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Sea StoriesAn Account Of Four Russian Sailors Abandoned On The Island Of East Spitzbergen
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Wreck Of A Slave Ship
The following extract of a letter from Philadelphia, dated November
11th, 1762, gives an account of the melancholy disaster that befel the
Phoenix, Capt. M'Gacher, in lat. 37 deg. N. and lon. 72 deg. W. from
London, bound to Potomac, in Maryland, from the coast of Africa, with
332 slaves on board.
"On Wednesday the 20th of October 1762, at six o'clock in the evening,
came on a most violent gale of wind at south, with thunder and
lightning, the sea running very high, when the ship sprung a leak, and
we were obliged to lie-to under bare poles, the water gained on us
with both pumps constantly working. 10 P. M. endeavored to put the
ship before the wind to no purpose. At twelve the sand ballast having
choked our pumps, and there being seven feet water in the hold, all
the casks afloat, and the ballast shifted to leeward, cut away the
rigging of the main and mizen masts, both of which went instantly
close by the deck, and immediately after the foremast was carried away
about twenty feet above. Hove overboard all our guns, upon which the
ship righted a little. We were then under a necessity of letting all
our slaves out of irons, to assist in pumping and baling.
"Thursday morning being moderate, having gained about three feet on
the ship, we found every cask in the hold stove to pieces, so that we
only saved a barrel of flour, 10 lbs. of bread, twenty-five gallons of
wine, beer, and shrub, and twenty-five gallons of spirits. The seamen
and slaves were employed all this day in pumping and baling; the pumps
were frequently choked, and brought up great quantities of sand. We
were obliged to hoist one of the pumps up, and put it down the quarter
deck hatchway. A ship this day bore down upon us, and, though very
near, and we making every signal of distress, she would not speak to
"On Friday, the men slaves being very sullen and unruly, having had no
sustenance of any kind for forty-eight hours, except a dram, we put
one half of the strongest of them in irons.
"On Saturday and Sunday, all hands night and day could scarce keep
the ship clear, and were constantly under arms.
"On Monday morning, many of the slaves had got out of irons, and were
attempting to break up the gratings; and the seamen not daring to go
down in the hold to clear the pumps, we were obliged, for the
preservation of our own lives, to kill fifty of the ringleaders and
stoutest of them.
"It is impossible to describe the misery the poor slaves underwent,
having had no fresh water for five days. Their dismal cries and
shrieks, and most frightful looks, added a great deal to our
misfortunes; four of them were found dead, and one drowned herself in
the hold. This evening the water gained on us, and three seamen
dropped down with fatigue and thirst, which could not be quenched,
though wine, rum, and shrub were given them alternately. On Thursday
morning the ship had gained, during the night, above a foot of water,
and the seamen quite worn out, and many of them in despair. About ten
in the forenoon we saw a sail; about two she discovered us, and bore
down; at five spoke to us, being the King George, of Londonderry,
James Mackay, master; he immediately promised to take us on board, and
hoisted out his yawl, it then blowing very fresh. The gale increasing,
prevented him from saving any thing but the white people's lives, not
even any of our clothes, or one slave, the boat being scarcely able to
live in the sea the last trip she made. Capt. Mackay and some
gentlemen, passengers he had on board, treated us with kindness and
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