A Faithful and Succinct Narrative of Some Late and Wonderful SEA DELIVERANCES
John Flavel, 1628-1691
IT is a certain truth, that religion does not expose all to public view; and as true, that it does not impropriate and conceal all within the limits of a man's private breast. To expose all would be pharisaical, and to conceal all would be highly injurious and uncharitable; by the former a man wrongs himself, and by the latter many others.
Some works of providence have a designation for general use and public good in the very nature of them; such I apprehend these to be, which are contained in the following narratives.
It is said, the art of medicine was advanced and perfected in this manner. In the ruder and more ignorant ages of the world, when a person, either by design or accident, had discovered the virtue of any herb or mineral, the experiment was posted up in some public place for all to read, and take notice of it; until at last, out of the multitude of these posted experiments, an orderly system was framed, wherein everything was reduced to its proper place and use.
I am convinced, that if an orderly collection were made of the more remarkable and eminent acts of Divine providence, it would be an excellent compendium or system of spiritual physic to purge and cure this atheistic generation, wherein the very being of a God and providence are denied by some, and left disputable and uncertain by others.
The same sense and affection is not to be expected in those that read, as in those that have been the subject of these astonishing works of God; nor is it to be supposed the same deep and lively sense of the goodness of God will be found in their own hearts, in reading their own story, as they found in the day of their deliverance; even mercies of the highest rank suffer abatements by time, through the corruption of nature; but would the reader put himself into the case of the concerned, and those who are personally concerned in it, would view it with such an affection and sense as becomes such awful and glorious works of God; what good effects and impressions might then be expected from this little manual?
All that I shall further add is, That as there is not one circumstance added, or stretched beyond its due proportion to engage any man's affection, so I persuade myself, the true aim and design of the concerned is to rear it up as a stone of remembrance, in gratitude to their great deliverer, and to assist so pious a design, is the only aim of
Your Friend and Servant,
The FIRST NARRATIVE
ON the 6th of May, 1679, a ship of Dartmouth, called the Thomas and Ann, Joseph Curtis, of the same town, being master, laden with salt, wine, and brandy, from Bourneufe, in France, for Newfoundland, and being about 24 leagues off that coast, in latitude 47 degrees, 40 minutes, having for many days seen abundance of floating islands of ice at some distance; this morning, says the re-later, we discerned a great many lumps of ice, of various sizes, scattered up and down upon the sea; the wind being at N. W. the weather clear, and hoping to see land before night, we stood in to the westward, now and then bearing up to avoid those little floating islands which came in our way. But about noon we found ourselves beset on every side with thousands of these dangerous enemies, threatening destruction to us from every quarter; and at the same time, the wind fell calm, (except now and then a little breeze) and so continued until almost night.
We now began to apprehend more than ordinary danger, well knowing how fatal one blow might prove, and how improbable it was to escape many, the danger being equal on every side, whether we stood seaward or shoreward; had we been thus environed with fixed rocks, our hazard had been great, but these did float as well as we, and the calm so clipped and pinioned our wings, that we could not fly any way from them; so that now ruin seemed inevitable; the wind seemed to be commissioned to bring us into the midst of danger, and there to leave us.
Indeed, towards evening, it began to spring up at north, but, alas! too late to do us any service; move we could, but no way from danger of imminent destruction.
In this strait we consulted what course to steer. Debates must have quick dispatch, when danger is at hand. Our case and resolve was much like that of the lepers, at the siege of Samaria; if we linger here we perish, if we make sail and try to extricate ourselves out of the innumerable difficulties we can but perish; and therefore upon advice, and with general consent, we stood shoreward under a small sail, namely, our two coasts. About ten at night, a great fog began to encompass us, which increased, in a little time, to that degree, that we could not see the length of our ship before us, and the wind freshed up, and began to blow a brisk gale: thus, all things seemed to conspire our destruction; the fog hood-winked our eyes, that we could not discern the approach of our enemies, and the wind put them into a more quick and violent motion, so that now we were in continual expectation of a blow, which we could neither discern nor prevent.
All that could be done was done, for immediately we hauled up our foresail, and drove under our mainsail and mizzen, our foresail being in the brails, lying a back, hoping that by retarding our motion, and looking out with all possible vigilance and care, we might shun the danger. And, indeed, our men needed no cautions, or quickenings to their watch; the great and imminent danger of life, was motive enough to every man to do his utmost that way.
