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Wrecked on a Reef

II — Wreck of The Ship "General Grant" - Sixty-Eight Dead - Ten Survivors Confined For Eighteen Months upon a Desert Island

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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.

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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."

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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