STORIES OF THE OCEAN.
FROM AUTHENTIC ACCOUNTS OF MODERN
VOYAGERS AND TRAVELLERS;
DESIGNED FOR THE
ENTERTAINMENT AND INSTRUCTION
BY MARMADUKE PARK.
With Numerous Illustrations.
C.G. HENDERSON & CO.,
NO. 164 CHESTNUT STREET.
STORIES OF THE OCEAN.
The white sharks are the dread of sailors in all hot climates, for they constantly attend vessels in expectation of anything which may be thrown overboard. A shark will thus sometimes traverse the ocean in company with a ship for several hundred leagues. Woe to the poor mariner who may chance to fall overboard while this sea-monster is present.
Some species of sharks grow to an enormous size, often weighing from one to four thousand pounds each. The skin of the shark is rough, and is used for polishing wood, ivory, &c.; that of one species is manufactured into an article called agreen: spectacle-cases are made of it. The white shark is the sailor's worst enemy: he has five rows of wedge-shaped teeth, which are notched like a saw: when the animal is at rest they are flat in his mouth, but when about to seize his prey they are erected by a set of muscles which join them to the jaw. His mouth is so situated under the head that he is obliged to turn himself on one side before he can grasp any thing with those enormous jaws.
I will now give you an account of the death of a very brave little boy, who was killed by a shark. He was an Irish boy; his name was Volney Beckner, the son of a poor fisherman. His father, having always intended Volney for a seafaring life, took great pains to teach him such things as it is useful for a sailor to know, and tried to make him brave and hardy; he taught him to swim when a mere baby.
Volney was only nine years old when he first went to sea in a merchant ship; the same vessel in which his father sometimes sailed. Here he worked hard and fared hard, but this gave him no uneasiness; his frame was robust, he never took cold, he knew not what fear was.
In the most boisterous weather, when the rain fell in torrents, and the wind howled around the ship, the little Irish boy would fearlessly and cheerfully climb the stays and sailyards, mount the topmast, or perform any other duty required of him. At twelve years old the captain promoted the clever, good tempered, and trustworthy boy; spoke well of him before the whole crew, and doubled his pay.
Volney was very sensible to his praises. His messmates loved him for his generous nature, and because he had often shown himself ready to brave danger in order to assist them; but an occasion soon arrived in which he had an opportunity of performing one of the most truly heroic deeds on record.
The vessel in which Volney and his father sailed was bound to Port au Prince, in St. Domingo. A little girl, the daughter of one of the passengers, having slipped away from her nurse, ran on deck to amuse herself. While gazing on the expanse of water, the heaving of the vessel made her dizzy, and she fell overboard.
Volney's father saw the accident, darted after her, and quickly caught her by the dress; but while with one hand he swam to reach the ship, and with the other held the child, he saw a shark advancing towards them. He called aloud for help; there was no time to lose, yet none dared to afford him any. No one, did I say? Yes, little Volney, prompted by filial love, ventured on a deed which strong men dared not attempt.
Armed with a broad, sharp sabre, he threw himself into the sea, then diving like a fish under the shark, he stabbed the weapon into his body up to the hilt. Thus wounded the shark quitted his prey, and turned on the boy, who again and again attacked him with the sabre, but the struggle was too unequal; ropes were quickly thrown from the deck to the father and son; each succeeded in grasping one, and loud rose the cry of joy, "They are saved!" Not so! The shark, enraged at seeing that he was about to be altogether disappointed of his prey, made one desperate spring, and tore asunder the body of the noble-hearted little boy, while his father and the fainting child in his arms were saved.
THE POULTRY BASKET—A LIFE-PRESERVER.
I will tell you an old story of an incident which occurred many years ago, but perhaps it may be new to you, and please you as much as it did me when I was a little girl, and used to sit on my grandpapa's knee, and listen to this tale among many others.
The hero of my story was a countryman; you may, if you please, fancy his neat white cottage on the hill-side, with its rustic porch, all overgrown with jasmine, roses, and clematis; the pretty garden and orchard belonging to it, with the snug poultry yard, the shed for the cow, and the stack of food for winter's use on one side.
You may fancy the pleasure of the little children who lived at this cottage in going with their mother morning and evening to feed the poultry; the noise and bustle among the feathered tribe at this time; how some rudely push before and peck the others in their anxiety to obtain the first grains that fall from the basket, and how the little children take care that the most greedy shall not get it all; their joy at seeing the young broods of tiny chicks covered with downy feathers, and the anxiety of the hens each to protect her own from danger, and teach them to scratch and pick up food for themselves; while they never forget to admire and praise the beauty of the fine old cock, as he struts about with an air of magnificence, like the very king of the guard.
"High was his comb, and coral red withal, In dents embattled like a castle wall; His bill was raven-black and shone like jet, Blue were his legs, and orient were his feet; White were his nails, like silver to behold! His body glittering like burnished gold."
If you had been there, you would have wished to visit the little orchard; to see the gentle cow, and the geese feeding on the common beyond; to watch the young ducklings, dipping and ducking and enjoying their watering sport in the pond.
If it be spring, the children would delight in gathering the sweet-scented meadow flowers—the water ranunculus, with its golden cups, the modest daisy, the pink cuckoo-flower, and the yellow cowslips; while overhead the bees kept up a constant humming; they have found their way from the straw hives in the garden and are diving into the delicious blossoms of the apple and cherry trees, robbing many a one of its sweets.
But now to my history of what did really happen to a countryman, who very likely lived in such a pretty cottage as I have described.
He had more poultry in his yard than he needed for his own use; some of them had been fatted for sale; and wishing to turn them into money, he left his home, which was near Bristol, with a basket full of them on his arm. Having reached the river, he went on board the ferry boat, intending to go across to a place called Bristol Hot-Wells. Many gentle folks visit this spot for the sake of drinking the waters of the wells, which are thought to be very beneficial in some complaints; and no doubt our countryman hoped that among them his poultry would fetch a good price.
The ferry boat was nearly half way over the river, when, by some accident, the poor man lost his footing and fell into the stream; he could not swim, and the current carried him more than a hundred yards from the boat; but he kept fast hold of his poultry basket, which being buoyant, supported him until he was perceived, and rescued by some men in a fishing-smack.
I hope he reached the Hot-Wells in safety after all, and sold his poultry for as much as he expected; and, what is still better, that his heart was filled with gratitude to God for his preservation from danger so imminent.
THE LIFE BOAT.
Oh what a stirring scene is this! see how the brave fellows are pulling with their oars, and endeavoring with all their might to reach the ship in distress before it is too late! Well, I suppose you are curious to know how an open boat like this can float in such an angry, boiling sea. I will tell you how it is accomplished; the sides of the boat are lined with hollow boxes of copper, which being perfectly air-tight, render her buoyant, even when full of water, or loaded to the very water's edge.
The originator of this simple and beautiful contrivance was a London coach maker, named Lionel Lukin, a man whose benevolent feelings flowed towards all his fellow men, but more especially towards that portion of them who brave the dangers of the sea. After devoting sixty years of his life to the pursuits of his business, he retired to Hythe in Kent, where he finished a well-spent life in peace and tranquility, dying in February, 1834. His body was interred in the churchyard of Hythe, which is situated on rising ground, commanding a fine view of the ocean; a fit resting place for the remains of one whose talents had been successfully directed to the means of rescuing from shipwreck and a watery grave many hundreds, or perhaps we may say many thousands, of poor seamen. He obtained a patent for his first boat in 1785.
The two sailors in the picture below are Greenwich pensioners, supported, you know, at Greenwich Hospital, which was founded by Charles II. for superannuated or wounded sailors. They are smoking their pipes, and discussing the merits of the Life Boat.
The whale is the largest of all known animals. There are three kinds of whale; the Greenland, called by the sailors the right whale, as being most highly prized by them; the great northern rorqual, called by fishers the razor-back or finner, and the cachalot or spermaciti whale. The common whale measures from sixty to seventy feet in length: the mouth, when open, is large enough to admit a ship's jolly boat, with all her men in it. It contains no teeth; and enormous as the creature is, the opening to the throat is very narrow, not more than an inch and a half across in the largest whale.
Instead of teeth the mouth of the whale is furnished with a curious framework of a substance called baleen; you will know it by the name of whalebone; it is arranged in rows, and projects beyond the lips in a hanging fringe; the food of the whale consists of shrimps, small fishes, sea-snails, and innumerable minute creatures, called medusae, which are found in those seas where the whales feed in such vast quantities that they make the water of a deep green or olive color.
When feeding the whale swims with open mouth under the water, and all the objects which lie in the way of that great moving cavern are caught by the baleen, and never seen again. Along with their food they swallow a vast quantity of water, which passes back again through the nostrils, and is collected into a bag placed at the external orifice of the cavity of the nose, whence it is expelled by the pressure of powerful muscles through a very narrow opening pierced in the top of the head.
