Vessel Ashore at Shields
Rescue of the Crew
The unsettled weather of the past few days took a decided turn for the worse last night, when the wind freshened from the north-north-east, and soon assumed serious proportions. The change was not altogether unlooked for. The aspect of the weather seawards had foreboded an approaching storm, and vessels arriving last night reported that the elements were wild in the extreme outside. About midnight the wind came away in ominous gusts, but the storm was really delayed till several hours later. The wind veered round another point to the east, and was blowing great guns at daybreak, the scene at the harbour's mouth being of a most tempestuous character. The North Pier came in, as usual, for the worst of the buffetting, and afforded a spectacle of rare grandeur, the entire superstructure being sometimes virtually flooded by the breaking seas, which sent their volumes of spray several hundreds of feet into mid air. The North Pier end and the lighthouse were completely lost to view every now and again in the tremendous waves which enveloped it, and from that point almost to the castle cliff the seas raced along the pier wall in terribly quick succession. A stormy sea was also breaking across the bar.
A large number of steamers and sailing craft made between the piers in safety, and got into the Narrows with no worse experience than receiving a few breakers onboard. Disaster however came unexpectedly. The coastguard sighted the approach of a large barque in the offing, in tow of a tug which seemed to be wrestling terribly with its ponderous charge. The barque had a good stretch of canvas, but, notwithstanding, she was with difficulty kept to the wind. Twice she snapped her towline, and was recaptured but the hawser gave way once more when close to the South Pier and she drifted helplessly away under the resistless force of wind and waves. The exciting incident was watched from the shore by a large number of people, and of course by the coastguard. It seemed inevitable that she would strike, and more than likely on the pier end, in which case the vessel would have been doomed to immediate destruction. The tug ran alongside as far as it was prudent, but the barque was beyond all control now and beyond human aid. A second tug came up and attempted to get her rope aboard, but the effort had to be relinquished.
The ill-fated vessel, still carrying a good deal of canvas, was borne swiftly towards the pier end, and crashed stem first into the solid masonry. Her jibboom and bowsprit were snapped off like matchwood, and for a moment it looked as if she had come to grief herself. But the wind and sea beat her off, and she ultimately drove ashore on the beach about a hundred yards from the side of the pier. Almost at the moment she took the shore the rocket van and apparatus was on its way down the pier in charge of Chief Coastguardsman Collis and his men. Meanwhile the alarm guns had boomed the melancholy news through the town, and the efforts of the coastguard were soon supplemented by the members of the Volunteer Life Brigade, who mustered in strong force. Crowds of people came as well from all parts and of all sorts, women and girls being probably in the majority. They thronged the pier and its approaches, and collected in crowds on the beach as well, where a splendid view was obtained of the rescuing work. The coastguards took the wise precaution of closing the gates against all but those who were able to render aid, and the work went on unhampered, and with commendable promptitude.
The first rocket was fired a very few minutes after the ship came ashore, and the shot proved a splendid one, but the line fell across topmast yard and was virtually out of reach. A second rocket had the desired effect, and the hawser was made fast to the main yard. The buoy was on its way to the ship a moment later, and the first to get into the breeches was the apprentice. The vessel was rolling now and again through the action of the breakers on the shore, and exceeding difficulty was necessarily experienced in keeping the hawser taut. The transit from the ship to the shore was, therefore, something more than unpleasant. The breeches dipped repeatedly into the surf, and at one time the little fellow had to be dragged a long distance through and sometimes under the water. In an exhausted state he was, however finally landed on terra firma, where strong and kindly arms received him, and as quickly as possible he was escorted to the Brigade House where he was relieved of his dripping clothes and supplied with hot coffee. One by one the crew—nine in all —were hauled ashore, the master, Capt. Orlleng, being the last to quit his vessel. Each return of the breeches buoy was watched with the keenest excitement as the poor fellows sometimes disappeared completely for a moment in the surf. Beyond a severe wetting and slight exhaustion, however, they were none the worse. Dr Crease was in attendance at the Brigade House, and took a conspicuous share in looking after the interests of the shipwrecked men.
It was not until the first man had been brought ashore that the name of the vessel transpired. She is the Salveen, a Norwegian barque, and was on a voyage from Riga with deals. She left that port on October 23rd, and experienced bad weather all the voyage. Three days ago she was off the Tyne, but was beaten away by the wind. Another unsuccessful attempt was made to make for the Tyne the following day, but it was not until this morning that she was able to pick up a tug. She was taken in tow about five miles off the harbour, and, as stated, had to be hove on two occasions owing to the towline parting.
The officers of the Life Brigade on duty at the wreck were Captains G. R. Potts, Geo. Robson, J. W. Buckland, and J. Page, and there was a very large beat up of members. A watch is being kept at the brigade house.
Statement by One of the Crew
A Tempestuous Voyage
In an interview with one of the crew of the stranded barque Salveen, our representative gleaned some particulars of the voyage, which had been a tempestuous one throughout. The Salveen left Riga on the 23rd of last month, bound for the Tyne, laden with a cargo of deals, under the command of Captain Orlleng. They had not been at sea very long till contrary winds set in, and the weather gradually got worse. The strong wind developed into a severe north-east gale, which continued with unabated force, in consequence of which the crew had to be continually on duty, and had a wearisome time of it. Dense fogs subsequently prevailed, and Captain Orlleng was obliged to bring up and lie at anchor off Elsinore, where the vessel was detained for one day.
Once more on the passage stormy weather again predominated. The wind, however, chopped round from the north-east to northwest, and blew with terrific force. The seas ran tremendously high, making a complete breach over the barque fore and aft. The crew performed their duties under very disadvantageous circumstances in consequence of the vessel being laden with a deck cargo, but so far none of it was washed away. This state of matters continued for a period of five days, during which time there was no abatement in the storm. When in the middle of the North Sea, large quantities of planks and boards were passed, having evidently been washed from some vessel laden with a deck cargo. The weather was most severe during the whole of the passage across the North Sea, the crew being constantly on deck.
Three days ago the Salveen was approaching the mouth of the harbour, but in the face of the seas, and the strong winds, it was deemed prudent to stand "off " and wait till the gale showed signs of slackening. The vessel was accordingly put about and after driving about for that period, a light was sighted for the first time. This light was concluded to be in the direction of the harbour. The crew observed that they were near land this morning. When somewhere about five miles outside a steam tug came within sight, and eventually came within hailing distance and it was resolved that an attempt should be made to tow the Salveen to the Tyne. There was a huge sea running, and it seemed almost at times that the vessels were going to be engulfed. There had to be a great amount of seamanship exercised by the tug men to get near enough the barque for the purpose of having a line on board. This was, however, successfully accomplished, though not without a considerable amount of difficulty and risk. A start was at last made to tow the Salveen to the harbour, when through the immense strain caused by the vessel rolling in the sea, the tow line parted, and the barque was at the mercy of the wind and waves. The tug men gallantly stood by and again got a second line on board, and once again the barque was towed towards the Tyne, but this line was also parted. The shipwrecked men further said another tug came to their rescue. Those on board the second tug, observing the imminent danger of the barque, as she was then being rapidly carried on shore by the wind and sea, endeavoured to get a line aboard of her from the stern, but this could not be accomplished, and the Salveen drove ashore. The shipwrecked people, some of whom speak remarkably good English, appeared little the worse after being brought ashore.
The Salvaan is a vessel of 271 tons register, and is 101 feet in length. She was built at Moulmein in 1851 for the East Indian Company, her hull being constructed of teak. She was pierced for 18 guns for fighting purposes. She is at present owned in Mandal by Emil Salvesen.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 23 November 1895