On his Majesty’s Service.
St. John’s, Newfoundland, July 9, 1803.
It is with extreme concern I have the honour to inform you of the total loss of his Majesty’s Packet Lady Hobart, under my command, on the morning of the 28th June, at sea, in lat. 46. 33′ north, and long. 44° 00′ west from Greenwich, on an island of ice.
The accompanying Narrative of our proceedings, from the time of the ship’s foundering, will, I trust, be a sufficient testimony to their Lordships, that no exertion on my part, or that of my officers and ship’s company, was wanting, both as to preserving: the ship from sinking, as well as the total impossibility of saving the despatches.
The sufferings and hardships undergone by us all, have been indeed greater than it is possible for my pen to describe.
After remaining three days at Island Cove, the place where we first made the land, there being no medical assistance for the people, I embarked in a small vessel I hired for the purpose, and arrived here yesterday.
Wíth the exception of two men and myself, they are still in a most wretched condition, and several it is feared will lose their toes and fingers. As soon as they are in a state to be moved, I intend proceeding from hence in a schooner to Halifax, with a view to obtain a passage in one of the Packets, as there are no vessels’ about to sail from hence for England, and none that could accommodate so great a number.
I trust their Lordships will approve of what I have considered it my duty to do by these unfortunate men.
Brigadier-general Skerrit has been so kind as to give us quarters in the garrison, and has issued rations for our support, as well as maintenance to Halifax, at the expense of Government, for which I shall give receipts.
I should be wanting in gratitude were I not to make particular mention of the kind and humane attentions we have all experienced from General Skerrit, the officers of the garrison, and many of the inhabitants of St. John’s.
I have the honour to remain
Your most obedient Servant,
William Dorset Fellowes.
General Post Office, 18th August, 1803.
Having laid your affecting and interesting Narrative before my Lords the Postmasters General, I am commanded to send you a copy of their Lordships minute thereon. I assure you I enter fully into all their Lordships feelings for your past sufferings, and entertain the same sense of your patience, fortitude, and perseverance ; and I beg you to believe I have pleasure in witnessing the promotion which has so quickly succeeded the moment of your difficulties and dangers.
My Lords cannot fail to take into their favourable consideration the very meritorious conduct of your officers and crew.
Believe me with great regard,
Yours most faithfully,
We have perused this Report with a mixed sentiment of sympathy and admiration. We are satisfied, that in the loss of the Packet and of the public correspondence, no blame is imputable to Captain Fellowes, to his officers, or to his seamen. In their exertion after the ship had struck on the floating mass of ice, and in their subsequent conduct, they appear to have shewn all the talents and virtues which can distinguish the naval character.
Let a proper letter be written in our names to the friends and family of the very worthy French officer who perished. And we shall be solicitous to learn the entire recovery of the other passengers, who met such dangers and sufferings with the most exemplary fortitude.
Mr. Freeling will return the Narrative to Captain Fellowes, with our permission to him to communicate it to his friends ; or, if he shall think proper, to give it to the public. It cannot fail to impress on the minds of all who may read it, the benefit of religion and the consolation of prayer under the pressure of calamity ; and also an awful sense of the interposition and mercies of Providence, in a. case of extreme peril and distress. To seamen it will more especíally shew that discipline, order, generosity of mind, good temper, mutual benevolence, and patient exertion, are, under the favou of Heaven, the best safeguards in all their difficulties.
With respect to Captain Fellowes, we feel highly gratified in having it in our power so immediately to give him a promotion, which we have reason to believe will be particularly acceptable.
August 16, 1803.
On the 22nd of June 1803, we sailed from Halifax for England, steering a course to the southward and eastward, to clear Sable Island. On the 24th, hauled to the north ward, to pass over the northern part of the Great Bank of Newfoundland, with the intention to keep well to the northward, that we might thereby avoid the enemy’s cruisers.
On the 26th, at seven A. M. ,being then on the Grand Bank, in lat. 44° 37′, and long. 51° 20’ west, Cape Race bearing N.N.W. : W 128 miles distant, discovered a large schooner under French colours, standing towards us, with her deck full of men. From her manner of bearing down upon us, we concluded she had been apprised of the war, and that she took us for a merchant brig. Cleared ship for action. At eight, being within range of our guns, fired a shot at her, when she struck her colours. Sent on board and took possession of the vessel she proved to be l’Amiable Julie, of Porte Liberté, of eighty tons burden, new and strong built, bound thither from the island of St. Pierre, laden with salt fish and commanded by Citizen Charles Rossé.
