Thursday, November 19, 2009


On the 2nd of April 1868 at 3.00AM in heavy seas and squalls the 'Reliance' struck the Indispensable Reef near the Solomon Islands. The ship quickly filled with water and by daybreak the crew took to the longboat and whale boat taking provisions, enough water for 8 days and compasses and charts.
Night came on with heavy squalls, rain, thunder, and lightening - both boats were leaking. When the weather moderated they made sail for Satisfaction Island where they went ashore. The natives appeared friendly and gave them water and coconuts in return for bread. It seemed a good place so they pulled one of the boats on shore and started to repair it.
By the next day "the natives kept mustering stronger and stronger, and their behaviour showing signs of hostilities". They launched the boat in a shower of spears one piercing the steward's left hip to the depth of 5 or 6 inches, "so that we had to pull hard to get it out" and sailed away with a large canoe chasing them.
They had an uncomfortable night and next morning repaired the second boat and started off. The long-boat held the captain and second mate, the injured steward and one sailor. The faster whale-boat was manned by the mate and three sailors. They tried to keep together but the weather was raining, blowing a gale and the seas heavy. The next morning they were chased by a very large canoe manned by 15-20 men, they managed to out-distance it and after an hour it gave up the chase.
"We went to work to rig a square sail, and whilst so engaged did not perceive five canoes that were trying to cut us off until they were nearer to us than was agreeable. We hoisted the square sail and again had recourse to the oars and paddles until they gave up the chase."
Unable to see the whaleboat and fearful of the natives they set off toward Cleveland Bay, near the Great Barrier Reef. The weather deteriorated - the wind increased to a heavy gale, with heavy seas, and our Captain had to steer for "three nights and three days without relief of sleep".
"On the morning of the 25th no water in the boat, made Claremount group of islands and main land; landed on an island but found no water; all hands covered with sores and suffering from swelled feet; no water or food, dug a hole in. the sand and got some water - half salt."
On the afternoon of the 28th they started for the main land, "for we were getting very sick and weak" they were picked up by the schooner 'Maid of Riverton.' after traveling 1,100 miles in a small and open boat, in twenty-seven days of suffering.
The 'Reliance' was a total wreck and uninsured - the whale boat and its crew were never seen again.

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