Old Tales of a Young Country

An Australian Crusoe

Marcus Clarke

ON THE 22nd of May, 1796, Henry Goodridge, the landlord of the Crown and Anchor Commercial Inn, in the town of Paignton, near Torbay, in Devon, took an additional horn of ale because that a son was born to him.

The Goodridges are a well-known and respected family in Paignton. Indeed, that village consists—to speak generally—of but three families—the Goodridges, the Hunts, and the Browses—and the three are so intermingled by marriage, that there is not a Hunt or a Browse that is not in some way related to a Goodridge. The birth of young Charles, therefore, was the cause of some festivity, and gossips predicted great things of him. The brat, however, did not appear likely to flourish, being “subject to fits and weakness.” He squinted terribly, moreover, and Mr. Thompson, the “surgeon of the village,” despaired of him. As he grew he gained strength, and under the tuition of Mistress Lome, the village “school madam,” became an expert in the arts of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Paignton, communicating as it does with Brixham and Dartmouth, was frequently visited by sailors “ashore” for the spending of their pay, and the reckless jollity of these fellows begat in Charles Goodridge a desire for a sea-faring life. As Mr. Oldmixon descended with his crew of valiant mariners upon the staid seaport of Bideford, and inflamed the minds of the wondering fishers with tales of glory on the Spanish main, so did the tars from the “fleet” heat the imaginations of the honest men of Devon with their yarns, anent thrashing the “Mounseers,” and pouching the prize money. Master Goodridge—despite that his father kept an inn on the Western-road, and was a warm man, with his stocking comfortably lined—must needs go to sea, and at the age of thirteen hired himself as cabin-boy on board the “Lord Cochrane,” a hired armed brig stationed off Torbay to protect the fishing craft against the French cruisers.

The commander, Lieutenant Joseph Tyndall, agreed to take the lad for “three months on trial,” and at the end of that time he was bound apprentice to the owners, Mr Martin Gibbs and Mr. Bulteel. Fairly entered upon the life he had chosen for himself, Goodridge experienced a fair share of the adventures current at that epoch. He fought a Portingallo with knives, and, to the honour of Devon, thrashed him soundly. He came nigh to losing his life in a storm off the coast of Wexford, and took part in an action with a French privateer. In 1813 he shipped on board the “Trial,” Captain Woolcott, of Dartmouth, engaged to transport parts of the 20th and 38th regiments of foot to St. Sebastian, thence to fight the French in Portugal and Spain. Having landed the troops, not without some firing from the forts surrounding the harbour, the “Trial,” with six other vessels, was despatched to Bilboa, to take home French prisoners, and Goodridge hints darkly of the horrors of the passage. The “Trial” then returned to Spain with medicines and stores for the army, but Goodridge did not sail in her. A fortunate circumstance for him, as she was totally wrecked at St. Andero. The next five years were spent in voyaging in any trader that would ship him, and notwithstanding that he was twice shipwrecked, and once nearly captured by pirates, his ardour for the sea was in no way abated. Being at home in April, 1820, his mother vehemently prayed him to remain; but he—headstrong and hot blooded—vowed that he would ship for a longer voyage than any he had hitherto attempted, and would not return home for seven years. His vow was fulfilled with interest.

Going to London on the 1st of May, 1820, he found a cutter of 75 tons, the “Princess of Wales,” commanded by Captain William Veale, about to sail on a sealing trip to the South Seas, and instantly, full of hope of adventure, entered on board her. The date of this turning point in his fortune was rendered remarkable by the fact that it was the day on which the Cato-street conspirators were executed, and Goodridge, going to witness the brutal ceremony, came nigh being pressed to death in the crowd. The “Princess of Wales” had formerly been a Margate hoy, and was bought by Messrs. Barkworth and Brook, of 80 Old Broad-street, London, specially for this expedition. The crew consisted of the commander, the mate (Mathias Mazora, an Italian), ten mariners, and three boys. The “agreement,” signed by owners and crew, was to the effect that the vessel “was to proceed to the South Seas after oil, tins, skins, and ambergris, each mariner to have his share one out of every ninety skins procured, the boys proportionately less, the officers proportionately more.” So, with a fair wind, they sailed from Limehouse Hole on the 9th of May, and arrived at Torbay on the 16th. Being weatherbound for three days, Goodridge goes to bid farewell to his family at Paignton, and leaves them with a sorrowful heart, his only sister being ill of consumption, and not expected to recover.