After taking out her captain and crew, I gave the prize in charge to Lieutenants John Little, and William Hughes, of his Majesty’s navy (who were passengers in the Lady Hobart, and who most handsomely volunteered their services) : with them I sent two of our own seamen, and two prisoners, to assist in navigating the prize. At ten A. M. saw two schooners ahead ; fired a gun, and brought them to : on finding them to be English, and bound to St. John’s, I divided the French prisoners between them, excepting the captain, mate, and one boy, the captain ‘s nephew, who requested very earnestly to remain on board the packet.
Tuesday, 28th June.
Blowing hard from the westward, with a heavy sea and hazy weather, with intervals of thick fog. About one in the morning, the ship then going by the log at the rate of seven miles an hour, struck against an island of ice, with such violence, that several of the crew were pitched out of their hammocks. Being roused out of my sleep by the suddenness of the shock, I instantly ran upon deck. The helm being put hard a-port, the ship struck again about the chest-tree, and then swung round on her heel, her stern-post being stove in, and her rudder carried away, before we could succeed in our attempts to hauÍ her off. At this time the island of ice appeared to hang quite over the ship, forming a high peak, which must have been at least twice the height of our mast head ; and we suppose the length of the island to have been from a quarter to half a mile.
The sea was now breaking over the ice in a dreadful manner, the water rushing in so fast as to fill the hold in a few minutes. Hove the guns overboard, cut away the anchors from the bows, got two sails under the ship’s bottom, kept both pumps going, and baling with buckets at the main hatchway, in the hope of preventing her from sinking but in less than a quarter of an hour she settled down to her fore-chains in the water.
Our situation was now become most perilous. Aware of the danger of a moment’s delay in hoisting out the boats, I consulted Captain Thomas of the navy, and Mr. Bargus, my master, as to the propriety of making any further efforts to save the ship ; and as I was anxious to preserve the mail, I requested their opinion as to the possibility of taking it into the boats in the event of our being able to get them over the ship’s side. These gentlemen agreed with me, that no time was to be lost in hoisting them out; and that, as the vessel was then settling fast, our first and only consideration was to endeavour to preserve the crew.
And here I must pay that tribute of praise which the steady discipline and good conduct of every one on board so justly merit. From the first moment of the ship’s striking, not a word was uttered expressive of a desire to leave the wreck : my orders were promptly obeyed ; and though the danger of perishing was every instant increasing, each man waited for his turn to get into the boats with a coolness and composure that could not be surpassed.
Having fortunately succeeded in hoisting out the cutter and jolly-boat, the sea, then running high, we placed the ladies in the former. One of them, Miss Cotenham, was so terrified, that she sprung om the gunwale, and pitched into the bottom of boat with considerable violence. This accident, which might have been productive of fatal consequences to herself, as well as to us all, was unattended by any bad effects. The few provisions which had been saved from the men’s births were then put into the boats, which were quickly veered astern. By this time the main deck forward was under water, and nothing but the quarter-deck appeared : I then ordered my men into the boats, and having previously lashed iron pigs of ballast to the mail, it was thrown overboard.
I now perceived the ship was sinking fast; I called out to the men to haul up and receive me, intending to drop myself into the cutter from the end of the trysail boom, fearing she might be stove under the counter; and I desired Mr. Bargus, who continued with me on the wreck, to go over first. In this instance, he replied, that he begged leave to disobey my orders ; that he must see me safe over before he attempted to go himself. Such conduct, and at such a moment, requires no comment ; but I should be wanting to myself, and to the service, if I did not faithfully state to their Lordships every circumstance, however trifling and it is highly satisfactory to me to have this opportunity of recording an incident so honourable to a meritorious officer.
