The Channel Squadron and Wasp
DURING the passage home I had to consider the prospect of passing my examination in navigation and nautical astronomy on my arrival in England. This was a serious matter for me; for, being now an acting lieutenant of two years' standing, I should forfeit all that time if I failed, and never having had the benefit of a naval instructor, owing to being otherwise employed during the Crimean war and in China, my education had been sadly neglected in this respect. Moreover, now that I had time to work, our naval instructor, J. K. Laughton (now Professor Laughton), one of the best mathematicians in the service, was too ill to do much to help, so the only thing was to buckle to and work by myself. With this end I made a map of the starry heavens, took daily and nightly observations for latitude and longitude, besides double altitudes of the sun, moon, and stars for latitude ; also practised the method of ascertaining the longitude at sunrise and sunset, which is useful when, as often happens, the sun is obscured during the day. It is not the fashion nowadays to trouble about lunar observations, though our forefathers had to trust to them entirely before the days of
SIX WEEKS IN ENGLAND IN NINE YEARS.
chronometers, and I know of one Admiral who believes in them to this day. At any rate, my work during the passage home served my purpose, and enabled me to work a college sheet without difficulty.
The Calcutta was paid off at Devonport after a commission of three years and nine months. Our kind captain, W. King-Hall, left us to go out to the North American station as flag-captain to Admiral Sir Houston Stewart, and I would gladly have followed him; but being acting lieutenant, I had to pass my examination in gunnery and navigation, and so had to remain, to my very great regret. Captain Hall had always been a good friend to me, and what I know of seamanship I owe to him. He was a thorough sailor of the old school, and though sometimes abrupt and plain-spoken, was one of the kindest of men. I was twice under arrest on the voyage home - once for "mutiny," as he called it, and also for breaking my leave at the Cape; but he never thought the worse of me, nor I of him, for that matter, and we parted the best of friends, and he gave me the best certificate I ever saw.
I had just a month to get through my examinations, and having done so with satisfaction to myself, I looked forward to a spell ashore, having been only six weeks in England in nine years, when, to my intense disgust, I was ordered to join the Trafalgar in the Channel Squadron without delay, and to report the day I joined her. It is such treatment as this that disgusts officers with the naval service, and drives many out of it. A soldier would have had at least a year's leave after serving such a time. Happily, things are better now, though there is still
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
room for improvement, and officers are granted a certain period of full-pay leave in proportion to the time they have been absent from home. The Trafalgar was commanded by Captain Edward Fanshawe (now Admiral Sir E. Fanshawe), one of the smartest and most popular officers in the navy.
Amongst the officers was one most amusing old fellow, generally distinguished for his slovenly appearance and bad language. He had served most of his time in brigs and small craft, and was not quite at home in a big ship. Some of his yarns are worth repeating. As midshipman of a brig on the West Coast, the gunroom officers were kept waiting for their pea-soup, and going forward to ascertain the cause, he found the black steward washing his feet in the soup-tureen, preparatory to "dishing up " !
The boatswain of the brig was challenged by the captain of a French ship for having insulted him, and a rendezvous was arranged on shore. The boatswain landed with a ship's pistol, and observing the Frenchman waiting with his second under a palm-tree, he at once opened fire on him, and advanced loading and firing till the Frenchman took to his heels.
The captain of the brig was much disliked by his officers, and being ill with yellow fever and likely to die, the first lieutenant used to drill the marines in the Burial Service on the deck over the captain's cabin, by way of cheering him up, the corporal giving his orders in a loud voice thus, "The corpse is now a-coming up the 'atchway - reverse harms !" The skipper ultimately recovered.
My eccentric shipmate at one time commanded a gunboat up the Baltic, and having had the
misfortune to run her ashore, with no leadsman in the chains, he was ordered to be tried by court-martial. The night before the trial he sent for a trusty old quartermaster into his cabin, when the following conversation took place:-
"What soundings did you get immediately before the ship struck?"
Quartermaster. "Me, sir! why, I wasn't in the chains!"
Captain. "Silence, sir! Remember you are on oath! What soundings did you get?"
Quartermaster. "Ten fathom, sir"!
Captain (handing him a stiff' glass of grog). "You're prepared to swear to that?" And so he did next day, and the captain was acquitted.
After six months' Channel groping I had had enough of it, and having applied for foreign service, was appointed first lieutenant of the Wasp, a steam sloop of thirteen guns commissioned for service on the east coast of Africa for the suppression of the slave trade. This appointment was a good one for my standing, as I was only twenty-two years of age, and had two and a half years' seniority as lieutenant; and so it might have been, but for the unfortunate circumstances attending the Wasp's short but disastrous commission, which I will now relate.
The Wasp has been a name of ill-omen in H.M. service of late years. Two vessels of that name have been totally lost - one on the west coast of Ireland, when a number of officers and men perished; and later the other, a gun-vessel, foundered in the China seas, and not a trace of her was ever heard of. The one I was appointed to was certainly not lost, but came very near being so, and she met
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
with so many mishaps during her short commission of twenty months that it is a wonder she ever reached England again, or that any of us lived to relate our adventures. She was an auxiliary steam-sloop of 1000 tons, mounting twelve guns of small calibre on the broadside and a pivot gun on the forecastle. She was well sparred, and sailed well, but her small steam-power (100 power nominal) only sufficed to propel her seven knots under favourable circumstances. She was, therefore, to all intents and purposes a sailing-vessel ; and she carried 175 officers and men all told.