Thus we continued every man in his proper post about an hour's time, when we espied one of those islands just at head, and so near that we knew not how to escape it, unless by backing our mainsail, which was done immediately; but notwithstanding, we received a terrible blow upon the weather-bow, just upon the descent of the sea, and so it drove away along the side of the ship.
Hereupon the carpenter, and some others, going down to see whether we had received any damage by this blow, (while other plied the pump, which would not suck) presently they came with distracted cries, and the sentence of death in their look, as well as lips, saying, They found the cask swimming about the hold, upon the salt; whereupon we all perceived the wound to be mortal and incurable, and our case upon the matter desperate; for we were encompassed with thousands of the like; and what expectation could remain of safety in our boat, when one touch of one lump had destroyed so strong and stout a ship under us? It was very improbable so small a sconce should hold out, when our main fort was surrendered upon the first attack. The night was dark, and the sea boisterous, our ship sinking under us, and our hopes of safety with it; yet as men in extremity of danger, we greedily caught at the next means of safety, or rather of prolonging life a few hours; and therefore all hands to work for life; we first hoisted out our small boat, which was a Norway yawle, with a half strake built upon her, of which indeed we made little account, but our eyes were, under God, upon our great boat, yet not knowing of what use the small boat might be to us in so great an extremity, two men stepped into her, to veer her under the quarter, while the rest were all busied in hoisting out the long-boat; which was done with all expedition imaginable.
But in this confused haste, it so fell out that either the boat received some injury, or the men forgot to put in the scuttle; for no sooner was she clear of the tackles, and the men got into her, (which it was easy to do, the ship sinking so fast, that her side was almost even with the boat), but presently she began to fill with water, and we found ourselves going down as fast as the ship by whose side we lay.
The mate, in the mean time, fearing the ship would be gone, before the long-boat was clear, stepped into the yawle, which as yet lay under the ship's quarter, with the two men before-mentioned in her, and providentially took with him a small remnant of brandy, being about five pints, and so put off in haste from the ship, wherein were five men, who utterly despairing of safety among us, chose rather to go down with the ship.
When we were thus sinking in the long-boat, the yawle was fallen from us at least half a cable's length; we were thirteen of us gotten into the long-boat, and finding ourselves almost gone, we passionately called to the three men in the yawle, for the Lord's sake to hasten to us, and save us.
They had only two oars with them, and, poor hearts, they made all haste to us, though they could not but know how much they increased their own dangers by mingling them with our extremities; if indeed, either theirs or ours may be said to be capable of an increase.
It pleased God, our long-boat continued above water, until the be of the yawle touched her stern; upon which all that sat afore in the head of the long-boat, running with all haste to get hold of the yawle, the long-boat immediately sunk away after an end, under the yawle, and carried down three of our company with her; the other ten, some of them leapt into the boat, others hung by the side, of which number I was one, with about six more in the same condition with me, which by the friendly hands of our compassionate companions were plucked into the boat; though, alas! neither they nor we could reckon ourselves to have gained any more advantage hereby, than a few hours to prepare ourselves for eternity, which yet was a mercy above what was granted to our poor companions that went down by our side in a moment.
In this first scene of providence, many wonders of mercy appeared to us, and for us; such was,
1. The inclining of the hearts of our three men in the yawle to adventure to us in such a desperate state as we were. Had they had time to exercise their reason, they would never have come near us, though their dearest relations had been among us; for the principle of self-preservation, will make every man carve first for himself. No man ordinarily loving another to that degree, as to die with him for company, if he have any means, though never so small, to escape present ruin. But certainly providence consulted our good, by denying them time to consult their own reason in this case.
2. It was also mercy to us, that our three companions perished when they did, for had they lived but a minute longer, in all probability we had perished altogether in that minute; for she could receive no more than she did receive; and had the rest leapt in, or hung by the side, as we did, we must have been forced to an act of cruelty in turning some over, or inevitably have sunk together, for the boat was as deep with the thirteen that were in her as ever she could swim; but the hand of God put them off, who were supernumeraries, and our hand was not upon them.
3. Those three that perished in the long-boat, were the most nimble and active in the whole company, and in such an extremity, the most likely of all to have saved themselves; yet these perished, when the feeblest and most inactive were preserved. "Let not the strong man therefore glory in his strength," nor the most weak and feeble despair of help from God in extremity. "He takes not pleasure in the legs of a man," Psalm 147:10. "The race is not to the swift," Ecclesiastes 9:11.
