Saturday, May 9, 2009

Shipwrecked in the South Pacific – 4 Oct 1855

We left Charles and Rosa Clara Logie standing in water up to their chests on a sunken section of an atoll in the South Pacific.  Their ship, Julia Ann, was off course by as much as one hundred miles when it struck the reef and sank.  Several of the  passengers had died as the ship sank.

Charles and Rosa Clara Logie survived.  He had tied their baby, Annie, to his chest in a brown shawl as they made their way toward the land that rose above the water.  

Picture the scene.  Your ship sinks in the middle of the night in a remote section of the ocean.  Abandoning ship, you find nebulous footing on sharp coral and limestone several feet below the surface of the water.  Waves are crashing into you driven by the normal stormy weather pattern in this section of ocean. 

In the distance, you can see bumps above the height of the waves.  In all other directions, the horizon separates the water from the sky.  You know this because the stars stop at this line.

Over the space of hours, you slowly make your way toward the high ground.  Skin is cut and abraded from your feet, ankles and legs by the sharp coral and limestone.  The baby is screaming in fear from the noise of crashing waves, the dousing of water, bumps, slips and shouts.

When you finally climb onto dry land, you realize that you don’t have any food, water or shelter and then the sky begins to brighten with the early morning sun.  The visual impact of your situation causes additional shock to your system and you sink to the ground weary and weak.

The survivors rally around and establish whatever shelter and organization they can.

Grandma Logie was given some surviving silk for a lean-to shade so that she and her tiny baby daughter would have some protection from the elements.  Now the struggle for survival began.  The company of survivors had found a supply of fresh meat.  However, they were in for a surprise.

Captain Pond’s journal continues with its often ‘mis-remembered’ facts..

“I well remember the excitement and glorification among our little party of castaways on the discovery of our first turtle.  About five days after our landing, I was seated with my officers at our camp fire discussing the situation, the rapidly diminishing supply of our only food, the scilly island - atoll delectable crab, was causing the keenest anxiety, when a loud shout from a party of sailors some distance from us up the beach attracted our attention.  They were shouting and dancing in a circle around something to us invisible.  Every one rushed to the spot, and there found a large turtle in the hands of the Philistines.  And this find meant to us a new lease of life.  Knowing the habits of the sea turtle during the incubating season of seeking the land at night and depositing their eggs in the dry sand on the beach, we organized parties, watch and watch, to patrol the beach during the entire night on the lookout for turtle, and when one was found, they would turn him over on his back, and the following day the night’s catch would be brought to camp. 

Our largest find in any one night was five turtles.  Every turtle killed was carefully divided among the several messes, first saving a portion to be jerked and dried in the sun, for the purpose of accumulating provisions for our proposed boat voyage.  We soon began to gather more turtle than we needed for our daily consumption.  We therefore built a stockade turtle pen to keep them, to be used as needed, believing that they would live on land as well as on the deck of a ship at sea, where they can be kept for months alive by simply throwing sea water over them occasionally during the day.  But in this we were disappointed, for every morning we found a dead turtle or two in our pen, and as we could not afford to lose any, we lived on turtle, butchered, alamode, after death.”

Unlike Tom Hanks, in the recent movie “Castaway”, the company had tools to start fires in their possession.

“On the night of the wreck, when I found the ship was hopelessly doomed, I tried to provide as fast as possible for just such circumstances as we were finally placed in, among other things, the need of matches.  I therefore put a large quantity in my overcoat pocket, but on leaving the wreck I threw off my overcoat and all surplus clothing.  Afterwards this coat was found floating on the reef, but the matches were water soaked and spoiled.  Fortunately a sailor had three or four matches in the lining of his hat, where he had been in the habit of keeping them to use in an emergency for lighting his pipe.  With these we started a fire, and took good care to never allow it to go out while we remained on the reef.”Julia Ann Sinking Deseret News 2 Jul 1856

Click to enlarge all newspaper articles in this posting.

The reef sat about eight feet above high tide at the center point.  Having established immediate sustenance, additional food sources were needed and fresh vegetables and fruits were needed to prevent scurvy.