On June 9, 1860, we slipped our moorings at Sheerness and proceeded under sail to the Downs, where we were delayed by a heavy gale from the north-west; but the wind veering round enabled us to make a run for Spithead. Owing to a thick fog and a most incompetent navigator, we overshot the mark, and when the fog lifted we found ourselves off Portland, having narrowly escaped being wrecked at the back of the Isle of Wight - a bad beginning. We then had to beat back to Spithead. From there we proceeded to Plymouth, and whilst standing "off-and-on" near the breakwater, we very nearly went on the rocks at Penlee Point. Owing to these blunders we got rid of our incapable navigator and shipped another in lieu, and I am not sure that he was very much better. Having made this necessary change, and likewise discharged a drunken lieutenant, we took our final departure from the shores of Old England on June 16.
On the 22nd, whilst the ship was running under sail before a nice breeze, a man fell overboard about
H.M.S. Wasp, Outward Bound "Man Overboard!"
6 P.M. As occasionally happens in a newly commissioned ship, the life-buoy got foul and could not be let go, and the boat which was being lowered capsized at the davits, throwing all her crew into the water. By this time the man was a long way astern, and seeing that he could not swim, and must certainly be drowned, I went overboard after him, and was fortunate in reaching him before he sank. Meanwhile the life-buoy had been let go, but was a very long way off : the ship was therefore now hove-to, and the boat having been righted, the crew got into it again and pulled to our assistance. During these operations we had ample leisure to admire our little ship as she gracefully bowed to the sea with her main-topsail to the mast. To cut the story short, we were both rescued after being half an hour in the water, none the worse for our ducking, though the bluejacket was never of much account afterwards, and took the first opportunity of deserting.
The next day we picked up the north-east tradewind, which carried us to Madeira, where we spent a few days very pleasantly. On leaving the island our usual bad luck (or some might call it bad seamanship) attended us. The captain, who had a decided objection to using steam, got under weigh in a flat calm ; having made sail, we drifted helplessly about the bay till we fell foul of a Portuguese schooner at anchor, and smashed her up considerably. Her skipper, awoke from his slumbers, used some shocking language, which I am bound to say was excusable. Having got clear of this craft, we drifted foul of another, and remained grinding her down till two o'clock in the morning, when we separated and
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
drifted ignominiously out of the bay, leaving two vessels wrecked, and being much damaged ourselves. So much for economising coal, a ton or so of which would have saved all the troubles. The next few days was pleasant sailing. We passed in sight of Palmas, one of the Canary group, and crossed the equator on 16th July with the usual ceremonies.
One night, when running before a strong westerly gale in the latitude of the Cape of Good Hope, we were taken flat aback in a heavy squall. It was an awful night, as dark as pitch, with thunder, lightning, and torrents of rain; a heavy sea was running, and the ship was rolling 40° each way; sails splitting, spars crashing, shot and other raffle flying about. All hands were on deck shortening sail, but it was next to impossible to stand; and the men aloft had as much as they could do to hold on. In the midst of the confusion the wind shifted suddenly again, taking us aback, and it seemed as if we were about to founder or be dismasted. The sea at this time was fearful to behold, and looked as if it was coming aboard us every moment. We had run into the centre of a cyclone. Down below everything was thrown about in hopeless confusion, chests and boxes flying about all over the place. The doctor was lying under the wardroom-table, where he remained till morning, when we dragged him out more dead than alive.
When daylight broke the gale had subsided, and we were able to clear away the wreck of broken spars and make things ship-shape. Numbers of whales were spouting round the ship, and albatross and other sea-birds followed in our wake. On 17th August, being becalmed, I took a boat and left the ship to
ON THE ROCKS.
shoot albatrosses, many of which were in sight. Sailors have a superstition against shooting these birds, fearing that some disaster will befall the ship in consequence, and in this case they were right. However, none of the birds we shot were wasted: their feet made excellent baccy-pouches, their down went to stuff pillows, and we made a pie of their bodies. One hears fabulous accounts of the size of an albatross, some averring they have known them to measure 16 feet across the wings. The ones we shot averaged 12 to 13 feet across the wings, and 4 feet from tip of beak to tail. The head and beak measured fully 18 inches. The latter is a formidable weapon, with a hook at the end. On the 24th August we were again becalmed within one hundred miles of the Cape, so we had another go at the albatross, whereon the old salts shook their heads. The same evening we met the mail-steamer from Cape Town, it having left that morning. After parting with her we got up steam for the first time since leaving England two months previously.
The morning of the 25th was ushered in with a dense fog, so that we could not see a ship's length ahead. According to custom, I had the morning watch, so I put leadsmen in the chains and lookout men on the forecastle, and kept a sharp look out. On the captain coming on deck at 7.30 I asked him if he did not intend to stop on account of the fog. He said he should do so at eight o'clock. As eight bells were reported, the cry came from forward, "Breakers ahead!" Instantly the engines were reversed and the helm put hard-a-port ; but too late! and with an awful crash she was on the rocks, her frame quivering from stem to stern. For the next
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
few minutes it seemed as if it was all up with the ship: she bumped heavily, and presently large pieces of timber detached from her bottom came up alongside. Looking over the side, the rocks could be plainly observed, with kelp as thick as a man's leg attached to them, but no sign of land could we see though so close at hand.
