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The Neptune's Bride


Schooner Neptune's Bride went ashore at Malcomb's Ledge, Me. on the evening of September 22, 1860.  Twelve of the fourteen of the crew met a watery grave.  The following are the full particulars of that night of peril.

The vessel struck the ledge at a little past nine o'clock in the evening.  It was quite foggy, accompanied with rain, and the men had all turned in except the watch on deck.  She was jogging under a foresail, and as soon as she struck, the men below rushed on deck, and made for the boat.  Mr. Marsh, and George Norwood, seeing that the boat was full, concluded to take their chances on the vessel.  The boat was soon swamped by the heavy sea, and the men took refuge on the ledge.  The two on the vessel could distinctly hear them conversing and they asked for a rope, as the ledge was a sunken one, over which the tide rose, and they wished to regain the vessel.  Two attempts were made to get a rope to them, both proving unsuccessful.  They asked for some clothing; but the vessel was full of water, and none could be obtained.  The schooner had now heeled over, and it was feared that she would capsize; but she remained in position.  The tide was rising, with a heavy sea running, rendering it imperative for the men on board to go aloft, if they wished to save their lives.  They crawled out on the bowsprit, and, while attempting to climb up the jib-stay, were washed off three times; but finally, after much toil, climbed up to the foremast-head, nearly exhausted with their struggle with the breakers.  Here they clung, and while holding on in the darkness, heard the men on the ledge talking of their chances for life, and earnestly wishing that they could only get on board the vessel.

Slowly crept the moments, and the tide rolling in with each heaving billow.  They heard their shipmates, as they moved as far up out of the reach of the greedy waters as possible, and during the next hour, could not avoid hearing their struggles, as the sea rose, crested with raging foam, and claimed one after the other as its victim.  Then the vessel's bow settled, bringing the two men up to their chins in water, as they stood on the foremast cross-trees.  Norwood was discouraged at the cheerless prospect, and determined to swim for it, and left his position, hoping to gain the shore; but the sea was too much for him, and bidding his companion farewell, with the words, "Oh my God!" upon his lips, sank beneath the waters.

As soon as Norwood left, Marsh determined on one more struggle for life, and climbing up the foremast head, grasped the top-mast-stay and walking as far as he could on the spring-stay, pulled himself up, hand over hand, to the top-mast head, where he sat down and rested himself.  His thoughts were of home, of his wife and child.  An ardent desire to see them once more seemed to thrill his whole being, inspiring him with fresh courage.  For their sake he determined not to succumb.  The tide followed him and had now reached his feet, then up to his waist the waters came.  There was so much comfort in sitting down, and he was so fatigued!   But no! he must stand up if he wished to save his life, and so once more he stood up.  To add to his discomfort, the rain came down, accompanied with thunder and lightning, and there, amid the darkness and the storm, he clung to the top-mast, hoping and praying for the dawn, and for the turning of the tide.  He had suffered much from thirst; this he quenched from the rain-drops which wet his hair.  He was in his stocking-feet, and suffered much from the cramped position in which he stood.  One foot was raw where it had chafed against the spring-stay and pained him severely.

It was now, as near as he could judge, about three o'clock in the morning, and he was in hopes that the tide was at flood.  He drew himself up, resting his chin on the color-truck.  This was all he could do, and he patiently waited,  The love of life was strong in the young man's heart, and he prayed that God would save him.   Then he clung hold of the top-mast, and for a little time lost consciousness.   When he came to, the dawn was breaking through the fog, and with joy unspeakable he saw that the water had gone down.  He could see the top of the ledge peep out, from which his companions had met their death' and now, so far as he knew, he was the only survivor of them all.  All day long he remained on the top-mast.  The hours dragged, filled with suspense, hope, doubt, and sometimes despair.  The tide turned, and slowly it crept toward him.  The minutes now seemed hours; and yet no succor came.  The water had crept up to this knees, and the prospect of another night on the wreck, together with the terrible experience and exposure of the past eighteen hours, were too much.  He became delirious, and imagined that he was on board the schooner, beating up Portland harbor.

He was saved by the merest accident, if we may call such events accidents.  Two fishermen were mending their nets on Seal Island.  It had been foggy all day, and at five in the afternoon, when it cleared up, they saw the wreck, and one insisted that there was a man on the top-mast.  His companion endeavored to persuade him that it was all imagination,and said it was of no use to go.  But the other, convinced that he was right, replied that he would go alone if his companion would not accompany him.  Both stared, and what was their surprise, upon drawing near, to see this poor fellow clinging to the top-mast, but utterly unconscious, raving with delirium, and yet holding on. his body submerged in the water.

They rowed their boat alongside, then lifted him tenderly, and laid him down, putting their clothing over him; then he fainted.  Carrying him ashore, to their little fishing-hut, they put him to bed with hot stones at his feet and back, and gave him strong herb drink dashed with a little liquor, which they happened to have.  In the morning he was better, and as soon as he could be moved he was conveyed to Carver's Harbor, where he was taken to the hotel, and received the best attention; and from thence came home, and is alive to-day* to tell of his peril that night, and of this wonderful escape.

Henry Johnson, one of the crew who took to the boat, was also saved, after a night of struggle and hardship.  While his shipmates sought refuge on the ledge, after the boat was swamped, he found himself alongside of her and crawled in over the stern-sheets.  She was full of water, but fortunately there was a bucket in her, and a coil of rope.  With the  former he commenced bailing, and by dint of hard labor managed to free her, although she was continually taking in water,  A hogshead tub from the vessel had drifted across the boat amidships.  This he secured with this rope, and that made the boat ride more easily.  When he got tired of bailing the boat he would crawl into the tub, and when that got full of water he would commence bailing the boat again.  Two jibbing-tubs drifted near him.  These he secured also, and making them fast on the other side of the boat, they helped to keep her afloat.  He knew not whither he was drifting but was thankful that he was going away from the ledge, and so utterly exhausted was the poor fellow that, long ere daylight dawned, he fell asleep.  He could not keep awake, though his life might depend upon it.  On the boat drifted, being kept afloat by her tubs, and Johnson slept, perfectly oblivious to the seas which threatened to engulf him.  "Tired nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep," had possession of him, and on the boat drifted.  At noon-time, a Belfast schooner sighted the craft, bore down to her, and her single passenger was received on board and kindly cared for.  Thus, out of a crew of thirteen, two alone were saved, after passing through hardship which makes one shudder to contemplate.

The lost crew members were:

Jacob Olsen, master
George Norwood
Manuel Silva
J. Enos Silva
William Johnson
James H. Bird
Tolef Anderson
William Haley
J. Antione Silva
Peter Johnson

and a young man whose name could not be ascertained. 

Owned by Charles Parkhurst.  Valued at $5,000; insured for $3,500.

* 1873


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