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A Hurricane At Sea

A Hurricane At Sea image
Parent Issue
Day
22
Month
November
Year
1861
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

" Nat, I believe we are goiDg to have a hurricane." " Why, what makes you think so, Captain ? " " Why ! look at my journal tor the last three days, do you note how steadily the barometer has gone down? With the fine weather we have had, it means mischioi is near us ; wbother we got caughtor not remains to be seen." I was master. Nat was a youngster of nineteen, and passenger - the mate lay in his berth dying of yellow fever- two men out oí sis (my whole crew) were also down with it, The brig was deeply and badly ladea, Weak from a recent attack cf fever myself, I little relished a hurricane being added to my trouble. Sea-room wasscarce-Double Headed Shot Keys on one side, Florida Reef on the other, with but a sixtyrniles channel between. The wind for the last three days had been southwest, baffliug and very warm. In the afternoon and evening of Aug. 26th, it struck in suddenly and strongly from the northwest, with sharp squalls. - Eeduced sail accordingly. At rnidnight made Elbow Key Light, and wore ship to the north-northwest - barometer 29:50, at 8 a. m. Tlie morning of the 27th, sighted the Florida shore, and immediately wore to the south-southeast. Brig under closereefed topsail and mainsail, and reef'ed foresail. During the forenoon, , the squalls increased in strength atid duration, white the constantly f..lling barometer told me 1here was more coming. At lp. m., 1 knew the brig was in mid-channel, and that, the wind being northeast, if she was then hove to, she would make a " dead drift " to the eouthwest, and not approach the land on either side uniese ïhrough the agency of cúrrente. Every sai] was taken'in and bound tightly to the yards. Short handed as we were, I was obliged to join the men in their labors, and svith a little coil of spun-yarn on my arm, I bound every sail to the yard which showed the least symptom ot " puffing." Having made everything smig, and nothing more to do, I took the liberty oí looking about me. The sea was rising as if by magie, not the long, lazy grand ocean swells oí the Atlantic, bnt the short, sharp tumult of the Gu'f Slrearn. It seemed, and I bolieve really was, impossible for any vessel to ride such a 6ea as that ; ours did not at all events, for the sea soou began to load her, and her decks being fnll, even with th rail, made it impoasible for the men to work at the pumps. This state of affairs made it necessary to cut away thebuhvarks. Oalling the second mate and one man to the break of the poop-deok, I made an earing fast around my vvaist, and giving thein the end of it, I descended to the main deck and watching my chance dashed out board after board with an axe. - Three times was I wnshed clear over the side into the water to leeward and hauled in again bofore I had uccomplished my tiisk. Tired, startled, exhausted nearly to death, I threw myself flat upon the deck and rested. - Few, I fancy, know the meaning of the i word rest: only twice in my life have I ' knovvn it myself - times of fright, , omergency, and danger, when the - strong will forced the human machine beyond endurance. Then, O how sweet rest is ! - then even death itself is not too great a price to pay for it! Iü a few moments I was myself again- friglitened eertainly, lor I neror expected to see another sun rise; but no one knew it but myself. I gave my orders coolly, to keep the menpuir.ping whenever there was a chance, and walked aft to look at the watch : it was a quarter te 3 p. m. Creeping up to the weather-side, and holding iny nose over the rail, 1 tried to peep to jjwindward. " Oan it blow harder than this?" "#as the question 1 inoluntarily asked aloud. I thuught I would look at the barometer. Creeping to the stairs I slid down, nlmost feming to do so. I looked - 28:90 ! I screwed the slide to mark it. The second mate was ' Ui u ding over the mate, trying to catoh his last words. Trio poor man was eending a message to his wifo, and died in a few moments af.eruards. - Upon deck again ; must watch everything. Pumping was now out oí the question. The sea was no Jonger high, but ran like high breakers on a beacb which the terrible wind ctraght with giant strength and dashed down on the brig'e main-deck by tuns at a time. - Masses of elouds wero rising to windward, which, spreading to the zenith, would buret t'pon as witli a roar and a deluge of water, in rain and spray, enough to appall the stoutest heart. - After they were past the BUO would shineout gaily and clearly for a few moments, and" I would think, porhaps this is the worst. So the weary, long hours pnssed away. I w;is in truth itraid to look at the barometer again, so I staid upon deck and hoped. At half-past five a cloud arose in the aastere quarter - so dark, so opaque, that my first thought was a whole new continent had arisen from the sea. I jumped down into the oabin and looked nt my old friend again; 28:50 was the news it told me. The mate lay dead upon bis mattress, his lower jaw dropped, and his eyes frightfully staring. " Cover that man up," I said, and jumpedon deek again. Slotvly, majestically, that vast bank rose as if it would sweep the whole world olear of all that impedcd its progress. It burst upon us ! All that had passed before was but littlu in comparirton; the poor brig setmod as nothing - over, over, over she went, till her yard-arms were buried six feetin the water, and her lee-side up to the hatch combing was submerged. The second mate grasped my arm and yelled in my ear, as nearly as I could distinguisb, (for the clamor was so great I could only guoss what he said,) " My God we are gone ! " It was now half-past six, and dark. Clinging to the rail, hearing the disraal noise of the wind, and seeing nothing but the lurid glare of the water, which was one phosphorescent sheet, we stood listening to the gale, and waiting for - dcath. That was a time for thinking ! Never was I so spiritualized as then. Commenoing in life at my first whipping, (the first thing 1 can remember, every incident passed before