The sea was running so high at the time we hoisted out the boats, that I scarcely flattered myself we should get them out in safety; and indeed, nothing but the steady and orderly conduct of the crew could have enabled us to effect so difficult and hazardous an undertaking : and it is a justice to them to observe, that not a man in the ship attempted to make use of the liquor, which every one had in his power. Whilst the cutter was getting out, I perceived one of the seamen (John Tipper) emptying a demijean, or bottle, containing five gallons, which, on inquiry, I found to be rum. He said that he was emptying it for the purpose of filling it with water from the scuttle cask on the quar- ter-deck, which had been generally filled over night, and which was then the only fresh water to be got at: it became afterwards our, principal supply. I relate this circumstance as being so highly creditable to the character of a British sailor.
We had scarcely quitted the ship, when she suddenly gave a heavy lurch to port, and then went down head foremost. I had ordered the colours to be hoisted at the main-top gallant-mast-head, with the union downwards, as a signal of distress, that if any vessel should happen to be near to us at the dawn of day, our calamitous situation might be perceived from her, and. she might afford us relief.
At this awful crisis of the ship sinking, when it is natural to suppose that fear would be the predominant principle of the human mind, the coolness of a British seaman was very conspicuously manifested by his (John Andrews) exclaiming: “There my brave fellows, there goes the. pride of Old England!”
I cannot attempt to describe my own feelings, or the sensations of my people. Exposed as we were in two small open boats upon the great Atlantic Ocean, bereft of all assistance, but that which our own exertions, under Providence, could afford us, we narrowly escaped being swallowed up in the vortex. Men used to vicissitudes are not easily dejected ; but there are trials which human nature alone cannot surmount. The consciousness of having done our duty, and a reliance upon a good Providence, enabled us to endure our calamity and. we animated each other with the. hope of a better fate.
While we were employed in deliberating about our future arrangements, a curious circumstance occurred, which, as it was productive of considerable uneasiness to us all, deserves to be particularly mentioned here : at the moment when the ship was sinking, she was surrounded by what seamen term a school, or an incalculable number of whales, which can only be accounted for by their being. known, at this particular season, to take a direction for the coast of Newfoundland, in quest of a small fish, called Capeland , which they devour. We were extremely apprehensive, from their near approach to the boats, that they might strike and materially damage them : frequent instances having occurred in that fishery of boats being cut in twain by the violence of a single blow from a whale : we therefore shouted, and used every effort to drive them away, but without effect ; they continued, as it then seemed, to pursue us, and remained about the boats for the space of half an hour, when, thank God they disappeared without having done us any injury.
Having at length surmounted dangers and difficulties which baffle all description, we rigged the foremast, and prepared to shape our course in the best manner that circumstances would admit of, the wind blowing from the precise point on which it was necessary to sail, to reach the nearest land. An hour had scarcely elapsed from the time the ship struck, till she foundered. The distribution of the crew had already been made in the following order, which we afterwards preserved.
In the cutter, of the following dimensions, viz. twenty feet long, six feet four inches broad, and two feet six inches deep, were embarked three ladies and myself; Capt. Richard Thomas, of the navy ; the French commander of the schooner ; the and master’s mate, gunner, steward, carpenter, eight seamen ; in all eighteen people ; which, together with the provisions, brought the boat’s gunwale down to within six or seven inches of the water. From this confined space, some idea may be formed of our crowded state ; but it is scarcely possible for the imagination to conceive the extent of our sufferings in consequence of it.
In the jolly- boat, fourteen feet from stem to stern, five feet three inches broad, and two feet deep, were embarked Mr. Samuel Bargus, master, Lieut. Col. George Cooke, of the first regiment of guards ; the boatswain, sail-maker, and seven seamen ; in all eleven persons.
The only provisions we were enabled to save consisted of between forty and fifty pounds of biscuit; one demijean, or vessel, containing five gallons of water ; a small jug of the same, and part of a small barrel of spruce beer; one demijean of rum, ea few bottles of port wine, with two compasses, a quadrant, a spy-glass, a small tin mug, and a wine glass. The deck lantern, which had a few spare candles in it, had been likewise thrown into the boat, and the cook having had the precaution to secure his tinder-box, and some matches that were kept in a bladder, we were afterwards enabled to steer by night.
