MIRACULOUS PRESERVATION AT SEA.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir, - During a seven weeks’ detention in this harbour, waiting for a fair wind for Batavia, many painful incidents of peril, loss of life, and rescue from the late violent gales have reached me, but the following account of the hairbreadth escape of an English captain, for the truth of which I can vouch, may deserve a corner in your journal. Last evening I was told that the Ida Elizabeth, a Dutch vessel, Captain DOREN, from Java, just come into this port, had on board an English captain, whom she had picked up in the last stage of exhaustion at sea. Hastening on board I saw the rescued man lying on a couch, his face pale and thin, hands and feet bandaged, but with a calm and thankful countenance he related the following facts as well as his weakened state would permit: - He, Captain John CASEY, was the commander of the Jane Lowden, owner Mr. Thomas L. SEATON. The vessel, with 17 men and a cargo of wood, was proceeding from Quebec to Falmouth, and encountered no less than four heavy gales, the last on December 21, in lat. 46 deg., long. 33 deg. W., which completely disabled her, the fearful seas mounting 40ft. high, such as he had never seen before, carrying off everything on deck, and every soul on board was washed out of her. Nine of the crew were thus lost, but the captain and the rest of the men managed to regain the ship, notwithstanding it was dark, being 6 o’clock p.m. They all took refuge in the maintop, which measured 5ft. by 4ft. While there the vessel capsized, immersing them in the waves, but they held on, and she soon righted herself, the cargo being only of wood. The vessel was gradually driven to 17 deg. W. longitude, during which time the poor sufferers, having endured the pangs of hunger, and now tormented by a raging thirst, had the agony of seeing ten vessels in the distance successively pass on their course. Death from three causes stared them in the face; first from the vessel breaking up, as she was hourly going to pieces; then from the chance of collision during the dark tempestuous nights; and, lastly, from starvation. In spite of the captain’s prohibition, some of the men stole down while he was asleep during a temporary lull to try and slake their maddening thirst with the sea water, but this only increased their torment and brought on delirium. Two men became violent, and the captain was obliged to strap them down, in which state they expired. One poor lad (William THOMAS) of 19 died on the 12th day after the vessel was struck, in a quiet delirium; calling repeatedly on his mother to give him a drink and to shut the door to keep out the cold, and extending his hand to shake that of imagined near friends, he sank peacefully to sleep. Another, Hugh RICE, died about the 11th day from exposure and the effects of drinking salt water. It may be well to give the names of the rest of the crew. Edwin MABLEY, chief mate, leaves a destitute family at 24, Green-street, Plymouth. Samuel BIRD, second mate, address not remembered, leaves a wife and children in England. John ABREY, aged 86, cook, leaves a wife only. Henry POPE, address unknown, 17 years of age, was the main support of his widowed mother, and the eldest of six children. Evan DAVIES, washed overboard, leaves a family at Pembroke-docks, Milford. Francis MARTIN, aged 25 or so, married, died after 15 days’ exposure and starvation; before becoming delirious he proposed eating the dead body of one of the crew, which the captain forbad. Alfred BOLTON, who had run away from Liverpool, aged 16 or 17, died delirious, after drinking salt water. John PUGH, who married a fortnight before sailing, was drowned. James GRIFFINS, James CONOLLY, of Glasgow, Thomas GEAK, all young lads, were drowned. William MAITLAND, of Plymouth, young and unmarried, died after 14 days of exposure and starvation. Thomas BOWEN, married, died after 15 days. The last of the crew who died by the captain’s side was James BEATT, the carpenter; he was hopeful till almost the last, talking within an hour of his death, which did not take place till the 18th day. As the poor fellows sank one after another, all dying apparently in their sleep, their bodies were dropped off the maintop on to the deck, but the last body the captain kept 20 hours by his side. The temptation to open a vein and drink the dead man’s blood was strong upon him, but he firmly resisted it, and lingered on for ten more long, long days, sustaining life by drinking as much rain as he could collect by tying his cravat round the mast, and when it became drenched sucking it. The tar thus absorbed with the rain he justly thinks helped to preserve him from utter exhaustion. The fact, too, of his being better clothed than his crew, he thinks, may also account, humanly speaking, for his marvellous preservation. He wore three woollen shirts, two pairs of stockings, two pairs of trousers and sea-boots, three coats, one of which was waterproof, a cap, and a waterproof hat.
On the 28th night he laid himself flat on the maintop, as he expressed it, resigning himself to his doom, whatever it might be, perfectly conscious of his critical position, yet not losing all hope, or his reason, though his brain became so weak that he often heard voices calling, sometimes in most piteous accents, “Captain! Captain!” On one occasion, he said, he distinctly heard a voice say, “Captain, your forecastle is blown away.” So distinct and clear was it that he exclaimed, “Who are you?” and then, “I can’t help it.” He said he still felt that the God who had extended His mercy to him so long could still save his life, and he again prayed that a vessel might come to his rescue. The following morning, the 18th of January, his patient hope was realized, for the Ida Elizabeth, unknown to him, had neared the wreck the previous night with the intention of destroying next morning so dangerous an object. Captain CASEY, having now for the first time sighted the ship, raised his feeble arm to display his colours. Captain DOREN, on seeing this unexpected sign of life, had the exhausted man carefully conveyed on board the Ida Elizabeth, where, according to his prayer, a doctor was ready to receive him, who, with the captain and crew, showed him the sympathy and attention of brothers rather than strangers. In nine days they reached Nieuwe Diep. During the passage the doctor kindly wrote to Mrs. CASEY, who is living at Padstow, Cornwall, and has a young family. The day after the arrival of the Ida Elizabeth Captain CASEY was removed to the Marine Hospital here and placed in a most comfortable apartment, one assigned to naval officers. He is under the skilful treatment of Dr. SACHS and Dr. KANDER, who, with the attendants, show him every possible kindness and consideration. It is hoped that in a fortnight or three weeks he may be able to return to his home, and that his blackened, frost-bitten fingers and toes may be cured without amputation.
It may be thought incredible by some that Captain CASEY should have remembered the time of his protracted suffering, but he assured me he only endeavoured to impress on his mind the date of the last destructive gale, which washed them all overboard, only counting the dying days of the men, knowing that if he were picked up the whole time of his remaining on the maintop could be easily made out. I may, perhaps, be permitted to add that the Dutch feel much aggrieved that the English press, in detailing the circumstances of the loss of the London, state that “the Dutch sailors refused to work.” All the names having been given, they positively assert there is not a Dutch name among them. In alluding to this awful calamity it may be well to mention that an opinion prevails in this country that the captains of British vessels are often compelled against their judgment to proceed on their voyages by the respective owners, who, regarding the great expense of remaining in harbour more than the lives which freight their well insured vessels, make no scruple of sacrificing the precious human cargo rather than risk a pecuniary loss. This is considered to have been the case with regard to the disastrous loss of the London. In this harbour alone there are no less than 37 vessels waiting for favourable weather to go through the Channel, some as long as two months, with soldiers, others with a large number of passengers, and provisions are as dear here as in England. I am informed on the best authority that the mercantile captains of Holland are left perfectly uncontrolled by the proprietors of the vessels. No ship stirs out of harbour till the captain considers it prudent and safe to do so.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
J. M. ARNOLD, B.D., British Consular Chaplain, Batavia.
Ship Tagal, Nieuwe Diep, Holland, Feb. 1.
Feb. 2. Postscript. – I have just paid a third visit to Captain CASEY. He is progressing favourably, but he is still very weak, and he says he feels his strength coming back as slowly as it left him during his 28 days of exposure and utter privation.