|Dreadful Gale Encountered by the Maria Somes
- The distressing events that attended the accidents the Maria Somes, transport encountered in the hurricane of the end of March, and the unfortunate loss of the lives, of several individuals on board, have led us to make more than an usual inquiry of what took place; and we have been obligingly furnished with authentic notes, which enable us to give the following details. The above vessel left Ceylon on 12th March, with 318 men of the 90th Regiment on board. On the 24th March, there were indications of bad weather ; on the 25th it blew a strong gale with heavy squalls, rain, and lightning; on the 26th the weather became worse, the squalls were terrific, the ship laboured very much, and was hove to under a close-reefed mizen topsail and mizen trysail. At the latter part of this day, the gale increased to a perfect hurricane, attended with rain and lightning to the eastward, the sails were split and replaced by a tarpaulin in the mizen rigging, and the pumps were kept constantly going.* On the 27th, the weather assumed a more favourable appearance, although violent, but the barometer remained at 28.50
On the 28th, the gale increased, and the vessel was hove to with her head to the S.S.W., wind at W., veering to the N. ; everything was made as secure as possible. At three in the afternoon the vessel was thrown on her beam ends by a terrific gale, a tremendous sea driving over her ; the squall over, she afterwards righted, and rode the gale remarkably well, but it recommenced with redoubled fury ; the two foremast futtock shrouds of the main topmast rigging gave way in the heavy roll, and the sea struck the ship, when the main topmast went about five feet above the cap, dragging over with it the fore and mizen topmasts and gib-boom close off at the caps, with the topsail yards ; shortly afterwards the main top capsized; an endeavour was made to clear the wreck, but it was found impossible to clear that of the main topmast, owing to the chain topsail tie and sheets being fast about the main top. Lieutenant Boys, the ship's agent, was struck down in the attempt, and was much hurt, the carpenter tried to cut the chain, but owing to the violent rolling of the vessel could not succeed, and it was useless to try to go aloft. The wreck was torn away by the violence of the weather during the night. The following morning (29th) it blew a dreadful hurricane, the hatches were obliged to be battened down fore and aft.
The pumps were sounded but without effect At 9 a.m. the larboard quarter gallery and the after dead lights were washed away ; these openings were secured with mattresses, hammocks, and battens. The pumps were sounded and there was five feet of water in the hold. The ship was pumped as well as the weather would permit, but the men were often driven from the pumps. At 2 o'clock in the morning of the 29th, the hurricane still continued to rage with dreadful fury. The wind changed from N.W. to N. and back to W. During this time the troops being in the hold, were suffocating for want of air and water, and it became necessary to open the after hatch which was watched by a party of men to keep the tarpaulin over it. About daylight the agent's gig was blown up into the mizen rigging, and eventually blown away from the quarter, with spars, oars, &c. The decks were swept by a tremendous sea, carrying away binnacles, hen coops. ladders, provisions. casks, &c. The larboard quarter boat was driven to pieces by the wind and sea. The heels of the fore and main topmasts having worked out of the fids, were blown overboard to leeward, the mizen topmast during a weather roll fell through the poop deck into the cuddy and was secured on deck.
No provisions or water could be procured during the whole of this time, and the reports from the lower decks were dreadful, as some of those who were there were dying from suffocation At three in the afternoon, the starboard quarter gallery and part of the agent's cabin was washed away, the sea making a clean breach through the cuddy, where the whole of the passengers, ladies, &c., were assembled, expecting every moment to be their last. At 4 o'clock the fore-top capsized, and the fore-yard having been carried away, the lift braces and yard with lashings to the mast tore up part of the forecastle deck and rails before it could be secured by the Captain and the few hands who could work, part of them being paralized by fear.
The lee bulwarks and guns were washed overboard. During the night the hurricane moderated. and two hammocks and a tarpaulin were spread in the mizen rigging to keep the vessel to the wind. It was now found that she had sprung a leak, and that there was five feet of water in the hold ; the pumps were kept constantly going, and the troops exerted themselves in the most praiseworthy manner, although frequently washed away from them, and faint from hunger. The main mast and rigging straining the ship so much it was decided to cut it away, it was accordingly done without any injury.
The hatches were at length opened ; thirteen individuals were found suffocated, one sergeant, six men. one woman, and five children. Many of the soldiers were now allowed to come on deck, but without any shelter, as the cuddy was filled with passengers who were in a deplorable state of exhaustion. The vessel not answering the helm, the rudder was examined, and the head was found to be wrung off ; the captain, carpenter, and four men, used all their efforts to repair it, and only partly succeeded At one o'clock next day the weather was still very violent, with a heavy rolling sea, and the pumps were kept constantly at work. The long boat being full of water broke adrift, taking with her the spars, lashed to the ring bolts, tearing one of them out from the deck. Every effort was made by Mr. Skey, second mate, in the absence of the captain and first mate, who were both disabled, to secure the boat and spars, and four soldiers had their legs and thighs broken in the attempt. The next day (the 31st) the spars were secured, but both boats were shattered to pieces. In endeavouring to clean the deck of the lumber, &c., the captain and a man (Peter Preston) were swept under it, and when removed from that perilous situation, the former was found to be much bruised, and the latter had his leg broken just above the instep. Several severe accidents happened during the day among the troops. The barometer had risen from 28.20, its lowest during the bad weather, to 29.30, and the gale gradually subsided. The vessel. however, still continued to make from 12 to 14 inches per hour. The rudder had been washed away. Port Louis being the nearest port, it was decided to steer for it. It was judged to be about 1250 miles distant W. by S. By the observations made on board the 31st the latitude was 17° 5' S., and longitude, 7° 07' E. From this date the Maria Somes continued her course for this port and anchored here on the 18th instant. Mauricien, 22 April 1846.
SG 11 Jul 1846.
^ back to top ^