Narrative of Passenger

James Teer

The ship General Grant, Captain Wm. H. Loughlin, left Hobson's Bay, on Friday, May 4th, 1866, bound for London, with eighty-three souls on board. Experienced fine weather with light westerly winds until the 11th, when the weather became thick and foggy, and the Captain ordered a look-out for land to be kept on the 12th, as he had taken no observation after 8 a.m. on the 11th. A sharp look-out was ordered to be kept on Sunday, 13th, for the land, which was sighted at half-past ten o'clock p.m. on the weather of port bow. The watch below was called back on deck and orders given to square away the yards, to clear her for the land, which was instantly done. The land was soon lost sight of and I went to bed. But as I had not fallen asleep I heard the man on the look-out give the cry of "Land on our starboard bow." While I was below the captain had hauled her on her course again. The land had the appearance of a fog bank, and it was on out lee beam, about three or four miles distance. The wind was fast falling away, and in a few minutes it was dead calm, the ship was totally unmanageable. The captain did all in his power, with every flaw of wind from the flapping sails, but his attempts were useless. The yards were hauled in every possible direction that might enable the getting his ship off the shore, but all to no purpose, as the heavy S.W. swell was constantly setting her nearer and nearer the fatal rocks. About 12 or 1 a.m., the ship was close to shore, and the current seemed to be setting her northward along the coast, until a rock stopped her progress. She touched it with her jib-boom and carried it away. She then shot astern to another point, which she struck with her spanker boom and rudder, injuring severely the man at the wheel. It was just half-past one a.m. on the 14th. The two points struck formed the entrance to a cove, and her side was rubbing against the perpendicular rocks. Owing to the darkness, we saw nothing save the dark mass above and around us. We could see overhanging rocks, and no place where a bird could rest upon them. Soundings were taken, and I think it was twenty-five fathoms under the stern, and all the while she kept working into the cave.

 

The 'Cave of Death' photographed by the Catling Expedition 1916

from the Kelly Tarlton General Grant Archive

The boats were then thought of, but the captain finding her lying so easy, and pieces of spars and rocks coming continually down, made it dangerous to attempt getting them out until daylight. The water being so smooth as we entered the cave that he concluded it was best to wait till daylight before he would be able to launch them. The ship continued to go farther into the cave. She caught the overhanging rocks with her fore royal mast, and carried it away; the topmast and lower masts touching the top of the cave brought down large pieces of the rocs; one piece went through her forecastle deck, while another went through her starboard deckhouse. During this time all on board kept aft, as the after part of the ship still continued to be safe. Nearly at daylight the mizen top-gallant mast came down, and at daylight the captain gave the orders to get the boats in readiness. There were three boats on board, two quarter-boats, each 22ft over all and 5ft beam, and a long boat, 30ft keel, and six or seven feet beam. A quarter boat was then launched over the stern by means of a spar rigged for the purpose. In this boat there were three men, Peter McNevin, Andrew Morrison and David McLelland, all A.B.'s. A line and some iron were placed in the boat to be used as an anchor, and dropped outside to haul out the other boats with, she was also to see if a landing could be made outside the cave. This boat was expected to return for more persons, but owing to some misunderstanding of orders given, she laid outside and did not return. In the meantime the second boat was got ready. A quantity of beef and pork, and about fifty tins of bouilli were placed on board her. This boat was intended by the captain for the transmission of women and children to the first boat. These were all that could be taken in the boat, owing to the heavy sea, which was getting up. This boat took five of her passengers to the other boat, leaving Mr Bartholomew Brown, Chief Officer, Mr William Newton Scott, Corn, Drew, A.B.'s, and myself, who were to go back to the ship again for more. By this time the long boat, then lying on the quarter-deck, was filled with passengers, and the ship was sinking rapidly (the main-mast having evidently been driven through her bottom by contact with the rocks above), till the boat with its cargo was floated off her deck. owing to the small space in the cave we were obliged to wait till the long boat was quite clear of the ship, but the sea breaking over her filled her with water, and she was swamped when about 100 yards from the ship. We then went as near the boat as it was safe to go, and saved three of the passengers, being all who were able to swim through the surf to us - L. Ashworth, passenger; William Sanguily, and Arron Hayman, two of the crew. Mr Brown wished to go to the ship to save his wife who was on board, and also the Captain who was seen in the mizen top-mast crosstrees. The hull of the ship was under water. The rest of us wished to save some of those in the water, but in a few minutes there were no more. One man was seen on the bottom of the boat, and we made signals to the outer boat to save him, but prudence forbade them rendering him any assistance, as the boat was so near the rocks, with the sea braking heavily. When the mate wished again to return to the ship, we thought it useless, as we were unable to render assistance, and placed ourselves in great danger owing to the heavy seas and the constant increase of wind. While outside deliberating upon what was best to be done, I had an opportunity of seeing the whole of the cave. The rocks around it, I think, were about 400 feet high, and overhanging. The ship was in underneath these about two lengths of herself. The coast, as far as we could see, was high perpendicular rocks, and we saw no possibility of landing. We now consulted each other; and those in the other boat, upon what was best to be done. We concluded we could not assist those inside, as it was only endangering ourselves, owing to the constant increase in sea and wind. We thought it best to pull to Disappointment Island, about six miles distant in a westerly direction.

