Friday, December 11, 2009

The wreck of the 'Sea Breeze'

John Austen
Stranded – total loss
Master blamed for wreck. Loss believed to have been caused either by drunkenness (as in the case of “Marwell”, lost by him on Tiri Tiri about 3 years ago, and for which his certificate of service was taken away) or from a desire to show off the capabilities of his vessel, which had the reputation of being a smart sailor.

This is a little harsh!
A more accurate account of the loss of the 'Sea Breeze' appeared in the local papers-
The brig Moa, which arrived in Melbourne on December 22 from Starbuck Island, brought on the captain, mate, and several of the crew of the schooner Sea Breeze, of Auckland, which was lost at Starbuck Island. The following is the report of the log of the schooner : — "Star buck Island, 31st October, 1871 —We, the undersigned, report as follows regarding the loss of the schooner Sea Breeze, on Starbuck Island : At 1 p.m., 28th October, the schooner hove up her anchors, and was hauling off the mooring buoy, when the hauling line parted; made sail, and stood back to the island, and kept plying backwards and forwards, waiting for letters and bill of lading, with the wind E.S.E. fresh, and standing in on the starboard tack ; missed stays and went ashore at half-past 2 p.m. , where she now lies a wreck. When Captain Austen found the schooner would not come round, he kept his square canvas aback in hopes she would go astern, but the heavy rollers took charge of her, and hove her on the rocks before there was time to do anything. We ran a line from the brig Moa, but by the time we reached the schooner she was bilged, and the sea breaking over her. We have no hesitation in saying that Captain Austen is free from all blame regarding the loss of the schooner Sea Breeze; he did all any seaman could do to save his ship. The only cause we can attribute for the loss of the Sea Breeze, in our opinion, was the heavy rollers on the N. W. end of the island, where at all times there is a roll, and once under the influence of such rollers there are little hopes but shipwreck. With difficulty the crew saved their clothes and some sails, which were torn dragging them through the reef. —Alexander Robertson, Master of brig Moa ; Charles Summers, late Master of brig Pfiel; Samuel Mully, Chief Mate of Sea Breeze."

Reading the shipping reports of the times you can't help but be struck by the number of wrecked vessels, the saddest ones are when the record simply states that the vessel departed a port and was never heard of again.
Captain John Austen lost the 'Reliance' in 1868; the 'Marwell' in 1870 and the 'Sea Breeze' in 1871. But he lived to sail another day.