and drowned about 300 coolies. The steamer Thunder
♦This steamer had an adventurous career; ten years earlier, when
fitting out for the Crimea, she was nearly destroyed by fire in dock at
Southampton. When the G.S.S.Co. failed, she was converted to a
sailing ship, and her name changed to Russia. She proved an excellent
windjammer; and was still afloat in the nineties, under the Norwegian
SOUTHAMPTON " AFTER THE CALCUTTA CYCLONE, 1864.
AFTER THE CALCUTTA CYCLONE, 1864.
[To face Page 144.
drove right over the wreck of the American barque
North Atlantic and settled down across her poop. The
Govindpore and another vessel, which had broken from
the Esplanade moorings, collided and sank opposite the
Custom House. The Newcastle and Renown of Green's,
Marshall's Winchester- and the deep watermen Knight
Commander, Great Tasmania, Camper down, Childivall
Abbey, Aphrodita, Broughton Hall, Astronomer, Aaron
Brown, Ann Roijden, and many others, together with
the P. & O. steamers Nubia, Hindostan, Bengal and
elseif (getClientWidth() > 430)
Nemesis were all stranded and badly damaged.
Deeds of the most heroic in life-saving took place
unrecorded during this scene of wild confusion and
wreckage. The driving rain was so thick that no one
could see more than a few feet beyond his own centre of
trouble. Whilst the big ships drove lurching and
cannoning up stream, on all sides of them dinghys,
cargo wallahs and other native boats were being over-
whelmed and destroyed in their thousands.
Ashore 92 European houses were laid flat and 2296
damaged according to the police reports, whilst of
blown -down native huts and go -downs no count was ever
attempted. Church steeples buckled and fell; roofs
lifted off and took wing : the air was thick with jalousies,
punkahs, awnings and sun blinds; whilst well stayed
topgallant and royal masts cracked like carrots.
It was due to this cyclone that the order was given
for all topgallant masts to be struck in Calcutta during
the cyclone months; our illustration of the Esplanade
moorings shows this order in full force.
Down the river the cyclone wave swept over the
banks and far inland. At the Sunderbunds thousands
of natives and thousands of wild beasts were drowned.
\t Saugor Island every hut was swept away and only a
146 THE BLACKWALL FRIGATES
few natives saved themselves by climbing trees, the
sea covering the kuid to the depth of 16 feet.
'♦Hotspur" and 'Alnwick Castle" ride out a
Cyclone at the Sandheads.
Less than three weeks after this storm, Calcutta
was again visited, but this time escaped the full force,
but off the Sandheads the newly arrived Blackwallers,
Hotspur and Alnwick Castle, had the brunt of it.
Captain Toynbee's notes are worth quoting: —
21st October. — 6 p.m., came to an anchor. 10.30 p.m., turned the
bands out. Down topgallant and royal yards. Veered out all the
cable on port chain. Midnight, barometer 29.82. Wind gradually
increasing with heavy squalls and tremendous rain. 1 a.m., wind E.S.E.
A cyclone was manifestly passing over us. The lightning was beyond
description. The rain fell in a sheet rather than in drops, and one may
truly say that the darkness could be felt except when the red glare of the
lightning made all visible. 2 a.m., wind began to shift to south, and
round to N.W. The hardest gusts from S.W. lay the ship over as if she
had been carrying a heavy press of canvas, and it must have been then
that our topgallant masts blew over the side. Considering that each
of these masts was supported by three stays and six backstays, and that
the yards were down on deck, one could hardly have believed it possible
that it could blow hard enough to carry them away : the sound of their
fall was not heard from the deck. I had sent the crew below to get
some coffee, and had told the boatswain and his mates that after they
had drunk it we must strike our masts. During a flash of lightning I
looked aloft and saw the three hanging in the topmast rigging. 4.30
a.m., after a furious clap of thunder the wind shifted to N.W. and blew
only a hard gale. The ship's stern was now exposed to the S.E. sea,
which was coming up in great rollers and topping tremendously like
awful breakers : this filled our stern cabins full of water, but it decreased
The loss of the topgallant masts is thus vividly
described by the late Captain Whall, who was a midship-
man on board, in his most interesting book School and
Sea Days: —
In the midst of this terrific elemental war we went on with our work
aloft. Another hour's hard labour and we got the topgallant yard on
deck. Still we had not done ; the masts follow, for it was a matter of
life or death, though we youngsters did not realise it. If our cable
parted we should be on the sands in half an hour, and if once we touched
there was no chance of life.