The pinnace was now hoisted out and an anchor laid out astern - a matter of no small difficulty with the ship bumping and straining, the masts quivering, and the decks heaving as though she were breaking up. In the midst of all this excitement, the doctor's voice could be heard loud above the din, crying out, "Oh, she's going to the bottom! she's going to the bottom!" Turning to the master, who was alongside me on the bridge, I told him to go and calm the doctor. So, putting his head down the hatchway, he sang out, "Why, you old fool, she's on the bottom?" After this there was silence below.
The position of the ship at this time was most critical. There was a heavy swell setting in from seaward, lifting up the stern and bringing it down again with a crash that set all the bells ringing and the masts shaking as though they were going over the side. An iron ship must have broken up quickly, but being a stout oak-built little craft she stood a lot of bumping. During this time the anchor was laid out and the cable hove taut, the engine going full speed astern; but all to no purpose, the ship would not start, so the captain ordered me to heave the guns overboard, with the exception of two which were firing signals of distress. Whilst in the act of carrying out these orders the ship slipped off into deep water just
SPORT IN ROBBEN ISLAND.
in time to save the guns. The fog now lifted, showing the cliffs towering high above our mast-heads, and the surf breaking heavily on the rocky coast. We had struck on a part of the coast midway between Simon's Bay and Table Bay, a spot at which no ship that had gone on shore ever came off again. We now let go our anchor and sounded the pumps, when we found her to be leaking badly. Meantime our guns had been heard at Simon's Bay, and the Sidon came out to our assistance and escorted us to the anchorage. An examination of the ship showed her to be very seriously damaged, the divers reporting that most of the main keel was gone; and as there was at that time no dock on the station, we were ordered to Mauritius to be docked. Our departure was, however, delayed for two months, to enable the ship to take part in the ceremony of laying the foundation-stone of the breakwater in Table Bay by the Duke of Edinburgh. During the festivities connected with the function I took the opportunity of visiting Robben Island for the purpose of shooting.
Robben Island was then, and I believe is still, used as a convict settlement, a lunatic asylum, and a leper hospital. The island swarmed with game, and I had a good time, returning to the ship with a heavy bag of francolin, rabbits, and quail. The doctor in charge was most kind, and put me up in the lunatic asylum. I dined at his table; his servants were all lepers, and his guests lunatics, so we were a very mixed party. The doctor also provided me with a guide to show me the whereabouts of the game. This individual, by name Dick, was a criminal lunatic, having murdered his father; but he was pronounced to be quite harmless, and he certainly was a most amusing companion
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
still, I took care not to lend him my gun, as I had no wish to be served the same way as he had served his father.
On 2nd October 1860 we sailed for the Mauritius, and on the 21st arrived at Port Louis and docked in the Trou Fanfaron. The next two months were most pleasantly spent in this lovely island, during which time we made many friends, and enjoyed the hospitality for which all classes of the community are celebrated. The island of Mauritius is of volcanic origin, though no active volcano exists at the present time. The celebrated " Peter Botte " mountain is the highest, rising to about 4000 feet, and is of remarkable shape. It has been frequently ascended during recent years, but at the time of our visit only two parties had ever reached the summit. The captain and I determined to attempt it, and with this object we made a preliminary expedition. We reached the shoulder of the mountain without difficulty, but finding it impossible to proceed higher without ropes and other appliances, we deferred further proceedings till another occasion, an account of which I will relate by-and-by.
A day or two before the ship was ready for sea an amusing thing happened. Near by us was a merchant bark, and on one of her ropes was hanging a seaman's frock. Now this is a recognised signal, well understood by seamen all over the world, that on board that ship is a man who is desirous of joining a man-of-war, so we sent a boat aboard her and she brought back a fine-looking man named John Sutton. I asked him his reason for wishing to leave his ship. He modestly replied that it was owing to a little misunderstanding with the captain. I then sent the
ON THE LOOK-OUT FOR SLAVERS.
boat back for further particulars. The captain informed me that Sutton had thrown him overboard ! We shipped him at once, and he proved a valuable acquisition : he stood by me at a very critical time, and remained in the ship as long as I was in her; but I heard that afterwards he ran away, and probably returned to the merchant service, where the discipline is not so strict as on a man-of-war.
The Admiral, Sir Henry Keppel, arrived at Mauritius before we sailed, and a court of inquiry was held on the Wasp's grounding off the Cape, the result being that nobody was held to blame. As the Admiral had expressed his opinion that he wouldn't give a damn for any one who did not get his ship ashore, the verdict of the court was not unexpected.
