The loss of HMS Megaera in 1871 
The loss of HMS Megaera in 1871 

The Royal NavyBlackwoods (4/5)


S.S. MALACCA, OFF ST PAUL'S, Sept. 5, 1871.

MY DEAR CAPTAIN THRUPP, - Last night Lieut. Praed told me you were still desirous of sending the stores on board. I also was of the same opinion, and almost urged it in our interview on shore, if the weather would permit of it; but having already lost two anchors, and experienced such disastrous weather since we have been here, I should deem it a great favour if you would abandon the idea, as, in the event of my anchoring and losing the stream anchor, I should only have one anchor to depend on at other ports; and also our engines having been constantly at work for the last five weeks, without an opportunity occurring to enable the engineers to examine them, the probability is, in the event of our having to move them at a moment's notice, they might not readily start, in which case the ship would lie placed in imminent peril; and, to further enumerate our mishaps, we have lost one lifeboat, two cutters, and two channel-plates of main rigging. I therefore consider I run a great risk in anchoring, as the weather cannot be depended on for any length of time, and shall feel greatly obliged if you will enter into my views on the subject; so pray embark as soon as the bar will admit of it, for I am very anxious to have you all safe on board. Lieut. Praed will explain to you more concisely how we are situated.
I remain, in haste, my dear Captain Thrupp, yours sincerely,

P. & 0. Coy. S.S. MALACCA, AT SEA, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 1871.

Sir, - In compliance with your order, I subjoin an account of the chief events that look place on board the ship between Friday, Sept. 1st, and Tuesday, Sept. 5th, inclusive. On Friday 1st, commenced embarking the officers, men, and their baggage of the late H.M.S Megaera on board the P. & O. Company S.S. Malacca: by dusk 264 men and officers were embarked; blowing fresh from the north; parties of men were employed during the day in stowing baggage and shifting coal to make room for the late Megaera's cargo: during the night the wind increased. Saturday, Sept. 2d, 7.30 A.M. - A boat boarded us from the shore with a message from Captain Thrupp, recommending Captain Bernard to weigh and proceed to sea till the wind should abate: 9.30 A.M. - The cable parted, steam having been kept ready for this emergency. We immediately proceeded to get clear of the land, the ship rolling heavily, and shipping a great deal of water fore and aft. The small amount of baggage on deck was with some difficulty secured - not, however before the following accidents had occurred. James Eades, boatswain's mate, a wound in the thigh; Arthur Essery, armourer's crew, contusion of the leg and sprained ankle; James Rice, leading seaman, severe scalp-wounds; William Wilcox, A.B., contusion of the back; William Pidgeon, A.B. wound in the leg; Henry Peck, A.B., contusion of the right shoulder; Pat. Cunninghame, A.B., wounded in the leg. The ship rolled so heavily, and shipped so much water when off the wind, that it was thought advisable lo keep her head to wind. By noon it was blowing a gale, with a tremendous sea running; the ship labouring very heavily, and shipping green seas forward, all hatches battened down, 10 P.M., a heavy sea struck the starboard lifeboat and smashed her against the davits; she had to be cut away, in doing which she stove the cutter astern of her. Sunday, September 3d, During the night the wind shifted from W.N.W. to W.S.W. The ship being still kept head to wind; it still blowing hard, and a heavy sea running, the following damage was done during the night; the port bulwarks forward were washed away, two chain-plates, the starboard side of the main chains carried away, the jolly-boat astern stove, and a great proportion of the remaining live-stock killed. 7 A.M. - The port cutter was completely smashed beyond repair by a heavy sea; we were now left with only one boat fit for carrying cargo, and that of a light description - namely, the starboard lifeboat. 11.30. A.M. - Wore ship and kept away for the island of St Paul's, which was reckoned to bear S.E. 40 miles. Several heavy seas struck the ship aft, doing some damage - one smashing in the saloon skylight, flooding the cabins on either side of it, doing considerable damage to officers' clothing. 0.15 P.M., sighted the island of St Paul's; 3.10 P.M., eased and stopped off the island, there being too much sea to communicate; stood off and on the island repairing damages. Monday. September 4. - The sea on the bar having gone down at 2 P.M., we sent a boat to communicate with shore, standing on and off the island, with a heavy sea running, and blowing fresh from the north. Tuesday, September 5. - The wind and sea having gone down, we commenced getting the rest of the men and officers from the shore. Captain Bernard considered it unadvisable to anchor, having only one anchor left. As the day advanced the wind freshened from the north, from which some trouble was experienced, every boat having to be received down to leeward, cleared, and then towed up to windward to enable them, to fetch into the crater. At 3 P.M. the pinnace came off from shore loaded with baggage and men; when cleared it was cut adrift according to order. During the day the wind increased, and there seemed every prospect of it being a dirty night, 3.30 P.M. - We attempted to hoist the late Megaera's cutter up to the port davits; unfortunately both bolts drew through the bottom of the boat, one man falling into the water, and the others narrowly escaped being hurt. We did not make another attempt to hoist her up. At 4.15 P.M. the Captain and First Lieutenant came off in the late Megaera's lifeboat, which was hoisted up at the starboard davits.
I have the honour to be, &c.,
F. PRAED, Lieutenant.

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