 

 

                                    Disappointment Island - Picture Google Earth

 

We had more trouble than we anticipated to get there; our boat having such a quantity of beef and pork and bouilli tins in her and seven men. It was only with incessant bailing we could keep out the water which from time to time she lifted. Once or twice she was all but full, and at last we gave up and intended to run our chances among the rocks to leeward, trying the same time to get as far towards the north end of the island as possible, hoping to find a beach where some might get ashore; but as we proceeded to the northward, we saw that the sea and wind were decreasing. We pulled head to the wind, and seeing a large rock about one and a half miles distant to the N.E. of Disappointment Island, we pulled for it, and reached it just at dark. The other boat, which, like ourselves, had given up, before it moderated, came to the island about twenty minutes after we did. At this place we put in a most miserable night, wet and cold, and without a drink of water. We opened some bouilli tins, but little of their contents were eaten. We were obliged to keep on our oars all night so as to prevent our being blown off the land. At daylight on the 15th we attempted to pull around the north end of the main island, but owing to the increasing sea and wind during the night, we could make but about half-a-mile after an hour's pull. We turned back, and during the day we were able to reach Disappointment Island, where we found good shelter, but on attempting to make a landing with the boat containing the provisions, she was capsized. We were able to save but three pieces of pork and nine bouilli tins. The other boat regained the swamped one, baled her out, and her crew got on board again from the rocks. We afterwards landed, got some water, but were not able to procure any wood for a fire. The wind was falling away, and about 10.am it was a dead calm. We pulled away, and succeeded in rounding the north end of the island (main) and entered a place called North Harbour; but, not thinking it a fit place to stop at, at daylight on the 16th started again and reached Port Ross. On the evening camped within quarter of a mile of the trees marked by the steamers Victoria and Southland, on Enderby's old settlement, but did not notice them at that time. [Samuel Enderby was a whaler in the south seas during the 1840s and 1850s and his son Charles helped to establish a short-lived colony at Port Ross, Auckland Islands. The colony was abandoned in 1851.] Had a few matches; tried one, and it lighted; but, as we had no dry brush or grass in readiness, it was wasted. Gathered some dry wood and grass, but could get but one match out of all that remained to light. From this one match we obtained fire, which, by constant care, we never allowed to go out during the eighteen months we were on the island. Boiled one or two birds obtained on Disappointment Island, and one tin of bouilli. Gathered some limpets, which were cooked with the birds in the empty bouilli tins. This was our first meal after three days and two nights of suffering, and never did sumptuous repast taste better to a king than this frugal meal to us. On the 17th gathered some limpets and made our breakfast. Having now but seven tins of bouilli, we kept them for cases of sickness. Pulling along the south side of the bay we fell in with and old hut.; the walls had fallen in, and the roof rested on the rafter. We left one boat and nine persons to fix up the hut and arrange it for the night.

 

