Home -> A. M. Robertson -> Notes by the Way in a Sailor's Life -> Is There a Fatality Attaching to Men or Inanimate Things?

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Is There a Fatality Attaching to Men or Inanimate Things?

In another part of this book I have mentioned the ship "Northfleet." In regard to that vessel the above question might almost be answered in the affirmative. The vessel was launched at the place from which she took her name in 1852. She made her first voyage to New Zealand, thence to China, and from there to San Francisco, and back to China and London. Then she went trooping for the Crimean War; then for some years ran between London and China carrying tea, for which she was originally built.

This ship never made a voyage without some one being drowned from her, and finally she was run into and sunk by a steamer, which was afterwards proved to be the Spanish vessel "Murillo." By this collision upwards of three hundred people were drowned. The "Northfleet" was carrying railway workmen to New Zealand, and when coming down the English Channel the weather was stormy and the pilot recommended the captain to anchor under a point called Dungeness. This was done, and the night came on very dark. At some time after midnight a steamer came in under the Point, apparently for the purpose of anchoring, as was afterwards reported by the crew of the tugboat which was at anchor. They saw the steamer moving about for some time. Then a crash was heard, followed by most heartrending cries. The steamer went out to sea, and did not heed the signal rockets which were sent up by the "Northfleet." The little tugboat had only four men and a small boat, which was at once launched, and the mate and the engineer, with one sailor, went to the rescue. When they arrived all that could be found was the captain's wife and an ordinary seaman. All the others had perished, through the dastardly act of the Spaniard in running away.

Captain Knowles of the "Northfleet" was newly married to a very beautiful lady, who was later on by command presented to Queen Victoria, who, after hearing her story, condoled with her, and later gave her a pension of fifty pounds a year as long as she remained a widow.

Some three years after this the widow was again married, to Captain Cawes, of the ship "Coriolanus." This ship came to Hankow to load tea and I had the pleasure to meet Mrs. Cawes, who had been saved from my old ship in which I had served for years.

The steamer that run down the "Northfleet" was twice arrested, but nothing definite could be proved until some two years later, when one of her officers was near dying, and he confessed that it was the steamer "Murillo," which was later proved to be true, and the vessel was confiscated.

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