The wind was now blowing strong from the westward, with a heavy sea, and the day had just dawned. Estimating ourselves to be at the distance of 350 miles from St. John’s, in Newfoundland, with a prospect of a continuance of westerly winds, it became at once necessary to use the strictest economy. I represented to my companions in distress, that our resolution, once made, ought on no account to be changed ; and that we must begin by suffering privations, which I foresaw would be greater than I ventured to explain. To each person, therefore, was served out half a biscuit, and a glass of wine, which was the only allowance for the ensuing twenty-four hours, all agreeing to leave the water untouched as long as possible. During the time we were employed in getting out the boats, I had ordered the master to throw the main hatch tarpaulin into the cutter; which being afterwards cut into lengths, enabled us to form a temporary bulwark against the waves. I had also reminded the carpenter to carry with him as many tools as he could : he had accordingly, among other things, put a few nails in his pockets, and we repaired the gunwale of the cutter, which had been stove in in hoisting her out. Soon after day-light we made sail, with the jolly-boat in tow, and stood close-hauled to the northward and westward, in the hope of reaching the coast of Newfoundland, or of being picked up by some vessel. Passed two islands of ice, nearly as large as the first. We now said prayers, and returned thanks to God for our deliverance. At noon, observed in lat. 46° 33′ north St. John’s bearing about W. N. distant 350 miles.
Wednesday, June 29.
This day was ushered in with light variable winds from the southward and eastward. We had passed a long and sleepless night ; and I found myself, at the dawn of day, with twenty-eight persons looking up to me with anxiety for the direction of our course, as well as for the distribution of their scanty allowance. On examining our provisions, we found the bag of biscuit much damaged by salt water ; it therefore became necessary to curtail the allowance, to which precaution all cheerfully assented.
It was at this moment that I became more alive to all the horrors of our situation. We all returned thanks for our past mercies, and offered up prayers for our safety.
A thick fog soon after came on ; it continued all day with heavy rain, which as we had no means of collecting, afforded us no relief. Our crowded and exposed situation was now rendered more distressing, from being thoroughly wet, no one having been permitted to take more than a great coat or a blanket, with the clothes on his back.
Kept the oars in both boats going constantly, and steering at W. N. W. course. – All hands anxiously looking out for a strange sail. At noon served a quarter of a biscuit and a glass of rum to each person. St. John’s bore W. by N. . N. distant 310 miles. No observation. One of the ladies again read prayers to us, particularly those for delivery after a storm, and those for safety at sea.
Thursday, June 30.
At daybreak we were all so benumbed with wet and extreme cold, that half a glass of rum, and a mouthful of biscuit, were served out to each person : the ladies, who had hitherto refused to taste the spirits, were now prevailed upon to take the stated allowance, which afforded them immediate relief, and enabled them the better to resist the severity of the weather. The sea was mostly calm, with thick fog and sleet the air raw and cold : we had kept at our oars all night, and we continued to row during the whole of this day. The jolly-boat having unfortunately put off from the ship with only three oars, and having but a small sail, converted into a foresail from a top-gallant steering sail, without needles: or twine, we were obliged to keep her constantly in tow. The cutter also having lost two of her oars in hoisting out, was now so deep in the water, that, with the least sea she made little way, so that we were not enabled to profit much by the light winds.
Someone from the jolly-boat called out that there was part of a cold ham, which had not been discovered before : a small bit, about the size of nutmeg, was immediately served out to each person, and the remainder was thrown overboard, as I was fearful of its increasing our thirst, which we had not the means of assuaging.
At noon we judged ourselves to be on the north-eastern edge of the Grand Bank, St. John’s, bearing W. by N. N.distant 246 miles. No observation. Performed divine service.
Friday, July 1.
During the greater part of the last twenty-four hours it, blew a hard gale of wind from the west-south-west, with a heavy confused sea from the same quarter ; thick fog and sleet throughout ; the weather excessively cold, for the spray of the sea freezing as it flew over the boats, rendered our situation truly deplorable. It was at this time that we all felt a most painful depression of spirits : the want of nourishment, and the continued cold and wet weather, had rendered us almost incapable of exertion. The very confined space in the boat would not allow of our stretching our limbs ; and several of the men, whose feet were considerably swelled, repeatedly called out for water. On my reminding them of the resolution we had made, and of the absolute necessity of our persevering in it, they acknowledged the justice and propriety of my refusal to comply with their desire, and the water remained untouched.
