Loss Of H B M Ship La Tribune Off Halifax Nova Scotia

La Tribune was one of the finest frigates in his Majesty's navy,

mounted 44 guns, and had recently been taken from the French by

Captain Williams in the Unicorn frigate.--She was commanded by Captain

S. Barker, and on the 22d of September, 1797, sailed from Torbay as

convoy to the Quebec and Newfoundland fleets. In latitude 49 14 and

longitude 17 22, she fell in and spoke with his Majesty's ship

Experiment, from Halifax; and lost sight of all her convoy on the 10th

of October, in latitude 74 16 and longitude 32 11.

About eight o'clock in the morning of the following Thursday they came

in sight of the harbor of Halifax, and approached it very fast, with

an E. S. E. wind, when Captain Barker proposed to the master to lay

the ship to, till they could procure a pilot. The master replied that

he had beat a 44 gun ship into the harbor, that he had frequently been

there, and there was no occasion for a pilot, as the wind was

favorable. Confiding in these assurances, Captain Barker went into his

cabin, where he was employed in arranging some papers which he

intended to take on shore with him. In the mean time the master,

placing great dependance on the judgment of a negro, named John Cosey,

who had formerly belonged to Halifax, took upon himself the pilotage

of the ship.

By twelve o'clock the ship approached so near the Thrum Cap shoals

that the master became alarmed, and sent for Mr. Galvin, master's

mate, who was sick below. On his coming upon deck, he heard the man in

the chains sing out, "by the mark five!" the black man forward at the

same time crying "steady!" Galvin got on one of the carronades to

observe the situation of the ship; the master ran in great agitation

to the wheel, and took it from the man who was steering, with the

intention of wearing the ship; but before this could be effected, or

Galvin was able to give an opinion, she struck.--Captain Barker

immediately went on deck and reproached the master with having lost

the ship. Seeing Galvin likewise on deck, he addressed him and said

"that, knowing he had formerly sailed out of the harbor, he was

surprised he could stand by and see the master run the ship on shore,"

to which Galvin replied "that he had not been on deck long enough to

give an opinion."

Signals of distress were immediately made, and answered by the

military posts and ships in the harbor, from which, as well as the

dock-yard, boats immediately put off to the relief of the Tribune. The

military boats, and one of those from the dock-yard, with Mr. Rackum,

boatswain of the ordinary, reached the ship, but the wind was so much

against the others, that, in spite of all their exertions, they were

unable to get on board. The ship was immediately lightened by throwing

overboard all her guns, excepting one retained for signals, and every

other heavy article, so that about half past eight o'clock in the

evening the ship began to heave, and at nine got off the shoals. She

had lost her rudder about three hours before, and it was now found, on

examination, that she had seven feet water in the hold. The

chain-pumps were immediately manned, and such exertions were made that

they seemed to gain on the leaks. By the advice of Mr. Rackum, the

captain ordered the best bower anchor to be let go, but this did not

bring her up. He then ordered the cable to be cut; and the jib and

fore-top-mast stay-sail were hoisted to steer by. During this interval

a violent gale, which had come on at S. E. kept increasing, and

carrying the ship to the western shore. The small bower anchor which

soon afterwards let go, at which time they found themselves in

thirteen fathom of water, and the mizen-mast was then cut away.

It was now ten o'clock, and as the water gained fast upon them, the

crew had but little hope left of saving either the ship or their

lives. At this critical period Lieutenant Campbell quitted the ship,

and Lieutenant North was taken into the boat out of one of the ports.

From the moment at which the former left the vessel all hopes of

safety had vanished; the ship was sinking fast, the storm was

increasing with redoubled violence, and the rocky shore which they

were approaching, resounded with the tremendous noise of the rolling

billows, presented nothing to those who might survive the loss of the

ship but the expectation of a more painful death, by being dashed

against precipices, which, even in the calmest day, it is impossible

to ascend. Dunlap, one of the survivors, declared, that about half

past ten, as nearly as he could conjecture, one of the men who had

been below, came to him on the forecastle, and told him it was all

over. A few minutes afterwards the ship took a lurch, like a boat

nearly filled with water and going down; on which Dunlap immediately

began to ascend the fore-shrouds, and at the same moment casting his

eyes towards the quarter-deck, he saw Captain Barker standing by the

gangway, and looking into the water, and directly afterwards he heard

him call for the jolly-boat. He then saw the lieutenant of marines

running towards the taffrel, to look, as he supposed, for the

jolly-boat, which had been previously let down with men in her; but

the ship instantly took a second lurch and sunk to the bottom, after

which neither the captain nor any of the other officers were again


The scene, before sufficiently distressing, now became peculiarly

awful. More than 240 men, besides several women and children, were

floating on the waves, making the last effort to preserve life.