“Three days after our landing I took an exploring party in the boat, and upon an island some eight miles, from the one on which we had located, discovered a grove of cocoanuts.  Our hearts dilated with gratitude, for without something of this kind, our case would have been indeed desperate.  Our living now consisted of shellfish, turtle, sharks and cocoanuts.  We also prepared a garden and planted some pumpkins, peas and beans. They came up finely and flourished for a few weeks, then withered and died, for lack of deepness of soil.  I have been asked where we got seeds to plant.  The damaged provisions, such as bags of peas and beans found upon the reef furnished seeds that when planted grew; a pumpkin was also picked up on the reef, from which we obtained seeds.”

Shelter of some type was needed from the hot south Pacific sun and frequent rainstorms.

“We divided ourselves into families, built huts and thatched with the leaves of the pandanus tree.  All the provisions found were thrown into one common stock, and equally divided among each mess every morning, and we gradually became reconciled to our sad fate.”

We know from grandpa’s own history that survival became tenuous and something had to be done to escape their imprisonment.  Captain Pond decided to strike out in a rowboat to some islands that lay a long distance away according to his charts.

“I determined to steer for them, trusting to a kind Providence for our success.  I selected four of my men for a boat’s crew, and fixed the day for our departure.”

The day for departure to find rescue came, but unfortunately it was not to be.

“On the following day I determined to make the trial.  But my own spirits now seemed crushed.  I felt like one going to the stake, a foreboding of evil came over me.  The weather was unsettled and threatening, and I retired to my tent as I thought for the last time, unhappy and without hope.  The clouds gathered in gloomy grandeur, and finally broke in a tornado over the island.  In vain I sought repose and sleep.  About three o’clock in the morning I arose and walked down upon the beach, and there indeed was experienced the climax of my distress, for the boat upon which all our hopes centered had disappeared.”

Julia Ann Article 1898 page 1 After a search of the island, the boat was found and would be made ‘seaworthy’.  However, not all of the company agreed with the venture.

“I endeavored to cheer them with the hope that the boat had dragged her anchor into deep water, and after drifting across the lagoon would anchor herself again off one of the leeward islands.  This eventually proved to be the case, and the boat was recovered, nearly full of water, but not injured.  The weather now seemed to be breaking up; the trade winds blew less steadily, and all appearances indicated change.  Secretly influenced by a gloomy, undefined premonition of evil and disaster, as the result of my proposed attempt to reach the Navigator Islands, I was now determined on the apparently more desperate course of double banking the boat with a crew of ten men, and watching a favorable opportunity, endeavor to pull to the nearest windward islands.

Against this course Captain Coffin, an old whaler, opposed all his influence and experience.  Said he would rather venture alone than with ten mouths to feed, that it would be impossible to pull our boat, so deeply loaded, against a headwind and sea, and there was no place under our lee where we could make a harbor in the event of our encountering what we might expect--easterly weather; that in fact, it was a life of death undertaking, success or certain destruction awaited us.  But desperate diseases require desperate remedies.  I proposed it to my crew, and with but a single exception, they all volunteered.  We now impatiently waited for a suitable opportunity to launch our boat.”

The sailors decided to follow the captain but not all of the passengers agreed.  This was especially true of grandpa Logie who was both part of the crew and a passenger.  He disagreed with the proposal thinking it would only lead to the eventual deaths of both the sailors and the passengers.  However, at this point in time small miracles began to occur.

Julia Ann Article 14May1898 page 2 “On the day before our departure, with a small party of sailors, still in the prosecution of what seemed a hopeless search for a stone that could be used with steel and tinder, I had reached a small island, the most distant one from our camp and somewhat difficult of access, and in consequence had been seldom visited by us.  Working our way through a thick tangle of underbrush, we came to an open space, and I believe that my eyes fairly bulged with astonishment as I descried a small pool of freshwater, beside which lay a bucket and large flint stone.  I seized the stone, and with a shout, exclaimed, “A gift from God, boys we are saved, we are saved.”

