Wrecked on a Reef
Narrative of the Wreck of the "Invercauld Among the Auckland Islands,
By Captain Dalgarno.*
We set out from Melbourne for Valparaiso, February 21st, 1864, on board the Invercauld, a ship of 1100 tons. Our crew consisted of twenty-five, officers and men. We had no passengers.
On the evening of the 3rd of March we sighted the Auckland group, about twenty miles distant. The fog, which at nightfall grew denser and denser in the vicinity of the land, had prevented us from seeing them sooner. Suddenly the north-west breeze, which had hitherto favoured us, was replaced by a dead calm, always of evil augury in those regions. It lasted only a few hours, but during these we were at the mercy of the strong currents which render the approach to the Aucklands so very dangerous. Imperceptibly they carried us close inshore.
The rapid fall of the barometer disquieted me greatly. Soon after sunset the sky was overcast with thick black clouds, which indicated bad weather. Towards midnight a violent gale broke out all at once from the south-west, and placed us in a very critical position. We were then close to the coast, bound in that quarter by immense cliffs, against whose base the great billows of the Pacific shatter themselves in fury.
We crowded on the ship all the sail she could carry; but, in spite of all our efforts, I soon saw that she was destined to perish on the rocks. And at two o'clock in the morning a frightful shock sent both our masts by the board. The fatal moment had arrived. The Invercauld had struck upon a page 202reef near a lofty cliff. Close at hand a little cove, where the rocks were less elevated, attracted all our attention. It was useless to think of saving the vessel, which was soon dashed into fragments by the breakers.
I succeeded in swimming to the little cove, while I clung to the rocks with all my remaining strength. Some of my crew, who had got there before me, helped me to escape from my dangerous position, and to reach the shore. From time to time some other unfortunate, succoured in the same manner, was added to our little band. When evening came, we counted our number; we were nineteen. Some of us were wounded; others more or less grievously bruised.
Traversing the shore, which was strewn with wreck, we were not long in discovering the six men of our crew who had not answered to the roll-call. They had perished during the night. We stripped them of their clothes, which had become to us a very precious thing. Having no means of burying them, we were forced to leave them where they lay; the birds of prey would soon devour their bodies.
Searching among the wreck, we found some pieces of salt pork, and a little biscuit; but the latter, saturated with sea-water, was almost uneatable. However, we thought it prudent to take it with us.
After a little refreshment, we scaled the cliffs, and on the opposite slope caught sight of a harbour, which I supposed to be Port Ross, or Sarah's Bosom.
I was not deceived. Descending to it, we remained there for some days; but finding scarcely any kind of provision, we divided into several bands to explore the island.
From that time I have never again seen any one of those who ventured in search of more favourable quarters. It is probable that they perished, spent with fatigue, and from want of food.
My mate and four of the crew remained with me at Port Ross.
I found in one of my pockets a few matches, in a small metal box; but the sea-water had made its way inside, and I had to wait until they were dry before I could make use of them. Meantime, we suffered greatly from cold, our clothes being soaked with water. At last we succeeded in lighting a fire, and in warming ourselves.
Sleeping under the trunks of trees like wild beasts, we remained several months at Port Ross, where we lived as best we could on limpets or other shell-fish, as well as on the few fish we caught occasionally among the rocks at low-water. We thought ourselves very fortunate when we fell in with a sea-lion, which we killed with cudgels, cut from the trees with our pocket-knives. Unfortunately, these amphibians were very rare.page 203
With their skins, which we took care to dry, and some branches of trees, we constructed a kind of periagua, in which we crossed the narrow strait separating Auckland Island from Enderby Island. On the latter we found a quantity of rabbits; naturalised there, without doubt, by the colonists of the Enderby settlement in 1848. We established ourselves on the island, and hunted these animals, which furnished us with the means of prolonging our existence.