On the 3rd of July the “Princess of Wales” arrives at St. Jago, and having watered, crosses the line on the 19th of July makes for the banks of Brazil, and meeting the westerly gales steers for Walwich Bay, on the African coast. Here they explore in search of water, and fall in with “500 savages all naked, but armed with spears” These gentry, however, being informed that the white men had not come to enslave them—their sad experience of white men—grew friendly, and a barter was begun. Says Goodridge, “For small quantities of iron hoop, bread, and tobacco, we obtained bullocks, goats, and ivory. The iron hoop was termed by the natives cantabar, the tobacco baccassah.”

They round the Cape in boisterous weather towards the end of September, and failing to make the islands of Marsaven and Diana, steer for Prince Edward’s Islands (lat. 46 deg. 40 min. S., long. 38 deg. 3 min. E), which they sight on the 1st of November. Next day they set to work. The operation of sealing as pursued by these mariners is not child’s play. There is no harbour for shelter, and it is therefore necessary that one party go ashore provided with provisions, while the remainder of the crew look after the vessel and salt the hides already procured. The wind is violent, and chops perpetually, so that scarcely having made all snug under the lee of the island, they would be compelled to slip cable and stand out to sea. The land, barren of tree or shrub, affords no shelter for the shore-going party, and their boat bauled upon shore serves them for a dwelling-house.1 Their provisions are salt pork, bread, coffee, and molasses, and upon this hard fare they are compelled to violent labour in hunting and killing the seals. We can imagine that, cold and wet, cut to the bone by the bleak gales, and soaked by the biting brine, Goodridge and party were not in the most cheerful plight. In addition, moreover, to the physical hardship, was the ever-present anxiety that the ship might be driven out to sea by one of the constantly recurring gales, and that they should see her no more.

The fortune of the party was so dismal, that it was resolved to go on to the Crozets, which were made on Christmas Day. The Crozets are about lat. 46 deg. 47 min. S., long. 46 deg. 50 min. E., and are seldom visited. They are five in number, and form a sort of irregular triangle, the largest being about 25 miles in circumference. Barren of herbage, and almost iron-bound, these rocks of mid-ocean serve only as a home of seals, or a roosting-place for wandering sea-birds. The “rookeries” of the king-penguin and the booby-bird abound, extending sometimes for half a mile along the shore, while the rocks, at low tide, are resorted to by large numbers of sea-elephants—a larger kind of seal. In this wild and desolate spot did Captain Veale hope to make the fortune which should rejoice the eyes of his young wife in Devon. The sight of the seals along the shore, the incessant cry of the flocks of gannets and petrels that darkened the air, and the ludicrous aspect of the penguin waddling affrightedly to their nests, inspirited the crew of the cutter, and they landed with high hope.

On the 5th of February, having already collected about 700 skins, it was resolved by Captain Veale that the eight sealers should proceed to the easternmost island, while the remaining six should, under his command, take the vessel to a bay in the island first touched at, where she would, he thought, ride in safety. The division was made as follows:—

The sealing party:—Mathias Mazora, mate, aged 46, in command, Italian; Dominick Spesinick, aged 50, Italian; Emanuel Petherbridge, aged 24, Dartmouth; John Soper, aged 17, Dartmouth; Richard Millechant, aged 16, Dartmouth; John Norman, aged 24, London; John Piller, aged 25, London; John Walters, aged 46, London. Eight in all.

In the vessel:—William Veale, aged 28, in command, Dartmouth; Jarvis Veale, his brother, aged 24, Dartmouth; Henry Parnell, aged 17; William Hooper, aged 28; Benjamin Baker, aged 16, London; John Newbee, aged 24, Hanover; Charles Goodridge, aged 24, Paignton. Seven in all.

It was customary for those on the vessel to visit the sealing-party every week with provisions, take on board the skins collected, employing themselves in the meantime in salting those already obtained. The last time such a visit was made was on the 10th of March, in very boisterous weather.

