Page 12 - The Wreck of the "Auguste", 1761
ISSUE : Issue 18
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1977/12/1
hearts of all of us, and we knew a fear that we were unable to dispel. To make matters worse, lack of food had sapped our strength. For all this time we had been obliged to exist sparingly on bis? cuits, since we were unable to do any cook? ing. Such food did nothing more than to prevent us from dying. On top of all this, we were all bedridden with sea-sickness. After a short spell of fine weather, a strong east wind blew up on the 9th and car? ried us to the Driser Islands, where we gave wide berth to Bird Island. The wind blew steadily until nine o'clock on the morning of the 11th, by which time we were in sight of Newfoundland. Fine weather made it possible to take some soundings, and at our instigation the cap? tain did so. We found ourselves in kj fath? oms on Orphans' Bank. Although we were spent with fatigue, the prospect of fresh supplies set us all to fishing • and the fishing was good. This period of calm al? most made us forget the dangers through which we had passed, for with two hundred codfish on board we were certain at least of not dying of hunger. We had lost much of our food supplies in our different mishaps. The spell of fine weather was soon over. An east wind with gales and drenching rain drove us before we knew it to the coast of Isle Royale (Cape Breton). We were within an ace of destruction. The night was so dark we became aware of an enormous cliff just as we were about to be dashed against it. The crew, goaded to unusual effort by the instant peril, parried the blow as much by good luck as by skill, for we went past no more than a gunshot from the rocks. To avoid the shoals, we were obliged -to tack to the north-east for five or six hours during the night. About ten o'clock on the morning of the 12th we sighted land. What efforts we could make to keep off-shore were weak and inef? fective. About two o'clock we were near to being carried ashore, and the captain at our insistence dropped anchor. Fortunately it held.-And then the same Divine Hand that had before delivered us from disaster fa? voured us with an auspicious wind. This saved us, for the coast was so near, and so exceedingly dangerous, that we must inevit? ably have come to grief. We beat off the wind and got away from a shore on which we would certainly have perished. On the night of the 12th the wind swung to the east. We rounded the cape and stood a tack to the north for some hours. Then we came about and, on the night of the 13th, tacked to the south-east. These manoeuvres we made with no inkling of where we were, since the weather was always lowering, with heavy rain. Our distress can well be imagined. We were uncertain of our whereabouts and without Cape Breton*a Magaziiie/ia food. The crew, fifteen including the cap? tain, mate, coxswain and deck hands • two of whom were disabled • were in the depths of despair. Some of the soldiers were worn out from endless work and loss of sleep, six having been assigned by the captain to each watch. We ourselves were exhausted for the same reasons, for in manoeuvering the ship everyone did as much as he could to help out; although we were not very expert at the business, the sailors were nonetheless buoyed up by our endeavours, and we were the less dejected. On the night of the l4th we were still in sight of land but could not recognize it, having on board only maps of Europe. We kept well off, drifting at the mercy of wind and storm. The storm increased in fury. The crew, drained of strength, lost all heart and took the unhappy course of climb? ing into their hammocks to get some rest. This desperate action cost them their lives. We could no longer see any hope of saving ourselves. The captain and mate used every conceivable argument to persuade the men to make one last effort. All urging was in vain. The mate, an energetic fellow, tried to rouse them from their hammocks by using a stick, but his efforts were futile. The crew in very truth were already dead men. Exhaustion and the spectre of certain dis? aster had taken the life out of them. Resolute and firm, the mate went up to the bridge. I was already there with the cap? tain and two others, the man at the helm and one of my servants. "It is impossible to work the ship," said the mate. "Our miz- zenmast is broken, our sails are in shreds and can be neither brailed up or lowered away. The crew have yielded to despair and are sunk in torpid slumber, certain of death; they have chosen their lot. As for us, we can't of our own efforts keep the ship heading into the wind. As a last re? sort we've got to make for shore." We could see land on both sides of us, and thought we could make out a river about half a cannon shot away. The time had come for desperate measures. The captain and mate, gazing at me with distrait eyes, joined their hands in prayer. I knew well enough that our plight was serious, but this gesture shook me to the marrow, and I stood there speechless. I threw off my lethargy when the mate shouted to the cap? tain: "We have no other course • suid not a minute to lose. It will be safer to hit the shore on the starbosard side." It did look less dangerous in this quarter, for What seemed to be the mouth of a river offered some hope that we could save ourselves. Had it been navigable we might have made our way in safety. The captain agreed to make the attempt, since he could think of nothing better. He knew it was our only hope and that it had to be attempted. I awoke to our peril when the captain and mate, turning to me with lifeless eyes and praying hands, warned me to expect the worst. I decided
Cape Breton's Magazine