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A Shipwreck, a zra Vurage, and an Adventure by the
Voyages, for the most part, are not so entertaining as travels. They are less diversified in subject, and less conversant with flesh and blood. When they are otherwise, no reading is more attractive. Voyages among icebergs, and to newly discovered lands, combine the charms of romance with the greatest personal interest; and few things affect us more strongly than a well-told and disastrous shipwreck. Such catas"trophes, however, are in general too painful to warrant isolated extract into a book of entertainment. The compiler seems almost cruel in making it. It furnishes too great a contrast to the reader's comfort, without possessing the excuse of utility.
The almost universal defect of Voyages is, that they take little notice of the element on which they are made. Most people who journey by sea, have no wish but to get over it as fast as possible. The “. ders of the deep” are, for them, as if they did not exist; and even those who are more curious, are content to see little. Geology has not yet been accompanied by its proper amount of Hydrology. The ocean, physically and intellectually speaking, is comparatively an unploughed field, even by the English; yet what it may produce, let the reader judge who is acquainted with the narratives of the Cooks, the Scoresbys, and the Humboldts.
That the perils of shipwreck, however, may not be wanting to the pleasures of this our Book for a Corner, and that our inland habits may be refreshed by their due contrast with a sense of being “out at sea,” we have selected, in the first instance, the following brief but comprehensive account of the loss of a Spanish vessel from the pages of Mr. Redding's Shipwrecks and Disasters at Sea ; and in the second, with due omissions, an abstract of Cook's first voyage to Otaheite, because it keeps the reader longer and more pleasantly on the water than most such narratives, besides furnishing a singular peril by the way, and calling to mind some of the most interesting reading of one's childhood.
The Spanish vessel was bound from Panama to Caldera, a port in New Spain; and both before and after the following mishap, the crew and passengers encountered much suffering; but the present is the most interesting point of the narrative. It is remarkable for answering more completely than usual to what a landsman's imagination conceives of such horrors; that is to say, the suddenness of the danger, the noise of the waters, the darkness of the night, the cutting away of masts, and the frightened awakening of guilty consciences. The loud, confessing voices, heard even above the loudness of the thunder, is particularly dreadful,
SHIPWRECK OF A SPANISH VESSEL.
of burden, with various goods, bound for Caldera, beheld the desired port. All was joy in the ship. The captain presented the sailors with a cask of wine, and a Genoese merchant on board gave them another. The men were in too good a temper to postpone tasting the wine until the next day.
They attacked the cask at once, headed by the pilot, and it was soon emptied, but not without materially affecting their heads.
The Genoese merchant, fearing the ill effects that must arise from such a state of things when so near the shore, posted himself, in his excess of caution, between the man at the helm and the pilot, from having remarked that the pilot, sitting on his seat quite drunk, worked the ship from recollection alone, as he was close to a port perfectly well known to him. The merchant placed himself in the situation already mentioned, to repeat with more precision the words
of the pilot to the timoneer (man at the helm), and this act caused the loss of the ship. The pilot gave the word “northwest, to the north-west,” Al norueste ;" the merchant, who stammered and spoke bad Spanish, repeated the words “ Al nor norueste,” to the north-north-west, which is a different point of the compass. The timoneer, thinking it was his master's orders, did as he was told—kept away from the port and yet approached the coast.
In the meanwhile night was approaching fast. The passengers and the captain were in their beds wrapped in slumber. About two in the morning, the captain was surprised by hearing the waves breaking upon the rocks. He cried out to the pilot,“ What is this, pilot? are we entering the port already?" The pilot, on the question being reiterated, roused from his lethargy, and saw with astonishment and terror that the vessel was steering right upon a rock which could scarcely be seen for the obscurity. Above all a high mountain towered in shadow, covered apparently with trees. The pilot called out to come about, but there was now no time, the vessel was close on the shore, and struck with such force that one of her sides opened.
A huge wave recoiled from the rock against which it had dashed, swept over the vessel, and filled her with water.
Then there was nothing heard throughout the ship but clamorous cries and shrieks of horror. Lamentations succeeded to sounds of mirth and revelry, which had been heard so sbort a time before. Some awaked suddenly from their sleep, and cried in astonishment as they heard the others do who were aware of the danger, though they knew not yet any reason wherefore.
The noise of the vast waves of the Pacific thundering around and over the ship, the darkness of the night, the dashing of the sea on the rocks, increased the terror of the scene.
What was still more extraordinary, the vessel was lost none could tell how or where. This reverse of fortune was terri. ble to them. They had imagined themselves close to the entrance of the port. In the terror which came upon the crew, some fell on their knees in prayer, making vows to heaven for their safety; others with uplifted hands demanded God's mercy; while many in a loud voice, heard even amid the louder thundering of the waves around, revealed their most secret sins.
The captain preserved his presence of mind. Seeing that all must perish if something were not attempted speedily for the safety of those on board, he encouraged the sailors to cut away the masts, and to provide themselves with planks, or any loose timber upon which there was a chance of gaining the shore. Everything above deck contributing to the breaking up of the ship by its weight, was cut away or flung overboard.
In this state morning broke upon them. The captain, when the vessel had opened her planks and was settling in the water, seeing that the sailors would endeavour to gain the shore upon anything they could seize that would swim, advised several of them to fasten themselves to the ends of a long rope, one at each end, so that whoever got on shore first might draw after him a second, who might not be so fortunate in his attempt at reaching it. In this manner the captain got the pilot safe to land, although he did not deserve it. Nearly all the crew escaped. Five or six only, who were dashed by the waves with great force against the ship or the rocks head foremost, were lost.
A SEA VOYAGE, AND AN ADVENTURE BY THE WAY.
[The narrative of Cook’s voyages was drawn up by Hawkesworth, author of The Adventurer. The Mr. Banks mentioned in it was afterwards the well known Sir Joseph, President of the Royal Society; and Dr. Solander became a distinguished botanist.]
AVING received my commission, which was dated the
25th of May, 1768, I went on board on the 27th, hoisted the pennant, and took charge of the ship, which then lay in the basin in Deptford yard. She was fitted for sea with all expedition; and stores and provisions being taken on board, sailed down the river on the 30th of July, and on the 13th of August anchored in Plymouth Sound.
On Friday the 26th of August, the wind becoming fair, we got under sail, and put to sea. On the 31st we saw several of the birds which the sailors call Mother Carey's chickens, and which they suppose to be the forerunners of a storm; and on the next day we had a very hard gale, which brought us under our courses, washed overboard a small boat belonging to the boatswain, and drowned three or four dozen of our poultry, which we regretted still more.
On Friday the 2d of September we saw land between Cape Finisterre and Cape Ortegal, on the coast of Gallicia, in Spain; and on the 5th, by an observation of the sun and moon, we found the latitude of Cape Finisterre to be 42° 53' north, and its longitude 8° 46' west, our first meridian being always supposed to pass through Greenwich; variation of the needle 21° 4' west.
During this course, Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander had an opportunity of observing many marine animals, of which no naturalist has hitherto taken notice ; particularly a new species of the oniscus, which was found adhering to the