On December 1st we sailed for the Seychelles, where we remained ten days to give the men a run ashore, when we left for the Mozambique in company with the Persian brig. We outsailed the brig, and arrived off Zanzibar twenty-four hours ahead of her; but instead of going into harbour, the captain, to our disgust, bore away for the Mozambique Channel. By this evolution we lost a most valuable prize, which had been detained by our consul to await the arrival of the first man-of-war. Arriving off the island of Monfia, I was sent away in the pinnace to look for slavers. My orders were to board any suspicious-looking dhows: if they had no papers they were to be seized as prizes and taken to the nearest port; but should they have papers, it was considered a still more suspicious circumstance, and they were to be taken possession of. Unfortunately we saw none; but I had a pleasant cruise, and rejoined the ship at a rendezvous a week afterwards. During this trip we
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
ascended the Lufigy river to look for slave-dhows. The river had never been explored, and it was necessary to take a pilot, as there was a dangerous bar across the mouth. I told the pilot that if we touched on the bar he would be thrown overboard. Sure enough we struck, and overboard went the pilot, who escaped to the shore. We then continued down the coast, visiting some of the Portuguese settlements, as far as Ibo, when we turned about and steered to the northward. The navigation of this part of the coast is particularly dangerous, being imperfectly surveyed, and abounding in coral-reefs extending far out from the mainland, and the currents are so strong that on one occasion we were set 120 miles to the southward in twenty-four hours. After coasting along for some distance, we crashed upon one of these coral-reefs at 6 P.M., where we remained for the night. The spot where we had piled up was in lat. 12° S. and long. 40° E., near to a small island called Congo, a desolate, uninhabited place covered with low scrub and a few trees. The chart marked five fathoms at low water where the ship was aground ; but this was not the case, and at low water the ship was high and dry. There was a rise and fall of 13 feet, so at top of high water she was afloat ; but the first night she lay over on her beam-ends, and we walked round her, having first secured everything to prevent its fetching away.
The next morning, having laid out an anchor astern, we hove her off into deep water; and we might have got clear away without further damage, but unfortunately, in seeking for a passage through the reef, we managed to get ashore again, in a far worse position than we were before. This time we
ASHORE ON A CORAL REEF.
||10 Apr 1860|
||Wm. R. Kennedy
||15 May 1860|
||Ferdinand G. Gambier
||19 May 1860|
||John E. Knight
||15 June 1860|
||William M. Ogilvie
||11 Apr 1860|
||11 Apr 1860|
||William P. Barrow
||25 May 1860|
||Edwin T. Roffey
||25 Apr 1860|
failed to move her, notwithstanding all our efforts; and as the tide fell, she rested on a rock under her bilge, causing her to creak and groan as if her back was broken. The engines also were lifted from their bed, so we were deprived of their help. The ship was now heeling 17°, so we hove the guns overboard, and landed some provisions and water in case of her breaking up. The ship was straining much, several of her beams broke,
Wasp Ashore on a Coral-Reef in the Mozambique Channel
and the water poured into her as into a basket. Anchors were laid out ahead and astern, and preparations made for landing the crew, tents rigged, and tanks got up from below, as there was no water on the island. The sick men were landed with the assistant-surgeon and a guard of marines. For several days we worked hard at landing provisions and stores preparatory to leaving
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
the ship. During this time the men were exposed to a tropical sun, and the labour was most trying.
On the 3rd February the captain ordered me to get ready to proceed to Zanzibar in the cutter, a small open boat 25 feet long; and the same evening I started with a full boat's crew, an interpreter, and as much water and provisions as we could stow. The position of the ship at this time was such that it seemed extremely unlikely she would ever come off, or would float if she did. I felt sorry for the captain, and said good-bye to my shipmates, feeling doubtful if I should ever see them again, for indeed the chances were against it. The prospect before us was not very cheerful. Zanzibar was at least four hundred miles off and dead to windward, and the north-east monsoon blew right in our teeth, against which I should have to thrash in an open boat, with no sort of shelter from the weather; moreover, the boat was dangerously deep in the water. I wanted to leave some of the men behind, but the captain would not allow it, thinking it safer to take the whole boat's crew, in case of accidents, or trouble with the natives, who are notoriously hostile on that part of the coast. Our troubles soon began, for we were hardly out of sight of the ship when we were struck by a heavy squall, which threw the boat on her beam-ends, although we shortened all sail. The squall came down as black as night, accompanied by thunder, lightning, and blinding rain; the water poured over the gunwale, and we nearly foundered. I jammed the helm up, and ordered the men to throw the water-breakers overboard to lighten her. The boat righted as she got before the wind, and flew
OUR TROUBLES CONTINUE.
before the gale till the squall passed, leaving us half drowned, with the loss of provisions and water, except one breaker. However, after baling out the boat, and serving out a glass of grog all round, we felt better, and hauled to the wind. After beating two days and nights we reached a place called Tongy Bay, where we landed to stretch our legs and dry our clothes. An Arab chief kindly gave us a sheep, which was very acceptable, as, owing to the heavy sea, we had not been able to cook anything, and had to eat our pork raw.