In this way it spouts the water in beautiful jets from twenty to thirty feet in height. The voice of the whale is like a low murmuring: it has a smooth skin all over its body, under which lies that thick lard which yields the oil for which they are so much sought. The Greenland whale has but two side-fins; its tail is in the shape of a crescent; it is an instrument of immense power; it has been sometimes known with one stroke to hurl large boats high into the air, breaking them into a thousand fragments. The whale shows great affection for her young, which is called the calf; the fishermen well know this, and turn it to their own account; they try to strike the young with the harpoon, which is a strong, barbed instrument, and if they do this they are almost sure of securing the mother also, as nothing will induce her to leave it.
Mr. Scorseby, who was for a long time engaged in the whale fishery, has written a book containing a very interesting account of them. He mentions a case in which a young whale was struck beside its dam. She instantly seized and darted off with it, but not until the line had been fixed to its body. In spite of all that could be done to her, she remained near her dying little one, till she was struck again and again, and thus both perished. Sometimes, however, on an occasion like this, the old whale becomes furious, and then the danger to the men is very great, as they attack the whale in boats, several of which belong to each ship.
A number of these boats once made towards a whale, which, with her calf was playing round a group of rocks. The old whale perceiving the approaching danger, did all she could to warn her little one of it, till the sight became quite affecting. She led it away from the boats, swam round it, embraced it with her fins, and sometimes rolled over with it in the waves.
The men in the boats now rowed a-head of the whales, and drove them back among the rocks, at which the mother evinced great uneasiness and anxiety; she swam round and round the young one in lessening circles; but all her care was unheeded, and the inexperienced calf soon met its fate. It was struck and killed, and a harpoon fixed in the mother, when, roused to reckless fury, she flew on one of the boats, and made her tail descend with such tremendous force on the very centre of it, as to cut it in two, and kill two of the men, the rest swimming in all directions for their lives.
SHIP TOWED TO LAND BY BULLOCKS
Swimming is a manly exercise, and one in which, under proper care, every little boy ought to be instructed. In the first place it is a very healthy and invigorating practice frequently to immerse the body in water: and when we recollect how often the knowledge of this art has been blessed by the Supreme Disposer of events as a means of saving his rational creatures from sudden death, it seems that to neglect this object is almost to refuse to avail ourselves of one of the means of safety, which a kind Providence has placed within our reach.
Only imagine yourself to be, as many before you have been, in a situation of pressing danger on the sea, and yet at no great distance from the land, so that you might hope to reach it by swimming, but to remain on board the vessel appeared certain death, how thankful you would then feel to your friends if they had put this means of escape into your power! Or if you were to see some unfortunate fellow-creature struggling in the water, and about to disappear from your sight, how willingly, if conscious of your own power to support yourself, would you plunge into the water to his rescue! and how would your heart glow with delight if your efforts to save him should prove successful!
Here is a picture representing the very remarkable preservation of the crew of a vessel on the coast of Newfoundland. In this instance man availed himself of the instinct which ever prompts the brute creation to self-preservation. The ship was freighted with live cattle; in a dreadful storm she was dismasted, and became a mere wreck. The crew being unable to manage her, it occurred to the captain, whose name was Drummond, as a last resort, to attach some ropes to the horns of some of the bullocks, and turn them into the sea. This was done, the bullocks swam towards land and towed the ship to the shore. Thus the lives of the crew were saved.
THE SINKING OF THE ROYAL GEORGE.
The Royal George was an old ship; she had seen much service. Her build was rather short and high, but she sailed well, and carried the tallest masts and squarest canvas of any of England's gun-ships. She had just returned from Spithead, where there were twenty or thirty ships of war, called a fleet, lying under command of Lord Howe. It was on the 29th of August, 1782. She was lying off Portsmouth; her decks had been washed the day before, and the carpenter discovered that the pipes which admitted water to cleanse the ship was worn out, and must be replaced. This pipe being three feet under the water, it was needful to heel, or lay the ship a little on one side. To do this, the heavy guns on the larboard side were run out of the port-holes (those window-like openings which you see in the side of the vessel) as far as they would go, and the guns on the starboard side were drawn up and secured in the middle of the deck; this brought the sills of the port-holes on the lowest side nearly even with the water.
Just as the crew had finished breakfast, a vessel called the Lark came on the low side of the ship to unship a cargo of rum; the casks were put on board on that side, and this additional weight, together with that of the men employed in unloading, caused the ship to heel still more on one side; every wave of the sea now washed in at her port-holes, and thus she had soon so great a weight of water in her hold, that slowly and almost imperceptibly she sank still further down on her side. Twice, the carpenter, seeing the danger, went on board to ask the officer on duty to order the ship to be righted; and if he had not been a proud and angry man, who would not acknowledge himself to be in the wrong, all might yet have been well.
The plumbers had almost finished their work, when a sudden breeze blew on the raised side of the ship, forced her still further down, and the water began to pour into her lower port-holes. Instantly the danger became apparent; the men were ordered to right the ship: they ran to move the guns for this purpose, but it was too late.
In a minute or two more, she fell quite over on her side, with her masts nearly flat on the water, and the Royal George sank to the bottom, before one signal of distress could be given! By this dreadful accident, about nine hundred persons lost their lives; about two hundred and thirty were saved, some by running up the rigging, and being with others picked up by the boats which put off immediately from other vessels to their assistance. There were many visitors, women and little children on board at the time of the accident.
BLOWING UP OF THE ROYAL GEORGE.
At the time when the dreadful event which I have just related to you occurred, the Lark sloop, which brought the cargo of rum, was lying alongside of the Royal George; in going down, the main-yard of the Royal George caught the boom of the Lark, and they sank together, but this made the position of the Royal George much more upright in the water than it would otherwise have been. There she lay at the bottom of the sea, just as you have seen small vessels when left by the tide on a bank. Cowper, when he heard the sad tale, thus wrote
"Her timbers yet are sound, And she may float again, Full charged with England's thunder, And plough the distant main.
"But Kempenfelt is gone, His victories are o'er, And he, and his eight hundred Shall plough the wave no more."
Admiral Kempenfelt was writing in his cabin when the ship sank; his first captain tried to inform him of their situation, but the heeling of the ship so jammed the cabin doors that he could not open them: thus the admiral perished with the rest. It seems Cowper thought the Royal George might be recovered; other people were of the same opinion.
In September of the year in which the vessel sank, a gentleman, named Tracey, living in the neighborhood, by means of diving-machines, ascertained the position and state of the ship, and made proposals to government to adopt means of raising her and getting her again afloat. After a great many vexatious delays and interruptions on the part of those who were to have supplied him with assistance, he succeeded in getting up the Lark sloop. His efforts to raise the Royal George were so far successful, that at every time of high tide she was lifted from her bed; and on the 9th of October she was hove at least thirty or forty feet to westward; but the days were getting short, the boisterous winds of winter were setting in, the lighters to which Tracey's apparatus was attached were too old and rotten to bear the strain, and he was forced to abandon the attempt.
The sunken ship remained, a constant impediment to other vessels wishing to cast anchor near the spot, for nearly fifty years, when Colonel Pasley, by means of gunpowder, completely demolished the wreck: the loose pieces of timber floated to the surface; heavier pieces—the ship's guns, cables, anchors, the fire-hearth, cooking utensils, and many smaller articles were recovered by the divers. These men went down in Indian-rubber dresses, which were air and water-tight; they were furnished with helmets, in each side of which were glass windows, to admit light, and supplied with air by means of pipes, communicating with an air-pump above. By these means they could remain under water more than an hour at a time. I do not think you are old enough to understand the nature of Colonel Pasley's operations. Large hollow vessels, called cylinders, were filled with gunpowder, and attached by the divers to the wreck, these were connected by conducting wires with a battery on board a lighter above, at a sufficient distance to be out of reach of danger when the explosion took place. Colonel Pasley then gave the word to fire the end of the rod; instantly a report was heard, and those who witnessed the explosions, say that the effect was very beautiful. On one occasion, the water rose in a splendid column above fifty feet high, the spray sparkling like diamonds in the sun; then the large fragments of the wreck came floating to the surface; soon after the mud from the bottom, blackening the circle of water, and spreading to a great distance around; and with it rose to the surface great numbers of fish, who, poor things, had found a hiding-place in the wreck, but were dislodged and killed by the terrible gunpowder.
LOSS OF THE MELVILLE CASTLE.
