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Castaway on the Auckland Isles


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Few more interesting narratives of disasters at sea have ever been given to the world than the journals in which Captain Musgrave records the wreck of the 'Grafton.' A great trial, bravely met, and gallantly surmounted, is therein told with a care and exactness which is at the same time singularly modest. Remembering the difficulties with which the devoted little party were surrounded, what reader can fail to exclaim, in the words which I have quoted on the title-page, 'How shall I admire your heroicke courage, ye Marine Worthies beyond all names of worthinesse!' Indeed, the story of the wreck of the 'Grafton,' and of the sufferings of her crew, would have found a very appropriate resting place in the pages of that famous history of 'Voyages, Traffiques, and Discoueries,' side by side with many another pitiful tale of shipwreck, collected by the worthy 'Richard Hakluyt, Preacher,' to be the delight in all ages of the school-boy as well as the scholar. The same feeling we experience in reading of poor Wills, the hero of the expedition across Australia, 'waiting, like Mr. Micawber, for something to turn up,' animates us as we read how the Castaways on the Aucklands used to strain their eyes looking for that relief which never came. We hear the clink of Raynal's anvil far into the night whilst he is engaged forming out of old iron the bolts and nails necessary to repair the crazy 'dingy' for a perilous voyage page viof 240 miles across a stormy ocean.* Our admiration is compelled no less by the tinkering, tailoring, and cobbling ingenuity of the gallant French mate, than by the 'moral suasion' of the master, who employs himself in the evening in teaching his men how to read and write, and in compiling 'sailing directions' for a little-known part of the globe, to be 'sealed up in a bottle' for the benefit of future navigators of these seas. In his direst strait this modern 'Complete Seaman' finds comfort in some lines of Thomas Moore, and finally makes his last cast for 'Death or Freedom' with a truly Nelsonic touch.

Regarded as simply a marvellous tale of the sea—as a practical lesson of self-reliance—the story is sufficiently interesting; but it is no less an important contribution to Hydrographical Science. The limits of this small volume will not allow of the publication of a mass of barometrical and other observations collected by Captain Musgrave. These will be forwarded to the proper quarter, and will doubtless receive the credit which they deserve.

It only remains to add a brief résumé of the steps which have been taken by the Government of Victoria, in conjunction with New South Wales and Queensland, to examine and set at rest the question whether there are at present any other unfortunates dragging out a miserable existence on the Auckland Islands. It will be seen from the journal of Captain Musgrave that when he returned to the islands to rescue the two seamen he had left behind, he and others on board the 'Flying Scud,' on the 23rd page viiAugust, 1865, thought they saw smoke on the eastern coast at a point shown on the map, which, however, they were not able to explore.

Subsequently they found the body of a seaman at Port Ross, who had evidently died from starvation. A slate which was found near him, seemed to have been written on, but the utmost ingenuity had failed to decipher the characters with any accuracy. On arriving in Melbourne, Captain Musgrave waited on the Hon. J. G. Francis, Commissioner of Trade and Customs, and explained his reasons for thinking that there might be still other persons on the island. As several vessels which had sailed from Melbourne were known to be 'missing,' Mr. Francis, with a promptitude which does him great honour, immediately called for tenders for a vessel to proceed to the Aucklands, and finding that delay might ensue in sending a sailing vessel, at once ordered the equipment of H.M.C.S.S. 'Victoria,' Captain Norman. The 'Victoria' sailed on the 4th October, having Captain Musgrave on board as a passenger, who thus, for the second time, put aside all personal considerations to carry out what he deemed to be his duty,—a self-denial which, considering he has not seen his family since November, 1863, is worthy of our heartiest sympathy.

The English Mail arrived after the 'Victoria' had left for Melbourne, and by it we received the intelligence that the ship 'Invercauld' had been lost on the Aucklands, on the 10th May, 1864, and that three of the survivors had been taken off by a Peruvian vessel on the 22nd May, 1865. In the Appendix will be found all that has yet reached us of the particulars of the wreck of the 'Invercauld.'

J. J. S.

Melbourne, 25th October, 1865.

* The following extracts from Lloyd's List, which have come under the publishers' notice, will not perhaps be thought out of place here:—

"The 'Grafton,' Musgrave, sailed from Sydney for South Sea Islands Nov. 12, 1863."—Lloyd's List, Jan. 9, 1864.

"Wellington, New Zealand, Aug. 12, 1865.

"The 'Grafton,' Musgrave, from Sydney to the South Sea Islands, was wrecked Jan. 3, 1864, in one of the inlets of the Auckland Islands; the master and two of the crew arrived at Port Adventure last month in a small boat of their own building."—Lloyd's List, Oct. 17, 1865.