“Jump!” he called to the three men in the rigging. First jumped Daniel James, and Dan caught him out of the waters and hauled him in. And he caught the next, the boat careening, shipping a rush of water. As Captain Ephraim crouched for the leap, the sough of the rotten hull, working and heaving like the carcass of a shark, was bursting out in a score of places and the lumber deck-load rose and fell and quivered and flailed huge planks into the waves. The end was near. Dan shouted the skipper to hurry. Ephraim obeyed, and had fought his way through the caldron to the boat and was dragged aboard, when suddenly, with a great straining sigh, the hull of the wreck parted amidships, both ends sinking in the waters. A comber rushed in between, swelling and hissing. The lumber deck-load rose in the air like a living thing. The remaining fastenings holding it to the deck parted, and there was a rending and grinding as it slued off into the sea, carrying with it the main-mast, which crashed down and impaled the bar on which the wreck rested.
The currents had carried the rowboat almost—quite, in fact—in front of this terrible heaving mass of wood, one hundred feet long and chained together to a height of ten feet—and only the mainmast, which seemed to be serving as a sort of anchor, held it. Dan saw the danger, and the shouts of those on the Fledgling told him that they had seen it too. The line leading from the boat to the tug was taut and singing, evidence that the men were hauling upon it. But the pull of the shoreward rushing waters was as great as their strength. The boat made no movement out of her dangerous position. Dan was sculling like mad, but his efforts, compared to the might of the sea, were puny. In deep silence the mass of lumber worried at its unforeseen anchor. It ripped free and, rolling and twisting in spineless abandon, bore down upon the lifeboat with crushing momentum. On it came. They began to pay out the line in order that the boat might keep ahead of it for a few extra minutes. But Dan knew there could be no salvation in that. He could see every foot of the advancing mass. He could see the hundreds of planks flailing out in the air like arms; he could see the thick water spurting through thousands of cracks and crevices; could hear the gnashing of plank on plank. Nearer it came, as powerful, as inexorable as the glacial drift. It rose before him in all its crushing might.