me in review ; and strange to say, the most ludicrous were the most vivid and longost dwelt upon. In the mean time the wind was blowing. Who of my readers ever heard the wind blow? I have often read of the wind roaring in the most violent hurricane. Don't say roar, say tear. A heavy cannonball, in passing through the air, sounds like tearing new strong cloth. Imagine ten thousand cannon-balls flyiDg close by your ears, and you have some idea of the awful clamor of a hurricane. Nine p. m., a sudden and decided lull, the sea suddenly running up into long grand swells, and the brig righting to a great extent. Set tho stormtrisail, and sounded the pumps. - Owing to their being full of troth, they gave wet line all their length. Manned theru and set to pumping; found one of them to be split and useless; kept the other at work. Took a look at the barometer - 29:00. I telt büttor. At midnight, after taking my turo at the pump, I went into the cabin and laid down on the eettee, completely exhausted, more from extreme nervous tensión than from hard labor. I thought of Mazeppa's horse - "For many a verse, Panting as if liis heart would burst, The weary eteed still etaggeredon." Poor Nut carne out of his room pale as a ghost. " What was that awful noise, Captain ?" "That! why it was the wind, Nat." " Well," replied Nat, " I never knew wind could make such a noise as that." '' Nor I either," said I, " but I know it now." I went to - sleep. My last thought was " Where ' isthebrig? Is she near land? She oughtto be in mid chanael." If not, no man could tell till jnorning. I was io the mid die oí a happy ' dream oí boat-eailing on the ' cut River, when thesecond mate jumped down, 8hook me violently by the ghoulder, exclairning one word-"Lánd!" and before I could reply was on deck again. Of course I was not long aftec hira. As my head emerged f rom the companionway, I noticed a light on the lee-beam, and that the water was white as milk. The light 1 doubted about, but that we were in white water vvas eure, and either on the edge oí Florida Reef, or inside the DoubleHeaded Shot Keys, and on Salt Key Bank. In either case I must make rail and get to the southeast as soon as poseible. The crew wero all on the weather sido of the poop-deck, each one exclaiming to the other, "We aro ashore;" and " Where's the captain ? " It wan very dark, and still blowing a heavy gale, and the sea running very high, and giving indications oí breaking, and I had no doubt but the brig's time had come, and probably oursalso. Working my way aloug foruard, I carne in contact with the black stewardess - she had joined inthe general stampede, and was making as tnuch noise as the Dest man of them. I happened to bo to the leeward of her, and I well remember the comical wish passing through my mind, that if we were going across tho dark river together, the distinguished trait í the African race, which she possessed in an eminent degree, might be lettbehind. Sail was made on tho brig immediately. I gavo tho men directions not to wait to cast off gaskets, but to cut everything. They worked as only men will who worked lor their lives, und I 1 could scarcely believe my ears when I heard the topsail-sheets come rattling home. While they were 6etting tho head-8ails I was cutting the topa off ihe mainsail, and in a short time she was steering off nhore under close reefed sails, and taking whola cataracts of water over her forecastle. Having put all the sail on her thatshe would boar, I had the lead pnssed forvvard - "Forty fathoms and no bottom." " Well done, oíd girl," said I, " you are well out of this scrape." Daylight carne and found us about three mües from the reef on and over wbich the soa was breaking horribly. The gale was moderatingfast; more sail was rcado, and wo were soon well ofï shore. Now we were greatly annoyed by large birds, whioh, as soon as daylight cmne, ttocked ou board of us by dozens, gasping from thirs, and exhaustiun. If pie.ked up and tbrown ovorboard, thev would immeuiately ñy back and dfo down anywhere about decks, and fight us if we attempted to movo .thom. They were smart bird, without doubt, but the hurricane had been a littlo too much for thera. At six a. lí., buried the mate. Tho single pump had boen constantly going fiom the time the galt) inoderuted, and it was slill kept going. At noon the wind hud moderated to a pleasant breezo ; a ship pnssed us steering southwcst with topgallant sails set. She spnke us, and reported that she had carried the same sail all the night beforo. So much tor our vessel being in tho wrong place. Upon examinatton, I found tho brig was so badly straincd, and cnaking water so fast, that I should be obliged to go into Key West and repair. I laid oS and on Sand Light during the nighl oí the'28th,and the next morning put the wheel up and went in over the reef, took a pilot, and in an hour we Aere anchored ofl the wliarvos. An old fiiend of mine mot me aa ï landed, and asked me to his house, and to makeit ray homo during my stayin Key West. Accordingly, as soon as I had made arrangements lor hauling tho brig in, and had been through the custom house, I repaired to Mr. H- ■- , and took dinner with him. Aftor dinnor Mr. II said, " Don't you want a nap, captain?" "Yes," said I, I would liko a short one." He showed meto a bedroom and I was soon undcr tho mosquito bar, the sweet trade_wind blowing Boftly through the luttice of the window, aod rustling the brancheH of the üoooa-nut tree in front of tho house. I thought, " This is pleasant and quite a contrast to yesterday, and went to sleep. In B few houre,just as the sun was setting, Mr. H called me to supper, and I got up and ate it, feeling quito refreshed. This is my vereion of the story ; but Mr. H paid that he called me to supper, and my answer was, " Let me alone, I don't wish for any ; " that I slapt all night ; that he got the samo answer at breakfast, the samo at dinner, and that it was supper-time tho next day when he was able to get me up. But I would notbelieve him, and I have not been able to realize yet that I d:d not get up the first time he called mo. At all events, I had a good sleep.

Article

Subjects
Old News
Michigan Argus