Loss of the HINDOSTAN

Liverpool Mercury 1913

The loss of the HINDOSTAN EAST INDIAMAN off Margate, June 11th, 1803

The East India Company’s ship the HINDOSTAN of 1,248 tons, Edward BALSTON Esq, Commander sailed from Gravesend on her 4th voyage on Sunday, 2nd January 1803, with a light westerly breeze and brought to in the Upper Hope. Here the ship’s company received their rivers pay and 2 mths wages, in advance, as usual, and all the women were sent on shore.

On the 4th she sailed from thence, with a tail wind, dropped anchor at various places or the tides, passed the Nore, and anchored with her best bower on Sunday January 9th, in a good berth, in the Queen’s Channel, off the Wedge Sand, the wind hard from eastward. The wind continued to increase, they, the same evening, sent down the top-gallant-yards and struck the top-gallant-masts, after which the ship rode much easier.

On Monday 10th, they unstowed the sheet anchor, and cleared away the sheet cable, that it might be ready in case of emergency. On Tuesday morning between 3 and 4, the ship parted from the best bower, and drifted with the ebb tide towards the sand. They then cut loose the anchor and all possible expedition, and veered out a cable and a half, she now appeared to ride secure, and the pilot entertained no apprehension for the ships safety, though she was very near the Wedge Sand.

At 4 pm the pilot thought it necessary to get underway for the purpose of getting the ship in a clearer berth, as the gale increased in violence, and accordingly gave orders to heave the cable. While the crew were engaged in this operation the ship struck. They now discovered that the anchor had been coming home, that the vessel had drifted faster than they had hove in cable, she was aground on the Wedge Sand in four and a half fathoms of water.

The pilot instantly ordered the head sails to be loosed, and set as fast as possible to pay her head off; this was accordingly done, but without effect. The ship struck on the sand a second time, with such violence that the fore-top-mast went over the lee side and hung by the rigging. In the fall it struck a man overboard that was on the lee fore-yard-arm, he was seen no more.

The Captain finding the ship in this desperate situation, striking on the sand, and the wind growing more furious, the tide forcing her still further on the sand, ordered the boatswain to cut away the mizen mast, and afterwards the main mast likewise. Every effort proved ineffectual, it was impossible to get her off.

Some of the men were then directed to the water, others were stationed at the pumps. A large quantity of pigs of block-tin were got up from the hold, upon the orlop and gun-deck, for the purpose of being thrown overboard to lighten the vessel.

The ship kept continually striking on the sand, the sea dashing violently into her, in consequence the men in the hold found the water gain so fast upon them that they were obliged to quit and come on deck.

The anchors were then cut away from the bows, and every possible expedient was employed to lighten the ship, the pumps kept going till they were so choked with sand, they could not be worked any longer.

Signal guns of distress were fired until no more dry powder could be produced. Being 8 miles distant from the nearest shore, the wind blowing tremendously the guns were not heard, though afterwards it appeared the flashes were seen.

The Company’s yacht had been anchored a little distance to windward, but when the storm came so furious she left the HINDOSTAN and did not return till the next morning.

The upper part of the mainmast, had in its fall, struck in the sand, the part which had been cut, standing upwards by the side of the ship. The boatswain and some seamen with a view to steady the ship endeavoured to lash it to the gunnel with a hawser, but when they had past it twice round, the mast slipped away from the side of the ship, and prevented them from completing the design.

About 8.30 it was discovered the rudder was unshipped and the tiller was tearing up the gun-deck. The bulkhead of the cuddy, the galleries, and one end of the gun-room ports were all stove in, but the carpenter nailed some plank over the port-hole to prevent the entrance of water in that quarter.

Finding all these exertions for the preservation of the ship unavailing, the crew attempted to get out the boats; but having only one mast standing this proved a task of considerable difficulty.

At length by means of the foretackle and a jigger, they contrived to hoist the pinnacle, but she was swamped in getting her over the side, with one man in her, who was fortunately saved. The jolly boat hanging in the ships stern, broke loose, and went adrift but she was soon swamped. The yawl was then hoisted, while the men were getting her over the side she was dashed in two by a heavy set, the fore-part remaining suspended by the fore-yard tackle on the starboard side of the forecastle.