The next morning we again started, feeling much refreshed; but we met with so heavy a sea we had to bear up for Tongy, where we anchored for the night. The next day we succeeded in weathering Cape Delgado, and fetched in off the mouth of the Rovuma river. By this time I found that the coxswain, John Sutton, was the only man who could be trusted to steer, so he and I took turn and turn about night and day for the rest of the voyage. On the 9th February it came on to blow hard, with the usual accompaniments of thunder, lightning, and heavy rain, so I ran for shelter to Kiswara, a slaving port, where we remained for the night, and replenished our stock of water and got a few cocoa-nuts. For the next forty-eight hours we continued beating to windward, eating our food raw as before, as it was impossible to cook it. Getting an observation of the sun, I found we were in lat. 8° 57' S., and being off the port of Quiloa, I ran in and anchored for the night. We found some old fortifications at this place, also barricades for slaves.
On the 12th we sailed at daylight, and after beating to windward all day, arrived at another port,
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
called Kivinge. Our appearance caused quite a sensation as we stood into the harbour with colours flying and ran the boat on the beach. It was rather risky, but we wanted food and water. We were immediately surrounded by a mob of blacks, who had probably never seen a white man before. They could easily have massacred the lot of us; but thinking it was wise to put on a bold face, I told the interpreter to inquire for the Arab chief, and we went up to the village together, taking no weapons. We found the old chief enjoying his pipe in front of his house, and at his wish I sat down beside him. He was a fine, benevolent-looking old fellow, with a long white beard and blue eyes, and he took much interest in our adventures. I showed him my chart, pointing out the position of the ship, and explained the object of our mission. He would not believe we had come all the way in an open boat, and insisted on coming to look at it; and when he heard we had been already ten days at sea, he said he should send me the rest of the way to Zanzibar in a dhow. Thanking him for his kindness, I told him I would wait thirty-six hours to recruit my men and obtain some provisions, and if the dhow was then ready I would accept his offer, but if not, I must go on in the boat. The old man then gave me a bullock, which I promptly shot. He also gave us some dates, and ordered a house to be prepared for me ; but the place was so filthy I preferred to sleep in my boat, as well as for better security in the event of treachery, as we had no reason to be liked by the Arabs, our vocation being opposed to their proceedings. Spreading the sails over the boat, we passed a peaceful night, being only disturbed by the barking of a dog.
OUR TROUBLES CONTINUE.
However, I settled him with a rifle-ball. In the morning the owner of the dog demanded satisfaction, which he failed to obtain. Whilst having our breakfast the natives again thronged us, and as they became a nuisance, and the bouquet d'Afrique was rather pronounced, I directed one of the boat's crew to disperse them, which he did by charging into the midst of the crowd with a 4-lb. piece of pork tied to a string, with which he struck out right and left. The natives, who abhor pork, fled in all directions, and molested us no further. I informed the chief that I should sail at daylight, whether the dhow was ready or not; and as she did not appear, I departed, leaving the interpreter behind, his room being preferable to his company.
Noon of the 13th February, we anchored under the lee of Tonga Island, where we remained for the night, as we were all exhausted and wet to the skin. One of the boat's crew showed symptoms of illness, so I dosed him with rum and quinine, and several others complained from being constantly wet. The next morning we were working to windward when it fell flat calm, and we were rapidly drifted by a strong tide-race towards a coral-reef, upon which a fearful sea was breaking. The sails being useless, we took to the oars; but the broken water knocked them out of the men's hands. It was too deep to anchor, and we were helpless. The black rocks stood up like a wall, with a raging surf breaking against them. The sea was now coming over both gunwales, and our destruction seemed certain, for the instant the boat touched the rocks she would have been dashed to pieces and every soul devoured by sharks, which crowded round us eager for their prey. Just as it
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
seemed we were about to be dashed upon the rocks a breeze sprang up from off the land, which soon, by God's mercy, carried us out of danger. We hoped to have reached the shelter of Chooga Island before dark, but the wind blew so strongly in our teeth that we were unable to fetch it; so we had to carry on all night, and at daylight we found ourselves off the mouth of the Lufigy river. We then tried to run under the lee of the island of Monfia, but were blown to leeward, and it took us all night to work up to it. On the 16th, however, we managed to fetch the south end of the island, where we landed and hauled the boat up on the beach, that we might be able to replenish our water-breaker, and lay in a stock of cocoa-nuts, and dry our clothes in the sun.
For some time previously I had overheard some grumbling amongst the men, who despaired of our ever reaching Zanzibar. Up to this time I had taken no notice of their remarks, considering that under the circumstances, and allowing for the hardships they had undergone, some grumbling might be excused; but thinking this a favourable moment, I harangued them on the beach. I told them that I had heard their remarks and did not blame them, as we had had a bad time, and that probably more hardships were in store for us before we reached our destination; but as we had performed two-thirds of our perilous voyage, I had no doubt of completing the remainder. I told them I only wanted volunteers, and would have no pressed men with me, and that if only three would help me to work the boat, I would put the rest of them on board a dhow which I saw at anchor in the bay, and send them in her
A LOYAL COXSWAIN.
