In the meantime, the ship continued to strike with increasing violence, and the water gained considerably upon the pumps. At ten o’clock, the wind rose, and again the ship swung off into deep water, and the only prospect of saving her was by pumping and baling till daylight. Both officers and men laboured incessantly at the pumps, but all to no purpose, for unfortunately the Invincible was an old ship (built in the year 1766), and the water gained fast upon them in spite of all their efforts. Admiral Totty, seeing there was no hope of saving the ship, ordered Captain Rennie to send all the boys, and the least able of the crew and passengers, on board the smack, and to make arrangements for the rest of the crew to leave the ship at daybreak, or sooner, if possible.
A boat was lowered, into which the admiral and his secretary immediately descended, with as many others as she would carry, and they reached the smack in safety. Two other boats were also lowered and filled with people, but they were less fortunate than the admiral’s, for before they reached the smack, the tide being to windward and against them, they were carried out to sea, and all on board would inevitably have perished, if they had not been picked up by a collier, which conveyed them in safety to Yarmouth.
The fishing-smack, with the admiral on board, remained at anchor during the night, without being able to afford the slightest assistance to the crew of the Invincible. At daybreak, as soon as the tide permitted, the cable of the smack was cut, and she stretched under the stern of the ship, endeavouring by all possible means to get alongside of her, but before that could be accomplished, the ill-fated vessel began to sink. About sixty men jumped into the launch, but they had only just time to clear the poop, when the gallant ship went down with four hundred men.
And first one universal shriek
Louder than the loud ocean, like a crash
Of echoing thunder, and then all was hush’d,
Save the wild wind and the remorseless dash
Of billows: but at intervals there gushed,
Accompanied with a convulsive splash,
A solitary shriek, the bubbling cry
Of some strong swimmer in his agony.
‘The horror of the scene,’ writes Admiral Totty, ’and the screams of the unhappy sufferers, at the moment the ship went down, exceed all power of description. Numbers who were struggling with the waves attempted to lay hold of the launch, but the boat was already overladen, and, for the safety of those who were in her, the drowning wretches were beaten off, and, soon exhausted, they perished in the waves.’
Captain Rennie remained in his ship till she sank. He then attempted to swim to the launch, and by great exertion got within reach of her oars, when, too much exhausted to make any further effort, he was seen to raise his hands as if in supplication to Heaven, then putting them before his face, sank into his watery grave. All the other commissioned officers, with the exception of Lieutenants Robert Tucker and Charles Quart, perished.