Изображения страниц

sure signs that she would soon go to pieces. In a short time he looked again, and found that the ship was nearly split in two by the shocks she was every moment receiving. To remain longer in her was to choose death ; and all turned their hopes to the steep cliffs, as offering now the only refuge. Long pieces of timber were pushed from the ship towards the rock with the hope that the opposite ends would rest for a short time on the rough projections of the precipice, and thus form a bridge by which a few, at least, might reach a landing-place. Some did effect their escape in this manner, and then discovered that the ship lay completely across the mouth of a cavern worn in the solid rock by the incessant beatings of the sea. This explained the circumstance of the cliff overhanging the ship ; for she was driven a little way within the chasm, her head jammed against one extremity, and her stern at the other. In about twenty minutes after some of the crew had thus escaped, the sea broke into the ship, tore up the round-house, and burst in upon the ladies, whose involuntary shrieks now startled those who had taken refuge in the cave. All who were able had escaped from the Halsewell by the methods just described, and stood clinging to the rock, watching the vessel, and expecting every moment to hear the last cry from the multitude on board.

Whilst those on the rock were expressing their apprehensions for the fate of the Halsewell, they were startled by a fearful shriek rising from the ship, and sounding dismally amid the roar of a vast wave which rolled over the vessel, and surged with a noise like thunder to he cavern. The screams of the ladies were for an instant heard above the horrid din, and then all was silent save the moan of the tempest. Anxiously did those in the cave listen for some sound of life in the place where the Halsewell had lain ; but all was over there, and the beating hearts of the young, beautiful, and hopeful were buried beneath those

Never had that sea-beaten cavern been filled with such a combination of miseries ; never since has it witnessed so terrible a scene.

Not one on board when the vessel split had escaped the fury of the sea ; and at daybreak not a fragment of the noble ship could be seen : every plank had been sucked into the sea, or borne off by the tide, as if with maelstrom


force. Thus, within a few yards of their native shore, perished nearly two hundred persons, who a few days before had departed for India with bright hopes of the future. Whilst those on the rock looked round, by the aid of the earliest dawn, for some remnant of the ship, and looked in vain, they discovered the perilous nature of the place where they had found a refuge. The rocks overhung the cavern to such a degree as to conceal its miserable inmates from the view of all on shore ; and the total sinking of the Halsewell had destroyed all tokens of a shipwreck having happened during the night. Nor could any aid be expected from above, even if the wreck should become known, as no rope, let down from the edge, could be brought within reach of those who clung to the sides of the cavern. Thus it seemed that the cave had been hewn by the sea for the burial of the miserable sailors, many of whom had already fallen from its oozy and steep sides into the waves ; and the rest were fearful of moving even an inch, lest their benumbed hands and feet should lose their present hold of the rock. It was at length discovered that a small ledge of the cliff ran round one end of the cavern, and along the face of the precipice beyond ; but this was not wider than a man's hand, and few could hope, exhausted and benumbed as all were, to support themselves on such a slippery shelf, from which a fall would be death. Unless, however, some one could scale the steep, all must perish, as no relief was to be expected whilst they lay concealed in the hollow of the cliff

. Hundreds of men might be on the summit without detecting the party in the recess, where none ould imagine to find a band of shipwrecked men.

Some means of giving an alarm must therefore be discovered, or the fate of those who had gone down in the Halsewell awaited all upon the rock.

The attempt to balance himself in the narrow projection was first made by the quarter-master, Mr. Thompson : he proceeded cautiously along the slippery rim, anxiously watched by his companions until a turn of the rock concealed him from their view. After some time, the cook resolved to follow, and both reached the summit of the cliff, a hundred feet high, in safety. They instantly began to search for a house, and soon arrived at the residence of Mr. Garland, the manager of the Purbeck quarry

works, who heard with amazement the sad news of the shipwreck which had happened so near his house.

The quarry-men were instantly summoned to the assistance of the sailors, and hastened to the cavern provided with long ropes and iron bars. Many had attempted to scale the cliffs before the quarrymen arrived : some lost their hold, and, falling into the sea, perished; whilst a large body, amounting to about forty, were stopped in their progress, midway, by the steep, and compelled to remain till the arrival of succour. The most difficult part of the rescue consisted in letting down the ropes to those who remained in the cave.

