attempts - the Royal Adelaide|
Inside Out visits Chesil Beach
in Dorset to tell the dramatic story of a shipwreck.
Thomas Hardy called
the area Dead Man's Bay.
It's a fitting name because there are some 200
wrecks in the bay.
One of them is the Royal Adelaide. Hers is a story of
epic proportions - a tale of heroism, fear and wreck fever.
this maritime disaster a bit different is that almost as many local people died
on shore as at sea.
And they died because hundreds of them got at the ship's
cargo of alcohol as they watched the rescue attempts unfold from what should have
been the safety of this beach.
On the night
of November 25, 1872 the Royal Adelaide was in trouble just off the Dorset coast.
The vessel, carrying 67 passengers and crew bound for Australia, was trapped
in a storm and heading for disaster on Chesil Beach.
But in the face of
certain tragedy an amazing and heroic rescue by Portland locals successfully winched
60 of those on board to safety.
Ultimately just seven drowned, while four
drunken revellers also perished on the night.
14 November 1782 - The Royal Adelaide, 1400 tons, carrying 32 crew, 35 emigrant
passengers and 3,000 tons of cargo (mainly alcohol) departs London for Australia.
The ship leaves nearly 10 days later than scheduled.
* 24 November - the
five man crew of the vessel The Jane Catherine are drowned in storms off Chesil
* 25th November - after increasingly poor conditions, the Adelaide's
Captain Hunter decides to seek shelter at Portland Harbour
* By 5pm it becomes
evident the ship cannot reach safety and it drifts/rolls broadside towards Chesil
*Hundreds of locals are alerted to the scene and gather to help/
watch events unfold.
* Blue lights and blazing tar barrels are used to illuminate
the night sky.
* Many passengers were ultimately rescued but seven drowned.
On 26 November there is a third wreck in three days, this time the vessel Cassibelanus
- all 14 on board are rescued.
The rescue attempt was
dramatic and dangerous.
The first attempt came when the lifesaving crew
fired a rocket line across huge waves to vessel.
Some locals also rushed
in to the sea to throw lines on board.
But when the rocket fired, no one
on board knew how to rig it up properly.
Then the ship's first mate and
one other person drowned trying to get a line ashore from the ship.
next rescue attempt was using the breeches buoy.
Catherine Irons, the passenger
stewardess, was the first to try this method but she took hold of the ship's main
brace instead of the rope to the apparatus.
The cradle was pulled from beneath
her and she fell out.
After this no passenger was keen to use the breeches
buoy so the ship's second mate, Woolly, ordered a negro named Samuel Gibbs to
use it which he did successfully
Despite this some of the passengers on
board were still too scared to use the breeches buoy.
Four women and three
men made it successfully, but after failing in his attempt to get the passengers
off, the captain led by example, grabbed a child and was winched to safety.
Hunter begged to be allowed to go back to ship but was not allowed.
this, the rescue moved swiftly and several passengers were brought to safety,
many of whom were children.
Final bid for safety
two to make their bid for safety were Johann Magdelinsky and Rhoda Bunyan who
were cheered as they made their way to shore.
Royal Adelaide's bell was later recovered|
drowned when the rope snapped. Rhoda was just six-years-old.
is particularly poignant because Rhoda's family was emigrating to Australia -
and her mother, father and babe in arms got safely ashore.
Rhoda was left
alone on the ship and none of the other passengers wanted to take her.
Johann Magdelinsky, the hero who tried to save little Rhoda Bunyan, lies in St
The last remaining passenger on the ship was 71-year-old
Louise Fowler who refused to use the breeches buoy, despite the other 10 members
of her family making it to shore.
She returned to her cabin and went down
with the ship.
* Edward Power, 1st mate.
* Mrs Catherine Irons, stewardess,
* Edward Ruddock, sailor, 30.
* John Edwards, sailor, 30.
* Mrs Louise
Fowler, passenger, 71. Buried at Stranger's Cemetery overlooking the site of the
* Johan Magdelinsky, passenger, 49.
* Rhoda Bunyan, 6.
*George Neale, grocer's apprentice, 15.
* Samuel Biles, butcher's
labourer, about 40.
* Thomas Strange, carpenter, 45.
* George Gilbert, hat
All the survivors were nursed by locals,
and most were taken to the Victoria Inn (now the Ferry Bridge Inn) to recuperate.
Within an hour of the ship's back being broken, the beach filled with all
of the goods on board.
A treasure hunt started as locals tried to pillage
goods washed up from the Adelaide.
Locals ran off with alcohol, sewing machines,
and even pigs, some risking their own lives to siege cargo floating near the shore.
the next morning some drunken revellers were near death or had died from intoxication,
exposure or hyperthermia, including George Neale, a 15-year-old grocer's apprentice.
the stories of stupefied pillagers is that of John Stone who was rescued just
in time by a friend after lying across the railway line.
Others died of
Captain William Hunter was
ultimately held responsible for the wreck happening.
He admitted that he
did not have all faculties when the crisis happened, he did not know how to use
the breeches buoys, and had never been trained in such matters.
inquest held a month later his captaincy licence was revoked for 12 months.
broken remains of the Royal Adelaide still lie close to Chesil Beach.
shipwreck remains one of the most tragic off the south of England coast.
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