On the 17th, a gale came on from the S.E. Veale thought it advisable to gain an offing, and the “Princess of Wales” slipped her cable accordingly, and stood out to sea. Before she had proceeded any distance it fell a dead and ominous calm, the swell still continuing. It was impossible to launch a boat in that heaving sea, and equally impossible to anchor, for repeated soundings gave no bottom. The island presented to their view a perpendicular cliff, with numerous jagged rocks projected into the angry sea, and against this cruel wall they were momentarily drifting. It was midnight and moonless. There was not a breath of air, and the only sound that met their ears was the roar of the surf that was soon to engulf them. Says Goodridge:—“The suspense was truly awful; indeed, the horrors we experienced were far more dreadful than I had ever felt or witnessed, even in the most violent storms; for on such occasions the persevering spirits of Englishmen will struggle with the elements, even to the last blast, or to the last wave that may overwhelm them; but here there was nothing to combat: we were led on by an invisible power. All was calm above us; around us, the surface of the sea, although raised into a mountainous swell, was comparatively smooth; but the distant sound of its continual crash on the breakers, to which we were drawn by an irresistible force, broke on our ears as our death-knell, and every moment brought us nearer to what appeared inevitable destruction.”

[Readers fond of coincidences can compare Poe’s account of the noiseless storm at the end of Arthur Gordon Pym.]

At length, at a little after 12, the cutter struck with great violence, and was instantly ashore, exposed to the full fury of the waves. Veale desperately got out the boat, and each one flinging into her something he deemed of value, the seven scrambled out of the sinking vessel. A fine rain was falling, the boat was surrounded by rocks, masses of floating kelp impeded their progress, and the nearest shore was a perpendicular cliff of great height. To add to the terror of their situation, an enormous whale, driven in by the storm, rose close to them, and began beating the water “within a few yards of the stern of the boat.” From this sea-giant their good fortune preserved them, and by dint of tugging at the oars they succeeded, after four hours’ incessant labour, in effecting a landing on the beach. So great was the violence of the surf, that the boat was swamped and nearly carried out to sea. All clinging to her at imminent risk of their own lives, they got her on shore, and turning her bottom upwards, crept under her, and thus sought sleep, “being all miserably cold, wet, and hungry.”

In the morning they held review of their possessions, and found that in addition to the knives, steels, and firebags, which each one carried in his belt, they had but a kettle and frying-pan. The fire-bag, as it is termed, is a necessary to a sealer. It consists of a tinder-box and cotton, secured from the damp in a tarpaulin case. In this lamentable state of affairs, they sallied forth to procure food, and speedily despatched a sea-elephant, with whose blubber they kindled a fire by which to cook the more toothsome portions of his carcase.

Thus warmed and fed, an expedition was made over the rocks to the spot where the cutter had foundered the night before, but it was seen at the first glance that all hopes of saving her must be abandoned. She was lying on the rocks on her beam ends, with a large hole gaping in her lower planks, and the still heavy sea breaking over her rendered it impossible that she should hold together much longer. Their endeavours must now be addressed to saving such fragments of wood, nails, bolts, &c., as might be made serviceable to them.

On the following morning (19th March), the boat was launched, and despite a rough sea, they succeeded in picking up the captain’s chest and the mate’s chest. The next day they were rejoiced by some crusts of bread, but, as if to mock them, the bread appeared sodden with sea-water, and not eatable. They found also on this day the only shred of paper, or printed matter, saved from the sea. Captain Cox, the agent of the Merchant Seaman’s Bible Society, had visited the “Princess of Wales” at Gravesend, and had presented the captain and crew with one of the Bibles provided by the society for distribution. William Hooper, seeing something floating in the water, recognised the gift of good Captain Cox, and crying out lustily, “Pull up! Pull up! Here’s our Bible!” the book was secured. “What made this circumstance the more remarkable,” says Goodridge, “was, that although we had a variety of other books on board, such as our navigation books, journals, log-books, &c., this was the only article of the kind that we found, nor did we discover the smallest shred of paper of any kind except this Bible; and still equally surprising was it, that after we had carefully dried the leaves, it was so little injured, that its binding remained in a very servicable condition, and continued so as long as I had an opportunity of using it.”

The Bible, which was afterwards to afford those pious men of Devon much consolation, was the last thing saved from the wreck. The next day nothing remained of her but the topmast, which was entangled with some weeds.

During the next three weeks the weather continued so wet and boisterous that it was as much as they could do to procure food for themselves, but at the end of that time, collecting the materials they had saved, they set about erecting for themselves a sort of hut. They sank a foundation, and rolled fragments of rock together, piling them one upon the other until a rude wall was obtained. This being thatched with grass—let it be remembered that there was not a tree or bush on the whole island—made a tolerable housing-place, and to render it the more snug, Veale recommended that the rafters should be covered, where practicable, with the skins of the sea-elephants, which was done.