Many and great are the dangers to which those who lead a seafaring life are exposed. The lightning's flash may strike a ship when far away from port, upon the trackless deep, or the sudden bursting of a particular kind of cloud, called a waterspout, may overwhelm her, and none be left to tell her fate. But of all the perils to which a ship is liable, I think that of her striking on a sand-bank, or on sunken rocks is the greatest. There must be men and women now living on the Kentish coast, in whose memory the disastrous wreck of the Melville Castle, with all its attendant horrors, is yet fresh. It is a sorrowful tale, doubly so, inasmuch as acts of imprudence, and still worse, of obstinacy, may be said to have occasioned the loss of four hundred and fifty lives.
In the first place, the Melville Castle, or as I suppose we should call her the Vryheid, was in a very decayed state; she had been long in the East India Company's service, and was by them sold to some Dutch merchants, who had her upper works tolerably repaired, new sheathed and coppered her, and resold her to the Dutch government, who were then in want of a vessel to carry out troops and stores to Batavia.
The Melville Castle was accordingly equipped for the voyage, painted throughout, and her name changed to the Vryheid. On the the morning of November, 1802, she set sail from the Texel, a port on the coast of Holland, with a fair wind, which lasted till early on the following day, when a heavy gale came on in an adverse direction.
The captain immediately had the top-gallant masts and yards struck to make her ride more easily; but as the day advanced, the violence of the wind increased, and vain seemed every effort of the crew to manage the ship. There were many mothers and little children on board, whose state was truly pitiable. The ship was scourged onward by the resistless blast, which continued to increase until it blew a perfect hurricane.
About three in the afternoon, the mainmast fell overboard, sweeping several of the crew into the sea, and severely injuring four or five more. By this time they were near enough to the Kentish coast to discern objects on land, but the waves which rolled mountains high prevented the possibility of any help approaching. By great exertion the ship was brought to anchor in Hythe Bay, and for a few moments hope cheered the bosoms of those on board; it was but a few, for almost immediately she was found to have sprung a leak; and while all hands were busy at the pumps, the storm came on with increased fury.
In this dismal plight they continued till about six o'clock the following morning, when the ship parted from one of her largest anchors, and drifted on towards Dymchurch-wall, about three miles to the west of Hythe. This wall is formed by immense piles, and cross pieces of timber, supported by wooden jetties, which stretch far into the sea. It was built to prevent the water from overflowing a rich, level district, called Romney Marsh.
The crew continued to fire guns and hoist signals of distress. At daybreak a pilot boat put off from Dover, and nearing the Melville Castle, advised the captain to put back to Deal or Hythe, and wait for calmer weather, or, said the boatman, "all hands will assuredly be lost." But the captain would not act on his recommendation; he thought the pilot boat exaggerated the danger, hoped the wind would abate as the day opened, and that he should avoid the demands of the Dover pilot or the Down fees by not casting anchor there. Another help the captain rejected, and bitterly did he lament it when it was too late.
No sooner had the pilot boat departed, than the commodore at Deal despatched two boats to endeavor to board the ship. The captain obstinately refused to take any notice of them, and ordered the crew to let the vessel drive before the wind. This they did, till the ship ran so close in shore, that the captain himself saw the imminent danger, and twice attempted to put her about, but in vain. On the first of the projecting jetties of Dymchurch-wall the vessel struck. I would not if I could grieve your young heart with a detail of all the horrors that ensued; the devoted ship continued to beat on the piles, the sea breaking over her with such violence, that the pumps could no longer be worked.
The foremast soon went over the ship's side, carrying twelve seamen with it, who were swallowed up by the billows. The rudder was unshipped, the tiller tore up the gundeck, and the water rushed in at the port-holes. At this fearful moment most of the passengers and crew joined in solemn prayer to the Almighty. Morning came, but it was only to witness the demolition of the wreck.
Many were the efforts made by the sufferers, some in the jolly boat, some on a raft, others by lashing themselves to pieces of timber, hogsheads, and even hencoops, to reach the shore; but out of four hundred and seventy-two persons who a few days before had left the coast of Holland, not more than eighteen escaped the raging billows. The miserable remnant received generous attention from the inhabitants of the place, who did all in their power to aid their recovery.
BURNING OF THE KENT EAST INDIAMAN.
This picture represents the burning of the Kent East Indiaman, in the Bay of Biscay. She had on board in all six hundred and forty-one persons at the time of the accident. The fire broke out in the hold during a storm. An officer on duty, finding that a spirit cask had broken loose, was taking measures to secure it, when a lurch of the ship caused him to drop his lantern, and in his eagerness to save it, he let go the cask, which suddenly stove in, and the spirits communicated with the flame, the whole place was instantly in a blaze. Hopes of subduing the fire at first were strong, but soon heavy volumes of smoke and a pitchy smell told that it had reached the cable-room.
In these awful circumstances, the captain ordered the lower decks to be scuttled, to admit water. This was done; several poor seamen being suffocated by the smoke in executing the order; but now a new danger threatened, the sea rushed in so furiously, that the ship was becoming water-logged, and all feared her going down. Between six and seven hundred human beings, were by by this time crowded on the deck. Many on their knees earnestly implored the mercy of an all-powerful God! while some old stout-hearted sailors quietly seated themselves directly over the powder magazine, expecting an explosion every moment, and thinking thus to put a speedier end to their torture.
In this time of despair, it occurred to the fourth mate to send a man to the foremast, hoping, but scarce daring to think it probable, that some friendly sail might be in sight. The man at the fore-top looked around him; it was a moment of intense anxiety; then waving his hat, he cried out, "A sail, on the lee-bow!"
Those on deck received the news with heart-felt gratitude, and answered with three cheers. Signals of distress were instantly hoisted, and endeavors used to make towards the stranger, while the minute guns were fired continuously. She proved to be the brig Cambria, Captain Cook, master, bound to Vera Cruz, having twenty Cornish miners, and some agents of the Mining Company on board. For about one quarter of an hour, the crew of the Kent doubted whether the brig perceived their signals: but after a period of dreadful suspense, they saw the British colors hoisted, and the brig making towards them.
On this, the crew of the Kent got their boats in readiness; the first was filled with women, passengers, and officers' wives, and was lowered into a sea so tempestuous as to leave small hope of their reaching the brig; they did, however, after being nearly swamped through some entanglement of the ropes, get clear of the Kent, and were safely taken on board the Cambria, which prudently lay at some distance off.
After the first trip, it was found impossible for the boats to come close alongside of the Kent, and the poor women and children suffered dreadfully, in being lowered over the stern into them by means of ropes. Amid this gloomy scene, many beautiful examples occurred of filial and parental affection, and of disinterested friendship; and many sorrowful instances of individual loss and suffering. At length, when all had been removed from the burning vessel, but a few, who were so overcome by fear as to refuse to make the attempt to reach the brig, the captain quitted his ill-fated ship.
The flames which had spread along her upper deck, now mounted rapidly to the mast and rigging, forming one general conflagration and lighting up the heavens to an immense distance round. One by one her stately masts fell over her sides. By half-past one in the morning the fire reached the powder magazine; the looked-for explosion took place, and the burning fragments of the vessel were blown high into the air, like so many rockets.
The Cambria, with her crowd of sufferers, made all speed to the nearest port, and reached Portsmouth in safety, shortly after midnight, on the 3d of March, 1825, the accident having taken place on the 28th of February. Wonderful to tell, fourteen of the poor creatures, left on the Kent, were rescued by another ship, the Caroline, on her passage from Alexandria to Liverpool.
The life of a pelican seems to be a very lazy, if not a very pleasant one. Man, ever on the watch to turn the habits of animals to his own account, observing how good a fisherman the pelican is, often catches and tames him, and makes him fish for him. I have heard of a bird of this kind in America, which was so well trained, that it would at command go off in the morning, and return at night with its pouch full, and stretched to the utmost; part of its treasure it disgorged for its master, the rest was given to the bird for its trouble. It is hardly credible what these extraordinary pouches will hold; it is said, that among other things, a man's leg with the boots on was once found in one of them.
Pelicans live in flocks; they and the cormorants sometimes help one another to get a living. The cormorant is a species of pelican, of a dusky color: it is sometimes called the sea crow. The cormorants are the best divers, so the pelicans arrange themselves in a large circle at some great distance from the land, and flap their great wings on the surface of the water, while the cormorants dive beneath. Away swim the poor frightened fish towards the shore; the pelicans draw into a narrower circle, and the fish at last are brought into so small a compass, that their pursuers find no difficulty in obtaining a plentiful meal.
There are two kinds of turtle; the one is called the green turtle, and is much valued as a delicious article of food; the other the hawk's bill turtle supplies the tortoise shell of commerce, which is prepared and moulded into various forms by heat. The flesh of the hawk's bill turtle is considered very unwholesome.
The turtles in the picture are of the edible kind; they are found on the shores of nearly all the countries within the tropics.
