Wednesday, June 6, 2012

EUTERPE: STORMY WEATHER Part II Screaming, running & jumping over tables

The old sailing ship was not out of trouble. In early November 1879 James Martin complained about the persistent head winds that kept the ship struggling up around The Snares and northwards towards Lyttelton. The winds, he declared, were so fierce that the ship was in danger of being pushed back towards Australia. So close and yet so far – because of adverse winds the ship didn't in fact reach Lyttelton until 24th December 1879. In mid November another storm hit Euterpe.

Joshua Charlesworth reported breathlessly that the main hatchway and part of the bulwarks were carried away by a heavy sea coming over the ship. The next big sea rushed down the open hatchway and ventilators in streams and "flooded the 'tween decks, coming through the store room into our cabins after and going into the young mens cabin for'ard. The Captain with a body of sailors were quickly on the spot & covered the hatch tray over with canvas to prevent any more water from coming down and then we all set to work in bailing out the water for it was touching the bottom bunks in our cabin and the ship rolling caused the water to flow from one side to the other and washed away everything that was loose into one cabin & another opposite to each other. The main bulk was quickly turned out but it came into our cabin all night through & we had to retire to bed with the cabin floor flooded. The ship rolling & everything miserable. You may judge the excitement which prevailed especially in the married people's quarters, even the galley was flooded & the pans & dishes were swimming about the deck & put the fire out so that for a long time we were deprived of our necessary eating or grub."

James Martin recorded more drama: "... there was no less than two feet of water in the old maids' retreat. Several were in bed who came out wading through it in a great state of alarm. The screaming, running and jumping over the tables was fearful. The boxes, water cans etc were swimming about the lower deck. The Captain and sailors ... kicked a hole through to the young men's place and all hands began passing pails." Four days later Martin thought that "another good sea will carry [away] the sheep pen".

However the passengers were becoming philosophical about their situation after four months at sea. Charlesworth wrote: "I managed to crawl on deck & got on the top of Saloon steps with a friend of mine & fellow passenger when a large sea came over the ship & caught us nicely, wetting us right through and very near fetched us off the steps. We however got safely down below & retired to sleep for the night not much the worse for our dowsing." Others copped it too. On 30 November Charlesworth recorded that "A large sea came over the port beam and dowsed a good number of passengers while sitting on the spare spars" and, he adds, "they had their best clothes on."

Photograph (c) Mike Wood Photography

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