Mars Shipwreck

THE WRECK OF THE MARS.

ARRIVAL OF THE SURVIVORS.

A shipwreck is usually the most harrowing of all disasters, but the description given by the survivors of the wreck of the ill-fated barque Mars is particularly distressing. Wrecked on a bitterly cold morning on a bleak, barren, in hospitable coast, without a hand to aid them, the sufferings and privations they endured for nine days were terrible in the extreme. Escaping from the wreck in a miraculous manner, considering the coast they were on, they were met when they reached land by a still more terrible foe, namely hunger. To alleviate this the coast was searched, and the men succeeded in finding a little food, which the waves had tossed on shore. Nor was this the end of their troubles, as most of them were in a semi-nude condition, and weak from their exertions, and consequently ill fitted to contend with the dews and the cold blasts of wind which swept across Kangaroo Island.

Yet for over a week these men with sore and weary feet from long marching conducted themselves with great fortitude and heroism. By this statement it is not meant that they did not more than once give way to despair, but when their troubles were heaviest one of their number would rise superior to the rest, and by cheering words endeavor to keep his comrades spirits up. Difficulty after difficulty was faced by these patient men, who in the end triumphed.

http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6084267

THE FACTS.

On Tuesday morning, June 16, the Mars was trying to round Kangaroo Island, and although the weather was misty and squally it was not as rough as it had been on the previous day. On Monday the barque was tacked to the north-west and made all necessary sail. Until 1 o'clock on Tuesday morning a north-west-by-north course was steered. At the hour named the course was altered to north-by-east, the wind being south-west. Now it was thought that by maintaining this course the vessel would be kept well off land, and that at the time it was altered she was fully ten miles from shore. How erroneous these calculations were will be presently seen. At 4 o'clock the mate's watch went below. Westerman at the wheel was relieved, giving place to Monks, to whom he gave the course north-by-east. The captain, who had just previously been on deck, now went below to his cabin for the purpose of going to bed.

The first intimation of danger came from Peterson, the lookout. Going on duty at 4 p.m. he remained at his post till about ten minutes to 5 o'clock. At about this time he fancied he saw a dark shadow on the starboard bow. This belief he communicated to the boatswain, who agreed that the shadow looked like land. Captain Adie, the acting pilot, was also informed of the circumstance, but he did not think the land could be so near. Peterson, however, reiterated the former statement with respect to the land being on the starboard bow. For fully five minutes the vessel kept on her course.

The next moment the whole of the men on board were roused, as Peterson loudly called out, "Breakers on the p0rt bow". He could plainly see the white surf beating over a reef close to the ship. Captain Pringle came on deck immediately, and after warning the men of their danger called them to assist. The chief officer next appeared on the scene, and was followed by all hands. The captain was self-possessed, and gave his orders with great calmness. He ordered the men to let go the anchor, with a view of keeping the vessel off the reef, but as it was lashed for rough weather it could not be shifted. Then he told the crew to haul in the port main brace. All hands sprang forward to obey. Bracing the yards up brought the vessel's head to the wind, and the next moment the barque crashed on a rock with her keel. A tremendous sea struck her, and she swung broadside on to the rocks. Another sea struck her at once and drove her on to her beam-ends with her deck seaward. All was now confusion, and each man tried to save himself. The crew took to the rigging as the vessel went on her beam-ends.

The loss of life commenced at once, the first men to find a watery grave being Captain Adie (acting pilot), Joseph Rennie (ship's carpenter) and Wm. Monrieff (Boatswain). Captain Pringle was next lost. Armed with one of the two lifebuoys on the vessel he lowered himself down to the water's edge, and was at once caught by a tremendous wave and dashed out of sight. Vray, the first officer, tried to persuade his captain not to leave the vessel, urging that all was not yet over; that they might do something with the barque, and that it would be better to wait for daylight before making an attempt to land. To this the captain replied, "It is impossible to do anything with her : let me alone, I must try to get ashore." 'Still the mate pleaded, asking the captain to wait for daylight before trying to get off. It was of no avail, and the unfortunate captain at once lowered himself down to the water. It was a rash adventure, and the poor fellow lost his life without being able to make the least struggle for it.