On our subsequent arrival in Tahiti, I met the man to whom the stone and bucket belonged.  Some years previously he had visited those reefs in search of pearl oysters, and made his camp by that pool of fresh water, and left his flint and bucket on his departure.”

A change in plans undoubtedly prevented the loss of the sailors.  It appears that grandpa Logie, a seasoned mariner himself, spoke to the captain after receiving an answer to his prayers.  The captain had little or no faith in God, nor the religion of his Mormon passengers, but found in the end that it saved them, though he was wrought to acknowledge the fact.  We know from his personal history that grandpa Logie was part of the crew of the ‘rescue’ boat.  Pond’s journal only describes one ‘Mormon’ as part of the crew.  The remainder of his text refers to his sailors.

“My passengers were mostly Mormons, bound to Salt Lake City, were bitterly opposed to my first proposition of trying to reach the Navigator Islands.  They argued, the distance to be so great, some fifteen hundred miles, that if we succeeded in reaching them they would starve to death before we could hope to send them relief.  They could not, or would not understand why we might not steer in the face of head wind and sea to the Society Islands, which were so much nearer.  We, however, as nautical men, determined to act on our own judgment in that matter, and steadily continued our preparations until our plans were blocked in a most unexpected manner.  One of their Elders had a dream or vision (grandpa Logie).  He saw the boat successfully launched upon her long voyage, and for a day or two making satisfactory progress.  Another leaf in the vision, and the boat is seen floating bottom up, and the drowned bodies of her crew floating around her.  This tale so wrought upon the superstitions that not a man would volunteer to go with me, and I was reluctantly compelled to change my plan.

I then gave strict orders that there should be no more visions told in public unless they were favorable ones, and first submitted to me for my approval.  After some days the same Mormon Elder came to me having had another vision (again grandpa Logie).  I asked him if it was a good one.  Yes, a very good one.  He saw the boat depart with a crew of ten men, bound to the eastward; after three days of rowing, they reached a friendly island where a vessel was obtained and all hands safely brought to Tahiti.  When I, by compulsion, changed my plans and decided to double bank the boat and try to pull to windward, only nine men offered, including myself.  It was useless to start short handed, and I had been waiting unsuccessfully to get one more man to complete my crew.  On hearing this very good vision, I looked my man over.  He was a fine, athletic fellow, and asked him if he believed his vision.  “Yes, indeed, was it not a revelation from God?”  I then suggested that it would be a good way to prove his faith by volunteering for the boat.  “Of course he would”, and he did with alacrity, and thus was my crew completed.  You have heard the account of how literally his dream was fulfilled against every probability.”

The miracles continued to happen as the crew rowed across the open ocean in search of a rescue for the survivors.

Logie Charles 13 Apr 1898 Letter to Editor DesNews “Having cleared the boat from the reef and obtained the open sea, we were almost immediately compelled to throw overboard a large portion of our water, provisions and every article that could possible be spared to lighten the boat.  And thus our boasted liberal supply that we had collected and saved with so much perseverance and economy suddenly vanished in the sea, leaving us a scant pittance for perhaps five or six days.

Having made everything snug as possible, we shaped our course, proposing to send before the wind, but suddenly the wind lulled, a dense black cloud rolled up, covering the entire firmament, shutting out the day, and enveloping us in almost Egyptian darkness, and such a downpour of water burst from the cloud--in the language of scripture, it seemed as though “All the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of Heaven were opened.”  The rain seemed to fall in solid sheets; though intensely sharp, far beyond any previous experience of ours, the downpour was very brief in its duration.  The clouds cleared as suddenly as they arose; the sun burst out upon the face of the great deep; the rain had beaten down the boisterous sea, which now rolled in long smooth swells.  It was a dead calm, and for three days and nights there was not breeze enough to blow out a candle.  I will also mention another curious fact.  We were all of us, for a day or two, very seasick.  The men labored at their oars, and vomited over the thwarts.  Mr. Owens, my second officer, was so intensely sick that he lay stretched in the bottom of the boat, and for the first twenty-four hours I had to run the boat without relief, before he could take his trick at the helm.

