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

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 387 pages of information about Narratives of Shipwrecks of the Royal Navy; between 1793 and 1849.
directions, to clear every danger,—­and it was the last danger of this sort between us and England,—­when the ship, about half-past seven in the morning, struck with a horrid crash on a reef of sunken rocks, and remained immoveable.’  ‘What my feelings were,’ says Captain Maxwell, ’at this momentary transition from a state of perfect security to all the horrors of a shipwreck, I will not venture to depict; but I must acknowledge, it required whatever mental energy I possessed to control them, and to enable me to give with coolness and firmness the necessary orders preparatory to abandoning the ship,—­which a very short period of hard working at all the pumps showed the impracticability of saving.’

The carpenter very soon reported the water above the tanks in the main hold, and in a few minutes more, over the orlop deck.

The quarter boats had been instantly lowered to sound, and reported deep water all round the reef, ten fathoms immediately under the stern, and seventeen about a quarter of a cable further off,—­so that it was but too evident that the preservation of the crew depended solely upon the vessel’s remaining fast where she was.

The first care of Captain Maxwell was for the safety of Lord Amherst and his suite; the boats were quickly hoisted out, and before half-past eight, he had the melancholy satisfaction of seeing the ambassador and all his attendants safely embarked in them.

For the better protection of the embassy, an officer was sent in the barge, with a guard of marines, to conduct them to Pulo Leat, between three and four miles distant, and from which it was hoped that plenty of water and abundance of tropical fruits might be procured.

Meanwhile the officers and men exerted themselves most indefatigably to save some of the provisions,—­a task by no means easy of accomplishment, as the holds and everything in them were submerged in water.  Towards the afternoon, the boats returned from the shore, and the men reported that they had had great difficulty in landing his excellency, from the mangrove trees growing out to a considerable distance in the water; and it was not until they had pulled three or four miles from the place where they first attempted to land that they were enabled to reach terra firma.  They also stated that neither food nor water could be discovered on the island.  Unpromising as appearances were, there was no alternative but to seek shelter on the inhospitable shore.  Accordingly, every preparation was made, and by eight o’clock P.M., the people were all landed, excepting one division, who remained on board the wreck, with the captain, first lieutenant, and some other officers.

About midnight, the wind had greatly increased, and the ship became so uneasy from her heeling to windward, that fears were entertained for the safety of those on board.  To prevent her falling further over, the topmasts were cut away, and as the wind became more moderate towards daylight, the ship remained stationary, and all apprehensions were removed.  The boats did not return to the wreck till between six and seven o’clock in the morning, and they brought no better tidings as to the capabilities of the island to furnish food and other necessaries for the subsistence of so many human beings.

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