As before stated, when the vessel turned on her beam ends the men took to the rigging. Westerman , one of the seamen, was clinging to the mizen rigging, and a little below him was Moncrieff, the boatswain. A great wave struck the ship, and Moncrieff was seen to let go and fall on deck on the port side. The unfortunate man clung to the ship's rail, and seemed all right. The next moment the boom spanker flew around with a loud crash and caught Moncrieff full in the middle of the body and pinioned him against the vessel's side. He cried out, *"O, my God'". The boom swung back again, and Moncrieff, whose back it is thought was broken by the blow he received, fell backwards into the sea and was seen no more. Captain Adie was a friend of Captain Pringles, the latter finding him out of an engagement in Melbourne engaged him to pilot his vessel to Port Pirie. After the vessel got on the rock Captain Adie was in the rigging close to a lad named Hughes. All this time the foundercd barque was being lashed by the waves, and it was after being struck with such force as to make her quiver from bow to stem that Captain Adie was noticed by his companion to fall from the rigging into the alleyway. No more was seen of him, and it is supposed that the next wave carried him over the vessel's side. As to the manner in which Joseph Rennie, the carpenter, met his death little can be said, as none of the crew saw him go overboard. When the vessel turned on her beam Rennie was endeavouring to cut away the ship's anchor, but directly the other men made for the port side he was missing so that there is no doubt that he was carried over the starboard bow and drowned.

All the men speak in the highest terms of praise of Captain Pringle, and say be was a skilful careful navigator. When the vessel was seen close to the breakers nothing could have saved her. The captain did all that was possible to get the barque away, and the men whilst they mourn his death do not blame him for attempting to get ashore. It was a case of sueve qui peut.

GETTING ASHORE

There were now nine men clinging to the rigging for their lives. With one exception they determined to hold on till daylight dawned. The exception was Juan Castel, a Castilian, from Buenos Ayrcs, who stood in the fore rigging some fifteen minutes. Whilst gazing towards the shore he espied what seemed to be a dry rock. He took hold of the foresheet and let the end of it fall into the sea. He called to his ship- mates, "Come boys, if you want to save yourselves, here's a dry rock." Receiving no reply he lowered himself over the side by means of the sheet, to which he hung waiting till the waves swung him close enough to jump on to the rock. Seizing an apportunity he jumped for the rock, but missed it, and fell into the water. However, after a severe struggle he gained the rock, and afterwards the shore. When daylight dawned he climbed to the top of a rock some thirty or forty feet from where his companions hung in the fore-rigging.They hailed his advent with cheers, and after several ineffectual attempts he seized a line thrown to him, and made it fast to a rock. By this means the other eight men were safely got on shore. Peterson went off first; Westerman, second; Hughes, third; Nugent, fourth; McColley, fifth; Dixon, sixth; Monks, seventh; and the mate, Vray, eighth, and last. The boy Hughes nearly lost his life coming along the rope. He was weak and cold, and after getting a certain distance he thought he could jump on to the rock. He jumped for the rock, but missing it was caught by a wave and carried back into the sea. With great presence of mind Westerman bounded through the breakers, and throwing a rope around the lad, pulled him out. Castel slid down the rock to his ship mate's assistance, and the pair safely placed Hughes on shore,.

WANDERING ON THE ISLAND

The exertions of the men had commenced to tell on them, so they determined to stay by the wreck for a little time. After resting some boards of a boat which had been dashed to pieces were washed ashore. These were secured, and the shipwrecked men erected a small rough hut, into which they creeped for shelter from the bleak winds. For twenty-four hours they remained at the scene of the wreck, living on a few biscuits and tins of butter which were washed ashore. After a rest the party started out to look for assistance. For three days the men travelled and reached Remarkable Rock, about six miles from Cape Coudie, where there is a large cave. This happened on Friday night, June 19. The cave afforded good shelter, and the men managed to secure a fair night's sleep. Hunger, however, began to creep upon them, and having nothing to eat at the cave it was decided to return to the wreck. The return journey occupied two days. High and dry the body of Captain Piingle was found, but hungry, weary, and footsore as the men were, they buried it and placed a piece of wood at the head of the gtfive, on which was written in pencil the name of the deceased and other particulars.