The officers then directed two rafts, to be constructed of the spars and booms, in the hope of saving some lives. They placed the spars across the ship and lashed them together as well as they were able, and placed the long-boat in such a situation, as they thought would be most likely for her to be washed overboard with the rafts. The Captain, officers and men then got upon the rafts, sitting as close as possible, and holding fast by the lashings; while others in the long-boat, waited the arrival of some furious wave to launch them overboard. Having waited some time, several got off again, among those the Captain and all the officers, excepting Mr HACKETT and Mr HAMMOND, two young midshipmen, and Mr KENT, the Captain’s clerk. The two former had fastened themselves together on the raft, and held by a piece of lashing. At length came the fatal wave, which washed the rafts overboard, together with 50/60 of the crew. The long-boat was partly washed over at the same time, and hung upon the wreck.

Those who imagined they were seeking a means of safety, now found they had invested themselves a greater danger. The raft, swept from the deck, and rushed into the sea in a slanting direction, one end sunk to a considerable depth. Of those who had placed themselves in this part, some were overwhelmed for a time, others washed entirely away, others, dreadfully hurt by the spars and booms which beat against each other.

The raft to became so entangled in the wreck of the main-mast as to preclude any hope of it being drifted ashore. It was exposed to all the fury of the tempest, the unhappy men who clung to it had no other resource but to abandon, that which they had put on their greatest reliance. They, therefore, sought to recover the wreck, the efforts of some successful, but the strength of others by this time exhausted.

The two young midshipmen with Mr KENT and about 16 crew, among whom was the Captain’s cook, were lost on this occasion, the others, by clinging to the spars, and swimming as well as they were able, regained the ship.

John NEWMAN a quartermaster, and another, after remaining 2 hrs on part of the raft, were, at last saved.

About 11.30 the ship was under water excepting a small part of one side of the fore-castle. The Captain, officers and men were then obliged to do repair to the fore-top and into the fore-rigging, the only refuge they had left, as the whole of the forecastle was at times under water, the waves at times rising 2/3 ratings over the fore-rigging. Meanwhile the ship was continually striking on the sand, with such violence that the stumps of the main and mizen-masts were frequently raised 10 or 15 ft from the steps; and most incredible, during the night, she actually hove the stumps of the mizenmast completely overboard.

A poor sick foreigner, a seaman, was lying in his hammock on the gun-deck till the sea washed to the fore-hatchway. Some of the men observing his situation, caught hold of him and lifted him on deck; they afterwards placed him in the cook’s hammock and put on him what dry clothes they could find. Here he remained till the water washed him to the fireplace, the men then unshipped the upper part of the funnel, dragging him up through the chimney, doing all possible for his assistance, covering him with bags and clothes, but he was at length frozen to death on the forecastle, near the cat head.

The foretopsailyard hanging down before the foresail, the Captain and some others got upon it, to be a little screened from the severity of the weather, others hauled the main topmast staysail, which hung loose abaft the foremast, round the fore-shrouds, to shelter themselves as much as possible, expecting every moment that the foremast would go over.

In the wretched situation they remained for 5/6 hrs, suffering the greatest hardships from the violence of the sea and the inclemency of the weather, even the hair of their heads being clotted with icicles, when at length a boat with lug-sails, came off from Margate to their assistance.

The flashes of the guns fired on the evening she struck, had been seen on shore to continue at uncertain intervals, till 10 o’ clock. The supposition of the mariners at Margate, that the HINDOSTAN had stood in need of assistance from the India Yacht, which was in attendance, and, from her leaving of firing, that it, had been afforded. From the state of the wind and sea it was impossible for any boats to put off from that harbour till 12 o’ clock, when the LORD NELSON, manned with 16 brave fellows, among whom was one of her owners, John BROTHERS, by whose solicitation principally, they were induced to go, put off from the pier, at the hazard of their lives, and the risk of their boat.