Dunlap, who has been already mentioned, gained the fore-top. Mr.

Galvin, the master's mate, with incredible difficulty, got into the

main-top. He was below when the ship sunk, directing the men at the

chain-pump, but was washed up the hatchway, thrown into the waist and

from thence into the water, and his feet, as he plunged, struck

against a rock. On ascending he swam to gain the main-shrouds, when

three men suddenly seized hold of him. He now gave himself up for

lost; but to disengage himself from them he made a dive into the

water, which caused them to quit their grasp. On rising again he swam

to the shrouds, and having reached the main-top, seated himself on an

arm chest which was lashed to the mast.

From the observations of Galvin in the main-top, and Dunlap in the

fore-top, it appears that nearly one hundred persons were hanging a

considerable time to the shrouds, the tops and other parts of the

wreck. From the length of the night, and the severity of the storm,

nature, however, became exhausted, and during the whole night they

kept dropping off and disappeared. The cries and groans of the

unhappy sufferers, from the bruises many of them had received, and

their hopes of deliverance beginning to fail, were continued through

the night, but as morning approached, in consequence of the few who

then survived, they became extremely feeble.

About twelve o'clock the main-mast gave way; at that time there were

on the main-top and shrouds about forty persons. By the fall of the

mast the whole of these unhappy wretches were again plunged into the

water, and ten only regained the top, which rested on the main-yard,

and the whole remained fast to the ship by some of the rigging. Of the

ten who thus reached the top, four only were alive when morning

appeared. Ten were at that time, alive on the fore-top, but three were

so exhausted, and so helpless, that they were washed away before any

relief arrived; three others perished, and thus only four were, at

last, left alive on the fore-top.

The place where the ship went down was barely three times her length

to the southward of the entrance into Herring Cove. The inhabitants

came down in the night to the point opposite to which the ship sunk,

kept up large fires, and were so near as to converse with the people

on the wreck.

The first exertion that was made for their relief was by a boy

thirteen years old, from Herring Cove, who ventured off in a small

skiff by himself about eleven o'clock the next day. This youth, with

great labor and extreme risk to himself, boldly approached the wreck,

and backed in his little boat so near to the fore-top as to take off

two of the men, for the boat could not with safety hold any more. And

here a trait of generous magnanimity was exhibited, which ought not to

pass unnoticed. Dunlap and another man, named Monro, had throughout

this disastrous night, preserved their strength and spirits in a

greater degree than their unfortunate companions, who they endeavored

to cheer and encourage when they found their spirits sinking. Upon the

arrival of the boat these two might have stepped into it, and thus

have terminated their own sufferings; for their two companions, though

alive, were unable to stir; they lay exhausted on the top, wishing not

to be disturbed, and seemed desirous to perish in that situation.

These generous fellows hesitated not a moment to remain themselves on

the wreck, and to save their unfortunate companions against their

will. They lifted them up, and with the greatest exertion placed them

in the boat, the MANLY BOY rowed them triumphantly to the Cove, and

immediately had them conveyed to a comfortable habitation. After

shaming, by his example, older persons, who had larger boats, he

again put off with his skiff, but with all his efforts he could not

then approach the wreck. His example, however, was soon followed by

four of the crew who had escaped in the Tribune's jolly-boat, and by

some of the boats in the Cove. With their joint exertions, the eight

men were preserved, and these with the four who had saved themselves

in the jolly-boat, were the whole of the survivors of this fine ship's


A circumstance occurred in which that cool thoughtlessness of danger,

which so often distinguishes our British tars, was displayed in such a

striking manner, that it would be inexcusable to omit it. Daniel

Monro, had, as we have already seen, gained the fore-top. He suddenly

disappeared, and it was concluded that he had been washed away like

many others. After being absent from the top about two hours, he, to

the surprise of Dunlap, who was likewise on the fore-top, raised his

head through the lubber-hole; Dunlap inquiring where he had been, he

told him he had been cruising for a better birth; that after swimming

about the wreck for a considerable time, he had returned to the

fore-shrouds, and crawling in on the catharpins, had actually been

sleeping there more than an hour, and appeared greatly refreshed.

In The Harbor Of Fayal Loss Of His Majesty's Ship Litchfield facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail