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A Ship Adandoned at Sea

From ‘East London Observer’-10th February 1866

Captain Brayley, of the ship ‘Gresham’, arrived at Spithead from Hong Kong and the Cape of Good Hope, and reported having sighted, on the 27th January, 1866, outside the Bay of Biscay, at some distance to windward, a vessel apparently dismasted, and also very deep in the water. Captain Brayley beat up towards the wreck, and, nearing it, launched one of his boats and proceeded on board. It was found to be a large ship waterlogged, and evidently of an old build. There was no living person to be seen. Over her had swept some tremendous seas, which had carried away her bulwarks fore and aft, also her boats, deckhouses, and one cathead with its anchor. The broken part of the chain cable lay amidships on the vessel’s deck, and on a heap of broken spar, the ship’s capstan, winch, and the other gear. Underneath this wreckage, were lying, jammed down by its weight, three human bodies, frightfully mutilated. One was apparently that of a ship’s officer, the others those of two seamen. Captain Brayley supposes them to have formed part of the watch when the vessel was struck by the wave that had wrought such destruction. Where the bodies lay, the deck had been torn up by the ringbolts which the boat had dragged with her into the deep. Through the openings in the river planking projected parts of the bodies of two more, the limbs forced in between the broken beams. No other remains of life could be found. The ship’s stern had been carried away, and part of the cargo had washed out. The bowsprit, with all the headgear and cathead was gone. On the other cathead hung the anchor, while most part of the chats cable was run out and hanging down in a long bight from the hawse-pipe. The fore and mizzen masts were broken off about a foot below the trestletrees. So was the maintopmast near the maintopmast head, and no spars remained aloft but the fore and main yards. The sail itself had been blown out of the bolt ropes and fluttered in the breeze. The main top had been covered round as securely as possible with canvas, and it had evidently been the last refuge of the survivors after the catastrophic had taken place below. Bags of clothing, the ship’s ensign, a compass, a chronometer, a carpenter’s axe, saw, and tin, were then found there, but there had been no trace of food nor of water. In the chronometer case lay the “rate” paper stating that the instrument had been rated by “W.J.Cox” at Plymouth, on the 16th of April 1865. The makes name was “Eiffie”, of Lombard Street, City. The chronometer was full of salt water, and had stopped at forty minutes past nine. A further search among the wreckage on the broken deck led to the discovery of a bell, which had on it the name of ‘Jane Lowden’.

P.S. On the 2nd February, the captain, the sole survivor of the barque ‘Jane Lowden’, of Padstow, arrived at Texel, on the ‘Ida Elizabeth’.
He stated that nine of the crew were washed overboard, and six died on board of injuries, cold, and hunger. The captain had spent thirty-three days in the maintop, and during the last twenty-eight days never tasted food. He was taken off the wreck on the 23rd of January. Another man lived in the maintop to within ten days of that date.

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