The hut was divided into bunks with strips of planks, and one long plank nailed at the foot of these bed-places stood them in lieu of chairs. Their table was the ground. Veale erected for himself a separate sleeping-place at the end of the hut towards the sea.

While this rude cabin was in course of construction, they discovered traces of a party of Americans who were known to have visited the islands some sixteen years before, and to have built a hut and other conveniences, but the sea elephants had trodden everything into the ground. John Soper, however, searching for eggs, found a pick-axe, which he brought home in great glee. With this pick-axe they dug up the earth around the ruined hut, and found some pieces of timber, together with several nails, and—most glorious discovery—a part of a pitch-pot, which would hold about a gallon. By aid of a piece of hoop, this relic was made to do duty as a frying pan, and upon finding a “broad axe, a sharpening-stone, a piece of shovel, and an auger,” the party considered themselves over-burdened with ironmongery. The handle of the old frying-pan, which was worn so thin from constant use that it was nearly worn out, was affixed to a handle, and being ground sharp, made a formidable weapon for the killing of seals.

Let us now consider what productions the island afforded to these Crusoes. The first and great mainstay of their necessities was the sea-elephant. This creature, which appears from Goodridge’s account of it to be a sort of walrus, abounded. The largest elephants were about 25 feet long, and 18 feet in circumference. Their blubber was not unfrequently seven inches thick. One of these huge brutes “boiled down” would yield, according to Goodridge’s estimation, nearly a ton of oil. The males made their regular appearance about the middle of August, assembling in great numbers along the beach. Fierce combats took place among them, the which were often witnessed by the castaways, who, recognising the various bulls by notable sears won in past fights, “named them according to their prowess, Nelson, Wellington, Blucher, and Bonaparte.” The females have their young early in September, and suckle them for about five weeks. The calves when just born are quite black, having beautiful, glossy skins, found to be, says Goodridge, an excellent material for caps. The females return to the sea in October, having finished nursing their unwieldy infants; but the bulls often proceed inland for two or three miles, and, sometimes to the number of more than a hundred, live amicably together until December. By that time—reduced almost to skeletons by reason of their long fast—they return to the sea. In February they come up again in good condition, and lie huddled together like pigs, occasionally indulging in sham fights, regarded by the seamen as preparatory to the real fights in August.

The sea-elephants served Goodridge and his party for meat, washing, lodging, firing, lamp-light, shoe-leather, sewing-thread, grates, washing-tubs, and tobacco pipes! For food they used the heart, tongue, sweet-bread, snotters (the fleshy proboscis which hangs over the nose, and gives the creature its name), and the flippers. The flesh was not unpalatable, and the flippers boiled into a jelly, together with some eggs and a pigeon or two, made a soup that might not be despised by a gourmêt. For the “washing tub” they turned the elephant on his back, and, having removed the intestines, allowed the blood to flow into the cavity, and washed their linen dipped in the blood, as a washerwoman would in soap suds. After rinsing it two or three times in the running brook close by, the linen was cleansed as well as if they had used the best soap for the purpose. “Grates” were made of the bones placed crosswise, upon which pieces of blubber were laid. Lighted “lamps” were constructed of pieces of rope yarn drawn through lumps of blubber (which could be obtained in masses of a foot square) and it was found that the firm grease melted slowly. “Shoes” were composed of strips of skin cut to the shape of the foot, and drawn round the ankle with thongs, while—great achievement—excellent tobacco-pipes were made of the elephant’s hollowed teeth as bowls, perforated by the wing-bones of the water-fowl as stems. As a substitute for tobacco they smoked dried grass.

Second on their list came seals. These were not plentiful, and their flesh was, moreover, found to be rank. The dog seals are called Wigs, the female seals Clapmatches, and the young seals Pompeys. Anybody with a taste for research can amuse himself by discovering the origin of these remarkable expressions.

There was no lack of fish or fowl upon the island. Sea-birds frequented the place in vast numbers. Four varieties of penguin are mentioned, to which Goodridge gives the names of King Penguins, Macarooneys, Johnnies, and Rock Hoppers. The last named are described as being somewhat larger than a duck, build their nests among the cliffs and rocks, congregating in numbers of three or four hundred together. The Johnnies and Rock Hoppers suffered themselves to be robbed of their eggs without attempting resistance. The King Penguin, however, is more pugnacious, and uses its winglets as flappers, wherewith to box the ears of the assailant of its nest.