There is a little rocky island in the south Atlantic Ocean, called the Island of Ascension, where they are found in vast numbers, and this barren spot is often visited by Indiamen for the purpose of obtaining some of them. The turtles feed on the sea weed and other marine plants which grow on the shoals and sand banks, and with their powerful jaws, they crush the small sea shells which are found among the weeds. This kind of food is always to be had in great abundance, so that the turtles have no occasion to quarrel among themselves, for that which is afforded in such plenty for all; indeed they seem to be a very quiet and inoffensive race, herding peaceably together on their extensive feeding-grounds, and when satisfied retiring to the fresh water at the mouth of the rivers, where they remain holding their heads above water, as if to breathe the fresh air, till the shadow of any of their numerous enemies alarms them, when they instantly dive to the bottom for security.
In the month of April, the females leave the water after sunset, in order to deposit their eggs in the sand. By means of their fore-fins they dig a hole above high water mark, about one foot wide and two deep, into which they drop above a hundred eggs; they then cover them lightly over with a layer of sand, sufficient to hide them, and yet thin enough to admit the warmth of the sun's rays for hatching them. The instinct which leads the female turtle to the shore to lay her eggs, renders her a prey to man. The fishers wait for them on shore, especially on a moonlight night, and following them in one of their journeys, either coming or returning, they turn them quickly over on their backs, before they have time to defend themselves, or to blind their assailants by throwing up the sand with their fins.
When very large, for I should tell you that the usual weight of the turtle is from four to six hundred pounds, it requires the efforts of several men to turn them over, and for this purpose they often employ levers: the back shell of the turtle is so flat that when once over it is impossible for them to right themselves, so there the poor creatures lie in this helpless condition, till they are either taken away in the manner you see in the picture, or deposited by their captors in a crawl, which is a kind of enclosure surrounded by stakes, and so situated as to admit the influx of the sea.
The inhabitants of the Bahama Isles, catch many turtles at a considerable distance from the shore; they strike them with a spear, the head of which slips off when it has entered the body of the turtle, but it is fastened by a string to the pole, and by means of this apparatus they are able to secure them, and either take them into the boat or haul them on shore. The length of the green turtle frequently exceeds six feet. A boy ten years old, a son of Captain Roche, once made use of a very large shell as a boat, and ventured in it from the shore to his father's ship which lay about a quarter of a mile off. It was in the bay of Campeachy, off Port Royal, where the rightful occupant of this shell was caught.
THE WRECK OF THE STEAMBOAT.
The following narrative teaches a lesson of courage and devotion such as are seldom read. In one of the light-houses of the desolate Farne Isles, amid the ocean, with no prospect before it but the wide expanse of sea, and now and then a distant sail appearing, her cradle hymn the ceaseless sound of the everlasting deep, there lived a little child whose name was Grace Darling. Her father was the keeper of the light-house; and here Grace lived and grew up to the age of twenty-two, her mother's constant helpmate in all domestic duties. She had a fair and healthy countenance, which wore a kind and cheerful smile, proceeding from a heart at peace with others, and happy in the consciousness of endeavoring to do its duty.
It was at early dawn, one September morning, in the year 1838, that the family at the Longstone light-house looked out through a dense fog which hung over the waters. All night the sea had run extremely high, with a heavy gale from the north, and at this moment the storm continued unabated. Mr. and Mrs. Darling and Grace were at this time the only persons in the light-house; through the dim mist they perceived the wreck of a large steam vessel on the rocks, and by the aid of their telescope the could even make out the forms of some persons clinging to her.
It was the Forfarshire steamboat on her passage from Hull to Dundee. She left the former place with sixty-three persons on board. She had entered Berwick Bay about eight o'clock the previous evening, in a heavy gale and in a leaky condition; the motion of the vessel soon increased the leak to such a degree that the fires could not be kept burning. About ten o'clock she bore up off St. Abb's Head, the storm still raging. Soon after the engineer reported that the engines would not work; the vessel became unmanageable; it was raining heavily, and the fog was so dense that it was impossible to make out their situation. At length the appearance of breakers close to leeward, and the Farne lights just becoming visible, showed to all on board their imminent danger.
The captain vainly tried to run the vessel between the islands and the main land, she would no longer answer the helm, and was driven to and fro by a furious sea. Between three and four o'clock in the morning she struck with her bows foremost on a jagged rock, which pierced her timbers. Soon after the first shock a mighty wave lifted the vessel from the rock, and let her fall again with such violence as fairly to break her in two pieces; the after part, containing the cabin with many passengers, all of whom perished, was instantly carried away through a tremendous current, while the fore part was fixed on the rock. The survivors, only nine in number, five of the crew and four passengers, remained in this dreadful situation till daybreak, when they were descried by the family at the light-house. But who could dare to cross the raging abyss which lay between them?
Grace, full of pity and anxiety for the wretched people on the wreck, forgot all toil and danger, and urged her father to launch the boat; she took one oar and her father the other; but Grace had never assisted in the boat before, and it was only by extreme exertion and the most determined courage that they succeeded in bringing the boat up to the rock, and rescuing nine of their fellow creatures from a watery grave, and with the help of the crew in returning, landed all safe at the light-house.
Happy Grace Darling! she needed no other reward than the joy of her own heart and the warm thanks of those she had helped to deliver; but the news of the heroic deed soon spread, and wondering and admiring strangers came from far and near to see Grace and that lonely light-house. Nay more, they showered gifts upon her, and a public subscription was raised with a view of rewarding her bravery, to the amount of seven hundred pounds. She continued to live with her parents on their barren isles, finding happiness in her simple duties and in administering to their comfort, until her death, which took place little more than three years after the wreck of the Forfarshire steamer.
These wonderful appearances are caused by the action of currents of wind meeting in the atmosphere from different quarters. They are sometimes seen on land, but much more frequently at sea, where they are very dangerous visitors. I will try to give you some idea of what they are, and perhaps the picture may help you a little. I dare say you have often noticed little eddies of wind whirling up dust and leaves, or any light substances which happened to be in the way; when these occur on a larger scale they are called whirlwinds.
Now if a cloud happens to be exactly in the point where two such furious currents of wind meet, it is turned round and round by them with great speed and is condensed into the form of a cone; this whirling motion drives from the centre of the cloud all the particles contained in it, producing what is called a vacuum, or empty space, into which the water or any thing else lying beneath it has an irresistible tendency to rush. Underneath the dense impending cloud, the sea becomes violently agitated, and the waves dart rapidly towards the centre of the troubled mass of water: on reaching it they disperse in vapor, and rise, whirling in a spiral direction towards the cloud. The descending and ascending columns unite, the whole presenting the appearance of a hollow cylinder, or tube of glass, empty within. This, Maltebrun tells us, and he further adds, "it glides over the sea without any wind being felt; indeed several have been seen at once, pursuing different directions. When the cloud and the marine base of the waterspout move with equal velocity, the lower cone is often seen to incline sideways, or even to bend, and finally to burst in pieces. A noise is then heard like the noise of a cataract falling in a deep valley. Lightning frequently issues from the very bosom of the waterspout, particularly when it breaks; but no thunder is ever heard."
Sailors, to prevent the danger which would arise from coming in contact with one of these tremendous columns, discharge a cannon into it: the ball passing through it breaks the watery cylinder, and causes it to burst, just as a touch causes your beautiful soap-bubbles to vanish, and turn to water again. These waterspouts, at sea, generally occur between the tropics, and I believe frequently after a calm, such as the poet has described in the following lines:
"Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down, 'Twas sad as sad could be, And we did speak only to break The silence of the sea!
"All in a hot and copper sky, The bloody sun at noon, Right up above the mast did stand. No bigger than the moon.
"Day after day, day after day, We stuck, nor breath, nor motion; As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean.
"Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where And not a drop to drink!"
Happily "dead calms" do not generally last so long as to lead to any serious result. Sailors have a superstitious and foolish belief that whistling in a calm will bring up a breeze, and they do this in a drawling, beseeching tone, on some prominent part of the vessel. Poor fellows! what a pity that their thoughts should not more frequently be directed to Him "who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with a span," and whose works and wonders in the deep "they that go down to the sea in ships" have such abundant opportunity for observing.
HEAVING THE LEAD.