to Zanzibar. This arrangement, I pointed out, would have the advantage that if the boat were lost, those in the dhow would communicate with the consul, and inform him of the critical condition of the ship. Besides this, the boat, being lighter, would sail faster. I felt that I should not be very sorry to get rid of them, but this I kept to myself. The men were a good deal surprised, and somewhat ashamed; but at the conclusion of my speech four of them immediately stepped forward and said they would go anywhere with me. Foremost among these was John Sutton, the coxswain, who expressed his readiness to go to h--- with me if I desired. As I had no wish to test the honest fellow's loyalty to this extent, we embarked in the boat and boarded the dhow. The Arab captain was somewhat astonished when a boatload of sunburnt sailors, in very ragged clothes and no shoes, scrambled over the side. My own attire consisted of a flannel shirt, duck trousers, and an old uniform cap - no shoes or stockings. None of us had shaved since leaving the ship, and altogether we must have presented a ruffianly appearance, and were probably taken for pirates. Having no interpreter, I had some difficulty in explaining that he had to go to Zanzibar with some of the men. When he did understand he strongly objected, as his course lay in the opposite direction, and he was inclined to be saucy; but a loaded rifle applied to his head had a wonderful effect in quickening his understanding. So we soon arranged matters, and gave him to understand that he would be well paid for the job on arrival at Zanzibar. Having divided the provisions - namely, half a keg of dates and a little pork - and given them one of the two rifles we possessed,
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
we parted. I waited to see the dhow fairly started, and then returned to the shore to fill our breaker with water and get some cocoa-nuts.
The tide being unfavourable, I remained at anchor for the night ; and the next morning, having shot a monkey and a few pigeons, we started, but soon had to anchor again, on account of the wind and current being against us. Several dhows also anchored near us. The next day, February 19, whilst getting under weigh, a dhow fell foul of us, carrying away our bowsprit; but during the confusion that ensued we boarded her and took a fine spar out of her to make a new one, when we sheered off and beat up between the mainland and Monfia. The boat sailed much better than before, but was so lively that she shipped a lot of water, obliging us to be constantly baling. The same evening we overhauled the dhow with our men on board, and soon after we anchored for the night. Next morning I went ashore with Sutton on a foraging expedition, as our provisions were nearly exhausted. There was a village about a mile inland, the natives of which were known to be hostile; so I anchored the boat some little way from the beach and hauled her stern in to the shore ready for a start in case of any trouble, so that we could get aboard quickly, and told the men to keep a sharp look-out. Sutton and I then proceeded to reconnoitre the village. I was armed with a rifle loaded with chopped-up lead, as we had no shot. Presently we espied two fine fat geese feeding, so getting their heads in a line I knocked them both over. The report aroused the villagers, who at once gave chase. Sutton seized one goose, I the other, and made tracks for the
THE TRACK OF THE CUTTER.
boat ; but we had not gone far when Sutton rolled over into some thorny scrub and said he could go no farther, as his feet were full of thorns.
Chart of the East Coast of Africa.
Our pursuers, armed with spears, were now only a few hundred yards off, and there was no time to lose, so I pulled the thorns out of his feet and got him on his legs again, when we started afresh, he
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
leaving his goose but I sticking to mine; and we reached the boat, jumped in, and hauled off to our anchor. The men had seen the chase and were all ready for us, so, hoisting our sail, we were soon out of reach of our pursuers, who stood on the beach shaking their spears at us whilst we plucked the goose over the stern. Sutton's version of the above incident, as told to an admiring audience on the Wasp's forecastle after our return to the ship, was very fine. When he came to the part where he dropped his goose he used to wind up, "And I says to Mr Kennedy, How about the goose ? " The language which he put into my mouth relative to that goose (to which, however, I don't plead guilty) always brought down the house, and was received with roars of laughter by the ship's company.
February 20 we met with a strong breeze against us, but made good progress, though shipping a lot of water, keeping us constantly wet and giving us plenty to do baling out the boat. Our provisions were now reduced to the lowest ebb, and there was no prospect of getting more till we reached Zanzibar. At noon we were in lat. 7° 6' S., and no land in sight. We carried a heavy press of sail all night, Sutton and I taking turns at the helm, steering by the stars.
February 21, no land visible, provisions completely exhausted, and wind dead foul. I found some cigars in the bottom of the boat, which I served out equally. The men were very cheery, singing songs and asking for another slice of turkey and ham, and suchlike chaff. Whilst taking my noon observation I fell overboard, but was soon picked up, sextant and all.
ZANZIBAR AT LAST.
At sunset land was sighted on the starboard-bow and greeted with cheers, but it was still a long way off, and the wind was contrary. We carried on all through the night, and at daylight, February 22, the south end of Zanzibar was well in sight. At this time we had not a drop of water left, and had been without food for three days. A fishing-boat was sighted to windward, to which we gave chase, and after firing several shots I put a ball through her sail, which brought her to. We got a large bread-fruit out of her, and gave the owner some powder in exchange. All day we worked up against the breeze, and at sunset we landed on the south side of the island and procured a plentiful supply of cocoa-nuts, when we again proceeded, and the next day at 4 P.M. we ran through the shipping at anchor off the town with our colours flying, and beached the boat abreast of the British consulate, having been nineteen days on the passage.
I at once put on my coat and shoes, and reported myself to the consul, Colonel Rigby, a fine old soldier, who gave me a hearty welcome and a good dinner, the first I had enjoyed for many a day. Having seen to the berthing of my men, I accepted the colonel's hospitality and took up my quarters in the consulate. The consul at once informed the Sultan of my arrival and of the position of the Wasp, and he immediately placed all or any of his ships at my disposal. The choice lay between a frigate, a brig, and a corvette. I chose the last, as she was reported to be ready for sea, and was more suitable for berthing the Wasp's crew, in the event of the ship being abandoned.