                      Disappointment Island to Enderby Island - Picture Google Earth

The other boat started in search of a better shelter, and were fortunate enough to find some old huts, one of which was pretty good condition. We went back with the news, gathered some limpets, took our supper, and retired to rest on a shake down of grass just gathered. Next morning, 18th, made a breakfast on limpets, when one of the boats started to explore, and the other boat started for the hut. This day Fortune again favoured us. We killed four seals on the sandy beach at Enderby's Island; saw the goats, which the Victoria had landed there, but we did not succeed in catching any of them. Saturday 19th May Pulled round Enderby's Island in search of Musgrave's hut, but we knew not at this time where it was situated. We intended leaving no spot on the island without a thorough search, as we expected to find there a depot for clothing and provisions. I may here mention some of us were without shoes or stockings, while some had neither these nor coats or hats to keep warm in a cold and wet climate. We had four or five empty bouilli tins. We were able to roast the seal on the fire, and boil some so as to drink the broth, but the worst thing was the want of salt. Sunday 20th May Rested from our labors, as we were nearly knocked up. Monday 21st May Andrew Morison, Cornelius Drew, P. McNevin, David McClelland, William Ferguson, and I started to go along the coast (east) to seek for Musgrave's hut, looking in all the bays as we proceeded. Night coming on, we camped, having brought fire in the boat. We also brought some cooked seal and a piece of pork, which was saved from the boat which, was capsized. 22nd May Remained here, owing to weather. 23rd May Started again, but were obliged to put back on account of thick fog, which was coming on. The seal being finished, we were obliged to gather shell-fish. Mussels were plentiful, and seal could not be got. 24th May Again started. All of us were sick with dysentery. Made but little progress. In the afternoon it rained and blew very hard, and we put in at a small bay about five miles north of Carnley's Harbor. Here we got a seal, and being all sick, we ate sparingly, as we fancied the seal was unhealthy. We passed a miserable night, wet and cold. We found the remains of an old maimai where we fancied some unfortunates like ourselves had camped. 25th May Took some raw seal and again started. On coming to the entrance of Musgrave's Bay, we were unable to go any further. We did not know at this time this was the bay we were in search of, being so much reduced by toil and dysentery, we gave up the search. We were so weak we good scarcely lift our oars out of the water. It was then we found relief from the piece of pork, which had been for so long hoarded up. Some were unable, owing to sickness, to eat even their small allowance; while those who eat it found relief and gained strength, enabling us to pull to one of the bays, where we camped for the night. 26th May Started again, but were not able to reach home. Camped in a small bay about five miles north of the place left that morning. Here we killed a seal. We remained here until the 28th, when we arrived home. We found here all sick, like ourselves; and, in fact,, they were reduced to mere skeletons, and we did not know each other after an absence of eight days. All things have an end. It was wonderful to see how fast we improved when we got a little used to our new mode of life. Still thought Musgrave's hut could be found. Made an attempt to make a sail of the New Zealand flax, which grows in small quantities at the old settlement. During this time, some of those bare footed tried to make shoes out of the seal's skin, but it did not succeed very well. One day, I thought of the moccasin, and made a pair for P. McNevin. Soon after this, all hands were able to make them for themselves. Theses were good substitutes during our stay on the island. I made some needles from the bone of the albatross; also, some salt. The salt was made in a piece of an old broken pot which I found at the hut It held half a pint of water at a time, therefore the quantity was small and useless.

26th June
A sail having been made from the seal's skin, one of the boats again started in search of Musgrave's hut. I was unwell, and therefore did not go in the boat.
After much suffering from inclemency of the weather and camping out in the rain, snow and wet, the long looked for hut was found on the 11th of July. But picture our disappointment, instead of finding a well-stocked depot, we found nothing of value except an old boiler, afterwards used to boil salt in, and some old canvas, which lined the inside of the hut, all else having been carried away. The boat returned on the 13th. But during the absence of the boat we were searching around home with our other boat. We found the papers and trees marked by the Victoria and Southland at the old settlement, where we learned that there was nothing of any value to us left by them, and that we might give up all hopes of either steamers returning to these islands. Saw some pig tracks at the head of the bay, they were all well, and when we were told what was left in the hut, we offered up many a hearty prayer.
On return of the boat's crew they wished all hands go to Musgrave's hut, as it was larger than ours, and the seal were more plentiful on that part of the island.

14th July
Some who were away in the boat wished to see the papers left by the steamers; went to the settlement, and while there were fortunate enough to find an oven belonging to a stove; this made a good cooking pot for cooking in.
During the boat's absence we visited a small island lying between Enderby's and the main island, where an old hut was found already fitted up with three bunks, some wearing apparel, a few old bouilli tins, and old adze, and a spade. The hut appeared as though recently vacated, as the hind part of a seal was still hanging to a tree. Rabbits were very numerous, but we had no means of catching any; we gave it the name of Rabbit Island.

18th July
Went to Enderby's for seal, and caught three kids and found one dead; we tied up those that were alive, thinking to catch the old ones suckling them; but as the boat started back to Musgrave's on the 19th, did not go back till the day after. One kid was dead, but we caught the mothers of the two other kids, and brought them home.
A few days later found an oven at the settlement, and some galvanised iron, from which we made frying pans, the oven, was used to make salt in. After this the weather was very cold, and we could seldom get a day to go for seal as we were obliged to use the boat for this purpose; no seal could be got where we were living. Nearly all our time was employed in mending clothes. At night we crawled into our grassy beds huddling close to one another to keep warm, the hut being colder than when the other eight were there. The eight at Musgrave's hut, I imagine, lived pretty much as we did; but as I was not there I am unable to give particulars of their mode of living, I suppose theirs is the same.

