The helm was ordered to be put up, but the first shock had carried away the tiller; fruitless attempts were then made to back the ship off, but she had struck with such force upon the sand that it was impossible to move her. The carpenter now reported fifteen feet water in the hold; and it increased so rapidly that in a few minutes it rose above the orlop deck. The officers and the whole of the ship’s company were assembled upon deck, and the universal question passed from mouth to mouth—’On what coast have we struck?’
The pilot of the watch maintained that they were on some shoal in the English coast; the other pilot, however, was of opinion that they were upon the North Haacks, and this proved to be actually the case.
For a few minutes after the ship first struck there was some degree of confusion on board; but this soon subsided; order and tranquillity were restored, and the men all exerted themselves to the utmost, although she struck the ground so heavily, it was almost impossible for them to keep their feet.
The masts were cut away, and other means taken to lighten the ship; and guns were fired as signals of distress, but no aid was afforded to them during that long and dismal night. The darkness was so intense, it was impossible to see beyond a few yards, and they could only judge of their proximity to land, by the sullen roar of the breakers as they dashed upon the shore. In this state of uncertainty and dread, the night passed away; and daylight at last discovered to the crew of the Minotaur the horrors of their situation. The ship was firmly imbedded in sand, and had gradually sunk till the water covered the forecastle. All the boats excepting the launch and two yauls were destroyed, either by the falling of the masts, or the waves breaking over them.
At eight o’clock, A.M., the Minotaur parted amidships, and the sea made a clear breach over her. The gunner, seeing that she could not hold together much longer, volunteered to go off in the yard, and endeavour to obtain assistance from the shore. Captain Barrett at first refused the offer, as he thought it impossible the boat could live in such a sea; but upon further consideration, he gave his consent; and the gunner, with thirty-one of the crew, succeeded in launching the yaul, and getting clear of the wreck.
The ship now presented a most distressing scene—portions of her timbers and spars were floating about in all directions, with casks of spirits and provisions which had been washed up from the hold. Crowded together on the poop and the quarter-deck were officers and men watching with eager anxiety the progress of the boat. After two hours of breathless suspense they saw her reach the shore. Their comrades’ success was hailed with joy by the shipwrecked crew as a happy omen for themselves—it inspired them with hope and confidence, and some of them immediately attempted to lift the launch into the sea. They fortunately succeeded in getting her afloat, and numbers then rushed to get into her, amongst whom was Lieutenant Snell. He failed in his first attempt, and then swam to the foretop, near which he knew the launch must pass, to enable her to clear the wreck. He watched his opportunity, and when the boat approached, jumped into the sea, and was taken on board.