Monday, 30 May 2016


The Advertiser (Adelaide) Friday 31 December, 1909.

There is a belief prevalent in many quarters 
\that the lost steamer Waratah may
have been cast away on the Crozets, and
that her passengers, or some of them,
may be found on those islands. That is
the basis of the movement in Melbourne
to raise money tor another search for the
missing vessel. In the "Herald" of Wednesday 
a survivor of the Strathmore, Mr.
John Pirie, now a shipwright employed by
the Melbourne Harbor Trust, tells the
story of the remarkable rescue of the 
company of that vessel.
He sailed from London in the Strathmore, 
on April 17, 1875, being on the boat
as ship's carpenter, was shipwrecked, went
through all the trying experiences of life
on an inhospitable island, and to-day looks
as hearty and robust as if he had never
known hardships.
"The Strathmore,"' says Mr. Pirie, "was
a good ship of 1.492 tons. There was a
crew of 38 men and boys, and there were
also 51 passengers. The wreck was a sheer
misadventure, for which no one was really
to blame. It has been said that the mate,
Mr. Ramsay, neglected his duty through
attending a concert. That is incorrect. He
had the fullest means of knowing the facts.
It was a quarter to 4 o'clock in the morning 
when the Strathmore struck on a rock
not far from Apostle Island, one of the
Crozets. At that hour no concert would
be in progress. The mate, I am sure, acted
in every way that a seaman should. He
was a good officer, and gave his life to the
work of saving the passengers. When the
Strathmore struck I ascended the mainmast
and slid down the forestay and reached
the forecastle. I went as far astern as I
could, and found the mate on his knees
trying to free the starboard life
boat, in which 19 people were seated.
A wave came up very suddenly and lifted
the boat off the chocks. It must have listed 
and he thrown overboard because he was 
never seen again. It is wrong that at this time 
a slur should be cast on his memory. "What
became of the lifeboat? After being lifted off 
the chocks she fell back and damaged her
bottom, but rose and floated over the poop,
and then got clear of the ship without 
capsizing. To explain that, I must tell you
that the vessel, after she struck, lay with
poop submerged, but the forecastle well
out of the water. 

In the fog.

"How had the accident happened? Well, we 
had got into those high latitudes to find a wind
to take us to New Zealand. Then it is my belief 
that the ironstone in the rocks may have deflected 
the compass and what is more, the fog was so
thick that a lookout was of no use. After we struck
we could not see the rock which we had actually struck,
though it was towering up before the ship. Why, all 
the while we were on Apostle Island - six months and
22 days - we saw Hog Island about twice, though
there is only a channel a few miles wide between. 
Hog Island appeared on those occasions to be 
fairly green and fertile; but Apostle Island is barren
rock, with just a little rank moss growing on 
guano-filled crevices. Five persons died on the 
island before we were rescued. I don't wish to boast
but I cannot say that I ever felt really despondent about
our ultimate rescue except once, and that was when
the White Eagle passed through the channel between
us and Hog island. We saw the man at the wheel,
and tried to attract his attention, but without
success. Passengers on the White Eagle saw us
and told the captain, but he said 'the Crozets are
uninhabited,' and did not stop.The ship went to pieces
before we could get anything much of the cargo. We
had to live on albatross, which took getting used to
at first. A few mutton pieces were taken, but these
were reserved for Mrs. Wordsworth, the only woman
who had been rescued. A spring of beautiful mineral water
rose at the top of the rock and trickled down the side. It
did more than anything else to keep us in health. We clothed
ourselves in penguin skins and we built a wall of turf under
a shelving of rock in a way to form a hut.

Terrible Times.

"We had some terrible times. Early in our experience all
were laid up except five or six of us, who had to feed, keep
warm and tend to the rest. Then sometimes we were surrounded
by a field of ice. Once an iceberg came and fastened itself
on jagged rocks of our island and with the wind blowing across
nearly froze us. Many suffered from frostbite and we had no soap,
but the yolks of the eggs had to serve. Soon after landing a number
of lawless fellows among the crew gave trouble, and we had no one
with firmness enough to keep them in check. Finally to preserve order
the whole community was broken up into six squads. It was rather a 
mercy that we had to keep at work to find sufficient food. It relieved
the tedium of the life, and kept us from despair. At the time we had
been four or five months on the island and become acclimatised
and were in better health. Our worst trouble was that our cooking 
utensils were nearly all worn out, and we had to depend on hollow
stones, which we used as frying pans. Against that we had stored
some hundreds of gallons of bird oil for our lamps which we kept
burning all night. Early in January, 1870, we built on an eminence
a high square tower of turf to attract the notice of passing ships,
and to shelter the man on lookout. We had to secure the turf
as best we could with a piece of hoop iron. ON January 14, a 
vessel passed us, but took no notice.

"Sail Ho!"

A week later, on January 21, the man on the lookout
shouted "Sail ho!" and rushed two flags up on the flagstaff
- a piece of canvas and a blanket. We lit two fires. The vessel
at first seemed to take no notice, and our hearts fell. Then she
headed towards us and our people could not contain their delight.
She came within a mile and lowered two boats, but could find no
landing. Our sailmaker jumped into the water and was pulled aboard
and showed them where the landing place was. The ship was the 
Young Phoenix, an Amercian whaler. Captain Giffard was in one of
the boats. He gave us some bread and promised to take
us off the next morning. However, when he was told there
was a lady ashore, he brought his boat close in and took
Mrs. Wordsworth, her son, two invlaids, and the second mate.
The last thing I did was to make five crossed of wood, which 
were placed to mark the graves of those who had died on
the island. Then we went off without a single regret except
for those who were dead. Captain Gifford received us with
the utmost kindness, fed us, clothed us, and treated us well.

The Waratah.

'Do I think the people of the Waratah are likely to be on the
Crozets? Who can say? There is a chance, and the islands
ought to be searched. What they must have What they must
have felt if through a break in the fog they caught a glimpse
of the Sabine standing off I can guess, but I don't suppose
that anyone else in Melbourne can."

Alas, Waratah and her complement were never discovered stranded on the Crozets. Poor visibility due to persistent fog, does make one wonder about thoroughness of the Sabine search...


Apostles Island. 

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