The body was in such a condition as hardly to be recognised. The skull was completeiy gone and the thighs and arms were little more than bare bone, whilst the body generally was greatly bruised. The survivors next searched the coast for two miles on each side of the wreck, of which by 12 o'clock on this day little more than the masts could be seen. No more bodies were found, and as all the food had been eaten another start was made to look for assistance. The party moved along slowly, as most of them suffered from sore feet. One of their number, Peter Nugent, had an extremely sore foot. Whilst loading stone ballast in Melbourne a man accidentally threw a large stone on his foot, and the injury thus received debarred Nugent from making free use of that member. On Tuesday, June 23, matters became extremely critical. Nearly all the men were fairly used up and footsore. Accordingly, three of the strongest men were deputed to go on ahead and seek assistance. The chief mate murmured a brief prayer, and the party started off.

Next day, Wednesday, June 24, they startled the keepers of the Cape Borda light house by their appearance. They were quickly taken in; a cart was sent to their mates' assistance, and then people in Adelaide learned by telegram that nine days previously the barque Mars had been wrecked near West Bay, Kangaroo Island. All the party speak in glowing terms of the hospitality bestowed on them by the lighthousekeepers and their wives.

BRINGING THE SURVIVORS TO PORT ADELAIDE

On Friday afternoon the steam launch Lady Diana, commanded by Captain Wells, left Port Adelaide to proceed to Snug Cove, Kangaroo bland, for the purpose of conveying the wrecked seamen on to the Port. It had been arranged that the party were to bebrought from Cape Borda to Snug Cove by means of a vehicle and saddle horses. They reached the Cove on Friday night, and were hospitably received by Mr. and Mrs. John Hirst, who did all in their power to make them comfortable. The same night Mr. J. W. Daw took tlie evidence of the men with respect to the wreck. The Lady Diana, which had on board a representative of this paper, reached the Cove at 8 o'clock on Saturday morning, June 27. The shipwrecked sailors, who dressed in clothes kindly lent them by the lightliousekeepers, presented a truly pitiable aspect, were quickly placed on board, and at 9 o'clock the little steamer's head was turned towards home. Captain Wells treated the poor fellows with every kindness, and after they had rested our reporter was able to chat with them, and be succeeded in gleaning some interesting particulars of the sad disaster, which are given below :—

THE CHIEF MATE'S STATEMENT.

The chief officer said—We left Liverpool on October 28, 1884, for Cardiff, with the following men in the barque:—Captain R. Pringle; chief officer, Frances Vray; seamen, Nugent and Monks; Rennie, ship's carpenter; Moncrieff, boatswain; McColley, cook; and Hughes, a cabin boy. The other men—Westerman, Castel, Dixon, Peterson, and the acting pilot, Captain Adie, were shipped in Melbourne. On November 12 we left Cardiff with a cargo of coal for Mauritius where we arrived in March, 1885. At the end of April we left for Melbourne with a cargo of sugar, and arrived in May. On June 4, our ballast being complete, we sailed for Port Pirie, where we were to ship a cargo of wheat. On the morning of June 10 I left my watch at 4 o'clock, when all seemed secure. A little before 5 o'clock Captaiu Pringle called me. I soon learned what was amiss. The weather lashings prevented us from letting the anchor go. Directly we found we could not let go the anchor we braced up the yards to bring her head to the wind. The barque was then unmanageable and dashing among the breakers. Her keel struck first, and then she steered broadside on to the rocks. Almost at once she went on her beam ends with her deck facing the sea.

At this time the captain was on the poop, where he secured one of the two buoys on board. He came to my side by the main rigging. I tried to persuade him not to attempt to get ashore, but he replied, " I must try to get ashore." I watched him lower himself to the water's edge by a rope on the shore side. A tremendous sea struck him, and I saw him no more. It was dark at the time. When day dawned I saw the buoy floating in three pieces. About ten minutes after the barque heeled over, and we took to the bulwarks. We felt safe as long as the ship hung together.

When Cartel appeared on the rock we all cheered heartily. The vessel was bumping at the time. We got off at once, and by 7 o'clock the boat commenced breaking up, and at 9 o'clock she had almost disappeared. After remaining twenty four hours at the wreck we made fur the cave at Remarkable Rock. From here we could see the Brothers Rock, about 15 miles distant as the crow flies. After referring to their wanderings on the island, and subsequent kind treatment, at the lighthouse, he proceeded to say—The captain was a skilful navigator, and a most careful seaman. I have been at at sea some 45 years and can only account for the wreck by the current. I think the strong current running at the time was the primary cause of the accident. It maybe that the compasses were a little wrong doubtless owing to some extraneous magnetic influences. The course at the time the vessel struck was north by east, which should have carried us ten miles southward of West Bay, where the chart shows from 60 to 65 fathoms of water. I presume, judging by subsequent events, that instead of running on a north by east course we were on a north by north east course or a little to the eastward. We had a fair wind at the time, and were making about six knots per hour. We were trying to pick up the Cape Borda light, but I suppose by steering too far to the eastward we lost it altogether. Had we steered one point higher, about north, we would have picked up the Borda light. My opinion is that the current was running about two miles an hour. At noon on the day before the accident my dead reckoning was 144' 48' E.longitude, ard the latitude by observation was 36' 13' S. From that time till 1 o'clock the next morning (June 16) the ship was steering north-west by north, and running at the rate of five knots per hour. Then from 1 o'clock in the morning she steered north by east at six knots per hour till the time she struck.

THE CHIEF OFFICER'S SWORN STATEMENT

Francis Vray, chief mate, said—The ship was bound from Melbourne to Port Pirie in ballast, where she was to load wheat. Left Melbourne on Thursday, June 4, encountering rough weather, the wind being from north west to south-west, and fresh and squally most of the time. Sighted all the lights as we came along. On Sunday, June 14, at 6 pm., the Willoughby light bore west of the ship about eight miles distant. We kept the vessel on a south west course, but in consequence of dirty weather we could not get through Back stairs Passage. About midnight the wind moderated, and went towards the south. At 8 a.m. on Monday, June 15, we tacked the ship to the north-west, and made all necessary sail as the weather had moderated. We steeped until 1 a.m. on the following day a north west by north course. At the hour named the course was altered to north by east, the wind being south-west.

At 5 a.m. on the 16th, the lookout (Peterson) reported "land on lee bow." Before the ship's head could be altered she was among the breakers. Directly she struck, she went on her beam ends, the deck towards the sea. All hands were on deck at the time, having previously summonsed by the captain. Captain Richard Adie (acting pilot), William Moncrieff (boatswain), Joseph Rennie (ship's carpenter) were on the starboard side of the barque when she heeled over. The first sea that struck the ship washed these poor fellows overboard. The captain, Robert Pringle, was on the port side, at this time with a life buoy on his shoulder. Almost at once he lowered himself to the water's edge by means of a rope. I asked him not to be so rash. He said " Let me alone, I must try to get ashore." The captain was not an abstainer, although he was only a moderate drinker, and was perfectly sober when the accident occurred. After lowering himself into the sea he disappeared. Juan Castel next lowered himself into the water by the fore-sheets, and succeeded in getting to land, being a power ful swimmer. As soon as daylight dawned saw a man on the cliff close to the wreck and hailed him to come closer. He did so, and we clinging to the wreck recognised Castel. The latter came to the edge of the cliff, a distance of between 30 and 40 feet from the fore-rigging. After several attempts he succeeded in catching the line we threw to him, and tied it to a rock. By means of the line the remainder of us on board—eight in number —succeeded in reaching the shoe in safety. I sent the sailors first, and was the last to leave the vessel.

We remained by the wreck for twenty-four hours, and picked up a few biscuits that were washed ashore with a few tins of butter. After the expiration of twenty-four hours we started to look for assistance. We succeeded after three days' travelling in reaching the rock known as " Remarkable Rock," about six miles from Cape Coudie. We camped in the cave in Remarkable Rock that (Friday) night. Having no food, however, we returned to the wreck, which I judge is fifty miles distant. It took us three days to reach the cave, and two to return to the wreck. We then found the body of Captain Pringle washed up on the beach. Recognised the body as that of the captain by his teeth, and its size. It was in a dreadfully bruised and cut state. Carried the corpse above high water mark, and after burying it put a board at the head, and with a pencil wrote on it his name, the ship's name, the date of the wreck, and date of burial. Having accomplished that we looked about the coast in search of food from the wreckage, and remained there all night and next day. We thoroughly searched the coast for two miles on each side of the wreck, but could not find any more bodies. Neither did we find any more food.

Next day we rested close to the scene of the wreck prior to starting in a northerly direction along the coast. I then sent three of my strongest men on ahead to see if they could procure any assistance. On the following morning, Wednesday, June 24, they reached Cape Borda, and during the afternoon the keeper of the lighthousc came to our aid with provisions. We were then nine miles south of Cape Borda. With the assistance of Keepers Gerer and. Christie we reached Cape Borda at 6.30 on Wednesday night, the advance party having reached there at about 11 in the morning. We came on to Snug Cove on Friday night.

A HARD BATTLE FOR LIFE

Juan Castel, A.B., said—Last Tuesday week, June 10, about 4 o'clock a.m., a man came into the forecastle saying, " Boys, land right ahead; come out." We thought he was joking. A few minutes afterwards the captain came to the forecastle door and said, "Come, boys, if you want to save your lives." We all went on deck. We then started to get the ship to windward, and the captain cried out " Let go the anchor as quick as you can." We could not let go the anchor, as it was lashed for rough weather. A few of us then started to haul the jib down. As the jib came down the foresails flew back ; then an officer said, " Round the main yards." When half way through the last order the ship struck on the rocks. We then started to go round lying against the rock. The steward was washed from the main hatch to the galley door. He sprang into the galley and I jumped on top of the house. Looked round, but could not see anyone. Stood in the fore ringing for about fifteen minutes, and then caught hold of the foresheet, over-rolled it, and let it fall into the sea. Called out to the other man aft, "Come, boys, if you want to save yourselves here's a dry rock."

Looked about, but could not see anybody. I lowered myself over the side into the sea waiting a chance to jump on to the rock. Then I thought if I swung myself I could jump on to the rock. I missed it and went down between the ship and the rock. A big sea struck me and lifted me clear over the rock, and threw me between it and another one. Another sea then took me right up against the next rock, where I managed to cling for about five minutes thinking myself secure. Another great sea lifted me from where I clung and cast me into the gulch, and when the sea receded I tried to stand. I was much cut and braised, but managed to crawl up to the rocks. Another sea struck me, carrying me above high water mark, where I felt some bushes, to which I clung for my life till daylight.

I must have been half an hour battling for my life. For about two hours I clung to the bushes and when daylight dawned I looked for the barque but could not see her. I climbed up and secured a good footing, and afterwards found the wrecked vessel and saw the men in the fore rigging. They quickly threw me a line, which, after one or two ineffectual attempts, I caught and made fast to a rock, and all the men came ashore.

THE LOOKOUT'S STORY

Charles Peterson, A.B., said—l was on the lookout at 4 o'clock on the morning that the vessel struck. I stood on watch till about ten minutes to 5 o'clock. At the time named I fancied I saw a shadow on the starboard bow. It was very dark at the time. I at once ran to the bo'sun, Moncrieff. and said to him,"I am sure there is land over there," pointing to the starboard bow. He said, "Yes, Peterson, it looks like land." I then asked the pilot, Adie, who was standing on the gangway, to come over and have a look. I said, "It is land right enough, although I may be mistaken." "Oh, no," he replied, "that's only a break in the sky; we have land on the star board bow, but far away from us."

The vessel continued on the same course for five minutes. I then ran to the forecastle head singing out as loudly as possible, " Breakers on the port bow." There was a reef sticking out quite plainly. The captain and chief officer instantly came on deck, and called out, " Let go the anchor." I tried to cut a link of the chain with an axe, but failed, and we could not let the anchor go. As the yards were braced round the heavy surf caught the barque, and as she struck with her heel she swung broadside on the to rocks. At once a second heavy sea caught her, and then she turned on her beam ends with the deck towards the sea.

AN A.B.'s STATEMENT

John Westenuan, A.B., said—Punctually at 4 in the morning of the 16th I was relieved at the wheel by Monk, to whom I gave the course north by east. We had small sails set, as it was very squally. At fire minutes to 5 o'clock I heard the cook call " Coffee," and a few seconds later heard the lookout call, " Land on the lee bow." The same man next called out, "Breakers on the weather bow." The captain next called out " Let go the anchor," and then ran to the forecastle door, saying " If you want to save your lives, boys, turn out." The captain was perfectly calm. We were trying to haul in the port mainbrace when the vessel struck, the seas making clean breaches over her. I climbed up the mizen rigging with the boatswain. While there the mizengaff carried away, and gave me a severe blow. Next the boatswain fell from the rigging, and I think the boom spanker, which flew round at the time, struck him and pinioned him to the vessel's side. I think he fell overboard, as I saw no more of him. I climbed over to the port side where I met Peterson, to whom I said "It's all up with us." Here I saw the captain lower himself to the water's edge. When daylight dawned I secured a rope and threw it to Castel, who missed it three times in succession. Then Peterson threw it and Castel made it fast.

JAME'S MONK'S STATEMENT.

James Monk said—I took the wheel from Westerman at 4 o'clock on the morning of the accident. He gave me the coarse north by east which I steered. Directly the danger was reported the officer of the watch, Pilot Adie, said—" Put the helm hard down." The vessel at once came to the wind, and I heard her keel crash against a rock, and then saw her turn on her beam ends.

OTHER NARRATIVES.

Neal McColley, steward, John Dixon, and William Hughes, aged sixteen, were also questioned, and gave similar testimony to that given above. The latter saw Pilot Adie fall from his side in the rigging into the alley-way and the unfortunate man was never seen after wards.

A FOG IN THE PORT RIVER.

The Lady Diana reached the Port River at 9.30 p.m. on Saturday, after a smart passage, and all the men were looking anxiously forward to a comfortable bed in the Sailors' Home. When, however, within ten minutes'steaming of the wharf a dense fog enveloped the whole of the river, and Captain Wells was forced to let go his anchor. Here the launch remained till 3.30 a.m. on Sunday, when the fog lifted and the launch steamed to Hawker's Creek. Early in the morning the rescued sailors were taken to the Sailors' Home. where they will remain for the present. All of them have lost their belongings, even to their clothes. The first officer has lost all his instruments and effects, and this is a severe blow to him, as it is not likely that he will be able to secure a berth in the colony. A subscription list has been started for the relief of the poor fellows.

THE MEN RESCUED

are—Frances Vray, chief officer; Charles Peterson, A.B.,; John Westerman, A.B.; Petcr Nugent, A.B.; John Dixon, A.B.; Juan Castel, A.B.; James Monk, A.B.; Neal McColley, cook and steward, and Win. Hughes, cabin boy. The men who perished are—Captain Priugle; Captain Richard Adie, acting pilot; Wm. Moncrieff, boatswain; and Joseph Rennie, carpenter.

THE WRECK OF THE MARS. (1885, June 29). The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889), p. 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article36309139

WRECK OF THE MARS. (1885, June 29). Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912), p. 3 (SECOND EDITION). http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198398561

See map of survivor movements