Here we have a sailor in the act of heaving the lead, or taking soundings, which is a thing extremely necessary to be done when a ship is approaching the shore, as there is great danger of her running on a sand-bank or striking on a sunken rock. I will now tell you how it is managed. A sailor gets over the ship's side, as you see in the engraving, and takes his station in what are called "the chains;" he holds in his hand a coil of rope, with the length in fathoms marked upon it; this rope has a mass of lead attached to the end of it. At the bottom of the lead, is a hollow place, into which a piece of tallow candle is stuck, which brings up distinguishing marks from the bottom of the sea, such as small shells, sand, or mud, adhering to it. If the tallow be only indented it is supposed to have fallen on bare rocks. A correct account of the soundings is entered in the logbook; this book contains a description of the ship's course, the direction of the wind, and other circumstances, during every hour of each day and night. Having arranged the rope so as to allow it to fall freely when cast, the sailor throws the lead forward into the water, giving rope sufficient to allow it to touch the bottom; then with a sudden jerk, such as long practice alone can enable him to give, he raises the weight, and after examining the mark on the rope made by the water, calls out lustily, so that all forward can hear, "By the mark seven," or "By the deep nine," according to the case, or whatever the number of fathoms may be. The lead-line is marked into lengths of six feet, called fathoms, by knots, or pieces of leather, or old sail-cloth. In narrow or intricate channels, it is sometimes needful to place a man in the chains on each side of the ship, as the depth will vary a fathom or more even in the breadth of the vessel, and it is of great consequence that the leadsmen give the depth correctly, as a wrong report might cause the ship to run aground. The time that the leadsman is employed in taking soundings is often a period of deep anxiety to the crew and passengers, especially if the vessel be near an unknown coast. When the decrease in the number of fathoms is sudden, the captain knows that danger is near, and quickly gives orders to alter the ship's course: the sailors instantly obey his directions; but sometimes not all their activity and energy can save the vessel; she strikes and becomes a wreck.
Turn to the 27th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles in your Bible, and you will there read the deeply interesting account of Paul's shipwreck on the island Melita. Life has often been compared to a voyage—and aptly so.
You will find that you, like the mariner, are exposed to many dangers, and that you are never for one moment safe in trusting to your own skill to guide your little bark. In watchfulness and prayer, look to your Heavenly Pilot for directions under every circumstance, often examining your own heart, as the seaman heaves the lead in danger. Then will you be safely guided through storms and calms, amid rocks and shoals, and reach at last the blessed haven of eternal rest and peace.
THE BALLOON AT SEA.
A balloon is a hollow globe, made of silk, rendered air-tight by a coating of gum and resin, and enclosed within a strong network. When filled with gas it is so much lighter than the air which surrounds us, that it will rise with heavier bodies suspended to it. In a sort of car or boat attached, men, who are called "aeronauts," have performed journeys through the air.
The balloon was invented by a Frenchman named Montgolfier. Great expectations were at first entertained of this art of sailing through the air, but as yet it has not proved of much practical use. Many disasters have at different times befallen balloon voyagers.
Many years ago, Major Mooney ascended in his balloon from Norwich, expecting from the direction of the wind that he might descend near Ipswich; but when he had risen about one mile from the earth, a violent current carried him and his balloon towards Yarmouth. The balloon fell on the sea, about nine miles from land. The Major supported himself for some time in the water, by holding firmly to the balloon, and was at last rescued from his dangerous situation by the crew of a cutter which was cruising on the coast.
This was a disastrous voyage, but I think it will interest you to hear of a more successful one, performed by three gentlemen, one of whom, Mr. Green, has introduced some great improvements in the art of filling and guiding balloons. These gentlemen left the earth in the car of a very large balloon, at half-past one o'clock, on Monday, the 7th of November, 1836, intending to proceed to some point on the continent of Europe not very distant from Paris. They were provided with provisions for a fortnight; these, with sand-bags for ballast, cordage, and all needful apparatus for such a journey were placed in the bottom of the car, while all around hung cloaks, carpet bags, barrels of wood and copper, barometers, telescopes, lamps, spirit-flasks, coffee-warmers, &c, for you know it would be impossible for them afterwards to supply any thing which might have been forgotten.
Thus duly furnished, the balloon was rapidly borne away by a moderate breeze over the fertile fields of Kent to Dover. It was forty-eight minutes past four when the first sound of the waves on the sea-beach broke on the voyagers' ears: the sun was sinking below the horizon, and as the balloon was rapidly borne into the region of mist which hung over the ocean, we must suppose something of dread and uncertainty attended the adventurer's minds. Scarcely, however, had they completed some arrangements, intended to render the balloon more buoyant in the heavy atmosphere, than again the sound of waves surprised them, and below were seen glittering the well-known lights of Calais and the neighboring shores. Passing over Calais the aeronauts lowered a blue-light to give notice of their presence, but could not tell whether the inhabitants perceived it. By this time night had completely closed in, and still the silken ball pursued its course. So long as lights were burning in the towns and villages which it passed in rapid succession, the solitary voyagers looked down on the scene with delight; sometimes they could even catch the hum of the yet busy multitude, or the bark of a watch-dog; but midnight came, and the world was hushed in sleep.
As soon as the people were again stirring below, the guide-rope was hauled into the balloon, and the grappling-iron lowered; and after sundry difficulties from the danger of getting entangled in a wood, and grievously affrighting two ladies, who stood awhile petrified with amazement at the unusual apparition, the voyagers succeeded in alighting in a grassy valley, about six miles from the town of Weilburg, in the Duchy of Nassau. Here every attention and accommodation was afforded them, and thus ended this remarkable journey, an extent of about five hundred British miles having been passed over in the space of eighteen hours.
AN ADVENTURE OF PAUL JONES.
John Paul Jones was a famous naval commander in the service of the United States, during the revolutionary war. He was a native of Scotland, but having come to Virginia and settled before the war broke out, he joined the patriots as soon as hostilities commenced, and rendered the most important services through the whole of the long and arduous contest, by which our independence was acquired.
The following account of one of his adventures is given by his biographer.
Eager to retaliate upon Britain for some predatory exploits of her sailors on the American coast, and exasperated by the resolution which the English government had taken, to treat all the supporters of independence as traitors and rebels, Captain Paul Jones entered the Irish Channel, and approaching his native shores, not as a friend, but as a determined enemy. On the night of the 22d of April, 1778, he came to anchor in the Solway Firth, almost within sight of the trees which sheltered the house in which he first drew the breath of life.
Early next morning, he rowed for the English coast, at the head of thirty-one volunteers, in two boats, with the intention of destroying the shipping, about two hundred sail, which lay in the harbor of Whitehaven.
In this daring attempt he would probably have succeeded without difficulty, had not the strength of the opposing tide retarded his progress so much, that day began to dawn before he could gain the shore. He despatched the smaller of the two boats to the north of the port to set fire to the vessels, whilst he led the remainder of the party to the more hazardous duty of securing the fort, which was situated on a hill to the south. It was a cold morning, and the sentinels little aware that an enemy was so near, had retired into the guard-room for warmth, affording Jones an opportunity to take them by surprise, of which he did not fail to avail himself. Climbing over the shoulders of the tallest of his men, he crept silently through one of the embrasures and was instantly followed by the rest. Their first care was to make fast the door of the guard-room, and their next to spike the cannon, thirty-six in number. Having effected this without bloodshed, they proceeded to join the detachment which had been sent to the north; and finding that a false alarm had deterred them from executing their orders, Jones instantly proceeded to set fire to the vessels within his reach. By this time, however, the inhabitants were roused, and the invaders were obliged to retreat, leaving three ships in flames, of which one alone was destroyed.
On the same day with this adventure, another memorable occurrence took place, which contributed, for a time, to add greatly to the odium which the first had brought on his name in Britain, but which, in the end, enabled him to prove that he was possessed of the most heroic qualities. In cruising off the coast of Galloway, it occurred to him, that, if he could get into his power a man of high rank and influence in the state, he should able, by retaining him as a hostage, to ensure to the American prisoners of war more lenient treatment than was threatened by the British government. Knowing that the Earl of Selkirk possessed a seat at St. Mary's Isle, a beautiful peninsula at the mouth of the Dee, and being ill-informed with regard to the political connections of that nobleman, he destined him for the subject of his experiment. With that view, he landed on the Isle, about noon, with two officers and a few men; but, before they had proceeded far, he learned that his lordship was from home. Finding his object frustrated, he now wished to return; but his crew were not so easily satisfied. Their object was plunder; and as they consisted of men in a very imperfect state of discipline, and with whom it would have been dangerous to contend, he allowed them to proceed. He exacted from them, however, a promise that they should be guilty of no violence; that the men should not enter the house, and that the officers, after having made their demands, should accept what might be put into their hands without scrutiny. These conditions were punctually obeyed. The greater part of the Selkirk plate was carried off in triumph by the crew, and Paul Jones was, for a time, stigmatized as a freebooter; but he nobly vindicated his character, by taking the earliest opportunity of purchasing the whole of it, out of his own private funds, and remitting it safe to its original owner, without accepting the smallest remuneration. National prejudice has misrepresented this transaction; and in order to excite the popular indignation against Jones, it has been common to state, that this attempt on the person, and as it was supposed the property, of Lord Selkirk, was aggravated by ingratitude, his father having eaten of that nobleman's bread. Nothing can be more false. Neither Mr. Paul, nor any of his kindred, ever was in the earl's employ, or had ever the most distant connection with his lordship or his family; and in a correspondence which took place between our hero and Lady Selkirk, relative to the restitution of the plate, a most honorable testimony was gratefully paid by the latter to the captain's character.