We were almost spent, but the three of us again clambered aloft to
the mizen top to wait till the mast rope was sent up to us. Hardly had
we got there when a terrific gust blew the furled mizen topsail adrift,
which for a few moments bellied and flapped out in the storm. Some
men were sent from the deck to resecure it : the first of them showed
his face up through the lubber's hole, his face ghastly white in the glare
of the lightning.
" Hurry up!" I yelled to him. He gave one scared look round at me,
at the slattering sail, at the surroundings generally, then, with a cry of
" Oh, blazes ! I'm off ! " he disappeared.
At that moment came another fierce gust, the topsail gave one huge
flap ; then, torn from the yard, it flew into the darkness to leeward hke
a gigantic bird. The lightning was now beyond description, and as the
fearful force of the wind made any kind of work impossible, we lay
clinging where we were, between sea and sky, and watched the awful
spectacle. At the mastheads sat three blue globes of flame — which
sailors call corposants — and the flashes of lightning came down in a way
I never saw but once before or since, in straight lines from sky to sea.
I suppose we ought by rights to have gone down to the deck, but we
had not been called down, and so there we remained, hanging on for
dear life. Suddenly the middy by my side, having happened to look
aloft during a lightning flash, roared out: — " The topgallant masts are
gone ! " I looked up. Yes, they were hanging in the rigging, having
broken short off at the topmast caps, and though we lay not 20 feet from
the broken mast we did not hear its fall in the roar of the storm.
" Jolly good job ! " cried I. " Let's get down out of this." And
down we went."
The Alnwick Castle had her topmasts blown clean out
of her just as she was anchoring two miles from the
Hotspur. Her fore and main lower mastheads and
half the mizen lower mast as well as the jibboom went
with the topmasts.
But like the Hotspur she weathered it out, though she
must have had a still worse time. She had troops on
board, who were, of course, battened down below and
one hesitates to think what that troop deck was like
through t^hat long and terrible night.
148 THE BLACKWALL FRIGATES
*'St. Lawrence" in the Madras Cyclone of
Madras Roads in a cyclone are a mass of boiling
surf for as far as 4 miles from the beach, and ships
caught here are usually doomed. Amongst a number of
fine ships the famous Hotspur came to her end during a
Madras cyclone, as we shall see later in the book.
And in November, 1871, the St. Lawrence nearly
shared her fate. The late Captain Whall kept a very
complete account of his experience in this cyclone,
which is worth preserving : —
4th November, 1871. — Noon, 9 miles south of Madras. As soon as
the anchorage came in sight, braced sharp up and headed for the
shipping. 3 p.m., could not fetch in owing to the strong current. When
5 miles south of Madras Light and two miles off shore tacked off, nearly
missing stays. Midnight, tacked, heading up about N.N.W. | W.
5th November. — 5.30 a.m., found ourselves close in below Sadras
having been set nearly 30 miles to the southward. Tacked (missed stays)
and stood off. Noon, lat. 12° 3' N.. long. 80° 44' E. A heavy sea from
N.E.ward, and increasing breeze north, fine clear weather. 4 p.m.,
hard gusts ; in topgallant sails. 6 p.m., beginning to look squally.
Wind N. by E., head sea getting heavier. 9 p.m.. wind unsteady, N.N.E.
to N. by W. 11 p.m., heavy squalls from north, stowed courses, kept
away S.E. Midnight, fresh gale. Wind N. by W. Barometer 29.90,
6th November. — 1 a.m., N. 1° W. to N. 2° W. wind. Hard squalls with
rain and thick weather. A red brick dust glare, stowed upper topsails.
Barometer 29.87. 4 a.m., wind north. Barometer 29.82. 5 a.m.,
very severe squall with a strong sulphurous smell accompanying it and
heavy rain from N.E. 6 to 8 a.m.. wind N.E. to N.N.E. and N.J E.
Moderate gale, dirty thick weather. Wind gradually hauling. We
have been keeping off gradually since midnight and are now steering
S. by E. Dirty leaden appearance to eastward and sea still getting up.
9 a.m., wind N. by W. Barometer 29.84. Heavy gale. 10 a.m., wind
N.N.W. increasing fast and sea rising very quickly to a tremendous
height. Sent down fore and mizen topgallant yards. Got up mast
rope for main, but were obliged to call the hands down. Barometer
29.81. 11 a.m., in lower topsails, ship labouring fearfully and awful
sea running, hove to on port tack, hauled down foretopmast staysail and
put a boat sail in mizen rigging, which however we soon took down
again. Barometer 29.72. Noon, wind N.W\ blowing a hurricane.