4. It is little less than a miracle of providence, that so small a boat had not overset, when about seven of us hanged by her side, with our bodies in the water, in a tumbling sea, and in the night too, when we could not see what was fit to be done for our preservation; surely it was the hand of God that steadied and preserved the boat and us in that danger.
5. Upon the whole, we cannot but judge God had a design upon us to glorify his mercy, and make his power and providence known, in casting away both our ship and long-boat together, (the most apt and probable means of our preservation) and saving us by so contemptible and improbable a mean as our little yawle was. Little thing in the hand, and under the blessing of a great God, produce effects proportionable to the greatest and most potent instruments; the same God who prepared a great fish to save Jonah, can make a little fish as effectual to that end as a whale, if he please so to order it. As I remember I have read of a ship that had sprung a leak: Some pious passengers pray, while others ply the pump, and all to little purpose, until at last, on a sudden, they espy the waters within to be at a stand, and then take heart afresh, and ply the pump with good success. They get into their harbor, and ship put into the dock, and upon search there is found a certain hole, with a fish sticking fast in it, exactly commensurate to the hole. God shows himself great in the smallest instruments of preservation! Our case seemed so desperate, even when we were in possession of our long-boat, that five of our company, then despairing of safety, chose rather to perish in and with the ship; three more (as before was noted) of our ablest seamen went down with the long-boat, and thirteen poor forlorn persons now left almost even with the sea, in a poor small boat destitute of compass to guide us, or provision to sustain us, in a dark night, in extremity of cold, and among innumerable mountains of ice surrounding us which occasioned it.
In this miserable case we put our boat's head to windward as much as we could, with our two small oars, being all we had, not expecting to live one hour, by reason of the raging of the sea, incensed by a strong wind, every surge threatening to swallow us up; this was all the comfort which remained to us, that we had a little time given us to beg mercy, before we went after our eight companions to whom that favor was denied.
This opportunity we endeavored to improve to that end; but alas! how confusedly, by reason of the frequent fresh alarms that every sea gave us, and the necessity of often consultations about what was necessary to be done; some must be at work to cast out water which brake in continually upon us, and yet we had little opportunity or room for that work of necessity, being wedged in so fast that none could move out of the place in which he was fixed, being like so many statues almost immovable. Yet this was a signal mercy, that though we took a great deal of water all this night, yet no sea brake full home upon us to fill us at once.
Thus we continued all the first night driving and keeping our boat's head to the windward, which was, then at north as well as we could guess by the run of the sea, for the night was very dark, not a star to be seen, nor a compass to guide us; the want of which we much lamented. Every man's heart was filled with fear and sorrow, and thus we passed the Tuesday night, admiring the power and goodness of God, when we saw the dawning of the next morning.
Wednesday the 7th of May
In the morning as soon as it was light, the wind blowing still very hard, and a great sea, we began to look far about us, and saw abundance of floating islands of ice round about us, and finding the sea so tempestuous and lofty, we would gladly have sheltered ourselves, if possible, under some of those mountains, but they afforded us no support, though we tried many; for that to leewards of them, there was a cockling sea as in a race, so that we there shipped more water than before, and the cold was unsufferable; so that we were forced to lie against the sea tugging at the oar, and casting up our cries to Heaven for help. Thus we sat all wet and frozen, shivering and gnashing our teeth one upon another; seldom or never could the ocean show a company of more miserable and forlorn wretches, than it had at that time upon its back.
Now it was that we began this morning to examine our store, and the total amount was but the fore-mentioned five pints of brandy, and six bisket cakes among us all, and the cakes all sopt like toast in salt-water. This we looked upon as the poor widow upon her handful of meal, and cruse of oil, which she was making her last meal upon before she died, 1 Kings 17:12.
However, we were resolved to be good husbands upon a small stock, frugality being most effectually learned in the school of necessity. This morning every one had a morsel of wet bread, which had it not been soaked before in salt water, there was enough in every one's eye to have done it; and after this meal, which was ended in a minute, we began to think how to proportion our brandy, for we dared trust the firkin to no man's mouth or modesty. It was in a proper sense, our aqua vitŠ; we had no grain cup to divide it, but searching our pockets, one of our company found the bowl of a tobacco-pipe, which, though it were neither a very large, lovely, or cleanly cup, yet we were glad of it, it served us as a measure to divide it equally among us; and after this cordial, when thirst increased, every one took a lump of ice, (of which we had enough everywhere at hand) and dissolved it in our mouths, or rather our mouths in it, for we were even jaw-fallen, and starved with the extreme cold, against which we had no other but this cold comfort.
