This season has been one of the most disastrous on record to the whaling vessels. Intelligence has already been received of the entire destruction of four of these, of which we merely notified the fact a fortnight ago : and rumour has it that others have shared a like fate. These four are the Superior, 400 tons burthen, belonging to Peterhead : the Lady Jane, 300 tons, Captain Paterson, of Newcastle ; the Prince of Wales, 380 tons, of Hull ; and a large American ship - the whole crushed to pieces by icebergs. The particulars are thus described : on the 12th of June last three of the above named vessels were fishing in company with eight other vessels, in Melville Bay, Davis' Straits. For days previous the gales had been frequent and terrific, and the seas tempestuous in the extreme. About 11 o'clock in the forenoon an alarm was raised of the floating ice setting in upon them. So suddenly did it bear down, and with such force and immense masses, that the Superior the Lady Jane, and the American ship M'Lellam, of New London, had not the slightest chance of escaping it, and were speedily cut in pieces. The first vessel destroyed was the Superior, and immediately afterwards the Lady Jane was literally cut in two, the masts at the same time falling overboard, and in less than two hours not a vestige of the ship was to be seen, so completely had the ice covered her. From the time the Lady Jane was struck to the moment she disappeared, the crew, consisting of 50 souls, succeeded in securing the seven boats belonging to the ship, together with some clothing and provisions. As to the American vessel, although dreadfully shattered. the crew, aided by those belonging to the Superior and Lady Jane, made an effort to keep her afloat. After remaining in the ice till he 16th, and finding all attempts to save the vessel abortive. the provisions were divided, and the crews got the boats ready and launched them, and at 7 o'clock p.m. with the wind north-east, and clear weather, they sailed southward along the edge of the ice, sometimes having to encounter large fields of ice, which caused them to drag the boats over it to gain the open sea. Captain Paterson's party made land on the 19th, though the weather was thick and foggy, and after each boat's crew had obtained refreshments they set sail again and made for the nearest Danish settlement, keeping the land in view as they proceeded. Thus exposed to the weather, some times rowing and sometimes sailing, and contending with heavy falls of snow and gales of wind, they succeeded in gaining Opernawick?
Leaving two boats with their crews. Captain Paterson proceeded with the other five boats, all of whom reached Lively, another settlement of the Danes, 500 miles from Melville Bay, on the 29th of June, where they were kindly received and every hospitality shown them, as far as the means in possession of the natives could afford. The unfortunate crews of the other vessels were, we are happy to say, equally successful ; not a life was lost, and they eventually gained the latter named settlement in safety, whence they were forwarded to Orkney Islands by the first vessel that touched at the settlement. The Prince of Wales whaler was wrecked in another part of Davis' Straits under precisely similar circumstances. She was caught by huge masses of ice, cutting her up in a very short time, the crew barely having time to save their boats. They gained the Orkney Islands in safety, and have ere now, we trust, reached their respective homes. It is worthy of remark that one of the above vessels was the oldest whaler in the Greenland service - the Lady Jane ; she had been employed in the fisheries nearly 70 years. The destruction of the four ships is computed at a loss of nearly £50,000.
John O'Groat's Journal.
SG & SGTL Page 43, 9 Feb 1850
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