Lat. by ace, 10« 44' N., long, by ace, 82° 35' E. Ship laying to very
well, lee side of main deck in the water. 1 p.m., wind N.W. blowing
furiously. Barometer 29.40. 2 p.m., wind N.W. blowing furiously.
Barometer 29.25. 2.30 p.m., wind N.W. blowing furiously. Barometer
28.96. 3 p.m. (about), a tremendous gust from W.S.W. which laid the
lee side of poop in the water, starboard cutter and the main rail washed
away: jibboom went, in the cap taking with it fore topgallant mast.
Barometer 28.80. 3.30 p.m., wind at greatest force between 3 and 3.30.
By 3.30 wind began to decrease and haul rapidly to southward. Baro-
meter 29.02. 4 p.m., wind S.S.W. decreasing. Barometer 29.22.
6 p.m., called all hands to clear the wreck. Barometer 29.39. 6 p.m.,
wind S. by W. Barometer 29.50. 10 p.m., wind south, lightning to
9th November. — Came to anchor in Madras Roads.
In reading these terse accounts of cyclones, one
should let one's imagination go to its limit, and even
then it will fail to give one any real inkling of what a
cyclone is really like.
The cyclone breath not only has a thousand claws
which tear at you, but it hits you as well like a sledge
hammer; it freezes your marrow, and yet chokes you
with suffocating fumes; it screams at you like a lost
soul and booms sullenly like a caged demon. It blinds
you with flying scud, drowns you with rain, stuns you
with hail, and sets you tingling with electric fluid.
But beyond all this, there is something about a
cyclone which is akin to the earthquake and volcanic
eruption. It is more than a convulsion of Nature, it
transcends all ordinary natural phenomenon in a way
which science with its laws has not yet been able to
satisfactorily explain. It is as supernatural as a ghost.
And those who have experienced it have a feeling that
it is an expression of Divine force, operating from beyond
our planet's atmosphere to the limits of the solar system
And it is this feeling which oppresses the sailor in a
cyclone, which subdues his spirit and grips his uneasy
150 THE BLACKWALL FRIGATES
heart, until his being vibrates with nerve-shaking
The Old ♦*Seringapatam."
It is now time to turn to the famous old Blackwall
frigates themselves and treat them separately.
We will commence with the year 1837, when a new
and improved type of Blackwall passenger ship came
into being, which marked a considerable step forward
in ship designing and made the old East Indiaman of
the Hon. John Company an out-of-date back number.
From this year to 1870 runs the era of the Blackwall
frigate, as distinct from the era of the East Indiaman
as it was distinct from the era of the iron passenger
The first of these Blackwall frigates was Green's
famous Seringapatam. An advance in size by some
200 tons from the earlier ships of Green & VVigram,
she was a still greater advance in design.
In her the heavy double stern and quarter galleries of
the old "tea waggons" were done away with and a very
much lighter stern substituted. This at the time was
considered a tremendous innovation. And the im-
provement in speed, which was proved by her long
record of quick and regular passages, caused her to be
used as a model for many of Green's later vessels. She
once left London on 26th June, passed the Lizard 7th
July and reached Bombay 30th September, making
an 85 -day passage from the Lizard, and this was by no
means an exceptional passage. Many others were
The old "Seringy," as she was always called, had a
figurehead that caused her to be known all over India.
Prom an old Lilfioc/raph
FIGUREHEAD OF THE OLD " SKRINGY."
[To face Page 150.
It represented Tippoo Sahib, with a drawn scimitar in
his hand, and was always kept carefully painted in the
Natives, when passing the old "Seringy," when she
lay in the Calcutta River, would always salaam to this
figurehead and, raising their oars in salute, would
exclaim aloud with admiration as they gazed up at
Tippoo, crying out: — "Wha, wha ! bhote atcha ! bliote
The Seringapatam was commanded on her first voyage
by Captain George Denny, then she was taken l>y
Captain James Furnell, later the well known superin-
tendent of Green's Sailors Home, where he remained
until his death in 1878.
The famous old ship weathered out a cyclone in 70° S.,
58° E., in September, 1851. Captain Furnell hove to
and allowed the centre to pass him. Ten years earlier
she was surrounded by icebergs when running her
easting down but came to no harm. The Seringapatam
was still afloat in the sixties.