Nelson lost the sight of one eye at the siege of Calvi, by a shot driving the sand and gravel into it, and he lost his arm by a shot in an expedition against Teneriffe; but the most dangerous of his exploits were, boarding the battery at San Bartolomeo, boarding the San Joseph, the boat action in the Bay of Cadiz, and the famous battles of the Nile and Trafalgar. Of these, perhaps, the boat action during the blockade of Cadiz was the most severe. While making an attempt against the Spanish gunboats, he was attacked by D. Miguel Tregayen, in an armed launch, carrying twenty-six men; fearful odds against his ten bargemen, captain, and coxswain. Eighteen Spaniards were killed, the rest wounded, and the launch captured.
The Spaniards were more than two to one, and yet he beat them; but it was a hard and desperate struggle, hand to hand and blade to blade. Twice did John Sykes, the coxswain, save Nelson's life, by parrying off blows that would have destroyed him, and once did he interpose his head to receive the blow of a Spanish sabre; but he would willingly have died for his admiral.
Poor Sykes was wounded badly, but not killed.
When Nelson's health was established after the loss of his arm, he sent to the minister of St. George's, Hanover Square, the following desire to offer up his thanksgiving:—"An officer desires to return thanks to Almighty God for his perfect recovery from a severe wound, and also for the many mercies bestowed on him." Thus showing that he was humble enough to be thankful to God, and continued so in the midst of all his successes.
The following is an instance of his coolness in the hour of danger. The late Lieutenant-General the Hon. Sir William Stewart, as lieutenant-colonel of the rifle-brigade, embarked to do duty in the fleet which was led by Sir Hyde Parker and Nelson, to the attack of Copenhagen in 1801. "I was," says he, "with Lord Nelson when he wrote the note to the Crown Prince of Denmark, proposing terms of arrangement. A cannon ball struck off the head of the boy who was crossing the cabin with the light to seal it. "Bring another candle," said his lordship. I observed, that I thought it might very well be sent as it was, for it would not be expected that the usual forms could be observed at such a moment. "That is the very thing I should wish to avoid, Colonel," replied he, "for if the least appearance of precipitation were perceptible in the manner of sending this note, it might spoil all." Another candle being now brought, his lordship sealed the letter, carefully enclosed in an envelope, with a seal bearing his coat of arms and coronet, and delivered it to the officer in waiting to receive it. It is said that the moment was a critical one, and that Lord Nelson's note decided the event."
A seaman of the name of Hewson, who had served under Nelson, was working as a caster in a manufactory at Birmingham when Nelson visited that place. Among other manufactories, the admiral paid a visit to that where Hewson was at work as a brass-founder; and though no employment disfigures a workman more with smoke and dust than the process of casting, the quick eye of Nelson recognized in the caster an old associate. "What, Hewson, my lad," said he, "are you here?" Hewson laid hold of the hair that hung over his forehead, and making an awkward bow, replied, "Yes, your honor." "Why, how comes this about! You and I are old acquaintances; you were with me in the Captain when I boarded the San Joseph, were you not?" Hewson again laid hold of of his hair, and bowing, replied, "Yes, your honor." "I remember you well," said Nelson; "you were one of the cleverest fellows about the vessel! If any thing was to be done, Hewson was the lad to do. Why, what do you here, working like a negro? Take this," throwing him money, "and wash the dust down your throat."
Hewson withdrew to a neighboring alehouse, boasting of the character the admiral had given him. Month after month passed away, but Hewson returned not—his shop-tools were abandoned, and no one could account for his absence. At length a stripling, in a sailor's jacket, entered the manufactory and said, "he was come to settle his father's affairs." This was no other than Hewson's son, from whose account it appeared, that when Hewson, somewhat elevated with liquor, but more with the praise the admiral had bestowed on him, quitted Birmingham, he walked his way down to Portsmouth, entered once more on board Lord Nelson's ship, and fell with him in the battle of Trafalgar.
At the battle of Trafalgar, Collingwood, in the Royal Sovereign, led the lee-line of fourteen ships, Nelson, in the Victory, was at the head of the weather-line, consisting of fourteen ships. Besides these there were four frigates.
The ships of France and Spain, opposed to the British, were in number thirty-three, with seven large frigates. The odds were great against the English, but the superior tactics, and well-known bravery of Nelson, clothed him with power, that more than made up the difference. When every thing was prepared for the engagement, Nelson retired into his cabin alone, and wrote down the following prayer.
"May the great God, whom I worship grant to my country, and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious victory, and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it, and may humanity after victory, be the predominant feature in the British fleet! For myself, individually, I commit my life to Him that made me; and may his blessing alight on my endeavors for serving my country faithfully! To him I resign myself, and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen! Amen! Amen!"
He wore on the day of the battle his admiral's frock coat, and on his left breast, over his heart, four stars of the orders of honor, which had been conferred upon him. Those around thought it was dangerous to wear his stars, lest he should be too plainly seen by the enemy, but they were afraid to tell him so, because he had said, "In honor I gained them, and in honor I will die with them."
The effect produced by the signal given by Lord Nelson, "England expects every man to do his duty!" was wonderful; it ran from ship to ship, from man to man, from heart to heart, like a train of gunpowder. Officers and men seemed animated with one spirit, and that was a determination to win the day, or at least never to surrender to the enemy.
The captains commanded on their quarterdecks; the boatswains in the forecastle; the gunners attended to the magazines, and the carpenters with their plug-shots, put themselves in readiness with high-wrought energy, nor were the seamen and marines a whit behind hand in entering on their several duties. The guns, the tackle, the round, grape, and canister-shot, the powder-boys, the captains of guns, with their priming-boxes, and the officers with their drawn swords, cut an imposing appearance; and the cock-pit would have made a rudy face turn pale.
The wounded are all taken down into the cock-pit. It will hardly bear thinking about. But in the cockpit were laid out ready for use, wine, water, and surgeon's instruments, with napkins, basins, sponges, and bandages.
The combined fleets of France and Spain, at Trafalgar, under Villenueve, the French admiral, a brave and skilful man, were in the form of a crescent, and the two British lines ran down upon them parallel to each other. As soon as the British van was within gunshot the enemy opened their fire. The Royal Sovereign soon rounded to under the stern of the Santa Anna, and Admiral Nelson's ship, the Victory, laid herself on board the Redoubtable. From that moment the roaring of guns, the crash against the sides of the ships, clouds of smoke, splintered yards, and falling masts, were the order of the day.
The death warrant of the navy of France was signed and sealed by the fight of Trafalgar. In the heat of the action, a ball, fired from the mizzen-top of the Redoubtable, struck Admiral Nelson on the left shoulder, when he instantly fell. "They have done for me, at last, Hardy," said he, to his captain.
Though mortally wounded, he gave some necessary direction concerning the ship, and when carried below inquired earnestly how the battle went on. When he knew that the victory had been gained—for twenty ships in all struck to the British admiral—he expressed himself satisfied. "Now I am satisfied," said he; "thank God, I have done my duty!" Many times he repeated this expression, and "Thank God I have done my duty;" and "Kiss me, Hardy," were among the last words that were uttered by his lips. Thus, with a heart full of patriotism, died the bravest commander, the most vigilant seaman, and the most ardent friend of his country, that every led on a British fleet to victory.
Even amid the exultation of victory, a grateful country mourned his loss. A bountiful provision was made for his family; a public funeral was awarded to his remains, and monuments in the principal cities of his native land were erected to his memory. A sorrowing nation lamented over his bier, and Britania, indeed, felt that old England's defender was numbered with the dead.
DISCOVERY OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN.
Vasco Nunes de Balboa, a Spaniard, as you see by his name, was born in 1475. He was one of the adventurers who pursued the path which Columbus had pointed out. He led a party of Spaniards, who going out from Darien founded a colony in the neighboring regions. Some gold being found the Spaniards got into a violent quarrel.
One of the Indian chiefs being present, was so disgusted at this, that he struck the scales with which they were weighing it so hard with his fist, that the gold was scattered all about.
"Why," said he, "do you quarrel for such a trifle? If you really value gold so highly, as to leave your own homes, and come and seize the lands and dwellings of others for the sake of it, I can tell you of a land where you may find it in plenty. Beyond those lofty mountains," said he, pointing to the south-west, "lies a mighty sea, which people sail on with vessels almost as big as yours. All the streams that flow from the other side of these mountains abound in gold, and all the utensils of the people are made of gold."
This was enough for Balboa. He inquired of the Indian the best way of getting across the mountains, to find this land of gold. The Indian kindly told him every thing he knew, but at the same time warned him not to go over there, for the Indians were many and were fierce, and would eat human flesh. But Balboa was not to be discouraged. He collected a band of one hundred and ninety bold and hardy men, armed with swords, targets, and cross-bows, and some blood-hounds, (for, strange to tell, the Spaniards had trained fierce dogs to hunt the Indians, and even the mild Bilboa was not ashamed to use them,) and so he set out on his expedition to the west.
