DREADFUL SHIPWRECK—GREAT LOSS OF LIFE   Leave a comment


(From the Overland China Mail)

The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. ) Saturday 15 May 1869 reported in detail

We are looking for descedants of s.s.”Hermann” crew in US.
We exceedingly regret to announce the loss of the P.M.C.S.S. Hermann. The following is Captain Newell’s account of this accident: — I was ordered to take command of the Hermann as soon as that Teasel should return to Yokohama from Yedo, and did so on the morning of the 13th February.
There were then on hoard 350 passengers and a crew of 80 men. The heavy sonth-weaterly gales which bad prerailed for twenty-four hours previously had broken; the wind had veered to N. and 8., and the barometer indicating better weather, I proceeded to sea at noon, bound to the Straits of Saugar.
Outside of Cape Sagami we encountered a heavy south-westerly swell, but wind fresh from N. and B. Passed the breakers on Mila ledge, about six miles distant, at 4.30 p.m., and then steered N.E. by E. till 7 p.m.; then steered N.E. by E. tE. one hour; then E.N.E. till 7 p.m.; then steered E. by N. £ ST., the ship making about seven knots per hour against the strong wind. These courses should have taken the ship about eight miles from the land at the point of Kawatz ; but I supposed the heavy B.W. sea would set her on shore, and therefore thought the dis tance from land might be about five miles. The second officer was stationed forward in the bows on the look out. The night was extremely dark and hazy, so that I saw the land very in distinctly, and altered the ship’s course to the eastward in the manner related above, to give the point (distance about 75 miles from Yokohama) a wide berth ; the native pilot on board having told me that there was a reef off the point, although its existence was not indicated on the chart, nor mentioned in the sailing directions.
I steered this course E. by N. £ N. from 7 till 9 o’clock. I had then no apprehension what ever, and had just been aft to the standard compass to examine the course made by it, and was going forward again when I discovered breakers ojF the port bow, and immediately after saw them ahead. I then ordered the helm ” hard a port.”
The ship at once answered the movement of the helm, but was caught by a tremendous roller and thrown with great violence upon the rocks, striking first forward and then aft, when raised by the following swell. Successive seas breaking upon the ship with great violence forced her over the reef, the water filling the ship, meanwhile,-rapidly. The vessel thus drifted in shore, the sea breaking outside of her till she had settled fairly upon the bottom and to the hurri cane deck; this was about 1 o’clock a.m. She had by this time broken open amidship; the bows were stove in, and the hull more or less broken by the fore mast. I had concluded at once, after striking, that it was safest for the people to cling to the wreck, as no boat could live in the breakers about us, and I ordered that the boats should not be lowered.
The life preservers, of which there was a great number, were got up, and the passengers shown their use, I threw up some signal rockets, when the people on shore lighted fires in a little bay on which the town of Ka watzu is situated. At 10 30 p.m. the port boats were swept away, two of them being at once swamped. Some of the crew jumped into the third one, and got clear of the wreck, but it was overwhelmed dose by. Soon after 1 had the starboard boats lowered, which were quickly filled with people. In two of them they cut the painter and attempted to reach shore, but were swamped at a short distance from the wreck. The third and last boat cast adrift from the vessel, but remained, under the cover of the wreck afforded from the breakers, for about half an hour, and then went in towards the shore.
As the wreck settled deeper, the people came upon the hurricane deck. Between mid night and 1 a.m., one of the funnels fell upon the king rods, and thence rolling forwards upon the hurricane deck, broke it off amidships, causing loss of life to a number of people col lected there. Before the chimney fell, the foremast had gone. The sea reaching the hurricane deck, broke up the whole, of it forward, but the after portion floated off almost entire, and remained in this way alongside, and seemed to save forty or fifty people. We then collected on the wheel houses and in the rigging.
The wind and sea moderated rapidly, the former veering to the southward and westward, and coming off the land very cold and piercing. Some of the people were washed off; same tried to save themselves on pieces of the floating wreck. The boats, being mostly lifeboats, although swamped, still floated and were washed into the small bay by the surf, and those persons who clung to them were saved. It is impossible for me to estimate the loss of life.
The ship first struck the reef at 9 p.m., and had not settled so that the sea dashed and broke up the hurricane deck till about 1 a.m.; and thoße who were swept away in the Tarious casualties happening in the interval were car ried in shore by the surf, while floated by the life preservers or by clinging to portions of the wreck. We suffered greatly from the cold, and some of those in the rigging proved unable to endure it. At daylight I found the wreck lay about three-quarters of a mile from shore, and near the bay mentioned above. The ship struck about a quarter of a mile further out, but was swept by the heavy rolling seas to the spot where she finally settled. I had littles hopes, from the appearance of the coast, that those who were in the boats during the night were saved; but, as it afterwards proved, many of them were. About a hundred people still remained on the wreck. Soon one of the ship’s boats and a number of the native craft came off from shore.
The latter would not come alongside, bo that I wh obliged to transfer the people from the wreck to them by means of the lifeboat. When, however, the weather moderated still more, the Japanese boats came alongside, and helped to take off the balance of the people. At 2 p.m. all those who remained by the ship through the night were safely landed on shore. Before dosing, I would remark that the be havior of the Japanese was heroic. When the ship struck these brave men, suddenly roused from sleep by the awful crash, seemed to com prehend their situation in a moment. No stampede; no disorder. From the first they were quiet and cool; retaining wonderfully their presence of mind, and calmly awaiting the com mands of their leader. This officer called them on deck; and after consulting with me as to the proper course to be pursued, ordered his men to stay by the ship. On hearing this they retired to their rooms, where they remained until driven from them by the water rising in the vessel. None of them attempted to leave the ship without permission from the officer in com mand ; and I noticed that those who determined to try swimming ashore stripped themselves, with the exception of a belt about the waist, and fastening to this their swords, jumped into the sea. On arriving at Kawatzu, we mustered fifty-eight officers and crew; the first officer, a water sender, and twenty of the crew having been lost. We walked sixty miles through the country, meeting everywhere with kindness ; and reaching the head of Yedo Bay, obtained
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Posted July 9, 2012 by Capt. Numata in Uncategorized

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