September 1st
Caught a goat and brought home, having then four live animals sharing our hut with us. We tried every means to manufacture seal's skin into clothes, as those we had left were all threadbare, and the skins we had to keep us warm at night were like boards. We scrubbed them with sand, and scraped them with glass, but to no purpose. At last I hit upon a successful plan. I was trying to get a patch for my trousers, and thought of paring the skins with a knife, but I cut a hole in every square inch; I saw the plan would answer by paring the dried skins close to the roots of the hair; the skin was then very soft, and by perseverance and practice I found that we would be able to make clothes much better than we imagined.

On 19th September, after seven weeks of very severe weather, the boat returned from Musgrave's, bringing some seal thinking we might be short, but they found us all right. Weather being fine, they started the next morning, and reached the hut at midnight. F.P. Caughley, D. Ashworth, and in fact, nearly all of us were taken sick with a swelling of the limbs; which commenced at the stomach, and worked its way to the legs and feet, rendering them almost helpless. At first, thought it was the scurvy, as the swollen parts when any pressure came upon them retained the indentation made for quite a long time; but we have since found out that the disease is known to whalers by the name of the "cobbler."
The weather being fine we were able to go about in search of anything useful. On Enderby's we killed some fur seal, the skins of which, when pared, made blankets. We found a couple of files, a gun flint, and one or two old knives at the old huts. We made some tinder, which saved each man the trouble of a two hours' watch over the fires at night.

6th October
While at Rabbit Island a ship was seen, firs were started on the island, four of us took the boat and made a chase but could not catch her. She must have seen the smoke, as we were within a couple of miles from her, and she was passing us we hoisted the sail to attract her attention, but on she went, leaving us to pull home in very low spirits. This caused visits to be paid to Rabbit Island very often. There we got a number of rabbits by knocking them over with sticks.
As spring set in we got some sea-fowls eggs, which were a great change and caught quite a number of fish. About November 1st, we caught another goat; and on the 8th December, the other boat returned for good. We were at this time able to make coats, vests, and trousers out of seal skins. Those who had been at Musgrave's had nothing made of sealskin; but, they patched up their clothes with the remaining pieces of canvas. One day, while at the old huts, which had been burned, when gathering nails, found an axe; and the same day those at home got on the stump of an old tree in front of the hut we lived in.
We commenced to fit up the boat for a passage to New Zealand, as before the summer was over she was expected to start - D.V. The boat left on January 22nd, '67, not being able to start before on account of the weather. Her crew consisted of Bartholomew Brown, chief officer, William Newton Scott, Andrew Morrison, Peter McNevin, A.B.'s. The boat had been decked over with seal's skin. They carried about 30 gallons of water in seal gullets, and some seal's meat, and the flesh of three goats, and about twenty dozen of eggs - all cooked. There was also a very small stove made by W.N. Scott, and some charcoal to burn in it. They had no compass or nautical instrument of any sort.
They did not know the course, as they thought that steering east-north east would bring them to New Zealand, but since we have learned that the course was north, or a little to the west of north. When the boat left the wind was S.W., but it shifted the first night to the N.W., with rain. It blew very hard most of the night. On the 23rd it shifted to the S.W., and remained so till the 29th with fine weather, giving them ample time to reach New Zealand if they survived the first night. There is a possibility that they might have made Campbell Islands, a s they are about 100 miles in a easterly direction; if so, they are most likely there still.
After the boat was away about five weeks, we began to give her up, and thought of keeping a look-out on Enderby's for passing ships, and where seal might be procured without the constant use of the boat, which we were obliged to take great care of.

8th March
Went to Enderby's and built two huts, also built a small hut for a look-out station, where a look-out was kept from daylight till dark all the time we were on the island, the men taking it in turn. On the 23rd April, we gathered a pile of wood for lighting as a signal, in case a ship was seen.
When the huts were being built we went to North Harbour in search of boards along the beach, and saw quite a number of pigs. We caught a small one, and were within five or six feet of several large ones, but could catch none. Any sort of weapon would have been of great use. Seal being very plentiful on Enderby's we had but little trouble in procuring enough to eat. Before winter set in we went to Musgrave's and brought some casks, and the oil boiler for making salt in. Salted some seal down, and it was well we did so, as the winter was very severe.

