On the 3d of August, at seven o’clock in the evening, the ship was hove to, and continued lying to until three A.M. of the 4th. At half past four, being quite dark, and raining hard, blowing a fearful gale, the ship struck on a reef, situated on the west coast of King’s Island, at the entrance of Bass’s Straights.
Immediately after the ship struck, she was sounded, and it was ascertained that there was four feet of water in the hold. An awful scene of confusion and misery ensued. All the passengers attempted to rush upon deck, and many succeeded in doing so, until the heaving of the vessel knocked down the ladders, when the shrieks from below, calling on those on deck to assist them were terrific. The crew were on deck the moment the ship struck, and were instantly employed in handing up the passengers. Up to the time the vessel began breaking up, the crew succeeded in getting upwards of three hundred passengers on deck. But a terrible fate awaited the greater part of them.
The day dawned. The stern of the vessel was found to be washed in, and numerous dead bodies were found floating round the ship; some clinging to the rocks which they had grasped in despair. About two hundred of the passengers and crew held on to the vessel, although the raging sea was breaking over her, and every wave washed some of them to a watery grave. In this manner, kindred were separated, while those who remained could only expect the same fate to reach them. Things continued in this condition until four in the afternoon, when the vessel parted amidships, at the fore part of the main rigging, and immediately between seventy and a hundred persons were thrown into the waves. Thus the insatiable ocean swallowed its prey piece-meal. About five, the wreck parted by the fore-rigging, and so many persons were thrown into the sea, that only seventy were left on the forecastle, they being lashed to the wreck. Even these were gradually diminished in number, some giving out from exhaustion, and others anticipating fate, by drowning themselves.
When day dawned, on the following morning, only about thirty persons were left alive, and these were almost exhausted. The sea was making a clean breach into the forecastle, the deck of which was rapidly breaking up. Parents and children, husbands and wives, were seen floating around the vessel, many in an embrace, which even the ocean’s power could not sunder. The few who remained alive could only look up to heaven for a hope of safety. Soon after daylight, the vessel totally disappeared, and out of four hundred and twenty-three persons who had been on board the vessel, only nine were saved by being washed on shore, and these were nearly exhausted.
[Illustration: Loss of the Francis Spaight.]
On the morning of the 7th of January, 1848, the barque Francis Spaight, lying in Table Bay, at the Cape of Good Hope, parted her anchor, and in attempting to beat out, grounded, broadside on the beach. The gale at the time she struck was furious, and the surf tremendous, making a clean breach over the vessel, carrying away the bulwark, long boat, main hatch, and part of the deck, with one of the crew.