The Storm at Sea
Fearful Destruction of Shipping and Loss of Life
Another Wreck at Whitburn
The weather last night set in decidedly stormy, and towards morning blew a fearful squall from the south. The lifeboat crews, on both sides of the river, were in readiness, but no call was made for their services till about ten o’clock this morning, when the steamtug Mariner came to the South Shields Lifeboat Station and gave information that a foreign barque was ashore at Souter Point, and that the Whitburn lifeboat could not get at them. The lifeboat, the “Tyne,” was immediately manned, Joseph Smith in command, and within ten minutes from the appearance of the Mariner off the station she was on her way back with the lifeboat in tow. getting near the wrecked vessel it was seen that assistance had been given her, there were three steamtugs within short distance her, and it was noticed that they were hauling some of the crew of the wrecked vessel through the water with ropes fastened to them. When the Mariner with the Tyne got up to them they found that they were the tugs Robert Scott, William, and Reynard, which had got on board six, two and one of the crew respectively. The captain of the wrecked vessel hailed the Tyne and told them that there was still one of the crew, the mate, lying hurt in the cabin, and asked the lifeboatmen to try to get him out. This was not at all an easy task. The sea was running very high and there was no one board the barque to heave a rope to the lifeboat. However, Mr Smith got the boat as close alongside, as he could with safety, and then seeing an opportunity, one of the crew leaped from the lifeboat to the barque. The feat was a daring one, but it was successful, A rope was then got from the ship to the lifeboatman, and with the assistance of some more of the crew, the mate was brought out of the cabin and safely got into the lifeboat By the time this had been done the North Shields lifeboat, the Northumberland, which had also got a tow down, made her appearance, but fortunately her services were not required; and as it was found that nothing could done for the barque herself, the tugs, with the lifeboat in tow, returned to the Shields. The barque was the Victorine, of Ostend, Captain Classon, from Rotterdam to the Tyne with a cargo of copper ore. She got ashore on the rocks a little to the south of Souter Point, about four o'clock this morning in the midst of a heavy fall of snow. Immediately on the vessel going ashore the crew flew to the boats, and attempted to get them launched, but on getting them into the water the sea was so heavy that the boats were at once capsized. Seeing the danger, the crew prudently left the boats alone. Shortly afterwards the Whitburn lifeboat came out to their assistance. The lifeboat got alongside and got a rope from the barque, but it suddenly snapped, and before the crew could get her round, the lifeboat went ashore, and was so much damaged she could not go out again. The crew of the lifeboat had a narrow escape after the accident.
The following is the Captain’s statement: — “We left Rotterdam nine days with a cargo of copper ore for Shields. We had shipped miscellaneous crew at Rotterdam, consisting of Belgians, Swedes, Norwegians, &c., none of whom save the mate and boatswain and two seamen, I found when at sea, knew anything about the management of the vessel. We had fair weather at starting, and arrived off this coast four or five days ago, and then fell in with heavy squalls and contrary winds, which drove him about and prevented his reaching port. In consequence of the inefficiency of the crew, he, with the mate, boatswain, and two seamen, had to do the whole of the work of the ship. In one of the squalls, the mainsail, foresail, and two jibs were blown away. After knocking about in this manner for several days he arrived off Souter Point, and were standing well for the harbour when at four o'clock this morning a sudden squall came from the N. E. with a thick blinding shower of snow, and drove the ship suddenly in shore, and not having the assistance of an efficient crew, before he could get her about she struck on the rooks a little the south of Souter Point. The squall broke the mizzen-boom, which in falling struck the captain on the right arm and leg and stunned him. The mate was also hurt at the same time. The captain was rendered insensible by the blow from the main boom, and when he recovered consciousness was on board the tug Robert Scott.’’
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 January 1866
The Wreck at Souter
It appears that soon after the Victorine, whose loss on the rocks to the south of Souter Point, we noticed on Saturday, had gone ashore. The occurrence was discovered by the Whitburn coastguard, who proceeded to the spot, and got a rocket fired over the vessel, but unfortunately the crew fastened both the hawser and the endless line, so as to render the apparatus useless. A board containing the instructions written in French, was then fired over the vessel, but nothing came of it. It was at this time that the Whitburn lifeboat came alongside, but the captain having by this time became insensible from the injuries he had received, the crew when the lifeboat came did as they liked, and commenced to load the lifeboat with their clothes and rolls of canvas. Only one man got in. and soon after he did so a heavy sea came, and the rope parted through the heavy strain upon it, and was dashed ashore, the crew with difficulty escaping with their lives.
At an early hour yesterday morning the steamtug Mariner made her appearance, accompanied by the James Mather, salvage boat, and number of men having been put on board the Mary Ann, they at once proceeded to strip her of her sails and ropes. As the tide rose, however, they were compelled to abandon their labour, the water completely covering her hull, and breaking high up her masts. The salvage boat was, therefore, made fast astern of the tug, and towed into the Wear, where that which had been saved was handed over to the customhouse officers, to retain them for the underwriters. The only portions now expected to be recovered are the cable chains, and the vessel is expected become a total wreck.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 15 January 1866