After three days of incessant toil, hope, fear and despair alternately predominating, A Land ahead!  Oh, how the cry, the thought, the reality thrilled our every nerve, and our anxious longing eyes gazing at the dim, cloud like outline of a far distant island, gradually lit with renewed fire, and hope again shone out, bright and clear, and yet the most fearful portion of our voyage had still to be experienced, for now old Boreas blew out fresh and strong, contrary to our course, and the sea yesterday so sluggish arose in all its might and power, threatening to engulf us in its appalling throes.

For hours and hours, the fearful but unequal contest was maintained, till human endurance could bear up no longer, and we lay exhausted in the bottom of our little boat, now floating at the mercy of the sea, the goal of our hopes, and our very lives, that dim cloud upon the verge of the horizon, gradually faded from our view.

Oh, the blank despair of that moment!  And as we drew the tarpaulin over the boat to shelter us from the dashing spray, thought of home mingled in our prayers.  Late in the afternoon, as we lay huddled together under the protecting cover of the tarpaulin, drenched by the salt spray, faint and exhausted by severe toil, listlessly gazing out upon the combing, raging sea, that threatened instant destruction, the sudden cry of “Land, land,” again startled us from the lethargy of despair, which seemed with its cold icy hand to grip our very hearts.

And true enough, as the sun emerged from the dark storm cloud to sink into the sea bright and beautiful in the far west, lighting up the circling horizon, the clear outline of an island mountain peak could be distinctly seen in the southeast.  Tears of gratitude filled our eyes.  Our sail was hoisted to the now favoring breeze.  Again our oars were manned, and our little boat fairly trembled at the onward impetus given by the hope resuscitated nerves of my but recently faint and exhausted crew.  The darkening shades of night soon shut from our view that lone mountain top, rising as a beacon hope from the sea, and in its stead, the mariner’s compass served as our sure guide till morning again dawned, and discovered to our enraptured gaze the fertile slopes of a mountain island, distant about fifteen miles.  As we neared the land, the wind gradually subsided, and the sea no longer broke in heavy combers as on the day previous but rolled in long, heavy swells upon a reef that encircled the island.  We pulled along outside of the reef about two hours, looking in vain for an entrance, and in our impatience, once more to tread a hospitable shore, and partake of the luxurious fruit that hung so temptingly beyond our reach; we had about made up our minds to attempt to land upon the reef through the breakers, when a native who was engaged in spearing a fish inside, guessing our difficulty, motioned to us to proceed further up the reef.  On complying with which we soon found a ship entrance to a fine harbor, and saw the huts of a native village at the head of the bay.  And now having safely reached one of the Windward Islands against all human probability when we departed from Scilly reefs, I will give you a peculiar episode in connection with that boat voyage.  I can simply vouch for the facts, without any attempt to argue, or explain.”

Charles Joseph Gordon Logie The crew was saved when they reached the island’s shores.  However, the remainder of the company was still on the reef and food was rapidly disappearing.  Captain Pond continues with his narrative about finding a rescue ship.

“A small yacht was lying at anchor in the bay, belonging to the king, and through the interpreter, who professed a great desire to aid us to the best of his ability, I endeavored to persuade the Captain to carry us to Tahiti distant some sixty to seventy miles further to windward, where an American Consul resided, but he refused to have anything to do with us; seemed to fear that we would take possession of his vessel.  However, after a good deal of dickering, he finally offered to take me alone, starting the next day, if I would immediately, that same afternoon, send off my crew to Riatia, lying some fifteen miles to the southward of Bora Bora, where they informed me a British Consul lived.  I felt this to be pretty hard lines for me personally, but it was the best, and in fact, only thing to be done under the circumstances, and I reluctantly consented.  And now I encountered almost as much difficulty in persuading my own men to leave me alone on that island. 

They had no confidence whatever in the Asurley natives.  However, to use their own words, “The Captain knew best, and they would obey orders.”  But I will confess to an awful feeling of loneliness and desertion creeping over me as I stood upon the beach and watched them pull away to sea again, leaving me behind and alone.  At daybreak on the following morning I was astir, hoping to get a bright and early start for Tahiti, only to find that during the night the yacht and my friendly interpreter had disappeared, gone to parts unknown.  I sat down quietly in my tracks, making no effort whatever to communicate with the natives, sick, heartsick, discouraged, utterly helpless.  A little after mid-day, I observed a six oared whaleboat pulling rapidly across the bay, apparently a new arrival from the sea. 

