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Clarence and Richmond Examiner Saturday, October 1, 1887

 

This article is titled: A Sad Story of Adventure and Privation. Three Months on an Island.

The Auckland Islands again furnish us with a tale of shipwreck. A small schooner engaged in sealing called at the islands early in March, and there found the remnant of the crew of the vessel Derry Castle, which left Geelong some months before, wheat-laden, for Cork, Ireland. The vessel, while believed to be on a straight and clear course for the Cape of Good Hope, struck on the rocks at Enderby Island, one of the Aucklands, and soon broke to pieces, only eight of the crew being washed ashore. The survivors of the wreck tell a sad story of adventure and privation whilst on the famed Aucklands. The Awarua, engaged in sealing, brought them off, and on Wednesday landed them in Melbourne after perhaps as hard a six months experience as ever mariners have undergone.

Mr. James M. Ghie, the only passenger, in his narrative, as given in the Melbourne Argus, said:- I was the only passenger.  We sailed from Geelong on March 11 and left the Heads on the 12th.  We had a quick passage to the Auckland Islands where the wreck occurred on the morning of Sunday, March 28, at 2 o'clock. I was in bed at the time, and I was awakened by a terrible shock. I soon saw what had happened, as the vessel was stopped and she was down forward. I got up on the poop where I found that the crew were assembled with the exception of four or five who were missing and were probably drowned in their bunks, or were washed off the deck before they could get out.  The ship was leaning over very much and we clung on to the rail, standing on the outside on the side of the ship, as we expected she might go right over at any moment. She was crashing violently on the rock at this time. Our position was miserable in the extreme; heavy seas swept over us the night was bitterly cold and we had barely any clothing. It became evident that we could not live until daylight if we clung to the wreck, and we feared that if we stayed there much longer we should become so numbed as to become unable to swim. I could see rocks at a distance of about 200 yards away, but there appeared to be little chance of a safe landing there.  Taking advantage of a sea that came over us, seven of our party jumped off to make a fight for life. Only one of these reached the shore safely.  Five more men jumped overboard soon afterward and swam for the shore. The rest of us went separately, one after the other.

The sea was terribly rough, and soon after leaving I was caught in a wave which broke over me and twirled me over and over until I thought I should have been drowned. However, I managed to survive and swam on. I had discerned in the gloom what appeared to be like a gully running into the land in a V shape about 80 yds. in distance. I made for this and swam safely into the entrance. I landed quite safely on a soft bed of seaweed but found that I was quite unable to walk, and crawled for a distance of about 300 yards towards some higher rocks that I could see inland, and reached it with great difficulty.

As soon as it was day all the survivors mustered together, and we then found that only eight had reached the shore safely, seven of whom were seamen. It is impossible to describe our miserable, forlorn condition. Not one of us was even half clad, and several were almost naked and we were shivering with cold.  When it became quite light we could see in the foretop of the ship a Swede. One of the sailors got a lifebuoy and a bit of line and held it up to him as an inducement to try to swim ashore by showing that we were ready to help him. He took off his coat and boots and made the attempt, but the poor fellow never reached the land. He got to some low rocks where we could not reach him, as there was a wild sea between, and clung there for a time, but was washed off again, and as far as we could judge was crushed by a portion of the wreckage, for we saw him no more.

We then broke up into different parties to explore the place on which we were landed. We found an old Government depot at the opposite side of the island, but there was nothing there except one bottle of salt. The only food that floated ashore from the wreck was two tins of preserved fish and half a dozen pumpkins. We did not sleep much that night, for we found that the island was a great resort for seals, and we had settled ourselves right in their track. One of our men had gone apart and taken possession of a hole, which was soon claimed by a seal, which fastened its teeth in the calf of his leg. He came running to us, shouting, with a large dog seal after him. The whole of the after part of the night we had to stand up and defend ourselves against seals. Some of them were of great size and were very fierce. On Monday we made our way over the island to the depot, which we found to be a structure about 6ft. by 4ft. 6 ins. in size, shaped like a tent. Into this, we all crowded that night and slept as best we could.

For the next 10 days we lived there on shell-fish, which we found on the rocks, but in very small and in sufficient quantities. We had no fire, and the weather was extremely cold and wet. With a bullet, we managed to ignite a piece of dry rag, which was fanned into flames by being shaken in the wind. This operation was watched with the most intense interest, and when we had, at last, got a fire our joy may be imagined.

We also found an old boiler, which had been left on the island by some whaling party probably, and with this, we increased our food supply by making a kind of soup of seals flesh. About this time some of the wheat with which the ship was laden began to come ashore It was swollen with water and Bait, but we liked it all the better on that account. We ground this up with seal's flesh and made a soup, which in our condition was very acceptable. We had plenty of water everywhere, as the island was nearly all a vast swamp. All the time our thoughts were busy with plans for leaving the island. We had flags flying on three different points of the island to attract the notice of any vessel passing, and we also had bundles of wood ready to light fires on prominent place should a vessel heave in sight. Men were engaged every day in bringing planks from the wreck in order to make a punt, and also in carrying over all the wheat that could be gathered up, and of this, we accumulated a stock of 15 cwt.

Two weeks after we landed we found part of the captain's sailing directory, which had washed ashore. We were able to discover our position, and found that we had been wrecked on Enderby Island, in the Auckland Group, and we concluded that the main island was about eight miles distant. Our object was to reach this island. After much labor a rude boat or punt was constructed, capable of carrying four men. After several trials it was found that the boat was fairly seaworthy, and some preliminary trips were made in her. We had reached our 8Oth day on the island when the first attempt was made to leave it.

William Rennie and Daniel Sullivan set off in the punt on that day for the mainland and they returned safely on the fourth day. As soon as we saw them we knew that their errand had been successful, for they were dressed in new suits of clothes, and we were, therefore, prepared to hear from them that they had found a depot on the island with provisions and clothing. Several passages were made to and fro. An old boat had been found stranded near the depot, and this was got afloat and brought over.

It was in the month of June, on the 91st day of our stay on Enderby Island, that we left it.  The weather during the month in which we were wrecked was very bad. In April it was much better, but in May and June it was again very cold and wet. We found at the depot in Port Ross, on Auckland Island, six suits of clothes, six blankets, 1000 tins biscuits, 6 lbs. or 7 lbs. tea, nine 6 1bs. tins of preserved mutton, a couple of axes, and some nails. There were a good house 24 ft. by 12 ft. of two rooms, and some cooking utensils. We remained a month at Port Ross living in what, in comparison to our former condition, was a state of luxury, before deliverance came.

At midnight on July 9, we heard a vessel let go her anchor about 400 or 5OO yards away from the shore, and in the morning we found that it was the ketch Awarua, of 45 tons, of the Bluff, New Zealand, commanded by Captain Drew. She had been driven into Port Ross by stress of weather while endeavouring to make for another port on the island where she had left a whaleboat. Captain Drew took us all on board, and we had a lengthy and rough passage to Melbourne.  On the way up we were struck by a whirlwind, which raised a pillar of water to a great height. 

 

Fortunately, the pillar burst before it reached us, but we were driven forward at immense speed for a time.  We ran very short of provisions on the voyage having only biscuits, water and flour. Our water also ran short, and what remained was used only for making tea.

In spite of the experience, through which, I have gone  I am in fairly good health though suffering somewhat from rheumatism, to which I was subject before I came to Australia. I have to express to Captain Drew my great gratitude for the kindness with which he treated us on the voyage, which I shall never forget.