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Sea StoriesThe Earliest Days Of Water-travelling
Once upon a time there were no ships. Men did not kn...
Wreck Of The Schooner Betsey On A Reef Of Rocks
The Betsey, a small schooner of about 75 tons burden, sailed from
Macao in China, for New South Wales, on the 10th of November, 1805.
Her complement consisted of William Brooks, commander, Edward
Luttrell, mate, one Portuguese seacunny, three Manilla and four
Chinese Lascars. No incident worthy of commemoration happened from the
10th to 20th of November. Next day, when the vessel was going at the
rate of seven knots and a half an hour, she struck on a reef of rocks
at half past two in the morning, while in north latitude 9 48, and
114 14 east longitude. The boat was instantly let down, and a small
anchor sent astern, but on heaving, the cable parted, and both were
lost. The people next endeavored to construct a raft of the water
casks, but the swell proved so great that they found it impossible to
accomplish their purpose. At day-break they found that the vessel had
forged four or five miles on the reef, which they now discovered
extended nine or ten miles to the south, and four or five east and
west; and there were only two feet water where she lay. During three
days and nights, the utmost exertions were made to get her off without
avail, and the crew had then become so weakened that they could scarce
be persuaded to construct a raft.
The vessel now had bulged on the starboard side. But a raft being made
on the 24th, the people left her with the jolly-boat in company, and
steered for Balambangan. Captain Brooks, the mate, the gunner and two
seacunnies were in the latter, where their whole provision consisted
of only a small bag of biscuit; and on the raft were the Portuguese,
four Chinese and three Malays, but much better provided.
The boat and the raft parted company on the same day, as a brisk gale
arose from the westward, and the raft was never heard of more; but it
was conjectured to have probably drifted on the island of Borneo,
which then bore south-east. The gale continued from the north-west
until the 28th of the month, accompanied by a mountainous sea, and
then ceased. By this time the fresh water taken into the boat was
completely expended, and all the biscuit that remained was wet with
On the 29th at day-break, land came in view, which was supposed to be
Balabac; the people were now nearly exhausted by rowing under a
burning sun, and while a perfect calm prevailed; and they were besides
reduced to such extremity as to drink their own urine. It blew so hard
in the night that they were obliged to bear up for Bangay, the
north-west point of which they discovered next morning at day-break.
Going ashore they instantly made a search for fresh water, which they
soon found, and considering what they had suffered from thirst, it is
no wonder that they drank to excess. While rambling into the woods in
quest of fruit, two Malays met them, to whom they made signs that they
wanted food, and these being understood, the Malays went away, and in
the afternoon returned with two cocoa-nuts and a few sweet potatoes,
which they gave in exchange for a silver spoon.
Night approaching, the people returned to their boat.--Next morning
five Malays made their appearance, bringing some Indian corn and
potatoes, which were exchanged for spoons as before. These people
pointed to Balambangan, and endeavored to make the party comprehend
that sometime ago the English had abandoned the settlement. A new
supply of provision was promised next morning; therefore the party
retired with their little stock, and attended at the appointed time to
receive more. Eleven Malays then appeared on the beach; but after a
little conversation on landing, one of them threw a spear at Captain
Brooks, which penetrated his belly, another made a cut at Mr.
Luttrell, who parried it off with a cutlass, and ran to the boat.
Captain Brooks withdrew the spear from his body, and also ran a short
distance, but the inhuman assassins followed him and cut off both his
legs. The gunner also was severely wounded, and reached the boat
covered with blood, while the party at the same time, saw the Malays
stripping the dead body of Captain Brooks; and in about fifteen
minutes afterwards the gunner expired.
The survivors immediately made sail, and then examined into the state
of their provisions, which they found consisted of ten cobs of Indian
corn, three pumpkins, and two bottles of water. Trusting to the mercy
of Providence, they with this, determined on shaping their course for
the straits of Malacca.
No particular occurrence happened in the course of the voyage from the
fourth to the fourteenth of December; frequent showers had fortunately
supplied them with fresh water, but they were nearly exhausted by
constant watching and hunger.
On the 15th they fell in with a group of islands, in 3 of north
latitude, and about 100 degrees of east longitude, and approached the
shore. But being descried by two Malay prows, they were immediately
attacked, and one of the seacunnies was run through with a spear and
died instantly, while the other was also wounded. Mr. Luttrell, the
mate, had a very narrow escape from a spear piercing through his hat.
The party being thus overpowered, the Malays took possession of their
boat and immediately seized on all their property, a sextant, their
log-book, some plate and clothes. They were themselves kept in a prow,
without any covering, and exposed to the scorching heat of the sun,
with an allowance of only a small quantity of sago during three days.
After that time they were carried ashore to the house of a rajah, on
an island called Sube, where they remained in a state of slavery,
entirely naked, and subsisting on sago, until the 20th of April. The
Rajah sailed on that day in a prow for Rhio, taking Mr. Luttrell and
the two other survivors along with him, and arrived there nearly
famished, after a tedious passage of twenty-five days.
Here their distresses were alleviated by Mr. Koek of Malacca, who
treated them in the kindest manner; and the ship Kandree, commanded by
Captain Williamson, arriving next day, they obtained a passage in her
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