Of the four sailors who remained with me, three died at short intervals, one after the other; and of our little company only one seaman, the mate, and myself survived. After their decease, they were buried at the head of a creek, on the sea-shore, where we had found a breadth of sand in which it was easy for us to inter them.
Gradually we collected a sufficient number of seal sldns to construct with them a little hut, like the cabins of the Eskimos; but it protected us very imperfectly against the continual rains and the severity of that frightful climate.
From time to time we crossed the strait in our little canoe, and visited Port Ross, to see if we could find a sea-lion, or any fresh traces of our missing companions.
In this way twelve months passed by. One day, during an excursion to Port Ross, we saw a ship entering. The Spanish flag floated at her masthead. She cast anchor in Lawrie Cove.
A more agreeable spectacle was never offered to our gaze. Uttering a cry of delight, we launched the periagua, which we had hauled up on the shore, and seizing our paddles, rowed vigorously towards her.
They perceived us from the ship. The peculiarity of our equipment had attracted the attention of the crew, whom we could see grouped in the forecastle, attentively examining us. The officers in the stern-quarters were also observing us, with the assistance of a telescope.
A moment afterwards we stood on the vessel's deck, where we were received by the captain, and questioned upon the circumstances which had plunged us in so lamentable a situation. We told him our story. The officers and crew were assembled around us; but only the former were sufficiently acquainted with English to understand us.
Our narrative, however, was soon translated to those who could not speak our tongue, and from that moment we were welcomed by all with marks of the warmest sympathy.
The captain immediately gave orders that our wants should be attended to, and the utmost rivalry was displayed in endeavouring to be the first to execute them. Our companion, the seaman, found a place among his page 204forecastle equals, who lavished upon him every attention which could invigorate his energies and recruit his strength.
As for the mate and myself, the captain offered us the hospitality of the cabin, where, during the whole time we remained together, he and his officers treated us with much regard, and showed us the most cordial friendship.
This act of humanity, which was mingled with so much benevolence and so much generosity, on the part of those who were not our fellow-countrymen, will never be effaced from my memory: I have no dream, no more precious recollection in all my life.
This ship was a Spanish brig on her way from China to Valparaiso. She was old, and having encountered much bad weather, leaked considerably. For more than two weeks the crew had not left the pumps, and were worn with the fatigue. The captain had thought of putting into Port Ross, wliere he hoped to find some of Messrs. Enderby's settlers; not knowing that this fishing establishment had been long broken up.
Once in the roadstead, the ship made no more water, and the crew were able to enjoy several days repose; after which, having weighed anchor, we crowded on all our canvas, and steered for Valparaiso, where we landed a few weeks later.
Soon afterwards, I took my passage on board the mail-packet to return to England, where, thank God, I arrived some days ago; but with my health so completely broken up, that I fear I shall be compelled to abandon for ever my profession.
* We have been unable to trace the newspaper which Dalgarno's narrative appeared. We translate it, therefore, from the French version.
Wreck of The Ship "General Grant" - Sixty-Eight Dead - Ten Survivors Confined For Eighteen Months upon a Desert Island.
("Adapted from the "Sydney Herald")
The following narrative of the loss of the General Grant has appeared in the New Zealand journals. The details of cargo and passengers are extracted from the Melbourne papers:
Once more we have received information of a disastrous shipwreck, attended by loss of life, in the Auckland Islands. On the morning of the 10th of January, a telegram announced the arrival at Bluff of the whaling ship Amherst, Captain Gilroy, having on board ten persons (one of them a woman), the sole survivors of the crew and passengers of the ship General Grants which sailed from Melbourne for London in May 1866, with a valuable cargo of wool, skins, and gold.
The story told by the survivors resembles, except the terrible struggle with the elements, that other frightful maritime episode, the loss of the London. * Owing to one of those strange combinations of circumstances which human skill is powerless to overcome, a noble ship, manned by an excellent crew, drifted like a raft on the coasts of the Auckland Islands, not to dash herself to pieces against the almost interminable ramparts of rocks which surround them, but to sink in a deep crevasse of volcanic origin, against whose sides the hull was shattered before foundering.
A terrible shriek arose, says one of the survivors, and they were no more. He spoke of forty or fifty living beings. It is supposed that the most valuable portion of the cargo of the General Grant will be saved, the water which fills the cavern being sometimes comparatively calm. The loss of the page 206ship is attributed to the circumstance that her anchors and cables were stowed away in the hold.
Narrative of the Surviors
The General Grants 1200 tons, Captain William Kerby Loughlin, quitted Hobson's Bay on the 4th of May 1866, with a full complement of passengers. Nothing particular occurred up to the 13th. On that day, about ten o'clock, the look-out man at the bow signalled land, which was supposed to be Disappointment Island. We were steering east-quarter-north; a slight breeze blew from the south-west. The night was very dark. We kept to the south-east for about an hour; then again steered eastward. Towards eleven o'clock the Auckland Isles lay right in front of us. The ship then tacked.
The wind was feeble, the sea ran short and angrily; we scarcely made any wake. We kept on the larboard tack for nearly two hours, during which time we were continually drawing towards the land. The ship struck the perpendicular rocks, and lost her fore-boom-staysail. She then went astern for half a mile, up to a projecting point of land, where she carried away her mizzen-guy and rudder. The man at the wheel had several ribs broken. After this the ship drove straight towards the land, and at length plunged into a cavity about two hundred and fifty yards in length.
The mizzen-mast, knocking against the roof of the cavern, was broken off level with the deck, and came down headlong, carrying with it the main-mast, bowsprit, and cat-head. At the same time fell some great pieces of rock, which crushed in the forecastle.
In this critical position the ship remained all night, incessantly beating against the rocks, with twenty-five fathoms of water under her stern. At daybreak we began to get ready the boats. Up to this moment the most perfect order had prevailed. On account of the tide, the waves, and the wind, which had risen, and was increasing in violence, and of the water which invaded the deck, the lady passengers were lowered into the boats. Mrs. Jewell, though supported by a rope, fell into the water. Teer caught hold of her; but the sea was so heavy that he could not lift her into the boat. Her husband, however, leaped from the ship, swam toward the boat, and succeeded in rescuing her. Allen and Caughey, passengers, following Jewell's example, reached the boat safe and sound. The long-boat at this time was floating on the deck, with the sea balancing her stern. The gig started to make her way through the breakers, and five men manned the pinnace. The chief mate attempted to return to the ship; whereupon the page 207long-boat, with at least fourteen persons on board, sheered off from the vessel, which was sinking rapidly. It advanced about fifty yards, but could not clear the mouth of the cavern; in consequence of the eddy of the waves which struck the rock, it was soon full of water, and foundered, leaving its human cargo battling with the angry waters.
Ashworth, Hayman, and Sanguilly reached the breakers by swimming, and were picked up by the other boats. The last time that we saw the captain he was holding on to the mizzen-mast, with a sailor near him, and he waved his handkerchief as the General Grant went down.
For a considerable space on each side of the grotto the walls or sides, completely perpendicular, attained an elevation of several hundred feet; in many places they overhung the gloomy hollow.
The melancholy narrative then enters into comparative details of the difficulties experienced by the survivors m reaching the land, and of the extreme scarcity of food. They occupied three weeks in seeldng out a place of refuge, and in minutely exploring the eastern and southern shores of Adam Island. Searching amongst the old encampments, they came upon a flint and a couple of rusty files; an inestimably precious treasure, as thenceforth they were not under the necessity of incessantly watching their fire lest it should die out.
On the 8th of December, after several visits to Port Ross, the pinnace returned from (Musgrave) Strait: they formed the design of repairing it, and of attempting to reach in it the coast of New Zealand.
During their eight months' sojourn a bull-dog (with his ears cut), and some other dogs, approached their hut: they concluded that these dogs had not long been inhabitants of the island. The pinnace, which measured 22 feet in length by 6 feet 5 inches in depth, was decked with seal-skins. The sails were made out of the old sail-cloth which had formerly roofed Musgrave's wooden house, and they put on board the following stock of provisions: -
The flesh of a goat (marked a s), and of two kids, caught on Enderby Island; a quantity of smoked seal; some dozens of sea-birds eggs; seven tin cases of preserved soup and beef which had been carefully kept with a view to this expedition; and a supply of fresh water in vessels of seal-skin.
All being ready, on the 22nd of January 1867, Bartholomew Crown, first officer; William Newton Scott, Andrew Morrison, and Peter McNiven, seamen, quitted Port Ross, without compass, without chart, without nautical instruments of any kind, with the desperate intention of reaching the shores of New Zealand. The number of castaways was thenceforth reduced to eleven.page 208
On the 6th of October a sail appeared in the west. The boat was launched to meet it, and signal fires were lighted. As it happened, the day was clear and beautiful. It seemed to the people in the boat, as well as to those on shore, that it was impossible they should not be perceived, the distance not exceeding a few miles. The wind freshened, and the ship bore away. The fires were kept alight all night, but in vain.
In consequence of this disappointment, they resolved to establish themselves in Enderby Island, whence it was easier to look out for passing ships. In the interval they collected some old planks lying on the shore, and in a former whaling station.
It was on the 8th of March that they passed to the other island, and erected there two huts. They also raised some lofty piles of timber to light the fires intended to serve for signals, and they decided that from morning to evening a look-out man should keep watch upon the offing.
In a visit made to the north-west point of the island, to a bay known to seamen by the name of Faith Harbour, with the view of collecting timber, they discovered, for the first time, some traces of pigs, and captured a young "porker." On a second visit they caught another, but this time were compelled to adopt a better method than running it down.
The castaways occupied all their time in hunting for provender, in watching for ships, in despatching messages by sea, in making clothing — caps, coats, trousers, shoes, shirts, including a complete suit for Mrs. Jewell — out of seal-skin.
In August 1867, David McLellan fell ill: he died on the 3rd of September; his age was sixty-two. He stated before his death that he was a native of Ayr, in Scotland; that his wife and family lived in Glasgow; and that he was originally employed by the well-known firm of Tod and McGregor as fireman and rigger.
On the 19th of November, the look-out descried a sail some distance out at sea. Unfortunately the boat was away in quest of provisions. Fires were lighted, which apparently were not perceived, and the ship passed the island in the direction of south by east.
On the 21st, another ship was signalled as bearing up for Enderby Island, along the eastern coast. The boat immediately put out to her. She proved to be the brig Amherst, from Port Bluff, Captain Gilroy.
One of the General Grant's shipwrecked crew thus expresses himself: "When we got alongside, the men threw a rope to us, and we clambered upon deck. Words are powerless to express the sentiments of joy which we felt on seeing ourselves at last delivered from the miseries and privations we had endured for the long period of eighteen months."page 209
The Amherst, under the stress of violent squalls, steered for Sarah's Bosom, or Port Ross, and anchored there after sunset. On the following morning, the wind having to some extent subsided, a boat was despatched to fetch off the remaining castaways. Captain Gilroy and all his crew displayed the most benevolent attention towards these unfortunates, and lavished upon them the assistance of which they stood in need. It is believed that the company which set out in a boat for New Zealand perished.
The narrative then enters into some personal details, which would be of no interest to our readers. It is unfortunately very defective in many important points. For instance: one would like to know how a ship of such large tonnage, and manned by so experienced a crew, contrived to get into the neighbourhood of the Aucklands. Fuller particulars of the life of the shipwrecked on the island would also have been desirable. But we place the narrative before the reader just as we find it presented in our original.
* A screw-steamer which foundered in the Englisih Channel
Having had an opportunity, during my enforced residence in the Aucklands, of examining very closely the species of Phocidæ known as Sea-lions— of living, as it were, in their intimacy — I think it will not be useless if I here put on record all experience has taught me in reference to the nature and manners of these animals.
