At the moment of the explosion, the sentinel at the cabin door was looking at his watch, when it was dashed from his hands and he was stunned: he knew nothing more until he found himself safe on shore, and comparatively unhurt. The escape of the boatswain was also very remarkable; he was standing on the cathead, directing the men in rigging out the jib-boom, when he felt himself suddenly carried off his feet into the air: he then fell into the sea senseless; and on recovering his consciousness, he found that he had got entangled amongst the rigging, and that his arm was broken. He contrived to extricate himself, though with some difficulty, and he was soon picked up by a boat, without further injury.
The preservation of a child was no less singular: in the terror of the moment, the mother had grasped it in her arms, but, horrible to relate, the lower part of her body was blown to pieces, whilst the upper part remained unhurt, and it was discovered with the arms still clasping the living child to the lifeless bosom.
Till then we had not wept— But well our gushing hearts might say, That there a Mother slept! For her pale arms a babe had prest With such a wreathing grasp, The fire had pass’d o’er that fond breast, Yet not undone the clasp. Deep in her bosom lay his head, With half-shut violet eye— He had known little of her dread, Nought of her agony. Oh! human love, whose yearning heart, Through all things vainly true, So stamps upon thy mortal part Its passionate adieu: Surely thou hast another lot, There is some home for thee, Where thou shalt rest, rememb’ring not The moaning of the sea.—MRS. HEMANS.
The exact complement of the Amphion was 215, but from the crowded state of her decks at the time of the accident, it is supposed that 300, out of 310 or 312 persons, perished with the ship.
The captain, two lieutenants, a boatswain, three or four seamen, a marine, one woman, and the child were all that were saved.
The cause of this unfortunate event was never clearly known; but it was conjectured that the gunner might have let fall some powder near the fore-magazine, which accidentally igniting, had communicated with the magazine itself. The gunner had been suspected of stealing the powder, and on that day he is said to have been intoxicated, and was probably less careful than usual. He was amongst the numbers who perished.
The loss of the TRIBUNE frigate, in November of the following year, is too interesting to be omitted.
At about eight o’clock on the morning of the 16th of November, 1797, the harbour of Halifax was discovered, and as a strong wind blew from the east-south-east, Captain Scory Barker proposed to the master to lie to, until a pilot came on board. The master replied that there was no necessity for such a measure, as the wind was favourable, and he was perfectly well acquainted with the passage. The captain confiding in this assurance, went below, and the master took charge of the ship.