About noon the wind began to lie, and towards night it fell calm, the sea pretty quiet and smooth, but no sight of the sun, the sky all close, and so continued all the night by reason of which we could not have the least benefit or direction from the moon or stars; and therefore only rowed to and again, sometimes one way, and sometimes another, rather to keep ourselves in exercise than in hope to gain any port.
Now we began exceedingly to bewail the want of a compass, without which (the weather so continuing) our labor was in vain; and now to show to what degree hunger, fear, and cold, had stupefied and benumbed the limbs not only, but brains; a poor seaman hearing the lamentations that were made for want of a compass, very seriously directing his speech to the master, said, Why, sir, cannot you make a compass? The master replied, with which shall I make one? Why, quoth he, with a piece of chalk upon a board. Yes, replied the master, such a one may be made; but how shall we make it work? Nay, quoth he, that I cannot tell.
Had such an occasion of mirth offered in a season when our fancies had been in a condition to sport themselves with it, it might have been an innocent and pleasant entertainment to them, but now it had little more power to refresh them than the lumps of ice had to warm and refresh our stomachs: Our fancies were out of tune to be pleasant with anything; nothing but the sight of shore, could make us smile, but that was out of sight, and almost out of hope, and in this deplorable state we spent the following night, which, indeed proved calm, but exceeding dark, so that we could make little or no progress.
Thursday the 8th of May.
Having sustained the burdens of cold, hunger, and fear, one night more, by the supporting and preserving power of God, we had this morning a little refreshment by the most welcome sight of the sun, a little after his rising, which though our religion forbad us to adore, as the heathens do, yet it taught us to bless God for the guiding usefulness of it to us in such a bewildered state as it looked that morning upon us in: And as an additional providence to the former, the wind sprang up at N. E. and we rowed away due west, as we judged, in some hopes that we might that day see, if not get the land; but the sight of the sun was soon cut off from us by a close and lowering sky, which threatened more danger and distress; however we had the benefit of information from the sight we had of it, to guide our course, which was a great mercy. Upon this, little encouragement, we put to it with all our might, and made what way possible we could, keeping the wind on our starboard-quarter, hoping that it still stood upon the same point it did when we saw the sun.
But all this while we had no sight either of ship or land, and towards night we had much wind and rain, and the sea began to make great, so that our flattering hopes began to vanish, our strength almost quite spent, a dismal night at hand, which then we feared would be our last night in this world. We had rowed, by estimation, about eight or nine leagues, and passed by several islands of ice, and at last met with a great island, whose magnitude above water was far greater than any cathedral we had ever seen; and night being at hand, we resolved to shelter ourselves under it that night from the rage and fury of the seas, which were very great; and, indeed, it pleased God to make it somewhat useful to us upon that account.
O the wisdom and goodness of God; to make a greater island our shelter in a boat, when one far less had been the occasion of our danger and misery in the ship. In this cold harbor we floated that night, a night forever to be remembered by us. I think never poor creatures encountered more miseries together in one night; the seas raged, the rain poured down incessantly, the cold was so extreme, that we sat all the night gnashing our teeth, our strength spent with famine and continual labor, a bit of ice dissolved in our mouths was all we had to allay our thirst; ever and anon a great piece of the island would fall off into the sea with a most dreadful noise, which frequently caused us to put farther off, and then we were ready to be devoured by the sea, so that we dared neither come near, nor stand far off. In a word, death and ruin were before us, whichever way we looked; if we came too near, the falls of those rocks of ice threatened our death, and beside, the cold was insufferable: if we stood far off, the sea threatened to swallow us up every minute, and that middle distance we kept from both, seemed only to lengthen our miserable lives a few hours, to die, as it were, by inch-meal.
O how little do others, nay, how little have we ourselves been sensible of those comfortable providences which provide fire, food, warm houses, and beds to rest in! Never does the value of those common mercies appear as it does in such extremities. The accommodation of a beggar in a barn, was a princely entertainment to what we found, and yet there was much mercy mingled with all these judgments; our breath was yet in our nostrils, and there was yet further space to repent and prepare. God also wonderfully supported nature, that it utterly failed not under these overwhelming calamities; though we were all ready to perish, none yet actually perished; we yet continued our full number, though soon after it was lessened, as will appear hereafter. This doleful, comfortless night we also passed, by the care of God over us, a night of short fare, but long hours.