Embarking with his men, September 1st, 1513, at the village of Darien, in a brigantine and nine large canoes, he sailed along the coast to the north-west, to Coyba, where the young Indian chief lived, and where the Isthmus of Darien is narrowest. He had taken a few friendly Indians with him, as guides; and the young chief furnished him with a few more on his arrival. Then leaving half his own men at Coyba, to guard the brigantine and canoes, he began his march for the mountains, and through the terrible wilderness.
It was the 6th of September. The heat was excessive, and the journey toilsome and difficult. They had to climb rocky precipices, struggle through close and tangled forests, and cross marshes, which the great rains had rendered almost impassable. September 8th, they passed an Indian village at the foot of the mountains, but the inhabitants did not molest them; on the contrary they fled into the forests.
Here some of the men became exhausted, from the great heat and travelling in the marshes. These were sent back, by slow marches, in the care of guides, to Coyba. On the 20th of September they again set forward.
The wilderness was so craggy, and the forest trees and underwood so matted together, that in four days they only advanced about thirty miles, and they now began to suffer from hunger. They also met with many rapid foaming streams, to cross some of which they had to stop and build rafts.
Now it was that they met with a numerous tribe of Indians, who, armed with bows and arrows, and clubs of palm wood, almost as hard as iron, gave them battle. But the Spaniards, although comparatively few in numbers, with their fire-arms and bloodhounds and the aid of the friendly Indians who were with them, soon put them to flight, and took possession of their village. Balboa's men robbed the village of all its gold and silver, and of every thing valuable in it; and even he himself, whose heart the love of gold had begun already to harden, shared with his men the plunder.
It was a dear bought victory, however; for though the Indians had lost six hundred of their number in the contest, they could easily recruit their forces. But Balboa, whose band was now reduced, by sickness and the contest, from ninety-five men to sixty-seven, had no means of adding to their strength, but was forced to proceed with what forces he had.
Early the next morning after the battle, they set out on their journey up the mountain. About ten o'clock they came out of the tangled forest, and reached an open space, where they enjoyed the cool breezes of the mountains. They now began to take a little courage. Their joy was heightened still more, when they heard one of the Indian guides exclaim, "The sea! the sea!"
Balboa commanded his men to stop; and resolving to be the first European who should behold this new sea, he forbade his men to stir from their places till he called them. Then ascending to the summit of the height, which the Indian had mounted, he beheld the sea glittering in the morning sun.
Calling now upon his little troop to ascend the height, and view the noble prospect along with him, "behold," said he, "the rich reward of our toil. This is a sight upon which no Spaniard's eye ever before rested." And in their great joy the leader and his men embraced each other.
Balboa then took possession of the sea and coast, and the surrounding country, in the name of the King of Spain; and having cut down a tree, and made it into the form of a cross—for they were Catholics—he set it up on the very spot where he first beheld the grand Pacific Ocean. He also made a high mound, by heaping up large stones, upon which he carved the king's name. This was on September 26th, 1513.
Not content with seeing the ocean, Balboa determined to visit it. Arriving, after much toil, at one of the bays on the coast, he called it St. Michael's Bay. Coming to a beach a mile or two long, "If this is a sea," said he, "it will soon be covered with water; let us wait and see if there be a tide." So he seated himself under a tree, and the water soon began to flow. He tasted it and found it salt; and then waded up to his knees in it, and took possession of it in the name of his king.
Balboa's heart was now so lifted up by success, and his whole nature so changed, that he was ready to fight and destroy every Indian tribe that opposed his progress. But he had not always the best of it. On one occasion he was lost, with one or two followers, and having been seized by some natives, carried immediately before their cazique, or chief. He was seated on a raised seat, covered with a panther's skin, and bore a single feather of the vulture upon his head. Beside him stood his slaves, to fan him, and screen his head from the sun, and around him warriors, with the sculls of their enemies fixed upon their spears: which made the whole scene very horrible.
Balboa humbled himself before the chief; and taking off his coat, profusely decorated, offered it as a peace offering. The cazique would not accept it, but said, "You are poor and desolate—I am rich and powerful. I will not hurt you, though you are my enemy." He then ordered him safe conduct through the forests; and Balboa regained his own people, the Spaniards, in safety. This escape softened Balboa's heart, and he never afterwards treated the Indians with the same severity.
After many victories, and many other singular escapes, he returned back to Coyba. But the sufferings of his men, in returning, were extreme, for want both of water and provisions. The streams were most of them dried up, and provisions could not be found. Gold they indeed had, almost as much as they could carry, and the Indians kept bringing them more; but this they could not eat or drink, and it would not buy what was not to be bought.
He arrived at Darien after about two months' absence, having lost nearly all his men, by war and sickness. His discovery made a great noise, and procured him much honor, but he did not live to enjoy it.
A new governor was appointed in his place, who, having a mortal hatred to Balboa, threw him into prison, and, after a mock trial, had him beheaded, in 1517, in his 48th year.
ADMIRAL KEPPEL AND THE DEY OF ALGIERS.
When Admiral Keppel was sent to the Dey of Algiers, to demand restitution of two ships which the pirates had taken, he sailed with his squadron into the Bay of Algiers, and cast anchor in front of the Dey's palace. He then landed, and, attended only by his captain and barge's crew, demanded an immediate audience of the Dey. This being granted, he claimed full satisfaction for the injuries done to the subjects of his Britannic Majesty. Surprised and enraged at the boldness of the admiral's remonstrance, the Dey exclaimed, "that he wondered at the English King's insolence in sending him a foolish, beardless boy." A well-timed reply from the admiral made the Dey forget the laws of all nations in respect to ambassadors, and he ordered his mutes to attend with the bow-string, at the same time telling the admiral he should pay for his audacity with his life. Unmoved by this menace, the admiral took the Dey to the window facing the bay, and showed him the English fleet riding at anchor, and told him that if he dared put him to death there were men enough in that fleet to make him a glorious funeral-pile. The Dey was wise enough to take the hint. The admiral obtained ample restitution, and came off in safety.
LOSS OF THE CATARAQUE.
The Cataraque, Captain C.W. Findlay, sailed from Liverpool, on the 20th of April, 1849, with three hundred and sixty emigrants, and a crew including two doctors, (brothers,) of forty-six souls. The emigrants were principally from Bedfordshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire, and Northamptonshire. About one hundred and twenty of the passengers were married, with families, and in all seventy-three children.
On the 3d of August, at seven o'clock in the evening, the ship was hove to, and continued lying to until three A.M. of the 4th. At half past four, being quite dark, and raining hard, blowing a fearful gale, the ship struck on a reef, situated on the west coast of King's Island, at the entrance of Bass's Straights.
Immediately after the ship struck, she was sounded, and it was ascertained that there was four feet of water in the hold. An awful scene of confusion and misery ensued. All the passengers attempted to rush upon deck, and many succeeded in doing so, until the heaving of the vessel knocked down the ladders, when the shrieks from below, calling on those on deck to assist them were terrific. The crew were on deck the moment the ship struck, and were instantly employed in handing up the passengers. Up to the time the vessel began breaking up, the crew succeeded in getting upwards of three hundred passengers on deck. But a terrible fate awaited the greater part of them.
The day dawned. The stern of the vessel was found to be washed in, and numerous dead bodies were found floating round the ship; some clinging to the rocks which they had grasped in despair. About two hundred of the passengers and crew held on to the vessel, although the raging sea was breaking over her, and every wave washed some of them to a watery grave. In this manner, kindred were separated, while those who remained could only expect the same fate to reach them. Things continued in this condition until four in the afternoon, when the vessel parted amidships, at the fore part of the main rigging, and immediately between seventy and a hundred persons were thrown into the waves. Thus the insatiable ocean swallowed its prey piece-meal. About five, the wreck parted by the fore-rigging, and so many persons were thrown into the sea, that only seventy were left on the forecastle, they being lashed to the wreck. Even these were gradually diminished in number, some giving out from exhaustion, and others anticipating fate, by drowning themselves.
When day dawned, on the following morning, only about thirty persons were left alive, and these were almost exhausted. The sea was making a clean breach into the forecastle, the deck of which was rapidly breaking up. Parents and children, husbands and wives, were seen floating around the vessel, many in an embrace, which even the ocean's power could not sunder. The few who remained alive could only look up to heaven for a hope of safety. Soon after daylight, the vessel totally disappeared, and out of four hundred and twenty-three persons who had been on board the vessel, only nine were saved by being washed on shore, and these were nearly exhausted.
LOSS OF THE FRANCIS SPAIGHT.
