Sea Stories

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 salt water. 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 for Malacca.

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