At the commencement of the gale we stood to the northward and westward; but the cutter was so low in the water, and had shipped so much sea, that we were obliged to cast off the jolly-boat’s tow- rope, and we very soon lost sight of her in the fog. This unlucky circumstance was productive of the utmost distress to us all. We had been roused to exertion from a double motive ; and the uncertainty of our ever meeting again the companions of our misfortunes, produced in us the most lively affliction. To add to the misery of our situation, we lost with the boat not only a considerable part of our stores, but with them our quadrant and spy-glass. At about four A. M. the gale increasing, with a prodigious heavy sea, we brought the cutter to by heaving the boat’s sail loose over the bow, and veering it out with a rope bent to each yard-arm, which kept her head to the sea, so as to break its force before it reached us.
In the course of this day there were repeated exclamations of a strange sail, although I knew it was next to an impossibility to discern any thing, owing to the thickness of the fog, ; yet they were urged from the several seamen with such apparent certainty of their object, that I was induced to put the boat before the wind to convince them of their error; and as I then saw in a very strong point of view the consequences of such deviations, I took occasion to remonstrate with them upon the subject ; I represented, with all the force of which I was capable, that the depression arising from disappointment, infinitely overbalanced the momentary relief proceeding from such delusive expectation; and I exhorted them not to allow such fancies to break out into expression Under all these circumstances, the ladies particularly, with a heroism that no words can describe, afforded to us the best examples of patience and fortitude.
We all joined in prayers, which tranquillized our minds, and afforded us the consolatory hope of bettering our condition : on these occasions we were all bare-headed, notwithstanding the incessant showers. At noon St. John ‘s bore W. by N. N. No observation. distant 148 miles.
Saturday, July 2.
It rained hard during the night, and the cold became so severe, that almost everyone in the boat was unable to move. Our hands and feet were so swelled, that many of them became quite black, owing to our confined state, and the constant exposure to wet and cold weather. At day-break I served out about the third of a wine-glass of rum to each person, with a quarter of a biscuit, and before noon a small quantity of spruce beer, which afforded us great relief.
During the first part of this day, it blew strong from the south ward and westward, with foggy weather towards noon, moderate breezes from the northward and eastward.
At half past eleven A. M. a sail was discovered to the eastward, standing to the north-west. Our joy at such a sight, with the immediate hope of deliverance, gave us all new life. I immediately ordered the people to sit as close as possible, to prevent our having the appearance of being an armed boat ; and having tied a lady’s shawl to the boat- hook, I raised myself as well as I could, and, from the bow, waved it as long as my strength would allow me. Having hauled close to the wind, we neared each other fast, and in less than a quarter of an hour we perceived the jolly-boat. Our not having recognized her sooner, was owing to an additional sail having been made for her, out of one of my bed sheets, which had been accidentally thrown into the boat, and was set as a bonnet to the fore- sail.
I cannot attempt to describe the various sensations of joy and disappointment, which were by turns expressed on all our countenances. As soon as we approached the jolly-boat, we threw out to her a tow-rope, and bore away to the north-west.
We now mutually inquired into the state of our respective crews, after the late dreadful gale those in the jolly-boat had suffered from swelled hands and feet, like ourselves, and had undergone great anxiety on our account, concluding us to have perished. The most singular circumstance was, their having steered two nights without any light ; and our meeting again after such tempestuous weather, could not have happened but from the interposition of Providence. Fearing a similar accident, we made a more equal distribution of our provision and having received from the jolly-boat two bottles of wine and some biscuit, we gave them some rum in return.
Our hopes of deliverance had now been buoyed up to the highest pitch. The excitement arising from our joy began perceptibly to lose its effect and to a state of artificial strength succeeded such despondency, that no entreaty, nor argument, could rouse some of the men even to the common exertions of making sail.
To the French captain, and several of the people who appeared to have suffered most, I now, for the first time, served out a wine glass full of water. I had earnestly cautioned the crew not to taste the salt water, but some of the unhappy men had, nevertheless, tak en large draughts of it, and became delirious ; some were seized with violent cramps, and twitching of the stomach and bowels. I again took occasion to point out to the rest of them the extreme danger of such indiscretion.
Performed divine service. At noon St. John’s bore W. by N. N. distant 110 miles. No observation of the sun.
Sunday, July 3.
The cold, wet, hunger, and thirst which we now experienced, are not to be described, and made our situation very deplorable. At eight P. M. having a strong breeze from the southward, we stood on under all the canvass we could spread, the jolly-boat following in our wake, and pulling her oars to keep up with us. The French captain, who for some days had laboured under a despondency which admitted of no consolation, jumped overboard in a fit of delirium, and instantly sunk. The cutter at this time was going through the water so fast, and the oars. being lashed to the gun wale, it would have been impossible to attempt to save him, even had he floated. One of the other prisoners in the jolly-boat became so outrageous, that it was found necessary to lash him to the bottom of the boat.
The melancholy fate of the poor captain, whom I had learnt to esteem, afflicted me at first more sensibly, perhaps, than any other person ; for on the day on which I was making the distribution in the boats, and was considering in which I should place him, he came to me with tears in his eyes, to implore me not to leave him to perish with the wreck : I assured him that I never had entertained such an idea ; that as I had been the accidental cause of his misfortunes, I would endeavour to make his situation as easy as I could, and that, as we were all exposed to the same danger, we would survive or perish together. This assurance, and the hope of being speedily exchanged, if ever we reached the land, operated for a while in quieting his mind ; but his fortitude soon forsook him, and the raw spirits, to which he had not been accustomed, producing in him the most dreadful intoxicating effects, hurried on the fatal event.
We were all deeply affected by this circumstance ; the most trifling accident or disappointment was sufficient to render our irritable state more painful ; and I was seized with such melancholy, that I lost all recollection of my situation for many hours ; a violent shivering had seized me, which returned at intervals ; and as I had refused all sustenance, my state was very alarming : towards night I enjoyed, for the first time, three or four hours sound sleep, a perspiration came on, and I awoke as from a dream, free from delirium, but painfully alive to all the horrors that surrounded me.
The sea continued to break over the boats so much, that those who had force enough, were obliged to bale without intermission. Those who sat in the stern of the cutter were so confined, that it was difficult for any one to put his hand into his pocket, and the greater part of the crew lay in water upon the boat’s bottom.
The return of dawn brought us no relief but its light. The sun had never cheered us but once during the whole of our perilous voyage ; and those who had a few hours of interrupted sleep, awoke to all the consciousness of wretchedness and misery. A very heavy gale of wind came on from the southward, with so tremendous a sea, that the greatest vigilance was necessary in managing the helm, as the slightest deviation would have broached the boats to, and consequently must have hurried on our destruction. We scudded before it, expecting every returning wave to overwhelm us but, through the providence of Almighty God, we weathered the storm, which began to abate towards night. We had nearly run the distance we had supposed ourselves from St. John’s; but, owing to the thickness of the fog. we were prevented from discerning to any great extent.
Towards evening we passed several pieces of rock-weed, and soon after Captain Thomas saw the wing of a Hack down, an aquatic bird that frequents the coast of Newfoundland, and is much eaten by the fishermen. This event afforded us great hopes of our approaching the land ; and all hands were eagerly employed in observing what passed the boats. About this time a beautiful white bird, web-footed, and not unlike a dove in size and plumage, hovered over the mast-head of the cutter; and not- withstanding the pitching of the boat, it frequently attempted to perch on it, and continued fluttering there until dark. Trifling as this circumstance may appear, it was considered by us all as a propitious omen.
The impressive manner, in which it left us, and returned to gladden us with its presence, awakened in us a superstition, to which sailors are at all times said to be prone : we indulged ourselves on this occasion, with the most consolatory assurances, that the same Hand which had provided this solace to our distresses, would extricate us from the dangers that surrounded us.
There being every reason to conclude ourselves well in with the land, the few that were able to move, were now called upon to make a last effort to save their lives by rowing, and taking advantage of the little breeze we then had. It was strongly urged to them, that, if the wind should come off the shore in the morning, and drive us to leeward, all efforts to regain it might then be too late ; as, independent of our feeble state, the provisions, with every economy, could not last more than two days ; and that the water, which had as yet remained untouched (excepting in the instances before mentioned), could not hold out much longer. We had now been six days and nights, constantly wet and cold, without any other sustenance than a quarter of a biscuit and one wine-glass of fluid for twenty-four hours. The men who had appeared totally indifferent as to their fate, summoned up resolution, and as many as were capable of moving from the bottom of the boats, applied to the oars.
Monday, July 4.
As the day dawned, the fog became so thick, that we could not see very far from the boat. During the night we had been under the necessity of casting off the jolly-boat’s tow-rope, to induce her crew to exert themselves by rowing. We again lost sight of her, and I perceived that this unlucky accident was beginning to excite great uneasiness among us.
We were now so reduced, that the most trifling remark, or exclamation, agitated us very much. I therefore found it necessary to caution the people against being deceived by the appearance of land, or calling out till we were quite convinced of its reality, more especially as fog-banks are often mistaken for land. Several of the poor fellows, however, repeatedly exclaimed they heard breakers, others the firing of guns ; and the sounds we did hear resembled the latter so much, that I concluded some vessel had got on shore, and was making signals of distress : the noise afterwards proved to be the blowing of whales, of which we saw a great number.
Soon after daylight, the sun rose in view for the second time since we quitted the wreck. It is worthy of remark, that during the period of seven days that we were in the boats, we never had an opportunity of taking an observation, either of the sun, moon, or stars, nor of drying our clothes. The fog at length beginning to disperse, we instantly caught a glimpse of the Iand, within a mile distance, between Kettle Cove and Island Cove, in Conception Bay, fourteen leagues from the harbour of St.John’s. Almost at the same moment we had the inexpressible satisfaction to discover the jolly-boat, and a schooner in shore standing off towards us.
I wish it were possible for me to describe our sensations at this interesting moment. From out constant watching and fatigue, and from the languor and depression arising from our exhausted state, such accumulated irritability was brought on, that the joy of a speedy relief affected us all in a most remarkable way: many burst into tears, some looked at each other with a stupid stare, as if doubtful of the reality of what they saw ; several were in such a lethargic state, that no consolation, no animating language, could rouse them to exertion.
At this affecting period, though overpowered by my own feelings, and impressed with the recollection of our sufferings, and the sight of so many deplorable objects, I proposed to offer up our solemn thanks to Heaven for our miraculous deliverance. Every, one cheerfully assented ; and as soon as I opened the Prayer-book (which I had secured the last time I went down to my cabin), there was an universal silence ; a spirit of devotion was so singularly manifested on this occasion, that to the benefits of a religious sense in uncultivated minds, must be ascribed that discipline, good order, and exertion, which even the sight of land could scarcely produce.
The service being over, the people requested to have a pint of grog each ; but, fearful of the consequences of such an indulgence, I mixed some rum and water very weak, and distributed to every one a small quantity.
The schooner being within hail, and having made our situation known, she hove to, and received us on board ;. our boats being taken in tow. The men . could now with difficulty be restrained from taking large and repeated draughts of water, in consequence of which, several felt great inconvenience from the sudden distension of their stomachs but, by being afterwards more cautious, no other bad effects followed.
The wind having blown with great violence from off the coast, we did not reach the landing- place at Island Cove till four o’clock in the evening. All the women and children in the village, with two or three fishermen (the rest of the men being absent), came down to the beach, and appearing deeply affected at our wretched situation, assisted in lifting us out of the vessel, and afterwards in carrying us up the craggy rocks ; over which we were obliged to pass, to get to their habitations.
It was a most fortunate circumstance for us, that we fell in with the land about Island Cove – a very few miles further to the northward, the coast is inaccessible, and lined with dangerous reefs of rocks, which, if we had seen them in the night, we should have pushed for; for our situation having become so desperate, I had resolved to land at the first place we could make : in that case we must all have perished.
The different fishing huts were constructed of pine logs. The three ladies, Colonel Cooke, Captain Thomas, the master, and myself, were conducted to the house of Mr. Lilly, a planter, who received us with great attention and humanity. This small village afforded neither medical aid nor fresh provisions, of which we stood so much in need ; potatoes and salt fish being the only food of the inhabitants. I determined, therefore, to lose no time in proceeding to St. John’s, having hired a small schooner for that purpose. On the 7th of July we embarked in three divisions, placing the most infirm in the schooner ; the master’s mate having charge of the cutter, and the boatswain of the jolly-boat : but such was the exhausted state of nearly the whole party, that the day was considerably advanced before we could get under weigh.