George Cupples, the author of the Green Hand,
mentions passing her on his way up the Hooghly in the
Westminster. He writes: —
As we opened one broad, bright reach, where the mouth of another
river seemed to enter, we came in sight of a noble Indiaman, with sides
like a frigate's, canvas stowed on the yards and anchor down, lying
stationary about a quarter of a mile in from our course: the
Seringapatam, of 1200 tons. She had troops on board, and the sounds
of a military band, playing for dinner-time, floated to us across the
water in the well-known notes of " Rule Britannia." While we glided
slowly by her numerous crew greeted our ship with a hearty three
cheers, which was responded to from the Westmiyistey.
So let us leave the old "Seringy," her band playing
"Rule Britannia" and her company cheering.
152 THE BLACKWALL FRIGATES
The Mystery of the "Madagascar."
The Madaffascar, built on the same linos as the
Seringapatam, was also known for her speed, and on one
occasion ran from the Cape to the Channel in 43 days.
The disappearance of this ship when homeward bonnd
from Melbourne in 1853 is still more or less of a mystery.
When Green began sending ships out to Australia, in
the boom of the gold excitement, Madagascar, under
Captain Fortescue Harris, became very popular with
In July, 1853, she lay in Port Phillip with the Blue
Peter flying, a full complem'^.nt of passengers and
68,390 ounces of gold dust on board. Just as she was
about to sail, Melbourne detectives hurried on board
and arrested two of her passengers for being concerned
in the Mclvor Gold Escort robrjcry, which had been the
latest piece of robbery under arms to excite the Colony.
The passengers were tried, and though a great deal of
gold dust was discovered in their baggage on the
Madagascar , the crime could not be brought home to
them. After being delayed a month by this affair,
the Madagascar sailed. And when time passed and she
did not arrive, all sorts of rumours began to circulate in
order to account for her disappearance, but the most
general belief was that she had been captured by a
number of desperadoes, who, it was said, had taken
passages in her for that very purpose.
Years afterwards the following story went the round
of the Colonies. A woman in New Zealand, being on
her death -bed, sent for a clergyman and said that she
had been a nurse on the ill-fated Madagascar. Accord-
ing to her, the crew and several of the passengers
mutinied, when the ship was in the South Atlantic.
Captain Harris and his officers were all killed; and the
MADAGASCAR TBAGEDIES 153
rest of the passengers, with the exception of some of the
young women, were locked up below. The boats were
then lowered, and the gold and young women put into
them. Finally the mutineers followed, having set
fire to the ship and left their prisoners to burn.
However, they soon paid for their crimes with their
own lives, for only one of the boats, containing six
men and five women (the narrator amongst them)
succeeded in reaching the coast of Brazil, and even this
boat was capsized in the surf and its cargo of stolen
gold dust lost overboard.
The sufferings of its crew had been severe enough on
the sea, but on land they grew more terrible day by day.
At last a small settlement was reached. But this
proved a death trap, for yellow fever was raging. In
a very short time only two of the mutineers and this
woman remained alive. They, after more hardships
and privations, at last reached civilisation. Then the
two scoundrels, after having dragged the woman with
them through every kind of iniquity, eventually
deserted her. One of them disappeared entirely, but
the other, according to her, was hanged in San Francisco
The woman described herself as having been a nurse
on board the Madagascar; and this may have been
possible as there was a Mrs. de Cartaret with her
children on board.
This brings up another tragedy connected with the
Whilst the Madagascar lay in Port Phillip and her
captain was having the usual difficulty in procuring a
crew for the run home, the Roxburgh Castle arrived from
London. This was on 21st July. On board the
Roxburgh Castle was a certain Mrs de Cartaret with her
154 THE BLACKWALL FRIGATES
three children, who had come out to join her husband,
a well-known member of the Melbourne Bar.
As the Roxburgh Castle approached her anchorage
Mrs. de Cartaret obtained a local paper from the pilot,
and the first thing that caught her eyes on glancing at
the Melbourne news was the announcement of the death
of her husband. Prostrated by the blow and at the
same time stranded in a strange country, her only idea
was to get home again. And so the captain of the Rox-
burgh Castle arranged for her passage on the ill-fated
Madagascar. No mention is made of a nurse, but it
would be very unlikely to fird a well-to-do woman with
three children travelling without a nurse.
Mrs. de Cartaret 's father and sister lived at Yelverton,
and for long years after the Madagascar was given up
kept her rooms ready prepared for her.
In 1899 a Plymouth solicitor, who had travelled out
to Melbourne on business in the Roxburgh Castle, met the
surviving sister, and the whole story was retold.