They reached the boat soon after 2am, little expecting, to find her in the distressing and deplorable situation, they beheld, with only one mast standing, the greatest part of her hull under water, and unaccompanied by the yacht which had attended her before dark.

They had hitherto supposed that the sloop had preserved the crew; but what was the feelings of those brave men when, upon a nearer approach, they beheld the bows of the ship, and what rigging remained, blackened with the bodies of the distressed sufferers; and when they came within hail, the cries of the unfortunate beings caused tears to bedew those faces, which are not used to turn pale at the approach of death in his most terrific forms. They approached the wreck with equal prudence and intrepidity. It was 4 o’ clock before the boat could come near enough for the pilot, officers and men to get on board, a few at a time, some catching hold of her shrouds as it approached, and others jumping into her from the forecastle and cat head. By these means about 90 of the ship’s company got safely on board off the boat.

The ship’s cook, ANDERSON, endeavouring to jump into the boat from the cat head, unfortunately struck his head against the boats gunnel, with such violence, he was killed on the spot.

Mr BRISCOE, the Company’s surveyor while endeavouring to get in the boat, was thrown overboard by a rope that got foul of him. The men, with a boat hook caught hold of his coat, which gave way, they again caught hold of him by the same means, it again gave way, at length with great exertion, it proved successful and they dragged him safely on board.

Being a lusty man, he had stowed his pockets and his shirt full of bottle corks, which he had found after the ship struck, conceiving they would be of service to keep him afloat, if necessary.

Mr BRISCOE escaped from a similar disaster, a few years before on board the HENRY ADDINGTON, wrecked on Bembridge Lodge, outward bound.

The crew mentioned the anchor had been cut away from the bows, the master of the boat was afraid to stay any longer near the wreck. He therefore hauled off to his anchor were he lay till daylight, leaving on board 30 men, including Mr TURNER the 2nd mate.

During the night the Company’s yacht had picked up the HINDOSTAN’S jolly boat and approached the wreck at 7.30 am on Wednesday, despatching the boat to the relief of those left behind. After taking three turns of these men to the Margate vessel, the remainder, being about 9/10, with Mr TURNER 2nd mate, were safely conveyed to the yacht.

Before their departure, the baker was found frozen to death in the fore-rigging, and the 3rd officer’s servant, lifeless in the forecastle. Many through the severity of the weather had their limbs frozen, and some even deprived of speech.

Mr TURNER was the last to quit the wreck, it was then 9 o’ clock and low water. The water had left the upper deck, and the ship was severed in three places, one parting, even with the main mast, the other behind the foremast.

The Margate boat then set sail for Whitstable, where she safely landed the officers and men on board. The yacht proceeded with Mr TURNER and the remainder of the crew to London.

Out of 143 persons on board, 129 were saved, sufferers therefore were, 14, most swept overboard from the raft before the arrival of the boat. The Captain, officers and crew lost everything they had on board, as well as the passengers at Deal, who were waiting to join the ship, some were females and were thus fortunately exempted from the dangers and hardship they would otherwise have encountered.

Among these missing was Mr CLARKE, a cadet and passenger for Madras, on Saturday the 22nd, his body was drawn up out of the hold, by some boatmen at Whitstable, who were endeavouring to save what they could from the wreck. The body and clothes of the youth were covered in tar, he was carried to Margate and interred at that place by his brother. Another afflicting circumstance to Mr CLARKE’S family happened on the same day as the loss of the ship, in the death of his father in London.

The East India Company rewarded, with a present of 500 guineas, the exertions of the brave men, whose intrepidity preserved the lives of such a number of citizens to the community, family and friends.

The value of the cargo of the HINDOSTAN is estimated at £70.000. She had on board 45.000 ounces of silver bullion, private property, on freight, and was completely stored for sea.

Soon after the wreck was abandoned it went entirely to pieces. Through the labours of the sailors from Margate and neighbouring ports, a considerable part of the lading was recovered from the bottom of the deep, and among the rest about 11,000 dollars which were safely lodged in the hands of Messers COBB at Margate.


Copyright 2002 / To date