by tho sea. You may fancy how everyone worked to get this done, although everyone was almost fagged out. In about two hours she was hoisted over the side, and once more went on a journey that was almost too much to expect anyone to go. I did not like to 4 leave the place while a hope remained of finding anyone. They pulled all round the Bhip in every direction for miles, but without success. One poor fellow was found laying across a piece of wood dead ; that was all we ever saw of our {)oor shipmates, who risked and lost their ives in saving brother sailors ; they saved 24. On the return of tho boat wo had a job to get them on board, and had to cut the boat adrift, j I could do no more, and proceeded on my voyage with a heavy heart ; I could neither sleep nor rest. The weather now was fearful, sweeping the decks fore and aft of everything, and washing both compasses off the poop in a furious squall, the like of which I never saw. The cargo again fetched away, although I had only two lower topsails and main spencer set ; the ship went over until the lee rail was under.

It was now a case of wear ship or founder. I had to make sail to do this. The foresail was loosed and partly set, and I can tell you I was thankful I was brought up under so good a seaman as White. I got her round without much loss, letting the foresail go. The ship had now a list to windward ; another job of I trimming, a foresail to be bent, and many | things to do to make the ship safe once more. All this time, from the 20th of June, I never saw the sun or horizon ; my men were done up, and I had to let the ship go as she was for a time, and trust to Providence. I got her partly trimmed, and was going to wear ship and try her once more on the other tack, when she came up to her course, and the land loomed up close under the foreyard, and before the helm could be hove up the ship struck, with a crash that I thought would be the last sound I should ever hear ; but God willed it otherwise. We took to the rigging, you may think, without waiting to get much in the way of gear ; however, I got some matches, and bluelights and tobacco. She soon fetched the bottom, and the longboat was only just covered, leaving us a chance to get ashore on about as desolate a looking spot as a man could imagine — nothing but snow. In about two hours our clothes were frozen, and if we had not been lucky enough to start a fire, we would soon have been gone men. The first night was a lively one for me, I can tell you — no shelter and nothing to eat. The next day I got off to the wreck and unbent one of the top-sails, the carpenter in the meantime knocking up a rough sort of shanty over which I had the sail spread, some hands gathering limpets and kelp for tucker. We now raised a fire at the door of the house, and did much better, being able to k;ep out the snow and wind ; we spent 14 miserable days in this manner, and I had started to rig up the long boat and put to sea in her to look for something, when one morning I saw a schooner standing round the point ; you can think it did not take long to get oUr boat in the water and manned ; he did not like the look of it at j first, until he saw tho wre'ek. Ho then hoveto and I boarded him, and found that he was a wrecking vessel on the look out for what he could find. His captain was up the coast about 20 miles ; and after waiting until better weather set in, I went up to him and made arrangements with him to take us all to the Falkland Islands, where we landed after a week's passage, and I had the pleasure of introducing myself as the mate of the Blue Jacket, and ex Captain of the Sam Cearns. I had a boy with me who was taken there in the Blue Jacket's boat, and I soon found friends and had many a long talk about the old ship. I had 60 men with me, and there were the crews of four more ships that hod foundered, so you may fancy the Island was full. After selling the wreck of the Sam, which fetched £5, 1 made the best of my way home, where I arrived all sound on the Ist September. As you will see I have received the gold medal of the Humane Society, and a vote of thanks, and also a handsome present from the Board of Trade, and a full clearance of all blame as to the loss of the ship. lam now trying to get into the Pacific Steam Navigation Co. — I am tired of " wind jamming" — there is better pay there, and also a better life of it. I must start as 2nd, but will not be long working up to the top again. I have now, I think, given you all the news about myself, and all the rest you will get in the papers. i

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http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TS18711227.2.8

Bibliographic details

HEROIC SEAMEN., Star, Issue 1201, 27 December 1871

Word Count
2,159

HEROIC SEAMEN. Star, Issue 1201, 27 December 1871

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