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CABINET OF CURIOSITIES.
REMARKABLE ESCAPES. NARRATIVE OF THE ESCAPE OF CHARLES STURT, ESQ. The following narrative of the providential escape of Charles Sturt, Esq. member of parliament for Bridport, written by. himself, is equally interesting from the incidents it describes, and as it affords an instructive example of what may be effect ed by resolution and presence of mind, in the midst even of dangers which seem to preclude all hope of deliverance.
“Weymouth, Oct. 1800. Saturday, Sept. 20, his majesty, with the queen and royal family, went on board the Cambrian frigate; the St. Fiorenzo and Syren saluted ; at ten, the three frigates slipped and stood to sea on the larboard tack; about a quarter after, I got under sail and stood for the Cambrian, the standard Aying on board her ; kept on her quarter, and sailed at times round her; half after ten, saw Mr. Weld's yacht to leeward, beating to windward, and bore away toward her ; on coming on her weather quarter, hauled my wind, and sailed in company with her, observed she fore-reached me, but I joined to windward ; at a little before eleven, passed under the stern of the Cambrian, Mr. Weld's cutter under my lee-bow; his boat being in, and top-mast struck, she felt no impediment whatever; my boat a-stern, I observed, impeded my sailing considerably; the sea running too high, was afraid to hoist her in ; however, struck my top-mast, and made all snug. Both cutters standing to sea; about eleven, two leagues from land, the king's frigates had worn and stood to Weymouth Bay: feeling anxious to beat Mr. Weld's cutter, which I saw I should do, could I get rid of my boat, I proposed to one of my sailors to jump in and take her to Weymouth; at this he hesitated and refused : I observed, “ You, my lads, have known me long enough to be satisfied I should not order you to do a thing I would not readily do myself, therefore, reef the sail, slip the mast, I will go myself.” This was soon done ; I took my pocket-compass. On jumping into the boat, Ben asked me if I would have another coat on; Oh, no, no! never mind, Ben,-I can swim in this as well as any I have.” Got into the boat, left my yacht, ordering my master to attend, and do his best to beat Mr. Weld's; hoisted my sail, and steered
N. N. E. to get clear of the Shambles; found a considerable sea running, but nothing but what the boat could weather with ease, (for she never shipped a thimbleful of water till I came to the Shambles.) A very strong ebb tide carried me to the westward, and on for the Shambles, which I wished to avoid ; put before the wind, but, being under a very low sail, could not stem the tide; dared not quit the helm to let the reefs out of the sail, for fear of broaching-to; the tide hauling me dead on the Shambles, where the sea was running tremendously high, and breaking horridly, no time to be lost. · Sensible of my danger, convinced I could neither get to the eastward or to the westward of them, I prepared to meet the danger; and, to make my boat as lively as possible, threw over board my ballast, which likewise would prevent her from sinking to the bottom; the dismal sound of the breakers I began to hear, and soon saw them right a-head : aware of the danger, and convinced my boat could not exist many minutes, and nothing but the interposition of Providence save me, to divert my thoughts from the horrid idea of death, I began singing the sea-song, “ Cease, rude Boreas,” at the same time keeping the boat's quarter to the surf: as I was singing the second verse, a dreadful sea, all foaming, took my boat on her larboard quarter, sheered a-weather my helm, she lost her shorage-way, broached-to, upset and overwhelmed, the sea rolling over and over ; recovering from my alarm, without the smallest hope of escaping, I swam to my boat, which was lying on her broadside: with difficulty I got into her, and held her fast. I immediately pulled off my coat, waistcoat, shirt, and cravat; this I accomplished with much difficulty, being wet. After this, I began to consider what could be done ; no sail near
e ; above fifteen miles from the nearest land; a dreadful hollow, broken sea running in every direction, and frequently overwhelming me, gave me no hopes of saving my life. To surrender without a struggle, I considered weak; the thoughts of my wife and children, which at that period struck my mind very forcibly, (I thought I saw them,) recollecting the difficulries I surmounted two years before, in saving some men from a wreck off my house, and knowing that they were saved from a situation as dreadful as my own by the assistance of Divine Providence, this gave me resolution and fortitude to exert myself; I began to clear away the boat's mast and sails, which I accomplished at last, after being repeatedly washed off the boat. When I had cleared the wreck, I got on her gunwale, and by my weight, brought her to right; I got into her, but the violence of the seas, and coming on so repeatedly, overwhelmed me. The difficulty of regaining my boat against such
seas, quite exhausted me, and the salt water affected my sight, so that it was sometime before I could recover my boat. Looking round for a sail, and perceiving none, and increasing my distance from land, I began to think it a folly to struggle any longer for a miserable existence of a few hours; however, the love of life (and hopes of some vessel heaving in sight,) got the better, and I resolved to use every possible means of preserving it, to continue in the boat. Repeatedly washed off, and buried in the waves, I knew I could not be much longer supported, I must give way. I then recollected that fishermen, when caught in a gale, frequently let a spar or a mast, fastened to their boat's painter, go a-head, and the spar broke the force of the waves before they came to the boat. Having been by this time above two hours in the water, for I upset at twelve, I felt myself much fatigued, and that it was absolutely necessary I should try some scheme to relieve myself. I accordingly took my boat's painter, passed it over and under the aftershort, or seat of the boat; in accomplishing this, I was frequently buried under the waves for many seconds, and, following each other so repeatedly, my breath was nearly gone. At this period, several gurnets (a large species of sea-gull,) hovered close to me, and were so bold as to come within two feet of my head. I suppose they anticipated a good meal on me; however, by hollowing pretty loud, I convinced them I was not yet dead; they took Aight, and I saw no more of them. After they were gone, I tried how my scheme answered; when a heavy sea came, I got out of the boat and swam to leeward, holding by the boat's painter, which I had fastened to her broadside; being to the sea, and bottom upwards, the surf broke with force against her, and only a part came over me. By this means saving myself from many a heavy sea, my spirits kept up; but, alas! when I could discover no sail in sight, the sea increasing, and it drawing towards evening, they began to flag. Struggling through such difficulties, without the smallest prospect of being relieved, was but little encouragement for me to persevere; and being full three hours in the water,
