A Barque Wrecked on the Groyne
Sorrowful incidents and Sights
Gallant Work by Pilots
One of the saddest calamities of the night happened about seven o'clock. A little before that time the lights of a barque were seen from the Lawe top between the piers. The vessel was apparently unmanageable, and had got too far to the south, and a number of pilots who saw the impending fate of the vessel rushed down to the beach in the teeth of a perfect tornado of wind and driving rain and sand. The vessel came straight for the Groyne, and dashed with terrific force, stem on, against the superstructure. Her stern swung round, and the vessel heeled over on her side, over which the seas swept with relentless fury. The men took to the rigging for safety, but in such turbulent waters it was apparent that the masts could not long bold out. In the reflected light of the lighthouse the men could be easily seen on the yards, and in response to the cries from those on the Groyne they came one after another, towards the jibboom which was lying almost at arm's length from the end of the pier. As each sea surged up the poor fellows were completely buried in it and the spray flung itself with terrible force on the pier and in the faces of the comparatively few onlookers of the grim spectacle. The men on shore were powerless to render aid, and they shouted to the shipwrecked sailors to jump into the surf towards them. They crouched along the jibboom, but for some time they hesitated to take the jump, which was their only alternative to being eventually swept overboard. One of the youngest of the crew fell off the jibboom, either from exposure or the force of the wind. Providentially he was able to immediately grasp a piece of floating spar, and in another moment he was borne by a breaker close to the spot where the rescuers were standing. He was pulled ashore in a helpless state, and borne on the shoulders of half a dozen sturdy young pilots to the pilots' look-out house. Mr John Purvis had in the meantime provided hot coffee and stimulants, and under these, and the kindest of treatment, the youth soon recovered. Dry clothes were obtained from pilots' houses in the vicinity.
The scenes at the end of the pier were of an agonising description. The poor fellows clinging to the jibboom shrieked in abject terror, while all their rescuers could do was to shout to them to jump for their lives. Nearly twenty minutes went by before the first man dropped from the jibboom of the vessel, and as the surf swept him along he was grasped by those waiting to render succour. Then a second followed and was rescued in the same way. One was assisted to the Life Brigade House and the youngest was carried to the pilots watch house. The fourth man while making for the jibboom fell into the trough of the sea. A huge breaker curled round him and he was for a moment lost sight of. But he reappeared on the surface again with the receding wave, and a second sea washed him helplessly against the pier side where he was snatched from certain death by the rescuing party. He was carried shoulder high to the pilots' house, apparently more dead than alive, and nearly an hour elapsed before he came to consciousness. He was wrapped in warm clothing and carried to where his shipwrecked mates were sitting. As the whole circumstances and surroundings dawned upon him he broke into fervent prayer, his voice chattering with the cold, but for several minutes he shouted in loud tones, in his mother tongue, his earnest exhortation for the safety of the remainder of his shipmates. It was therefore a welcome relief to him, as it was to everyone, when a messenger arrived a few minutes later; with the news that the last of the crew had been rescued. The last four men, owing to the vessel shifting its position, were almost able to jump from the ship to the pier. The vessel proved to be the Norwegian barque Christiani, which was from Kragero, to which port she belongs, bound to the North Shields Fish Quay with ice.
Interview with the Captain
An Exciting Voyage
Captain Steirnsen, in an interview with a Gazette representative said the Christiani, a vessel of 375 tons, was owned by Mr H, Larsen. Kragero, which port she left ten days ago. The voyage had been a protracted one, the vessel having experienced very heavy weather and contrary winds during the whole of that period. Early yesterday the barque fell in with such terrific weather that very little canvas could be carried. The seas soon began to break over her with such fury that everything had to be secured. From early morning till dusk the storm raged, but when darkness set in the position became most perilous. Owing to the blinding showers of sleet and rain it was almost impossible to see even a few yards ahead. The wind battled about from south to south-east making it difficult for the crew to keep the vessel on an even course. Capt. Steirnsen was grateful indeed that for a moment he was enabled in the lull of the showers of sleet to suddenly catch a glimpse of Souter Point. Light, which, when first seen, was bearing west half south. Captain Steirnsen having happily a knowledge of the coast, at once realised his extreme danger. His first endeavour on seeing the light was to beat out to sea, but the force of the storm was such that this was found entirely out of the question. The only course open was to make for Shields. Within an hour and a half from the time Souter Point light was seen the vessel stranded. Captain Steirnsen attributes the disaster to the barque refusing to answer her helm, which was accountable for by the cross sea running. The Christiani was laden with ice for North Shields. She was a regular trader to the Tyne.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 November 1901
The Norwegian barquentine near the Groyne appears to have suffered the most damage. She is a total wreck.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 14 November 1901