As I lay there listlessly watching their movements as they stepped ashore, the natives gathered around them pointing towards me, as I supposed, telling the story of my advent among them.  Presently one of the new comers started towards me, and as he approached, the scales seemed to fall from my eyes, the blood shot through my veins, as I recognized the face of an old familiar friend, a Mr. Barfe, whose home was in Huania.  He had come across collecting cocoanut oil.  He was profuse in offers of assistance; gathered his men, and we immediately started in his boat, in an effort to overtake my men at Riatia.  About half way across we met my boat’s crew returning to me, bearing a letter from the British Consul full of sympathetic expressions for my disaster, and requesting me to remain in Bora Bora, as he had dispatched an express to Huania, where several American vessels were lying, containing the assurance that I might expect one at the earliest possible moment to call for me and proceed to the rescue of the castaways remaining on Scilly Reefs.  In response I returned with my boat’s crew to the island of Bora Bora, and there awaited the promised assistance.

The day following a large number of boats arrived at Bora Bora from Riatia, the news of the wreck having spread like wildfire in all directions, to visit the scene of the disaster, but they were all too small to be of any service.  However, on the morning of the second day, the fine large schooner, Emma Packer, appeared off the harbor, Captain Latham having received the British Consul’s dispatch while lying at Huania made no delay in getting his vessel to sea, and coming to my relief.  He also brought a letter to me from the Captain of the ship Oregon, saying that I might expect his vessel to be under way from Scilly Reefs within a few hours after the departure of the Emma Packer to render any needed assistance.

I boarded the Emma Packer, and sailed for the rescue of my poor, distressed fellow-voyagers of the Julia Ann.  We sighted Scilly Reefs about ten days after our departure there from, and much to our surprise, with our glasses we could discover no signs of life on the islands, though we sailed entirely around them, and Captain Latham was quite disposed to return, arguing that the people must have been taken off by some other vessel.  He however, in compliance with my earnest request, remained off the reef over night, for I was determined not to return without first effecting a landing, and personally inspecting my old camping grounds, and we were rewarded early the following morning by discovering a group of people gathered on the point of reef nearest to our vessel, frantically waving a signal.  Words simply fail me in any attempt to describe the scene that met me, as I sprang from the relief boat into the outstretched welcoming arms of those more than half-starved castaways.

They were speedily embarked, and taken to Tahiti, where the American and British Consuls took charge of their different nationalities, and provided for their necessities.”

We exit Captain Pond’s journal at this point, with his thoughts on the nature of a sailor in his day.

“While toil, exposure and hardship, peculiarly incident to the life of the sailor, may possibly drive some to the abandonment of their profession, it is this very sense of peril and danger to be encountered and overcome that proves almost its sole attraction; courage and true manhood are as inseparable as light, and the sun’s rays pass an object between the sun and our earth and daylight is obliterated, ‘tis all obscurity and darkness, and so likewise, take from man the principle of courage, and you have a human monstrosity.”

As for the Logie's, grandpa worked in Tahiti for a many months to secure the funds needed to complete their journey to America.  They eventually landed in San Francisco and were greeted by Latter-day Saints there.  Over the next two years, they made their way to Utah while stopping along the way to work on a ranch near Reno, Nevada. 

Over the years, much was written about the last voyage of the Julia Ann.  All but Charles Logie and Captain Pond wrote from positions of second hand knowledge and their text was frequently in gross error.  After many years, Charles penned a letter to the Editor of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, countering earlier articles and to some extent setting the record straight.  In it, he noted that he would not “take up every item (error), for it would take to long.” 

Charles and Rosa are buried in the American Fork, Utah Cemetery with a number of their descendants’ graves surrounding them.  Their headstone is prominent there today.  Their daughter Annie is buried a few miles north in the small town of Alpine, Utah.