Friday, the 9th day.
And now the Friday morning was come, which was so long and earnestly desired, and to make it the more welcome, it proved pretty fair, the weather somewhat clear, and the wind fresh in the eastern-board; yes, we had also a sight of the sun again, which, though it were far less than that of a shore, yet it deservedly had its value with us; then we rowed away west as due as we could judge, and fed ourselves still with a little hope, though we had nothing else left to feed upon.
But after noon, a very close sky and thick weather again, and about that time we met with abundance of rock-weed, or oar-weed, which we took up and fed upon. This was but an unsavory pickled sallad, but hunger made it sweet; it verified that observation experimentally.
In time of famine coarsest fare contents,
The barking stomach strains no compliments.
But towards night, we were much more refreshed and cheered with the sight of land, as we all supposed. So it represented itself to our view about half-an-hour, at which we were all transported with joy; it put fresh spirits into our tired bodies, and every man's countenance seemed to be enlightened by it. When the Italians, after a long and tiresome voyage, got the first sight of their own country, the Poet describes the transports and ecstasies of joy into which that sight cast them; for with loud and united voices they cried out, Italy! Italy! like men in rapture.
But certainly we had much more reason to rejoice than they, had the ground of our joy been as certain as the matter of it was sweet; for they were safe in their ships, but we ship-wrecked and destitute of all comfort; they were returned from a good voyage, we had lost our goods and voyage too, and our lives were often lost in our own apprehensions; they were come near their homes and friends, we had no hopes ever to see them again. And, indeed, the greater our extremities were, the more we surfeited ourselves upon the comfort of such a sight, it being as natural to the soul so to do, when it has been long exercised with fears and sorrows, as it is to the body, when it has been long fasting and starved, to surfeit upon food when it comes first to it.
But this our excessive joy was soon rebated and allayed; for making with all the speed we could towards it, like men putting forth the last effort and struggle of nature for life; after a while we began to doubt whether it were land or not; and surely, that fatal lump of ice that sunk our ship, did not give a more dreadful knock to our vessel, than this did to our minds: it even shattered our hearts, with our vain hopes, to pieces; and then the ebb of our fears and sorrows was as low, as the tide of our groundless joy was high; for we plainly discerned, after half an hour, that those pleasant hills and indented shore, which we beheld with such joy, were nothing else but islands of ice, which gave a colder damp of despair and sorrow to our hearts, than it had done, or could do to our benumbed limbs, which by this time were much mortified, and almost wholly useless; and yet as a farther addition to our fear and sorrow, (if yet they might be reckoned capable of any addition) the sky again began to lower, and look full of foul and stormy weather.
And now every man's heart desponded, and all hope seemed utterly to perish from us. We were reduced to that extremity by cold, famine, and constant toil and fear so many days and nights without rest or refreshment, (no man being able to move from the place in which he first sat down) that we concluded a little more time would have made us as so many dead statues fixed in our places, or as so many carcases dried up in the sands of which the Egyptians make their mummy; only with this difference, they are so dried and parched with heat, but we with cold.
We were now come near to our mistaken land, and seeing bad weather appearing again, and night drawing on, we thought to shelter ourselves again under this island, as we had formerly under others; but found it impossible so to do, because of the shoals of ice that lay off at a distance from it, which forbad our approach any nearer. And truly it was a good providence which so ordered it for us; for could we have found shelter near it, in all likelihood there we had abode all that night, and even yielded ourselves, as by consent, into the hands of despair and death; whereas, finding no place there, it put us upon this final resolution, That we would once more put to it with that poor stock of strength which was left, and tug hard for it that night, not knowing what God might do for us the next day; it was yet possible we might see the shore, but if we utterly desponded, and ceased from striving, there was no hope.
And now, with renewed cries to God, our eyes to Heaven, and hands to the oar, we once more made an essay for our deliverance. It seemed to give some footing to our feeble hopes, that God had already wrought so many wonders of mercy in our preservation so long, and made us yet to outlive so many sentences of death as we had passed (and not without reason) upon ourselves. Beside, we knew that man's extremity is God's opportunity, and we knew not but the next day might give us a real and true prospect of a shore, as this had given us a false and imaginary one.