In addition to these were “Nellies”—a sort of goose—albatrosses, petrels, eaglets, divers, teal, and pigeons. The albatross build their nests on the plains, and live in clubs of about 200 members. If the ground be at all marshy, they raise their nests about two feet, by digging a trench round them and throwing up the earth in the middle. It is to be presumed that none of the castaways had read The Ancient Mariner, or that if they had, they did not share the superstition of that single-speech sailor. “On Sundays,” says Goodridge, “our dinner consisted of giblet soup, prepared from the heads, feet, &c., of the albatross, which were first scalded in boiling water, and then cooked in our best style.” The pigeons were caught with nooses and baits, as the New Zealanders catch the mallee hen.

The only vegetable on the island was a plant resembling a cabbage in appearance. William Hooper, who had sailed in the South Seas, thought this plant a great prize, having eaten one resembling it when on his whaling trips, but on a first trial of the enticing vegetable it proved bitter and uneatable, and it was not until they boiled it for some hours they could stomach it.

Fortunately they were able to vary their flesh diet by fish. “Our mode of fishing,” says the narrator, “was certainly a novel one. One party used to take long strips of the sea-elephant’s blubber, and, putting one end close to the water, a fish resembling a gurnet would come and nibble at it, and then, by drawing it gently up the sloping rocks, the fish would follow it far enough for another person, watching his opportunity, to strike it a smart blow with a club, and thus knock it sufficiently far up the rock to enable him to secure it. They had, however, in course of time, become so shy, that they were not to be taken in this way, and we were obliged to have recourse to a more scientific method; for this purpose we took out the rings that were attached to our sharpening steels, and, having sufficiently heated them in the fire, we bent them into the shape of fishinghooks, and then gave them good points with the sharpening stone we so fortunately found in digging where the previous visitors to the island had formed their hut. Having now fishing-hooks, our next affair was to manufacture lines, and this we soon managed by untwisting portions of the cordage we had saved from the wreck; and by retwisting the oakum into small threads, and those again into cord, we were fully equipped to make war on the finny tribe; the blubber also forming a very enticing bait, we had soon a plentiful supply; and fish, flesh, and fowl frequently smoked on our board at one meal—even an epicure could have found but little fault with a dinner where two of the courses were soup and fish.”

Imagining themselves cut off for ever from civilisation, they determined to spend their lives hopefully and with good cheer. Mr. Veale having preserved his watch, they were able to regulate their time with tolerable accuracy, and marked out for themselves a course of life suitable to their condition. They rose at eight in the morning, and break-fasted at nine. After breakfast some of the party went catering for the day’s provisions, while others remained “at home” to cook and wash. “We dined at one,” says Good-ridge, “and took tea about five.” “Tea” was simple, consisting of raw eggs beaten up in water. This mess they called “Mocoa.” On grand occasions they added to their Mocoa the brain of the sea-elephant, which was very sweet and palatable. A chapter of the Bible having been read by Veale, they retired to rest at ten.

Even in this society of outcasts, religious differences found a place. Mathias Mazora, the mate, was a “professed atheist,” and set himself to deride and make sport of the religious exercises of his honest comrades. It is gratifying, however, to find that the atheism of Mr. Mazora was promptly snuffed out. The freethinker laboured under the disadvantage of not knowing much English, and therefore, however convincing his arguments may have been, he was unable to deliver them with the force he could have wished. “Being extremely ignorant,” says Goodridge, “not being able to read, at least not the English language, and having no one to second him, his conduct did not disturb the general harmony that reigned among us.” Moreover, a “marvellous conversion” is related of this atheistical mariner. It is probable that his brain was never very strong, and that solitude and anxiety did not tend to strengthen it. He is either a great liar, or his atheism—which one can presume him to have professed, as being a less troublesome creed than any with which he was acquainted—turned to “insanity.” Through much listening to Scripture, he strove to enact the story of Saul of Tarsus in his own person, and forthwith indulged in a “vision” of a most orthodox and gratifying nature. One evening, when alone, seeking for birds’ nests, darkness overtook him before he could reach the But; the ground round about was full of huge pits of slime made by the sea-elephants, and Mazora, being afraid of tumbling into one of these, sat down despairingly. In this plight, and considering earnestly his desperate needs, he betook himself vigorously to prayer. In a few moments a bright light appeared about him, and he was enabled to reach the hut in safety. To those familiar with such marvellous narrations, it is superfluous to add, that from that moment Mathias Mazora became a true believer.