On the morning of the 7th of January, 1848, the barque Francis Spaight, lying in Table Bay, at the Cape of Good Hope, parted her anchor, and in attempting to beat out, grounded, broadside on the beach. The gale at the time she struck was furious, and the surf tremendous, making a clean breach over the vessel, carrying away the bulwark, long boat, main hatch, and part of the deck, with one of the crew.
The shore was thronged with the inhabitants of Cape Town, anxious for the fate of the vessel. An attempt was made to send a rope from the land to the wreck, but the rope broke. Rockets were fired with lines attached, and one was thrown across the foremast stay, where none of the men could reach it, on account of the fearful rolling of the sea. After some extraordinary delay, a whale boat was brought from the town, and manned by six daring fellows, who dashed through the surf, and were soon alongside the vessel.
All except the carpenter, fifteen in number, got into the boat, and pushed off. At this moment a terrific sea upset the boat, and twenty-one persons were struggling in the surf for life. The people on the beach were horror-stricken; and men on horseback were seen plunging into the sea, risking their lives to save their fellow-creatures; but eighteen sunk to rise no more. The masts of the vessel fell with a tremendous crash, but the carpenter still clung to the wreck. At length a surf-boat, towed by a smaller one, proceeded towards the wreck. One of these boats was capsized, and two lives lost. But the carpenter was rescued. This man, (James Robertson,) and John McLeod, seaman, were all of the crew that reached the shore. The inhabitants of Cape Town were all anxiety in regard to the fate of the vessel; and those daring heroes who sacrificed themselves for the sake of their fellow men were worthy of a monument as lofty as those erected to the bravest warriors.
The place where the Francis Spaight went ashore had been, a short time previous, the scene of a far more terrible disaster. This was the wreck of the ship Waterloo, by which two hundred persons were lost, in spite of the most extraordinary and heroic exertions on the part of the inhabitants of Cape Town.
The bay is very much exposed to storms, and its shores are particulary dangerous, on account of their shelving character. The Francis Spaight had just put into the bay for the purpose of obtaining a supply of provisions, and it was intended that she should sail the next day. But the Ruler of the elements intended it otherwise. Her cargo was nearly a total loss.
LOSS OF THE GOLDEN RULE.
The ship Golden Rule, Captain Austin, sailed from Wiscasset, with a cargo of timber, September, 8, 1807.
On the 29th, she experienced a severe gale from the south-east; and at eight o'clock, A.M., they discovered that she had sprung a leak, and had four feet of water in her hold; at nine it had increased to eight feet, notwithstanding they had two pumps going, and were throwing her deck load overboard, which they were enabled to do very slowly, from the sea driving the planks about the deck, and wounding the crew.
About ten o'clock, the water had risen to twelve feet, and the gale had also evidently increased; the crew and all on board were quite exhausted; and on going into the cabin they found she was welling fast. The main and mizzen masts were now cut away, to prevent her upsetting, and she was quite clear of her deck load. At eleven o'clock she was full up to her main deck, and all her bulk heads were knocked away.
It now occurred to some of the crew, to endeavor to save some bread; and Mr. Boyd, the first mate, with great resolution, went into the cabin and gave out some bread, and two bottles of rum; but so rapidly did she fill, from the timber of her cargo shifting, that he was forced to break through the sky-light to save himself. Their small stock of provisions was now put into the binnacle, as a secure place. It had been there but a few minutes, when a tremendous sea struck them, and carried away the binnacle.
They had now little hope left—the wheel was broken, and they proceeded to secure themselves as well as they could, some in the fore-top, and the rest were lashing themselves to the taffrail; before they could accomplish the latter plan, another sea, if possible, more heavy than the former, hurried them all from their places, and washed two of the men overboard; they were seen swimming for the ship, a short time, when a wave hurried them from the sight of their lamenting comrades.
They now endeavored to keep the ship before the wind, which they were partially enabled to do through the night. The next day another man died from cold and hunger.
The deck was now blown up, and her side stove in, all hands had given themselves up, when, on the 30th at noon, they were roused by the cry of "a sail!" and they had the satisfaction to see her bear down for them. She was the brig George, of Portland; and Captain Wildridge sent his long-boat to take them from the wreck.
DANGERS OF WHALING SHIPS AMONG ICE BERGS.
The masses of ice by which the ocean is traversed assume a vast variety of shapes, but may be comprehended in two general classes. The first consists of sheets of ice, analogous to those which annually cover the the lakes and rivers of northern lands. They present a surface which is generally level, but here and there diversified by projections, called hummocks, which arise from the ice having been thrown up by some pressure or force to which it has been subject. Sheets of ice, which are so large that their whole extent of surface cannot be seen from the masthead of a vessel, are called fields. They have sometimes an area of more than a hundred square miles, and rise above the level of the sea from two to eight feet. When a piece of ice, though of a considerable size, can be distinguished in its extent, it is termed a floe. A number of sheets, large or small, joining each other, and stretching out in any particular direction, constitute a stream. Captain Cook found a stream extending across Behring's Straits, connecting eastern Asia with the western extremity of North America. Owing to the vast extent of some fields of ice, they would undoubtedly be conducted to a lower latitude in the Atlantic before their dissolution, under the influence of a warmer climate, but for the intervention of other causes. It frequently happens that two masses are propelled against each other, and are both shivered into fragments by the violence of the concussion. The ordinary swell of the ocean also acts with tremendous power upon a large tract, especially when it has been so thawed as to have become thin, and breaks it up into a thousand smaller pieces in a very short period. The danger of being entrapped between two ice-fields coming into contact with each other is one of the perils which the navigator has frequently to encounter in the northern seas; and fatal to his vessel and his life has the occurrence often been, while in a vast number of instances escape has seemed almost miraculous.
"At half-past six," says Captain Ross, relating to his first voyage of discovery, in the Isabella, to the arctic regions, with Captain Parry, in the Alexander, "the ice began to move, and, the wind increasing to a gale, the only chance left for us was to endeavor to force the ship through it to the north, where it partially opened; but the channel was so much obstructed by heavy fragments, that our utmost efforts were ineffectual; the ice closed in upon us, and at noon we felt its pressure most severely. A large floe, which lay on one side of the Isabella, appeared to be fixed; while, on the other side, another of considerable bulk was passing along with a rapid motion, assuming a somewhat circular direction, in consequence of one side having struck on the fixed field. The pressure continuing to increase, it became doubtful whether the ship would be able to sustain it; every support threatened to give way, the beams in the hold began to bend, and the iron tanks settled together.
"At this critical moment, when it seemed impossible for us to bear the accumulating pressure much longer, the hull rose several feet; while the ice, which was more than six feet thick, broke against the sides, curling back on itself. The great stress now fell upon our bow; and, after being again lifted up, we were carried with great violence towards the Alexander which had hitherto been, in a great measure, defended by the Isabella. Every effort to avoid their getting foul of each other failed; the ice-anchors and cables broke one after another; and the sterns of the two ships came so violently into contact, as to crush to pieces a boat that could not be removed in time. The collision was tremendous, the anchors and chain-plates being broken, and nothing less than the loss of the masts expected; but at this eventful instant, by the interposition of Providence, the force of the ice seemed exhausted; the two fields suddenly receded, and we passed the Alexander with comparatively little damage. A clear channel soon after opened, and we ran into a pool, thus escaping the immediate danger; but the fall of snow being very heavy, our situation still remained doubtful, nor could we conjecture whether we were yet in a place of safety. Neither the masters, the mates, nor those men who had been all their lives in the Greenland service, had ever experienced such imminent peril; and they declared, that a common whaler must have been crushed to atoms."
Captain Scoresby relates a similar narrow escape from destruction owing to the same cause. "In the year 1804," he observes, "I had an opportunity of witnessing the effects produced by the lesser masses in motion. Passing between two fields of ice newly formed, about a foot in thickness, they were observed rapidly to approach each other, and, before our ship could pass the strait, they met with a velocity of three or four miles per hour. The one overlaid the other, and presently covered many acres of surface. The ship proving an obstacle to the course of the ice, it squeezed up on both sides, shaking her in a dreadful manner, and producing a loud grinding or lengthened acute trembling noise, according as the degree of pressure was diminished or increased, until it had risen as high as the deck. After about two hours the motion ceased, and soon afterwards the two sheets of ice receded from each other nearly as rapidly as they had before advanced. The ship in this case did not receive any injury; but, had the ice only been half a foot thicker, she might have been wrecked." Other navigators have not been so fortunate; and the annual loss of whaling vessels in the polar seas is considerable, the Dutch having had as many as seventy-three sail of ships wrecked in one season. Between the years 1669 and 1778, both inclusive, or a period of one hundred and seven years, they sent to the Greenland fishery fourteen thousand one hundred and sixty-seven ships, of which five hundred and sixty-one, or about four in the hundred, were lost.