Most of the officers were collected in the gun-room, with the exception of the captain, who had retired to his sleeping cabin. He had directed his steward to request the attendance of the master, and of Mr. Betts, the second master, who soon joined him in the cabin, where they remained for a few minutes examining the charts. The captain’s steward relates, that the above officers went upon deck, when Captain Napier desired him to take away the light, and to leave a small lamp burning in the fore-cabin, which was always kept alight at sea during the night. He accordingly did so, and returned to his berth. In about half-an-hour afterwards he heard some one come down from the quarter-deck, and go into the captain’s cabin. In about five minutes the captain went upon deck, where he remained for a short time, and again returned to his cabin, but had scarcely closed the door, before he was summoned upon deck by the officer of the watch.
The officers in the gun-room were upon the point of retiring to their berths, when they were startled by a sudden jerk, which they at first supposed to be a gun broken adrift, but the next moment the ship gave a heavy lurch, as if filling, and her whole frame appeared shaken, and every beam loosened. It would be in vain to attempt to describe the dismay of the crew of the ill-fated Avenger, when thus roused from a sense of comparative security, to find themselves in an instant upon the verge of destruction. Already the deck was crowded with people, most of them only partially clothed, and the rest almost naked. On the bridge between the paddle-boxes stood the captain and master; Mr. Ayling, the master’s assistant, the quarter-master, and two seamen were at the wheel. In another minute the ship gave a heavy lurch to starboard, and the sea poured over the forecastle. The captain then gave the order, ‘Out boats—lower away the boats.’ These were his last words, for he was immediately afterwards washed overboard and drowned.
Lieutenant Rooke, who never appears to have lost his presence of mind, immediately went forward to assist in lowering the boats, but under the firm impression that the ship was fast sinking, and with little hope that there was time enough to get out the boats, or even if lowered, that they could live in such a heavy sea. He saw, however, if anything was to be done, it must be done immediately; he therefore went amongst the men endeavouring to persuade them to lower the starboard cutter; Mr. Betts, the second master, at the same time attempted to lower the port one. Every entreaty and persuasion that Lieutenant Rooke could use was, however, of no avail; the men seemed paralysed with the sudden panic and the apparent helplessness of their situation. Instead of affording assistance, they clustered together, exclaiming, ‘Oh, my God, Sir, we are lost—we are lost!’ Mr. Rooke, finding that all his arguments were of no avail, crossed the deck to the port side for the purpose of helping Mr. Betts in lowering the port