The adult males are generally of a brown colour. From the shoulders to the posterior extremity of the body they are covered with a short, smooth, and very compact fur. They measure from six to seven feet in length, and from six to eight in girth at the shoulders, according as they are more or less fat. Their average weight is between five and six hundred pounds. The one we killed at Campbell Island, on Christmas-day, an animal of extraordinary corpulence, did not weigh less than a hundred and fifty pounds. A thick mane of coarse hair surrounds their neck, and floats down upon their shoulders. When it is dry, the bristles composing it, which are from four to five inches in length, curve towards the back. The sea-lions have the faculty of raising it at will, like "the quills of the fretful porcupine;" and they never fail to do so when making ready for combat, or if surprised in their moments of repose.
I have often seen these animals, when suddenly aroused by our approach, rear themselves haughtily on their fore-paws, and assume the attitude of a dog when seated. The lower part of their body concealed by tall grasses, their head erect, their gaze ferociously fixed on the object of their surprise, their mane bristled, their lips trembling, and revealing every now and then their formidable tusks, they had all the appearance of a lion, whose name they were not unworthy to bear. Had they as much agility as they have audacity and strength, they would not be less formidable.
As for scent, it is the subtlest of their senses. It is this which enables them to keep on the watch, and which, even during sleep, warns them of the approach of danger. The snout is broad, flat, well developed.
The upper lip, thick and fleshy, is fringed on either side with thirty hairs, hard as horn, each about four inches in length, and terminating in a point. Some of these hairs are marked with transparent veins, like those of the tortoise shell.
The enormous jaw is armed with strong tusks, as in the great Carnivora.
It is towards the early days of November that the males, then very fat, arrive in the bays. They remain there until the end of February. At this moment they gain the outer shores, and give place to the females and the young, who remain much longer.
On their arrival, each of them selects an easy landing-place, of which he takes possession, and which he regards as his own property: he never strays very far from it, even to go in search of his food. It is not long before they grow thinner, and by the end of their stay they have considerably diminished in size. They permit only the females to enter upon their territory, which they defend to the uttermost against the invasions of the other males. Hence arise their combats, in which they display an excessive ferocity and bitterness; and as there are more males than accessible landing-places, these combats are very frequent. Generally they take place upon the shore; sometimes, however, the fight is fought out in the water, which is then reddened with blood.
In summer, when the sea-lions are not occupied in fishing or in fighting, they lie extended in the sun, on gravelly beaches, on promontories fringed with rocks, or, if the weather is bad, among the tall thick grasses of the shore.
If, while they are swimming, they catch sight of a man on the shore, they will emerge from the water and hasten to attack him. If the man takes to flight, they pursue him. On these occasions their movements are singular. They bring back the extremity of their body against their anterior fins, and page 213so project themselves forward, leaping or springing with a swiftness of which you would not deem them capable. But if the hunted man suddenly turns round and faces them, they halt immediately, and for some moments eye their adversary with an astonished air prior to charging him. This is the favourable moment. Fix your gaze upon that of the animal, and, without hesitating, advance straight upon him, until you are near enough to deal a blow on his head with your cudgel exactly between the two eyes. If you hit him in this spot you will quickly master him. If you fail, you do but excite his fury; and your best plan is to avoid him by an abrupt deviation, and leave the field open for him to regain the sea. It frequently happened that we lost one of our cudgels, seized between the monster's strong tusks, and immediately crushed.
The animal which has been hit but not killed grows mistrustful, and no longer issues readily from the water to attack you. He has learned to fear, and his fear communicates itself to all the seals in his neighbourhood.
There is, however, a sufficiently efficacious means of enticing them upon shore; namely, you conceal yourself among the tall grasses, or behind a rock, and imitate the bleating of the female. The lion will respond to the call, and advance close up to your hiding-place.
