’When I reached the fore-ladder, none being able to tell me where the fire was, I went down to examine, when at the orlop, I put my head over the spars which were stowed in the starboard side, then behind the ladder in the larboard side; the smoke came thickest in the starboard side from aft; feeling nothing like fire heat, I attempted to go down to the cockpit, but ere I reached the third or fourth step on the ladder, I felt myself overpowered, and called for help. Several men had passed me upwards on my way down, none I believe were below me. By the time I came up to the orlop ladder, some one came and helped me; when I reached the lower deck, I fell, but not, as many did that day, lifeless.’
When Lieutenant Tailour recovered, he made strict inquiries, whether any fire had been discovered in the cockpit or store-rooms, and being assured that there had not, he ordered the lower deck to be scuttled.
So energetic was this officer, that eight or ten minutes only had elapsed since the first alarm had been given, before the hammocks were all got on deck, and the ports opened, to give light and room below, until the place of fire could be discovered, and better means obtained for drawing water. Mr. Tailour did not recover from the suffocation so fast as he expected, and was obliged to go upon deck for air. There he found Captain Le Gros in consultation with the master, who, being of opinion that the fire was on the larboard side, gave orders to wear the ship, so as to allow the water which had been hove in to flow over her. Mr. Tailour differed from them, and said he was convinced that the fire was on the orlop starboard side. In a few minutes he again went below and assisted in working the engine, and giving directions for scuttling on the larboard side, where the smoke appeared most dense.
The engine, however, proved of little avail, for the smoke increased to such a degree as to prevent the people working on the orlop deck; the hatches were, therefore, laid over, the ports lowered, everything covered up, and all means used to prevent the circulation of air. Having taken these precautions, Lieutenant Tailour reported to Captain Le Gros what had been done, and at the same time advised that the boats should be got out without loss of time. The captain seems to have objected to this, on the plea that if the boats were got out, the people would all crowd into them, and abandon the ship without an effort to save her. To this objection Mr. Tailour replied, that to save human life must be their first consideration, and that every moment’s delay was fraught with peril and death. ‘If we wait,’ said he, ’till the last moment, it may not be possible to save any; we can get the marines under arms.’ Captain Le Gros yielded the point; he directed the sergeant of marines to get his men under arms, with orders to load with ball, and to shoot without hesitation the first man who should attempt to go into the boats without permission. All hands were then turned up, and the command given to ‘out boats.’