Narratives of Shipwrecks of the Royal Navy; between 1793 and 1849 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 346 pages of information about Narratives of Shipwrecks of the Royal Navy; between 1793 and 1849.

The Persian, an 18-gun brig, commanded by Captain Charles Bertram, was lost on the Silver Keys, St. Domingo, in the West Indies, on the 26th of June, 1813.  It appears from Captain Bertram’s statement, that the Keys were laid down on the chart too far to the southward, or that the ship was carried in that direction by a strong current not mentioned in any of the charts.  The Persian struck about five o’clock P.M., by running stem on, upon one of the rocks; she was at the time going at the rate of three or four knots an hour.  Everything was done to back her off; the water was started, most of the guns thrown overboard, the boats were got out, and the anchors cut from the bows.  These measures for the moment seemed to have the desired effect; but in paying off, she struck on another rock, and from this it was impossible to move her.  Again the same means were resorted to; the remainder of the guns, spars, &c, were thrown overboard, but to no purpose.  The pumps had been kept in active play from the first moment of alarm, but the water gained on them so fast, there was little hope of the vessel keeping afloat till daylight.  The Captain, therefore, resolved to prepare for the worst, and he directed a large raft to be made for the safety of some of the ship’s company.  About seven o’clock, two hours after she first struck, Captain Bertram perceived that she was gradually sinking; he therefore ordered as many of the ship’s company as the boats would hold, to get into the two cutters and the jolly-boat; the cutters were placed under the command of Mr. Norris, the second lieutenant, and Mr. Nicholls, the master; and the jolly-boat under the superintendence of the gunner.  These boats were ordered to remain near the ship, in case anything should occur to render it necessary for the people to return on board.

About half-past nine P.M., Lieutenant Price and the rest of the ship’s company, excepting two or three who remained on board with the captain, took their places upon the raft, which was veered by a hawser to leeward of the brig, and directed to remain in that position until the morning.  At two o’clock in the morning Captain Bertram, convinced that there was no hope of saving his ship, got into his gig with the men who had stayed with him, and he had scarcely left the side of the Persian ere she slipped off the rock, fell over on the larboard side, and sunk into about seven fathoms water, the tops of the masts only being visible above the waves.

At daylight, Captain Bertram, with the other boats, bore up for the raft, which had broken from the hawser during the night and drifted to some distance.  They found her and her crew in a very deplorable state,—­the lashings had been cut through by the rocks, and many of the timbers were broken, so that they scarcely held together, and the men had had great difficulty in keeping her from being dashed to pieces against the rocks, and in preserving themselves from being carried away by the surf which washed over them continually.

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Narratives of Shipwrecks of the Royal Navy; between 1793 and 1849 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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