I was much weakened. About three o'clock I saw two sail near me, about a mile to leeward: no exertion of mine I kne:v could make them hear me, so made none : beating about for such a length of time, without the good fortune to see any sail approaching, gave me little hopes of saving my life, continually washed off my boat, and repeatedly obliged to avoid the sea breaking, to quit my boat and swim to leeward, consequently diminishing my strength. About a quarter after four, a brig came within half a mile; hailed her, stood as far out of the water as I could, moving my hands, and using every pos
sible means for her crew to see me; I succeeded; I saw her men go up the main shrouds, and the crew stand close together, but passed me without offering to lend me the smallest assistance; this, indeed, was enough for me to surrender up a life which was no longer supportable; such inhumanity excited in me the strongest emotions of anger; but, alas ! I had no means of redress ; I gave up all hopes of being saved. Still further from the land, a gale of wind coming on, the tide carrying me on to Portland Race. I took a valuable diamond watch of my wife's out of my fob, tied it securely round the waistband of my trowsers, pulled them off, and tied them round the short of the boat; when I had done this, I made a running knot with the painter, intending to put it round me in
last moments, that my boat, as the wind was, would be driven near my house, or Bridport, and that my watch and seal would lead to a discovery of who I was: having done this, I became quite indifferent, death was no longer terrible; and as I saw no chance of being saved, I sat quietly in the boat, patiently waiting for the next wave to put an end to my suffering, and immersed two feet under water. Still tossed about, sometimes in the boat, sometimes holding on her bottom, washed off, and losing her for several minutes,-I found that neither my recollection or strength had failed me, for I always raised myself by treading water, to discover my boat, which, when I did, I swam up to. About half after four, experiencing a very hard struggle to recover the boat, I saw eight sail to windward : it was a long time before I discovered that they were standing towards me; this gave me additional strength and spirits; for the first time, I saw a chance of saving my life, and that Providence had watched over me through all my struggles; at five, three or four ships passed me without seeing me, or being able to make them hear, the sea running high and breaking violently; three more passed me close to windward, my voice being too feeble to be heard. I reseryed my strength for the only two of the eight that had not passed me; a brig came by, I hailed her, lifted up my hands, and fortunately I observed they saw me, for her men went up aloft to see what I was; they then tacked and stood toward me, but did not hoist a boat out; this alarmed me; and having
passed one unfeeling wretch, I almost gave myself up to despair; there was only one more vessel to pass; it was nearly dark, a dismal sea, and within two miles of Portland Race: if this passed me, all was over. I roused myself on this occasion, and hailed her, stood on the boat's bottom, was washed off, got on her again, and was again washed off; however, life was still desirable, as long as I saw
a chance of being saved. After struggling again and again, I was discovered by some of the soldiers ; I saw there was a bustle on board her, I saw men running up the rigging, and shortly after a boat let down; at that instant I was agitated, my firmness seemed to forsake me, for I burst into a flood of tears, and was seized with a violent retching from the quantity of salt water I had swallowed; as the boat approached, I recovered; when she came near, the sea being very high, I desired them not to come broadside to, but stern on; I untied my trowsers, and threw them into the boat, and endeavoured to spring in myself, but was unable: the crew pulled me in by the legs. I was not so much exhausted, nor my recollection so lost, but I was able to steer the boat through a heavy sea, and lay her alongside, which I did. I was humanely and kindly received by colonel Jackson, of the 85th; and the whole crew expressed a sincere and honest gladness at my providential escape : ten minutes more, and she must have passed, and not the smallest chance of my existing half an hour longer; my limbs benumbed, a violent pain in my side, with a dizziness in my eyes, and an inclination to sleep; from
the time I upset to that of being picked up, I had been above 1
five hours and a half naked in the water. The ship Middle1 ton came into Portland Roads at about eight o'clock, and at
nine, colonel Jackson attended me to my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, from whom I received the kindest attention; they thought I was irrecoverably gone, so did their majesties, par
ticularly as captain Ingram declared he saw my boat go down; ů however, it was extremely reasonable to suppose I was lost,
the sea running high, and breaking in a most tremendous manh ner: he well knew on those shoals a boat could not long ex
ist, and, on the whole, a most dreadful evening, it was reasonable to suppose I was no more. Their majesties, with the dukes of Kent and Cumberland, lord and lady Cathcart, Parlet Cathcart : colonels Desborough and Wynyard, generals
Goldsworthy, Garth, &c., every soul, in short, in Weymouth, d heartily congratulated me on my providential escape; the
king and queen with their family, on the esplanade, expressed, in the kindest manner, their very sincere happiness at my being saved. I was most dreadfully bruised, extremely weak, and much agitated from the kind solicitude my friends show
Tuesday, the 23d of September, went on board the Middledfon, captain Rankin, with colonel Jackson, and distributed fifty guineas among the captain and crew.
Capt. Rankin, 10 guineas and a silver cup.