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
Accordingly the Iskundah Shah, a smart - looking little vessel, was ordered to prepare for sailing with all despatch, and her captain, Mohamet bin Hames, an Arab as black as a coal, was told to place himself under my orders.
Mohamet had been educated in England, spoke, English fluently, and seemed an intelligent fellow. I asked him when he could be ready to start ; he replied, " In twenty-four hours; " and he at once went on board to make the necessary preparations. All this looked hopeful, and later in the evening he said he had already filled up with water and provisions, and was nearly ready for a start; but, alas! the next morning the skipper and his crew were all helplessly drunk, and remained so for two whole days. In the mean time the dhow arrived with the rest of my men : we had beaten her a clear twenty-four hours in a dead beat to windward. The captain of the dhow, whom we had pressed into our service, was handsomely rewarded for his work. He seemed to have done fairly by the men, and it was as well he did so, for my orders to them were, in the event of any treachery, to pitch him overboard. In measuring our track on the chart, I found we had covered 800 miles in the boat, an average of fifty miles a-day, allowing for time spent in harbour. After two days' debauch Mohamet and his crew returned to work, but now a fresh difficulty arose. The crew had not been paid wages for a long while, so they took the opportunity to strike. It appeared that Mohamet was in the habit of receiving the wages for his crew, but considering his own pay insufficient, he pocketed that belonging to the men, who naturally
THE ISKUNDAH SHAH.
objected to the arrangement. This little difficulty having been met, the work of preparing for sea went on.
During my stay at Zanzibar I received much kindness from Dr (now Sir John) Kirk. We visited the slave-market ; the value of the slaves varied according to age and sex. The principal exports consisted of cloves, cinnamon, nutmegs, and gum shellac. Before leaving the Wasp our doctor asked me to bring him some opium, and I was able to procure a lump of this drug as big as a cocoanut, which proved of great value, as will be seen presently.
By the evening of the 25th February the Iskundah Shah was reported ready for sea, and on the morning of the 26th I repaired on board, accompanied by Colonel Rigby and Dr Kirk, who came to wish us bon voyage, and whose kindness I shall never forget. My boat was hoisted up at the davits, and we weighed anchor and stood out of the bay with a light breeze. The ship I now found myself aboard was a beautiful little craft of 600 tons, mounting twenty guns. She had been built at Bombay of teak, at a cost of £40,000, and it was currently reported that Mohamet, who superintended her building, had made a good thing out of the transaction. Her equipment consisted of two lieutenants, natives of Zanzibar, and a motley crew of Arabs and black rascals of various nationalities. The state cabin was reserved for me, and my men were berthed on the main deck. As the Arabs object to pork, or salt meat in any form, a large supply of live stock had been shipped, and the decks were lumbered with bullocks, sheep, goats,
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
and poultry, which creatures, having no particular space allotted to them, browsed about the deck as they pleased. We sat down four to dinner in the cabin-Mohamet, his two lieutenants, and myself. The fare, as regards quantity, was more than sufficient, but the quality left much to be desired; and the plates and dishes were not clean; to say the least of it. On my protesting that the plates were really too dirty, Mohamet abused the first lieutenant and sent him out to clean them, an operation I saw him performing with the tail of his shirt
It seemed as though the elements were destined to be always adverse to us, for the north-east monsoon, which had blown steadily in our teeth whilst in the boat, and would have been a fair wind for us now, dropped, and we met with light and variable airs and vexatious calms. The ship sailed well; but the Arabs did not know how to handle her, and when required to "tack ship," invariably missed-stays and had to "wear" like a dhow, which craft are unable to tack, by reason of their rig. It was of no use for me to give orders, as the Arab crew would not have understood me, and my own crew were all more or less down with fever, or suffering from the hardships they had undergone. The day after leaving Zanzibar three of my men were very ill with fever, and I felt it coming on myself. We had no doctor on board, nor medicines, but the opium I had with me proved of great value. I dosed the men with it, and took large quantities myself. The only effect of the drug was to keep us in a state of semi-stupor and to relieve pain. The fever was accompanied by a burning sensation and complete
THE OPIUM COMES IN HANDY.
loss of appetite. Any attempt to take food was followed by vomiting. Added to this, all my joints became swollen; my jaws were separated, so that I could not close my teeth; and to add to my other miseries, I became afflicted with ophthalmia. All this was doubtless caused by being wet, day and night, for nearly three weeks, sleeping in wet clothes and drying them on our backs under a tropical sun, added to bad and insufficient food. There happened to be a pair of scales in the cabin, and with these I measured out a portion of opium, either for myself or for any of the men; but after a while even this seemed to lose its power, and although I took enormous doses, I could not sleep for pain.
For ten long miserable days we were becalmed or knocking about with light baffling winds, during which time I took nothing but opium and lemonade. The noise the Arabs made on deck during this time was very annoying, and in the cabin they smoked some vile decoction which caused a sickening stench. The officer detailed for navigating duties used to bring me his work for correction, but I had no means of ascertaining whether the chronometers were correct, without which his calculations, except for latitude, would be worthless, as indeed they proved to be.