At two P. M. made sail with the jolly-boat in tow, and the cutter in company, and stood along the coast of Newfoundland with a favourable breeze. Towards dusk it came on to blow hard in squalls off the land, when we lost sight of the cutter, and we were obliged soon after to come to anchor, outside of St. John’s harbour. We were under great apprehensions for the cutter’s safety, as she had no grapnel, and lest she should be driven out to sea : but at daylight we perceived her and the schooner entering the harbour ; the cutter, as we afterwards learnt, having had the good fortune to fall in with a fishing vessel, to which they made fast during the night.
The ladies, Colonel Cooke, Captain Thomas, and myself, conducted by Mr. Lilly in the jolly-boat, having left the schooner when she anchored, notwithstanding the badness, as well as extreme darkness of the night, reached the shore about midnight. We wandered for some time about the streets, there being no house open at that late hour; but were at length admitted into a small house, where we passed the remainder of the night on chairs, there being but one miserable bed for the ladies.
Early on the following day, our circumstances being made known, hundreds of people crowded down to the landing-place : nothing could exceed their surprise, on seeing the boats that had carried nine-and-twenty persons such a distance over a boisterous sea ; and when they beheld so many miserable objects, they could not conceal their emotions of pity and concern. I waited on Brigadier-General Skerrit, who commanded the garrison, and who immediately, upon being informed of our situation, ordered down a party of soldiers to take the people out of the boats, and with the utmost kindness and humanity directed beds and every necessary article to be prepared for the crew.
The greatest circumspection was found necessary in administering nourishment to the men. Several of the crew were so much frost-bitten, as to require constant surgical assistance and it was determined they should continue at St. John’s, until they were in a fit state to be transported to Halifax : I hired a schooner for that purpose.
Being anxious to return to England, I engaged the cabin of a small vessel bound to Oporto ; and on the 11th of July I embarked with Mrs. Fellowes, Colonel Cooke, Captain Thomas, Mr. Bargus the master, and the colonel’s servant, who, during the voyage home, lost several of his toes, in consequence of what he had suffered. The master’s mate was left in charge of the ship’s company, and was directed to conduct them to Halifax ; whence they would be enabled to return by the first opportunity to their own country.
After taking leave of our hospitable friends at St. John’s, and after recommending to their protection the companions of our hardships, we put to sea with favourable weather.
During a voyage of fifteen days we had a few difficulties to encounter, such as pumping continually, the vessel having sprung a leak in a gale of wind ; and we were obliged to throw overboard a considerable quantity of her cargo of salt fish.
On the 26th of July we fell in with an American ship, the Bristol Trader, of New York. The owner, Mr. William Cowley, being told our distressed situation, and that we had been shipwrecked, immediately hove to, and, with a benevolence and humanity that will ever reflect the highest honour on his character, received us on board, and brought us safe to Bristol, where we had the happiness to arrive on the 3rd of August.
Names of the Ship’s Company, &c. of his Majesty’s Packet Lady Hobart, saved by the Boats.
William Dorset Fellowes, Esq. Commander.
Mr. Samuel Bargus, Master.
Mr. Robert Jenkins, Master’s Mate.
Peter Germain, Gunner.
Benjamin Saule, Boatswain.
John Gard, Carpenter.
Francis Lambrick, Sail-maker.
Thomas Bell, Ship’s Cook.
Edward Roberts, Captain’s Steward.
Richard Harris, Do. Servant.
John Harris, Seaman.
John Andrew, Seaman.
John Anderson, Seaman.
P. Martin, Seaman.
John Tipper, Seaman.
William Trigido, Seaman.
Christian M’Cleaver, Seaman.
John Watson, Seaman.
Timothy Donohough, Invalided Seaman.
Richard Pierce, Invalided Seaman.
Charles Rossé, French Prisoner of War, Afterwards drowned.
G. Goslin, French Prisoner.
V. Frangois, French Prisoner.
Passengers. Mrs. Scott, Miss Cotenham, Mrs. Fellowes, Lieutenant-Colonel Cooke, and Captain Richard Thomas of the Navy.
I REGRET, that, in the hurry of drawing up this Narrative, I should have omitted to make more particular mention of Captain Richard Thomas of the Navy from whose great professional skill and advice, throughout the whole of our perilous voyage, I derived the greatest assistance.