|Total Loss of the "Indian," Indiaman |
This fine Indiaman, 500 tons burden, was wrecked on her outward voyage from England to Bombay, on a reef of rocks named the Cargados Garayos, or Narerettbank, with a melancholy loss of human life. The annexed narrative is from a gentlemen who was a passenger on board:
" Nothing of any note occurred until the night of the 4th of April last, when at eight o'clock, the captain informed us, that, if his reckoning was correct, we should either be clear or very nearly upon the Cargados reef. Being rather taken aback at the cool way in which he expressed himself ; I ran forward to the forecastle, followed by the captain and one of the passengers. Twenty minutes had not elapsed before I distinctly saw breakers a-head, which I immediately pointed out to the captain, who turned to one of the seamen standing near him at the time (named Peter Martin), and asked him if he thought they were breakers. He replied, " Yes, they are." At the same time the look-out man on the foreyard sang out, ' Breakers a-head.' We were then going six knots, with the starboard tacks about two points free, wind east, veering north. The captain ordered the helm to be put up, and she fell off to the W.N.W. ; and in far less time than it has taken to write she struck, at first slightly, then went on with a fearful crash, starting every timber in her, pieces of wreck floating up all round us.
We saw in a moment that all hopes of saving the vessel were at end, as she heeled over to the leeward suddenly, the sea making a clear breach over her every roller. This was the work of a few minutes only. Three parts of the crew were by this time on their knees, crying and making the most frantic appeals to Heaven for aid. All order and discipline were now at an end. The carpenter and two seamen attempted to cut away the masts, but owing, I suppose, to the excitement of the moment, they cut away the weather rigging only. The masts, of course, went by the board ; but, being still attached to the vessel by the lee-rigging, and falling over to seaward, they served as a battering ram, beating the vessel to pieces every successive roller. After the first burst of excitement was over, a simultaneous rush was made for the boats, but we found that the only one that was available was the starboard quarter-boat ; the other two had been staved to pieces by the wreck.
The captain was not slow in taking to our only apparent chance of escape, the remaining boat, eight of the seamen immediately following him. They shoved off, but pulled back once or twice near to the vessel, asking for water and bread, which, of course, it was out of our power to supply them with.. He then pulled away altogether, which was the last we saw of him. The ship by this was breaking up fast ; the stern-frame burst out, and was thrown up on the starboard quarter, and in a few minutes afterwards she parted amidships, leaving thirteen persons exposed to the fury of the surf on the forepart of the starboard broad-side where we remained till the morning broke. The tide turned about this time from ebb to flood, when the rollers came in with redoubled violence, and dashed the remainder of the wreck into pieces. All were immediately buffeting with the waves, sharks innumerable surrounding us on all sides, which very much increased the terrors of our situation. Owing to my being hurled on the rocks by the surf two or three times, I lost my senses, and was perfectly unconscious as to what occurred till I found myself resting on a spar with a sailor. I found that the ship had gone to pieces, and that five of our comrades had perished. Water surrounded us in every direction, with nothing in view but two small sandbanks, and those a long distance off. By night we had constructed a rude kind of raft, on which we slept ; but as the tide ebbed we grounded, and, with the exception of our heads, we were literally sleeping in the water, cold and wretched, but still, comparatively speaking, safe. We remained on the raft in this state two days and nights ; the sun scorching us by day, and the wind, owing to our being wet, making us dreadfully cold at night. On Sunday, the third day, having found a small quantity of oatmeal, we determined to start for the nearest sand-bank. A sixty-gallon cask of beer, two six dozen cases of wine, a piece of bad pork, and the oatmeal, were the only things saved from the wreck. We turned the raft, and after a severe day's work reached the bank about sunset, and once more put our feet upon dry land. We had only eaten once, and then but sparingly. Thus we lived fourteen days and nights, subsisting on sharks' flesh and the wine and beer we saved.
Not a drop of water was to be had. On the 20th of April we saw a vessel to the leeward of us, and endeavoured to attract her attention by means of a boat-hook and a shirt attached ; but she did not or would not see us. The next day, about one hour before sunset, another vessel hove in sight, and about the same spot the ship of the previous evening was seen. We again hoisted our signal; and walked about the bank, to show there were living creatures on it. We thought she did not see us ; and, after taking our allowance of oatmeal and sharks' flesh. we lay down for the night's rest. In a short time, however, we were alarmed by the barking of our dog, and, on getting on our legs, discovered, to our delight, a boat close in upon the sand. She belonged to the vessel we had seen in the evening. The mate and one of the passengers went on board that night, and the rest of the survivors were taken off the next morning, when we were conveyed safely to the Mauritius."
The ship and cargo were insured for £25,000.
SG & SGTL Vol 8 page 9 ; 1851
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