The females are much smaller than the males, and have no mane. Their colour varies according to their age. From one to two years old they are of a bright, silvery-tinted gray. In the third year the gray loses its lustre, and over the back of the animal is besprinkled with light tawny spots, which speedily blend into one another, and form a monotonous tint of golden yellow. Gradually this tint loses its brilliancy, grows redder and yet redder, and when the lioness is old changes into a kind of brown.
They arrive in the Aucklands at the beginning of November, at the same time as the males, but do not quit the bays until the month of June. They are careful to choose the low wooded shores, which offer both an easy access and a safe asylum. At this epoch they are found apart, traversing the forest in all directions in search of a convenient resting-place. It sometimes happens that, not finding what they desire upon the shore, they retire to the mountain-side, among the great tufts of grasses. In the course of December they give birth to a single cub: they never bear more, at least to my knowledge, than one at a time.
At the end of a few days they entice their cub out of the nest by repeated bleatings: in this way they draw it down to the shore, generally on a low narrow tongue of land. There they suckle it, caress it, and persuade it to enter the sea; a difficult task, for it is a curious fact that these animals show in their infancy a strong antipathy to the water. Nothing is more amusing page 214to witness than the devices employed by the females in beguiling their young to plunge into the dreaded element.
At first the mother sets the example by swimming to and fro, very gently, and close in-shore; her modulated and incessant bleatings, which are characterised by a profound tenderness, invite the young seal to imitate her. A vain effort! The new-born obstinately remains on the shore, where he sports about, but never approaches the water. He is content with answering his mother's call in tiny accents. However, after a prolonged hesitation and uncertainty, he grows a little bolder — he moves down to the margin of the waves; but scarcely has he dipped a fm in them than he pulls it back hastily, and recoils with marks of the greatest repugnance. The lioness then returns to the land, caresses her little one, encourages him anew, and does the best she can to persuade him to repeat the attempt.
An hour or two will pass, perhaps, before the young seal decides on making a second venture, which, by the way, has no better result than the first. It is not until after one, two, or even three days that he succeeds in overcoming his fears, and intrusting himself bodily to the water.
And then a new difficulty occurs: he cannot swim, he knows not how; he is in the position of a young lad who, when taking his first swimming lessons, finds himself suddenly plunged into deep water, where he can get no footing. He is afraid; he struggles piteously; and with a gulping, squeaking voice, nearly choked by the water which he swallows, he calls for assistance. His mother is close at hand: she has not lost sight of him for a moment; she hastens to the spot, glides underneath him, takes him on her back, and then, swimming very cautiously, and always on the surface, she steers towards the isthmus, or islet, whither she is anxious to take him to complete his apprenticeship.
The young seals, born in the same year, collected in numerous companies on these islets or isthmuses, remain there for several months. As they grow older so do they grow bolder, and venture further from the shore; they begin to catch fish; in a word, they become familiarised with the kind of life for which nature has intended them. Early in June they cease to suckle, and they emigrate with their mothers, to rejoin the males on the outer coasts of the island. In the month of November they return in a body — males, females, and young — to install themselves, as in the preceding year, in the capacious and sheltered bays.
Proof of the Authenticity of the Foregoing Narrative
Melbourne Museum and Public Library,February 28, 1866
Sir,— The Trustees of the Melbourne Public Library have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of the work and articles, enumerated below, presented by you to the Institution: for which they offer you their grateful thanks. They beg to inform you that they have ordered that your name be enrolled on the records as a contributor to the collection. I have the honour to be, sir, your obedient servant,
Augustus Pulk, Librarian
|1.||"Cast Away at the Auckland Isles," one vol. 8vo.;|
|2.||Pair of blacksmith's bellows, made of scal-skin at the Auckland Isles;|
|3.||One pair of boots skin made of seal-skin tanned at the Auckland Isles;|
|4.||One piece of seal-skin tanned at the Auckland Isles;|
|5.||One needle made of bone from the wing of an albatross;—|
The whole made by F.E. Raynal, Esq.