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Castaway on the Auckland Isles

III. — The Loss of the 'Invercauld.' — Letter from Captain Dalgarno

page 171

The Loss of the 'Invercauld.'
Letter from Captain Dalgarno.

Captain Dalgarno, writing from Southampton to the owners, says:—'I am at last offered another opportunity of addressing you again in this life, to let you know the sad tidings of the ship "Invercauld," which became a total wreck during the night of May 10, 1864, on the island of Auckland, off New Zealand, during a heavy gale of wind from the northward and thick weather. In about twenty minutes after striking she was in atoms—so heavy was the sea running, and all rocks where the disaster happened. The boys Middleton and Wilson and four seamen were drowned; the remainder, nineteen of us, getting washed on shore, through the wreck, all more or less hurt, the night being intensely dark and cold. We saved nothing but what we had on our persons; and before being washed from the wreck I hove off my sea-boots, so as to enable me, if possible, to reach the shore. After getting ashore amongst the rocks, we called upon each other, and all crept as close together as we could, to keep ourselves warm. The spray from the sea reaching us made it one of the most dismal nights ever anyone suffered, and we were all glad when day broke on the following morning, when all who were able went towards the wreck to see what could be saved. All we found was about 2 lbs. of biscuit, and 3 lbs. of pork—the only food we had to divide amongst nineteen; and after all taking about a mouthful each, we page 172went and collected a few of the most suitable pieces from the wreck to make a sort of hut to cover us from the weather, where we made a fire, the steward having saved a box of matches.

'I have seen and suffered more since the disaster happened than I can pen to you at this time; but if God spares me to reach you, I will then give you all particulars. We remained four days at the wreck; and, having no more food, nor appearance of getting any more at the wreck, we proceeded to go on the top of the island, to see if we could find food or any inhabitants. It was no easy matter to reach the top, it being about 2,000 feet high, and almost perpendicular. When we got there we found no inhabitants; and the only food we found was wild roots that grew on the island, of which we ate, and fresh water. At night we made a covering of boughs, and, lighting a fire, crept as close together as possible. On the following morning we made towards a bay that was on the east side, which occupied some days, the scrub being so heavy to walk amongst. The cook and three seamen died during this time, and all of us were getting very weak for want of food and from cold. At length we reached the bay, where we found some limpets on the rocks, of which we ate heartily. We also caught two seals, and found them good food; and had we got plenty of them no doubt all would have lived. After living three months upon limpets, they got done, and all we had again was the roots and water, seeing no more seals.

'By the end of August the only survivors were myself, the mate, and Robert Holding, seaman; the carpenter, and the boys Liddle and Lancefield, being among the last that died—all very much reduced. After we three had lingered for twelve months and ten days, we were at last relieved by the Portuguese ship "Julian," from Macao for Callao, with Chinese passengers. She sprang a leak off here, and sent a boat on shore to see if they could get their ship repaired, when they found us the only inhabitants on the page 173island. They proceeded on their passage to Callao, taking us three along with them. We were all treated kindly, and on the 28th June reached Callao, where we were all treated kindly by the people there. On the same evening I sailed by the mail steamer for England, leaving the mate and the seaman in Callao. On the 6th July I sailed from Panama; on the 13th arrived at St. Thomas, and sailed same day for Southampton by the steamship "Shannon," meeting with the greatest kindness from all on board the several ships I sailed in.'