The stunning roar of the hurricane prevented any communication except by signs, and several times the wind caught the oars with such force that the men could scarcely retain their seats. In vain were all their efforts:—
The winds arise,
The thunder rolls, the forky lightning flies;
In vain the master issues out commands,
In vain the trembling sailors ply their hands,
The tempest, unforeseen, prevents their care,
And from the first they labour in despair.
The boat filled with water three times, and became so nearly unmanageable, that they saw it would be impossible to gain the ship, and they bore up to the west part of York Island, from whence they waded to the shore, but so exhausted from the fatigue they had undergone, that they could never have reached the land, had they not been assisted by some workmen who were on the spot.
When they arrived, they found Mr. Warner, a midshipman, had just landed from the Sheerness, with a message to the effect that the ship had parted an anchor, but that she was riding in safety with two others. Mr. Warner had been sent in the launch, but in nearing the shore, she had been upset, and two of her crew were drowned; there was little hope, therefore, of any boat weathering the storm in an attempt to reach the ship.
Lord George, however, would not give up the attempt, and he expressed so much anxiety to join his vessel, that it was proposed to go to the weathermost part of the bay. Thither they accordingly struggled on foot, with the utmost difficulty making head against the wind, and suffering acutely from the sand driving into their eyes. In addition to their personal sufferings, the spectacle around was one of such desolation and horror as no man can witness without pain. The shore, as far as the eye could reach, was covered with wrecks, and with the bodies of the dying and the dead, while the roaring of the surf, and the howling of the tempest, mingled with the piercing cries of those on board the stranded vessels, who were yet struggling with their fate, added to the awfulness of the scene.
At half-past six in the evening, exhausted with fatigue and suffering, they arrived at the head of the bay; but here they were again doomed to disappointment, for they found no one to assist them in launching the boat, although the crew of the launch had been directed to join them for that purpose.
The ship was still in sight, but they found it would be impossible to reach her, and they therefore proceeded to the neighbouring town of Ostenberg, where they directed a soldier whom they met, to hasten to his commanding officer, and request that a party of soldiers with torches should be ordered out ready to save the crew of the Sheerness, in case of her driving on shore.
Lord George and his companions then went to the master attendant’s house, where they passed the night; but although they were worn out in mind and body, sleep never closed their eyes that night—they passed it in listening to the reports of the signal guns from the Sheerness, and in watching the rockets which from time to time illuminated the darkness, telling of distress and danger which they could not alleviate.