Thus with superstition, or imposture, already engendered among them, the little troop ate their elephants and lived monotonously on for nine months. A fire, which nearly burnt their boat-hut, was their only diversion. On the 13th of December, however, they were unexpectedly cheered by meeting with their lost companions.

The sealing-party—left, it will be remembered, on the 10th of March—had come to the conclusion that the “Princess of Wales” had been wrecked in the storm. Moving from place to place, as the fortune of food compelled them, they had at last determined on visiting the island where there companions had, all unknown to them, found refuge. The meeting was joyous, and the new comers having, not silver and gold, but a fryingpan, nails, and hammer, the comfort of the little colony was materially increased.

Before the two parties had met, the terror of death in that solitude had seized the marooned men, and they had solemnly marked out a grave-yard, and fixed each upon his own grave. Now life stirred strong within them.

They resolved to build a ship!

This was an arduous undertaking, for save some gigantic trees (upheaved, the simple men thought, by an earthquake) they had no timber. Their stock of nails was scanty, and they had but their boat sails as canvas. Loth to destroy their boat, they determined to make use of the logs of wood, and after many long consultations, resolved on their course of action.

The vessel should be 29ft. long, of 12 tons burden, and lugger-rigged. They would build her out of the wood used for the huts and the timber left by the American party. They would make sails for her of sealskin. When she was completed, a solemn casting of lots should be had with prayer, and the five thus chosen should put to sea in the hope of falling in with some ship and bringing succour to their companions. Accordingly, early in the year 1822 they set to work. They were divided into two parties, one to obtain provisions while the other worked. The poor fellows presented a strange appearance. Their clothes had worn out, and they had attempted to make themselves garments of sealskin. These were little more than bags buttoned on, in true bush and sailor fashion, by slips of wood in lieu of buttons. The all-purveying sea-elephant supplied these, as well as oakum for the boat and stores of provisions for the voyage. The topmast of the cutter formed the keel of this wonderful vessel, and her sides were patched with heaven knows what artfulness of planking, cut with iron hoops, burnt out with fire of seal-blubber, nailed with wooden rivets, and caulked with fur run together with tallow.

In nine months, that is to say in January, 1823, the “vessel” was in a fit state for launching. “Such as she was,” says Goodridge: “one ship-carpenter working with ordinary tools might have made her in two months.”

All hands were now summoned to assist in the launch, when an accident occurred which came near to overturning all their plans. The hunting-party, returning to the huts in their boat, met with a storm which beat in the stern of their craft, and cast them ashore. It was necessary that they should waste more precious time in repairing this damage. Without tools they toiled many days to make the boat sufficiently seaworthy to enable them to rejoin their companions. One day Dominick Spesinick, who was an elderly man, left them to stroll along the shore. In a short time he returned gesticulating with vehemence, but speechless. Rough Veale asks, “What the devil is the foolish fellow at?” and at last comprehends that Spesinick, being on a high point of land, has seen a vessel. The party had been so often deceived by the appearance of large birds, which, sitting on the water, had all the form of a distant ship, that they declined to believe the story, and, afraid of the cruel disappointment, refused to follow Spesinick. His impassioned entreaties, however, at last prevailed, and it was decided that John Soper should go with him, carrying a tinder-box in order that he might make a fire if necessary, and attract the notice of the crew. The pair started. Night fell and they did not return. It was suggested that they had seen the vessel, and got aboard her. Others, more charitable in their conclusions, affirmed that the vessel was but the phantom of the old man’s brain, and that he would return with his wearied comrade before morning broke. The day dawned, however, upon that sleepless night, and yet no sign of the scouts. “It’s all a dream of his,” said Veale; “we had better go and look for our food, lest our friends fail to launch the newly-built boat, and we perish here alone.”

They had already spread themselves along the shore when Millechant gives utterance to a wild shout, and runs whooping like a madman along the sand. A boat full of men cheering in English is coming straight to them over the sparkling sea. Down go eggs and blubber, and the rescued mariners, stumbling forward, caper and weep in extravagance of joy.