In this hope we set to it, trusting God for strength and safety; and in a world of danger, fear and weakness, we endured one sad and sorrowful night more, concluding that the next day must either give us fresh hopes of life, or end our miserable days by a double death, famine and drowning.
It pleased God, in his merciful providence, to order the weather this night better for us than our fears; it proved indifferent calm, and now and then we had a view of the moon, which was of some use and comfort to us; and thus we weathered out the Friday night also, and though all were as dying, yet not one dead man among us.
Saturday, the 10th of May.
The morning opening upon us, was entertained with some hope; we looked out yar, but what we expected was still out of sight; but about nine or ten o'clock we saw the land to our great joy and comfort, and grew still more and more confident, that we were not again deceived, and that now our over-eager desires did not again impose upon our understandings and judgments. This sight was to us life from the dead. No circumstances could make any temporal mercy sweeter, than our long and sad condition made this to us, and therefore with hearts overwhelmed with joy, and mouths filled with praise, we blessed and magnified our great Deliverer; and that which further strengthened our hope was, that the weather proved indifferent fair, and the wind northerly. And as we rowed in with the land, to our farther joy we espied two ships, coming away before the wind from the northwards. Hereupon we went away directly for their forefoot, and about noon spoke with the headmost, which was a French ship, belonging to Crosique, one Peter Leborrow, master.
This Peter proved a benign and courteous man to us. I am sure he let us out of a kind of Hell into an Heaven upon earth, when he received us into his ship, and did more for us than ever St. Peter will or can do for them that divest not Paul, but Christ himself of his mediatorial honor and authority to clothe Peter with it. This good Samaritan finding us neither among the living nor the dead, but between both, had compassion on us, and with the help of his men, rather dragged than handed us into the ship. I knew the genius of that nation, and had the language, but had not power to compliment him, or make any long narrative of our troubles to him. He gave us bread and wine, and such, other things as he had, treating us with much humanity, and compassionating our sad condition. And now we tasted the sweetness of these good creatures in a degree peculiar to men in our circumstances; a sweetness which is unknown to them that, like Dives, fare deliciously every day.
We tarried on board about an hour, and found ourselves within two leagues of the shore, and conferring together what part of the land it was, both he and we concluded it to be Renouse; and finding the Frenchmen bound for Placentia, and the weather calm, we being a little refreshed, blessed God, and thanked the master for his great civility; we went again into our boat, hoping in two hours to be at Renouse among the English planters, and so we took our leave of Mr. Peter, with more joy for the deliverance from dangers past, than in consideration of what might be yet to come; for reckoning ourselves near Renouse, an English plantation, we concluded our straits and wants were as good as over, and that two or three hours time would bring us to rest, and a full supply of all our wants; but the kind and considering master, (no doubt directed and guided by an higher counsel) gave us at parting a score of large cakes, a dry fish, a fathom of lighted match, pipes, tobacco, and about a gallon of wine and brandy together in our small cask, before exhausted; and when we were in our little boat, taking notice that we had but two oars, he threw us out one oar more, to help us the sooner ashore.
This provision, the effect of the master's care and kindness, or rather of God's gracious providence inclining his thoughts to it, was our preservation at last; and without it, we must have all perished, for our hope and comfort was again built upon a false hypothesis: we put away from the ship, and stood in for Renouse as fast as we could row, and about three of the clock we got ashore; but to our amazement we found it was a desolate place, about a league to the westward of Cape Razo, with a cove, called Cripple Cove, as if it had been so denominated, a posteriori, for I think it never received such a company of cripples since it first received that name.
We now were ashore, which was the mercy we so much, and so long desired, but found ourselves in as bad case upon the matter, as when we were at sea. Here was a barren cove, destitute of all relief and comfort, far from any inhabitants or fishery; not a tree or bush to shelter us, only we picked up some few loose sticks to make us a fire, and had a fresh-water river near us, and being unable to fetch any other place, we were necessitated to lodge there that night; and now we saw what a good providence it was, that the kind master had furnished us with a little bread and wine, but especially with a lighted match to kindle a fire, for we were all well near starved and crippled: we therefore presently scraped together some withered grass, and with swinging the match in it, made it flame, and searching about the cove, and got so much wood as made us an indifferent good fire; which being done, our first work was to get off our shoes and stockings to wash them, and see in what case our feet and legs were: and this proved a more difficult task than we imagined, for they were all prodigiously swollen, and some of them burnt sadly with the cold; so that we stood, and went rather like men upon stilts, than their own feet; but there was a necessity to put our benumbed stumps to it to kindle a fire; which done we lay round about it in the ice and snow, of which the cove was full, and warmed and dried ourselves (as well as the place and weather would admit) by the fire, and there we broiled our fish, and shared that roast-meat, (a dainty we had been long strangers to) among us, and it was a great refreshment to our tired wasted bodies. It was well for us we had so much time to do these things before night, for towards night it came in full of rain and storm again, and much wind at east, and a great sea fell into the cove, as if it had resolved to recover and wash back those prisoners that were newly escaped from it.