One night Sutton came into the cabin and told me that one of our men was dying. I crawled down on to the main deck and found the poor fellow stretched upon the deck apparently lifeless. I could detect no beating of the heart, so, concluding he was dead, I put a lump of opium in his mouth and left him, and went back to the cabin.
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
Strange to say, the next morning he was better, and he ultimately recovered. Another night, when sitting in the cabin in a kind of torpor, the pilot came down and said something in Arabic to the captain. I saw by the fellow's look that there was something wrong, so I asked Mohamet what he said. " He says we must be off the mouth of a river, as the water tastes quite fresh ; but he lies, as we must be sixty miles from the land by our reckoning;" with which remark he went on smoking and took no further notice. Presently the pilot came down again and repeated his former assertion, whereupon I told Mohamet to go on deck and see if it was true, as I was too weak to go myself. He went on deck and tasted the water, and returned saying the pilot had lied, and that it was quite salt. With this statement I was forced to be content, and as it was a fine night I thought no more about it, and was soon dozing off in my chair, where I always passed the night. Presently Sutton came down and told me he thought he could hear the roar of breakers. With his assistance I was soon on the poop, and sure enough could see a line of breakers right ahead. Seeing that Mohamet was quite incompetent, I took charge, and sending one of my men to the wheel and another into the chains to get a cast of the lead, I ordered the helm to be put clown. The leadsman reported fifteen fathoms, so I let go the anchor and told them to shorten and furl sails. The next morning we found ourselves off the mouth of the Rovuma river. The pilot had spoken the truth: we were sixty miles out in our reckoning, and would have been ashore in ten minutes. Mohamet was no ways abashed
BACK IN THE WASP.
when I told him of it, and was evidently quite used to that sort of thing.
On 28th February I was so weak I could hardly scrawl in my journal, " Oh that I could but see our little doctor! he would soon put me to rights." I found afterwards that the poor fellow actually died that day.
March 4 was my birthday, and a more wretched one I never wish to spend. We had by this time drifted about two-thirds of the distance to where we had left the Wasp, so slowly had we progressed, and my anxiety to see the ship once more was great: my joy and astonishment may therefore be imagined when on March the 7th we observed the Wasp lying at anchor "all ataunto," as if nothing had happened to her, with all her stores and guns aboard. I could hardly believe my eyes. However, there was no mistaking the old ship, so we fired a gun and hoisted the boat's ensign to call their attention, and in a short time a boat came alongside to take us on board. Bidding adieu to Mohamet, I was soon alongside, and had just strength left to clamber on deck and receive the congratulations of my shipmates, whom I never expected to see again.
It seems that some days after I left the ship they made a last effort to heave her off without success. The cables were hove taut, and the foresail, the only sail left on board, was set to assist, as a good breeze was blowing right aft. The men, worn out with their exertions, were getting their supper, when off she came by herself, and bumping over the reef, she slipped into deep water, where she was anchored. The curious part of it was,
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON AND WASP.
that although she leaked like a basket whilst ashore, she leaked no more when afloat, the seams having taken up; but she was, nevertheless, very badly injured, and from that time till she reached England the engines were of no further use.
The men had worked hard to recover the stores, guns, shot, powder, and provisions, &c., so that nothing was lost. One doctor and several men had died from exposure, and one-half of the entire ship's company were on the sick-list. The senior surgeon was so unnerved that he was never fit for further service, and was invalided, and soon afterwards died. The captain had almost despaired of ever seeing us again: he intended to have waited a few days longer, and then to proceed to Johanna, one of the Comoro Islands; so, as there was nothing further to detain us, we sailed for that place, and anchored there on the 20th March. Here we remained two months waiting for a ship to convoy us to Mauritius. During this time we made excursions about the lovely island. We had a visit from the King of Johanna, a full-blooded negro, who was received with a royal salute! We also met with Dr Livingstone, the celebrated African traveller, who arrived in the Pioneer, a small steamer belonging to the Central African Mission. He and his party remained with us three weeks. The mission proved a failure, and almost all the members of it died, including Bishop Mackenzie, who was in charge.
One day a schooner flying French colours anchored close to us with a cargo of slaves on board, and sent to us for provisions and medical assistance, which we gave them. Being under French colours we could not molest them, although our mission
AN ABOMINABLE TRAFFIC
was for the suppression of the slave-trade. This abominable traffic was at that time carried on by the French under the title of the "Free Emigration Trading Company," and years afterwards, when I was in command of the East India station, this scandalous state of things still existed, ship-loads of slaves being conveyed from the mainland to Madagascar in Arab dhows sailing under French colours, and it was more than our cruisers dared to interfere with them. The unfortunate slaves on board this schooner were all naked, and were huddled together regardless of age or sex. Many of them were in the last stages of disease, suffering from dysentery, and looked as if they would soon be released from their sufferings. They had been captured on the coast of Mozambique, and were being taken to Bourbon to work on the sugar plantations, from whence they never returned.
On 7th May H.M.S. Ariel arrived from the Cape to escort us to Mauritius, and after an uneventful passage we reached Port Louis, and once more docked in the Trou Fanfaron.
Sailors Pursued by Natives.
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