Spesinick and Soper had chased the phantom all night. The old man sank at last overpowered with fatigue at the summit of a cliff, from which they could both see a schooner sailing smartly from the island. Soper tries to kindle a fire, but fails; runs down into a valley, and loses sight of the vessel; finally fires the fern in despair, and sends up a smoke like Ætna. The schooner lays to, and sends a boat; but sees no one. The sailors go ashore to explore, and on returning find a wild figure clad in skins clinging to the sides of the boat. It is old Spesinick.

The schooner is an American, the “Philo,” Isaac Perceval, master, bound for the South Seas on a whaling and trading voyage. Perceval receives them all aboard, and the next day they quit the Crozets, leaving their ship still on the stocks.

The captain had some disinclination to taking on board all the party, but eventually consented to do so. It was agreed that the rescued men should be landed on the Isle of France, and that in the meantime they should assist the crew of the “Philo” in seal-fishing. This arrangement having been concluded, the “Philo” set sail for St. Paul’s Island (about 1100 miles to the north-east of the Crozets), and arrived there on the 3rd of February. The venture of the “Philo” was successful. The coast abounded with fish, and seal were plentiful. They continued at their work until the 1st of April.

Towards the end of March the shipwrecked men began to feel the restraints of such rude civilisation as they had imposed upon themselves. Soper and Newbee, indeed, desired to remain on one of the islands, offering to take their chance of a vessel arriving to rescue them. As Amsterdam Island is situated in the direct track of all vessels going to New South Wales, there was not so much madness in the proposition as might at first be apparent. Captain Perceval agreed, making them first sign a document stating that they were so left by their own expressed desire. The two self-reliant mariners having been then left to their own devices, a dispute arose between the refugees and the crew. Mazora, the whilom mate, declared that the captain did not allow him sufficient clothing, and vowed that he would report the negligence to the authorities of the Isle of France. The captain, justly incensed at this ingratitude, took a severe course: he put Master Mazora ashore. The sympathies of the refugees being with their comrade, nine of them came aft in a body, and said that if Mazora was put ashore they would go with him. The captain would not budge from his determination, and all but the brothers Veale and Petheridge left the schooner.

Thus landed for a second time upon a desert island, the plucky fellows did not despair. There was for them a tolerable house, built by former seal-fishers, and the island was not far out of the usual track of shipping. They hoped to be soon picked up by a passing vessel, and to have in the meantime accumulated as many sealskins as would pay their passage home. So for two months they lived, eating crawfish, wild hog, and seal. Some former occupant of the place had sown turnips, the tops of which served to flavour their soup.

On the 3rd of June, at daybreak, as seven of them were lying in their hut, John Piller, who lay opposite the door, started up, crying, “A sail! a sail!” They kindled a signal fire, and soon had the satisfaction of seeing the vessel approach the land. The weather was boisterous, and it was not until the next day that a boat came ashore. The vessel was the “Success,” a sloop of 28 tons burthen, and was tender to the “King George,” Captain Bryant, whaler. It had previously been agreed between the masters of the two vessels, that if they lost each other they should steer for St. Paul’s or Amsterdam as a rendezvous. The “Success” having missed her mate, was now fulfilling her part of the contract. Mr. Anderson, the master of the sloop found upon examination of his provisions that he could feed but three more mouths, and it was agreed that lots should be drawn by the exiles. Three were away fishing, but the remaining seven cut up pieces of paper, and having marked three of the pieces with the letter “P,” put them into the bag and drew. The three prize-holders were Goodridge, Barker, and Piller. The two latter, however, feared to embark in so small a craft for so long a voyage, and gave up their chance to Hooper and Walters. Walters was eager to go, recognising in the “Success” a craft which he himself had helped to build in South Georgia some years before.

The “Success” brought news of Soper and Newbee. Soper, who had been a wild fellow in his youth, and had run away to sea, took a notion in his head that his grandmother, who lived at Dartmouth, had died and left him money. Being impressed with this idea, his desire to remain on the island vanished, and the “Success” coming in sight, he and his companion nailed together a few boards, and put off to her. Anderson agreed to take him, but Newbee, unwilling to leave his “skins,” refused to go, and after some conversation Soper resolved not to abandon his companion. The two strangely-mated men shook hands with the crew, and stepped again upon their frail raft with intent to reach the island. Those on board the “Success” watched them until near the shore, and saw a monstrous wave suddenly engulph them. The fury of the surf forbade all attempt at rescue, and the adventurous pair perished.