Some quarrymen were first placed on the edge of the cliff, with a rope tied round their bodies, and the other end secured to an iron-bar wedged firmly into the earth behind. From these, two others went a stage lower, fastened to a rope ; then two more advanced beyond, to a lower part of the rock ; and so a chain of men was formed along the face of the cliff

, extending from its top to the projection over the cavern.

The last two men were thus placed directly over the hollow ; and from these, ropes were lowered into the opening, and being driven by the wind into the cave,' were grasped by the sailors, who, fastening the looped end round their bodies, were slung up one by

Eighteen were thus drawn from the chasm, but so exhausted by the sufferings of the past night, and the bruises received from the sea hurling them against the rocks, that four died soon after they had reached the summit of the eliffs.

Some distressing casualties occurred to many whilst being drawn up. One gentleman, named Brimer, seized the lowered end of the rope, but his frozen fingers prevented him from fastening the end securely round his body; and whilst the miners were raising him to the top, the rope slipped, and he, so nearly saved, fell from the dizzy heights upon the broken rocks beneath, upon which he was dashed to pieces; thu: undergoing a more terrible fate than those who perished with the ship. This was not the only case of such a destruction when safety appeared at hand. Numbers fell from the ropes, and were killed on the rocks, or swallowed up by the waves into which they fell. So numerous, indeed, were those who perished by slipring from the steep cliffs during the dark



night, or in the attempt to escape by climbing on the following day, that fifty persons were supposed to have thus lost their lives, after escaping from the ship.

The whole number saved amounted to seventy-four, out of more than two hundred and forty. The rest were scattered far and wide by the waves, some being thrown by the sea on the neighbouring rocks, amidst the broken fragments of chests, boxes, furniture, and parts of the ship. Others were drifted twenty miles from the fatal spot ; and amongst these was the captain himself, whose body was found at Christchurch. As for the ship herself, she was shivered to atoms, as if pounded by huge rocks ; and her splintered fragments were flung, by the subsequent tides, upon many a beach, and into the clifts of the rocky shore.

Thus perished the Halsewell East Indiaman, with her passengers and crew, within a few feet of the land which they had left with such high hopes and ardent aspirations; and whilst their friends were calculating the leagues they had proceeded towards India, they were meeting death amid the roar of the tempest on the rocky coast of Dorsetshire. So sudden a prostration of human hopes is rarely witnessed, or the volume of life would indeed be full of lamentation and woe ; but enough of such examples can be found to fill the records of the sea with scenes of the deepest suffering, and traditions of the acutest woe. The following lines of Mrs. Hemans will form a suitable close to this account of a wreck in which so many of the sad details are united in those melancholy, yet beautiful verses :

All night the booming minute-gun

Had pealed along the deep ;
And mournfully the rising sun

Looked o'er the tide-worn steep.
A barque for India's coral strand

Before the raging blast
Had vail'd her topsails to the sand,

And bow'd her noble mast.

The queenly ship! Brave hearts had striven,

And truc ones died with her.
We saw her mighty cable riven,

Like floating gossamer.

We saw her proud flag struck that morn,

A star once o'er the seas;
Her anchor gone, her deck uptorn ;

And sadder things than these !
We saw her treasures cast away ;

The rocks with pearls were sown;
And strangely sad, the ruby's ray

Flashed out o'er fretted stone.
And gold was strewn the wet sands o'er,

Like ashes by a breeze ;
And gorgeous robes : but oh! that shore

Had sadder things than these !
We saw the strong man still and low-

A crushed reed, thrown aside ;
Yet, by that rigid lip and brow,

Not without strife he died.
And near him, on the sea-weed, lay-

Till then we had not wept ;
But well our gushing hearts might say

That there a mother slept !
For her pale arms a babe had pressed

With such a wreathing grasp,
Billows had dashed o'er that fond breast,

Yet not undone the clasp.
Her very tresses had been flung

To wrap the fair child's form,
Where still their wet, long streamers hung,

All tangled by the storm.
And beautiful, 'midst that wild scene,

Gleamed up the boy's dead face,
Like slumbers, trustingly serene,

In melancholy grace.
Deep in her bosom lay his head,

With half-shut, violet eye:
He had known little of her dread,

Nought of her agony.
Oh! human love, whose yearning heart,

Through all things vainly true,
So stamps upon thy mortal part

Its passionate adieu !
Surely thou hast another lot;

There is some home for thee,
Where thou shalt rest, rememb’ring not

The moaning of the sea !

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »