The late storm — great loss of life in Torbay

The late storm — great loss of life in Torbay. 1867. Source: Illustrated London News. Click on image to enlarge it.

Article accompanying the illustration above

The passage below was created using ABBYY FineReader to render the Hathi Digital Library images into text. The only change from the original text has been to italicize the names of the ships. — George P. Landow

The violent storms of last week occasioned a terrible destruction of life and property on the coast of South Devon. Torbay was unusually full of ships on Wednesday week. since the squally weather had obliged many vessels to put in there for shelter. The afternoon, indeed, was so calm that many vessel a resumed their voyages; but they had not proceeded far before the appearance of the sky induced them to return. Other vessels that were either going up or down the Channel, being similarly warned, followed the example; and consequently, towards the evening, no fewer than seventy vessels, a great Dumber of them foreign, anchored in the bay, a short distance in front of Briiham Harbour. Just as darkness set in, a stiff breeze blew from the south-west, accompanied with heavy showers of rain. Towards midnight the wind veered round to the south, whilst the rain continued with unabated fury, falling in “sheets” rather than in drops. So great was the hurricane now that those who had retired to rest were aroused from their slumbers, and numbers of them lost no time in repairing to the pier-head, but it was so dark that only a few glimmering lights could be seen on the water in the bay. The people of Brixham could perceive that the ships were in imminent danger, but were unable to render them any assistance. Lights were seen moving rapidly before the gale, and it was evident some terrible results were about to follow. Within a very short time eleven or twelve ships were washed ashore on Broadsands and the rocks adjoining. Many of the crews, at the risk of their lives, managed to get on shore; whilst the rest remained on board in those Bhips which had not sustained such damage as warranted their being abandoned. The wind now suddenly changed with increased rage to the north-east, and, to the great horror of thoee on shore and amid the shrieks of those on board the vessels, they were tossed against the pier and rocks along the coast like so many toys. The terror of the scene was increased by the fact that, so intensely dark was it at the time, however desirous those on land might be to render assistance to the distressed and the dying, they were unable to do so. As soon as the light of the morning returned, the whole of the coast between Breadsands and the pier at Bnxham was found to be covered with wrecks lying in indescribable confusion—in some instances one over another. More than thirty wrecks were to be seen at a glance, and their cargoes floating about in all directions. A sketch, for which we are indebted to a gentleman at Teignmouth, Mr. S. Payton, has furnished our illustration of this dreadful scene. For some time after daylight on the Thursday, other vessels were observed sinking, one by one, and, in ^ome instances, two or three together, in the bay, while under anchor; and in these instances all hands were drowned. It is considered by Mr. Nankivel, seamens missionary, and others who are likely to form the most accurate estimate, that 150 persons and upwards perished during the fearful gale. It is greatly to lx? regretted that ihere was not a life-boat in the bay, as many of the crews might have been saved with such assistance. At Broadsands the coast-guardsmen were actively engaged during the whole morning in throwing ropes to those on board the wrecked vessels which were within a short distance of the shore. So rough was the sea, however, that to adopt any other means to reach them was found to be impracticable, until Captain Jeffery Searle and his two sons, finding that the ropes could not be throw'll to them, volunteered their services to «wim to the ships in cork jackets. These offers were accepted, and they ‘noceeded in taking the ropes to the ships, amid the enthusiastic cheers of the assembled crowd. By this means the crews were safely brought to *hore. Mr. Hills, of Churchstowe, rendered similar services with regard to a ship at Elbury. The crews were afterwards directed to Mr. Tully's, Elbury Farm, where they were hospitably entertained and their wants relieved. Mr. Kingston, one of the foreign Consuls for the neighbourhood, also rendered valuable assistance to the distressed. Shortly after ten o’clock the Teignmouth life-boat was telegraphed for, and, with the iid of six horses, it was soon dispatched to Torquay. The life-boat crew then lost no time in hastening to those ships in distress, but the gale had so much abated that their services were scarcely required. They, however, took several crews to shore.

At the Sailor’s Home the different crews received the greatest kindness from the hon. agent. Miss Browse; Mr. Nankivel, the seamen’s missionary: the Rev. R. F. Elrington, Incumbent of the parish of Lower Boxham; Mr. Patch, and otlier gentry. The expense already ncurred. with the further sum to be expended on behalf of these poor sailors and their families, will be considerable, and Mr. Elrington has invited subscriptions for this charitable object.

On the same day, on the opposite part of the Devonshire coast, another serious disaster took place, being that of the wreck of the ship Hannah More (one of Messrs. James Baines and Co.’s line of Australian packets) with the loss of eighteen lives. The Hannah More left Callao with a cargo of guano early in October, bound to Cork for orders. She must have encountered the gale in the Irish Channel, and been driven considerably out of her course, as on the morning of Thursday week she was driven upon Lundy Island, at the entrance to the Bristol Channel, where she became a total wreck. The Captain (Haughton), the first, second, and third officers, and fourteen of the crew went down with the snip. The remainder, consisting of the sailmaker and five of the crew, contrived to reach the shore in safety.

A melancholy occurrence is reported from Great Yarmouth. On Sunday the Gorleston life-boat, named the Rescuer (a private boat, not one belonging to the Royal National Life-boat Institution), manned by sixteen men, left the shore on the errand of saving some of the crews of vessels in peril by the storm; but scarcely had they crossed the bar when the boat capsized. The crew of the other lifeboat which was out, called “The Friend of All Nations,” bore down with a view of rescuing their comrades; but, by the time they reached the place, twelve men under the capsized boat had sunk to rise no more, and four only were saved, even these poor fellows being in a very exhausted state when landed. At the time of the accident the ill-fated men wore their usual heavy dress and sea boots, so that in a rough sea there was but little chance of their escape with life. They leave eight widows and twenty-seven children, in a destitute condition, to deplore their loss. The Rescuer was built, in 1856, on the prize plan adopted by the late Duke of Northumberland, and not on the self-righting principle.

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“Loss of the Amalia.” Illustrated London News (27 January 1866): 97. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 18 December 2015.

Last modified 20 December 2015