 

 

The Castaway's hut and pig pen

from the Kelly Tarlton General Grant Archive

Had we been living at the old hut we should probably have been obliged quite often to have gone without anything to eat, as there were three or four weeks together the boat could not have been used. Our original woollen clothes being all worn out, it took us all out time to mend and manufacture seal's skin coats, and make thread from the New Zealand flax. About this time we found, on the mainland on a stave on which was written with charcoal the words "Minerva - 4 men, 1 officer - Leith - May 10th, 1864 - March 25th, 1865."
A man's name had evidently been added, but was illegible. From the relative position of the words, our impression was, that the word Leith had reference to the man or men, and not to the Minerva. During the month of June we caught a small pig, which was kept three months before she was killed. On the 3rd September 1867, David McLelland, and old man of 62, who had passed through our hardships, departed this life.

This sad event, owing to its suddenness, and which by many was unexpected, cast a feeling of deep gloom upon us. He was buried upon the sand hill on Enderby Island. Previous to his death he stated that he was born in Ayr, Scotland, and had, for some years, been employed by the firm of Messrs Todd and McGregor, in Glasgow. His wife still resides in Partick, Glasgow.
We were badly off for some means of capturing the pigs, but at last hit upon the following plan:- We had seen them in the bay several times and could catch none; I at last proposed a "hook," which was ridiculed by some, but I determined to try it, and as I had some pieces of old iron, that from time to time were picked up, I got a half-inch bolt and pointed it, bent it in the shape of as good a hook as might be expected under the circumstances, and then made a flax line, secured it to the hook, and made the hook slightly fast to a pole 10 feet long.
A few days later we saw pigs on the beach; tried the hook and found it a success. I hooked a fine sow, the rod pulling from the fastening of the hook, leaving her fast to the rope; also caught a small one. We all made hooks, but as the weather was till bad, we were unable to get out to the place where the pigs were most plentiful. Three or four weeks later, on going along the shore, we got another young pig. We had not our hooks ready, but as he took to the water, we caught him by means of the boat.
Next day, were prepared with our hooks - saw seven, and caught three, proving the success of our weapon for pig hunting. Two days after this, went to North Harbour, or, as we have named it, Pig Bay. Killed two large pigs, and brought home nine small ones alive. Had we been accustomed to hooks, we would have got many more. Following week killed seven, and brought home five small ones alive home. Were not out again for two weeks; this time was taken up in fixing our pig-yards, and in planting out potatoes.
I forgot to mention that about the old huts in different parts of the island, which had been previously used as gardens by the old settlers, we found some very small potato growing wild. Marked the places where they grew, and when ripe gathered them for seed. About this time we sent off a small boat, in the hope that some vessel might pick it up, and thus learn our existence. We subsequently sent off another small boat, and at various times sent away the inflated bladders of the pigs and goats we killed, with a slip of wood attached to them.
The boats were formed of a rough piece of iron so as to trim the little craft by the stern, to keep her before the wind - a short stout mast, with a tin sail, completed the little vessel. On the deck of the boat was carved the ship's name, date, and place of the wreck, number of survivors, and the date on which the boat itself was launched.
The same particulars were also punched with a nail into the tin sail, and carved on the labels attached to the bladders. We also put the words "want relief" on the bows of the boats and on the sails and labels. Another boat and several bladders were ready to be sent adrift when we were taken off by the Amherst. All the seeds planted by the Southland are dead.
The next time we were in Pig Bay, nine pigs were killed, and we caught three small ones. It rained hard in the afternoon. We took shelter, and it did not clear up till the next morning. After standing round the fire all night, in the morning felt more like sleeping than pig-hunting, so we started for home. We salted the pigs down.
We were preparing to go out again and build a hut to shelter us from the rain, as we intended to salt all the pigs we got for a winter's stock. We were to let loose all the small ones on Enderby's to stock the island. Seal were getting scare, but our troubles were soon to end.

19th November
The man on the look-out sighted a sail to the eastward of the Island, which afterwards proved to be the "Fanny" (cuter bound to this Island; but as she passed on without seeming to notice the smoke we made as a signal to her we began to give up all hopes, not knowing that relief was near at hand.

On the 21st November sighted the brig Amherst, Captain P. Gilroy, of Invercargill, running along the land from the southward. The boat was launched, and we pulled and got on board. We were very kindly received by both officers and crew. On the following morning, after nearly nineteen months of the severest hardships, all of us were taken aboard.

22nd November
Let loose the pigs upon the island for the benefit of others. When all of us were aboard, we had such clothes given us as could be well spared by both the officers and crew of the brig Amherst.
Everything aboard was given with the greatest kindness, and, in fact, we could not be better treated by them.

5th December
We saw the Fanny (cutter) in Carnley's Harbour. The captain having seen the papers left by the Victoria at Musgrave's on the back of which we had written our names, where we were, and the name of ship in which we were wrecked, had put his casks ashore, and was on the way to look for us when we saw him. For this we feel greatly thankful to Captain Ackers and the crew of the cutter Fanny.