After a stormy passage, during which provision and fuel ran so short that the eleven months had but 5½ ozs. of pork and a raw potato apiece daily, the “Success” arrived at Hobart Town. Hooper recognised a shipmate of his named Richard Sands, who had been transported for smuggling, and asked him for assistance. Sands being in the boat’s crew of the port officer, Dr. E. F. Bromley, begged that gentleman to aid the shipwrecked mariners. Dr. Bromley—a good Samaritan—fed and clothed them, and by-and-by, the sale of their sealskins placed them in tolerable comfort. Goodridge now began to write a narrative of his adventures, and was in the midst of his work when a curious incident occurred. Mr. Brooks, one of the owners of the “Princess of Wales,” arrived from England.

Brooks was asked to dinner with Dr. Bromley, and happening in the course of conversation to mention that he had lost a vessel in the South Seas, Bromley slapped his fist on the table, and bid a servant call up the men who were below. Goodridge appeared and told his story; “at which,” says he, “Mr. Brooks was delighted, as it gave him an opportunity to prove the loss of the vessel, and thus recover the insurance.”

The captain of the vessel that brought out Brooks offered to take the three back to England, but Walters only accepted the offer. Walters had a wife in London, but upon reaching home discovered that she had married again, thinking him dead. The vulgar Enoch Arden did not die. Like a prosaic man, he returned again to sea, and left the lady in peace with her spouse.

Hooper and Goodridge remained at Dr. Bromley’s for two months, when Hooper shipped on a whaling voyage, and Goodridge hired a boat from Mr. Bethune and began trading in fire-wood. The Crusoe had now settled down to earn a civilised livelihood, and his story for seven years is that of an industrious and hard-working man. He entered into the service of Mr. Austin (who kept the Roseneath Ferry), near New Norfolk, and eventually hired the ferry-boat from him, and made money. He became acquainted with Mr. Austin through a man named Davis, who was transported for robbing a dwellinghouse at Torbay, and had been employed in Austin’s service. Mr. Austin proved a firm friend to Goodridge, who became a sort of retainer of the Austin family, and in the year 1831 went home to England in the same vessel with Mr. Josiah Austin, the nephew of his patron. Goodridge gives some interesting particulars of the kindness and shrewdness of the Austins, and ends by remarking that the nephew of the ferry proprietor had in 1838 “settled at Port Phillip, New South Wales, where he had flocks of sheep to the amount of 8000 or 10,000.” The gentlemen who talk at public dinners about “pioneers of civilisation,” might with propriety study the history of Goodridge’s worthy patron.2

Little more remains to tell. Arrived in England, Goodridge found his father and mother yet alive, and was received with kindness by them. He married in his native village, but fell into ill health and seems to have subsisted by the sale of the book from which I have compiled this paper.

The Veales and Petheridge were landed in the Isle of France, and finally made their way to England. An account of their shipwreck and adventures is given in the Morning Herald of November, 1823. The elder Veale went again to sea. A gentleman whom I met the other day told me that some years ago he saw him in a shipping-office in London—“A regular old sea-dog!” Jarvis Veale went to America, where he married. Petheridge, in 1852, was sailing a small craft in and out of Dartmouth. The others who had been left at Paul’s Island met with some further adventures. They collected sufficient skins in twelve months to freight a vessel that happened to call at the island. In her they proceeded to South America, and with the proceeds of the sale formed a settlement on an island near Japan, and cultivated cotton and rice. It is thought that Millechant eventually became owner of the property, and died a rich man.

So much for the fortune that befel the captain and crew of the “Princess of Wales.”

1.    The method of thus turning a boat into a house is called “tussicking.” The boat is turned bottom upwards, one gunwale is raised three or four feet, by means of a sort of turf wall, leaving an opening sufficiently large for a man to crawl in or out, as a doorway. A fire of sea-elephant blubber is made at this opening, and each man, on retiring, takes his station between the thwarts of the boat, where he usually rows.    [back]

2.    Mr. Austin—the present representative of the family—is the owner of Barwon Park, one of the finest estates in Victoria. He is noted for his acclimatising successes, having achieved hares, pheasants, and deer on his square mile of purchased land. The Duke of Edinburgh was entertained by Mr. Austin, and host and guest went “pheasant shooting” together.    [back]

Old Tales of a Young Country - Contents

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