The wreck of an Indiaman

Wreck of an Indiaman." — From a Picture by Mr. Daniell. Illustrated London News. 16 February 1859. Scanned image, bibliographical information, and text by Philip V. Allingham. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link to this URL or include it in a print document.]

The scene of desolation which our great marine painter, the late Mr. Daniell, has here so fearfully portrayed has, it is feared, been paralleled in the calamities of the past week.

On Sunday night last, another violent gale from the W.S.W. visited London and its suburbs, and, up to ten o'clock on Monday night, continued with alarming force. The wind guage at Lloyd's [of London, Marine Assurance Agents] fully illustrated its fury, the pressure on the face attached to the apparatus on the summit of the Royal Exchange being, in the course of Monday evening, no less than from 12 lb. to 13 lb., sufficient to excite no ordinary uneasiness for the safety of the shipping.

Among the losses reported is the wreck of a fine West Indiaman, and, it is feared, the loss of all on board of her. on Tuesday, the Sarah, Bridges master, bound from Jamaica for London, made the Margate-roads, and in the course of the forenoon was taken in town by the Trinity steam-tug. As the day advanced, the gale sprang up with destructive fury. The ship and the tug laboured sorely; and between three and four o'clock in the afternoon, when running through the Prince's Channel, the towing hawser snapped asunder, and the ship got adrift. The tug immediately brought up, in the hope that the weather might moderate. The wind, however, continued to increase until it blew a perfect hurricane, and about midnight the steamer was driven from her anchorage. She lost cable and anchor, and was compelled to run for safety. The Sarah was then lost sight of, and from the tempestuous weather that prevailed during the following twenty-four hours, and the fact that nothing has been seen of her since, although she was right in the track of vessels trading to and from the river, coupled with the circumstance that a quantity of West India produce has been picked up in the vicinity of where she went adrift, as also pieces of wreck apparently of the same class of vessel, there is little doubt that she perished, with all hands. Several casks of rum have been seen floating about; and Mr. Cullum, the master of the General Steam Navigation Company's ship Soho, reports having passed part of the wreck of a ship, a quantity of cocoa-nuts and pimento cakes, about a dozen miles to the eastward of the North Foreland, and consequently almost in the very place the Sarah is suspected to have been lost. Whether this wreck belonged to the Sarah or not, however, it is evident that a large ship was lost in the neighbourhood. At present the number of the crew has not been ascertained, nor whether there were any passengers on board.

Modern navigational devices, improved charts, steel-hulled ships, and better trained navigators, together with modern communications technology and improved weather forecasting, have resulted in a sharp decline in the loss of shipping in the twentieth century, aside, of course, from the periods of global conflict that resulted in the loss of so many lives in the navies and merchant marine services between 1914 and 1918, and again between 1939 and 1945. When compared to the foregoing newspaper accounts, Dickens's narrative of Steerforth's shipwreck seems particularly vivid and detailed, its verisimilitude being assisted by the reader's strongly apprehended sense of the narrator's voice, movements, and feelings throughout the tempest.

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“Wreck of an Indiaman." — From a Picture by Mr. Daniell.” The Illustrated London News. (116 February 1850): 112.

Last modified 6 July 2010