Unfortunately, the loss of the ship is not the darkest side of the picture; and the insubordination of the crew of the Penelope in the hour of danger was as fatal to themselves as it was rare in its occurrence.
The Penelope, troop-ship, Commander James Galloway, sailed from Spithead for Canada on the 31st of March, 1815, and had a favourable passage to the Banks of Newfoundland. Here she fell in with large masses of ice, fogs, and strong south-east winds, so that the captain considered it unsafe to run in for the land until the weather cleared up. On the 24th of April, they made the Island of Mequilon, and at the same time encountered a very heavy gale from the north-west. On the following day they were surrounded with ice, and were frozen up for nearly twelve hours. When the ice gave way, all sail was set, and the ship entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and for the next few days she continued her course in a north-easterly direction, and passed between the Islands of Brion and Magdalen. The frost during this time was so severe, that the furled sails were frozen into a solid body.
On the 29th, they met with large quantities of field ice, which gave the sea the appearance of one entire sheet of ice, but it was not strong enough to stop the ship’s way. In the afternoon of that day, the land about Cape Rozier, on the coast of Lower Canada, was visible.
On the 30th, the weather was more moderate, though cloudy; at noon they steered an eastward course, until the ship broke off about three points, when at sunset they tacked, and stood in for the land, which was set by the first lieutenant and the master, at three or four leagues distance.
At eight o’clock, they sounded in seventy-one fathoms; the vessel broke off to the west by north, and the captain ordered the master to go round the ship, and caution the men forward to keep a good look out,—at the same time desiring him on no account to leave the deck. The captain then sent for the first-lieutenant into his cabin, and was in the act of pointing out to him the supposed situation of the vessel on the chart; the line was at the same moment passing forward for another cast of the lead, when the ship took the ground.
‘I cannot describe my feelings,’ writes Captain Galloway, ’at that moment; for having, for a long time, been almost deprived of my eyesight by night, and also afflicted with rheumatic pains and other complaints, I was unable to judge correctly of the extent of our danger.’ The helm was immediately put down, and the sails thrown aback. One boat was then hoisted out to sound, and found two and a half fathoms forward, and about three and a half fathoms aft, having six fathoms a little on the starboard quarter.
All the boats were immediately lowered, and the stream-anchor and cable, with part of the messenger bent on to it, stowed in the pinnace, which, from the strength of the current, was with great difficulty towed to leeward by the other boats, and dropped into five and a-half fathoms water.