Monday, October 31, 2011

The Royal Charter - A Famous Shipwreck Forgotten Part 3

A little delay in my Royal Charter series as my family was under siege by the stomach flu (and for my Halloween post).  Nothing compared to what these poor people went through, but absolutely miserable nonetheless!

This part of the news article goes into the shipwreck entering peril.  It calls into question (as most people did after the tragedy) why the captain made the choices he did.  In it's own way it also points out that hindsight is 20/20.

I had to chuckle at the comment, " no one who knows Welsh pilots will be surprised...", I mean seriously, if it weren't for the Welsh that risked their lives making a human chain to save the few people they were able to, we may be talking about only one or two having been saved at all.  Yes, they were perhaps not 'Welsh pilots', but I'm not for criticizing a people that placed their lives at risk that night for strangers!

There is one more part to this news article that I will post tomorrow.  While it might not be the most exciting of posts, nor descriptive, it is perhaps the most important genealogically speaking.  It gives the names of those who died in the Royal Charter.  A ships list that is not always the easiest to find if you don't know where to look.

Until then, enjoy the last bit of descriptive drama on the tragedy that was forgotten (at least in America).

"How the Royal Charter ever had the right to get into that atrocious Dules Bay, where the rocks stick up like jagged teeth, is a question quite as easy to ask as it is difficult to understand how the Royal Charter should have ventured to pass Holyhead in a gale without a pilot.  From Holyhead to the point where the ship struck is all danger; and though with the wind off the land and a pilot on board, the course for a ship bound to the Mersey may be in shore, was it the safe course, it may be asked, under opposite circumstances?  Yet it is not to be presumed for a moment that the common signs of weather, or the rules for approaching land, were deliberately set at nought, or that the weather-glasses were not consulted, or that the tidal currents and the notorious indraught on the Welsh coast were forgotten or neglected by the lamented commander of the Roayl Charter and his officers, none of whom, alas! remain to tell the story.  From the moment when it was found that the ship could not make head against the hurricane and the indraught, and that it was impossible to make the Mersey, the fate of the ship need no explanation.  Blue lights and rockets were burnt for a pilot; but, as no one who knows Welsh pilots will be surprised to hear, no pilot appeared; and, pilot or no pilot, it was now too late.  The ship was hove to, and drifting helplessly into Dulas Bay.  Here she let go her anchors, 'keeping her screw working to ease the cables.'  One after the other the cables parted with the strain; at half-past 2 she struck, the tide ebbing, and with the flood she went broadside on to the shelving beach, literally split in two amidships, and was smashed to pieces on the rocks.  We are guilty of no presumption in drawing one conclusion, and that is, the worse than uselessness, the absolutely fatel mischief of the so-called 'auxiliary' screw.  The Royal Charter was, it should be remembered, an iron ship of 2,749 ton, 'originally intended for a sailing vessel, 'but transformed into a screw steamer, 'with engines of 300-horse power.'  The value of these screw engines to a ship of this size and quality seems to us at least problematical; at best it could only serve her in making away across the 'calm belts;' and as a set off to this exceptional service, there was the dead weight of the engines and the space they occupied, often to no purpose.  Whatever may have been the use of the auxiliary screw in calms, it is too certain that in working off a lee shore it was not only not serviceable, but disastrous; it not only failed to claw the ship off, but it failed to ease the cables, and when the spars were cut away, the screw got fouled, and ceased to work.  Is it absurd or unjust to suppose that had there been no auxiliary steam power in the Royal Charter she would never have been permitted to hug a lee shore at night in search of a pilot, with a hurricane dead on her weather bow, and strong indraught to the shore?  Had she trusted to her sailing powers only, would she not have consulted her weather-glasses more anxiously, and kept well out to sea?  We do not attempt to answer these questions, but we ask them deferentially, sorrowfully, and under a due sense of responsibility."

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