Apparently the devoted father and sister of Mrs. de
Cartaret refused to give up hope, and waited and waited
until at last death took them also.
The nurse's story can never be proved ; but it is likely
enough, for before Madagascar sailed there were many
sinister rumours in Melbourne concerning the objects
and antecedents of her crew and many of her passengers.
Besides the Madagascar, the Earl of Hardivicke,
Ouen Glendowcr, Vernon and Agincourt were all closely
modelled on the lines of the Seringapatam.
•*Owen Glendower"— "I can call Spirits
from the Vasty Deep."
The Owen Glendower was specially noted for her
good looks, and so much was she admired that she had
OWEN GLENDOWER 155
the words, "I can call spirits from the vasty deep,"
painted across the front of her poop.
She gave a proof of her splendid sea-going qualities
when she weathered out the great Royal Charier gale
without suffering any damage. And passengers always
found her a most comfortable ship.
In her early days foreign merchantmen were in the
habit of lowering their topsails to the Owen Glendower
as if to a man-of-war. Indeed this compliment was
paid to many of the Blackwall frigates both before and
after her time, and is a proof of the close resemblance
they bore to frigates of the Royal Navy.
Owen Glendower and Vernon were both launched with
side paddles, but the machinery did not prove a success
and it was removed before sailing.
Both ships were put on the Australian run during the
gold rush. Below I give an Australian shipping
advertisement from the Melbourne Herald of 5th March,
BLACKWALL LINE OF PACKETS
For LONDON Direct.
To sail with strict punctuality on Thursday,
The favourite frigate-built ship,
1200 tons, Henry Thomas Dickenson, commander.
(Belonging to Messrs. Green, of Blackwall)
The Oweti Glendower, which is generally allowed to be one of the
most comfortable ships of the Blackwall Fleet, will be positively
despatched for London direct at the above mentioned dale.
Her thorough sea-worthiness was tested under adverse circumstances
in the gale which proved fatal to the Royal Charter, on which occasion
she weathered the storm without suffering any damage whatever
and arrived in Hobson's Bay after a very successful passage.
The cabins in the first class are of that superior order which has
gained for the vessels of the Blackwall Line the reputation of bemg the
156 THE BLACKWALL FRIGATES
most comfortable passenger ships afloat. They are remarkable for
their unusual height between decks, and are admirably adapted to suit
the convenience of famihes. A milch cow is placed on board.
The berths in the second-class department are more than usually
spacious, and the distribution of provisions will be on an exceedingly
liberal scale. Arrangements have been made for providing passengers
in this class with the regular attendance of stewards. The provisions
enumerated in the dietary scale will include a liberal supply of ale,
porter or spirits and a weekly allowance of wine.
The third-class passengers will be supplied with a hberal variety of
the best provisions, and will find that the cabins set apart for their use
are lofty, commodious and judiciously fitted up. The advertised
sailing appointments will be adhered to with the same degree of
punctuality which has hitherto been observed.
Boats are in attendance at the Railway Pier, Sand ridge, to convey
intending passengers to the ship for the purpose of inspection. Free
orders to be obtained from the undersigned.
A surgeon accompanies the ship.
First Cabin Per Agreement
Second Cabin . . . . . . . . . . . . £35
(Including stewards' attendance).
Third Cabin £18 to £25
(Including stewards attendance).
For plans of cabins and second and third class dietary scales, apply
W. P. White & Co., Agents,
10 Elizabeth Street South, Melbourne.
This advertisement is the last notice of her under the
Blaekwall flag, for the Greens sold her when she arrived
Of her sister ships the Earl of Hardwicke was wrecked
on the coast of South Africa in 1863, whilst the Vernon
became a reformatory ship in Sydney harbour.
In 1894, the Vernon was purchased by a Mr. Rae for
breaking up purposes, but whilst she was being dis-
mantled a fire broke out aboard. Near her, in Kerosene
Bay, lay another hulk, the old Golden South. The
Lent by F. G. Lai/ton.
" PRINCE OF WALES."
trom an ola Lithograph.
[To face Page 156.
A MIDSHIPMAN'S LOG 157
sparks from the Vernon blew over the Golden South, and
both ships were soon blazing so furiously that they lit
up the whole harbour all that night.
The "Agincourt." — A Midshipman's Log.
It will be noticed in the list of Blackwall frigates,
given in the Appendix, that the owners of the Blackwall
Yard were very fond of building ships in pairs, one of
the ships going to Green and the other to Wigram.
In 1841 they built the Agincourt for Green and the