Here was a new distress befallen us, and not less hazardous to life than any of the former; we were shut up in a cove from whence there was no escape by land, the cliffs being inaccessible, and our strength quite spent; no putting out for any plantation by sea, for a stormy night was at hand, and to lie there was thought would be very dangerous. It being extremely cold, full of ice and snow; the rain pouring down furiously, quickly put out our fire, no shelter at all from the fury of the weather; and to lie but a few hours exposed to it, would quickly quite starve such as were three parts starved before.
Here was our strait, and this extremity put us upon this shift, (which was the best our circumstances admitted) we put our united strength together, (which God knows was but little) and hauled up our boat above high-water mark, and overturned her, and so crept, as many of us as could, under her for shelter, and there lodged that night: a sad lodging, and a dreadful night it proved, but still we comforted ourselves with this, that the next morning we should be among our friends, where we should be better accommodated, and find food, physic, and surgeons, to preserve our lives and limbs. In this hope we weathered out the Saturday night with a world of difficulty.
Lord's day, the 11th of May.
The morning so eagerly desired came, but alas, what we hoped for was as far off as ever, for it began with a strong easterly wind, which rolled in a great sea into the cove. Our fire was out, and we were upon the matter blocked up in this dismal hole by abundance of ice driven in upon us. So that death seemed closely to beleaguer us in this hold to which we had betaken ourselves; and indeed there needs no great assault to conquer those who were almost dead before.
This was our sad condition that day. A Sabbath it was, but without rest to us; yet we wanted not the teaching and convincing voice of God in his dreadful providences, had our hearts been in a fit capacity to improve it. We now saw how near we were brought to safety, and even there like to perish. When we thought all danger over, then, even then, our greatest danger befell us. To abide in this starved condition much longer we could not, and to get out was impossible, until God should allay the storm, and change the wind. Patience and hope must be our supports, and we thought our hopes were encouraged by the many wonders which God had wrought in our preservation hitherto. We therefore waited that day for an opportunity of escape, but there was none. Cripple Cove must be our dismal lodging one night more at least, if not our grave also. Towards night indeed the wind began to veer to the N. W. but there was no putting out, the sea was so lofty, and the place blocked up with so much ice. This almost put us into utter despair, concluding, that so long continuance in extremity of cold, which had so swollen our legs and feet, and burnt some of them already, would have perfectly mortified them all in one night more; and that if at last God brought us out of this dreadful place, yet none but cripples should come out of Cripple Cove at last; but God had us shut up under this necessity, and there was no escape until his providential hand should open the door of a most desired opportunity. It pleased God to support us under the severities and miseries of that night also, and lengthen our lives unto
Monday the 12th of May.
As soon as the morning came, we looked on with eager desires, to find, or force our way thence, if it were possible. The wind was this morning fresh off the shore, but still a great sea came into the cove, and abundance of ice had blocked it up. But our necessities were so pressing and urgent upon us, that we must (like soldiers in a besieged garrison, whose provision is spent) sally out and force our passage through all dangers, or perish there with hunger and cold. But so great was the sea that it was concluded our boat could not possibly live in it, if we all ventured again in her; and therefore by consent eight of us resolved to venture out, and the other five were content to tarry, seeing it could not be otherwise, until we sent help from the first place we could get to fetch them off.
Now we found the benefit of our third oar, for no sooner were we put out, but we found the sea so great, and such a multitude of ice, that we even wished ourselves back with our miserable companions again in the cove. However, we put hard to it, and by the good providence of God, at last disintangled ourselves out of the ice, but with a world of difficulty and danger.
No sooner was that done but we labored hard to get a good distance off from the shore, and so rowed away to the north. About nine of the clock little wind, but within an hour a gale sprang up at north-east, just in our teeth, at which time being got a little to the northward of Glamp Cove, and so faint, that we could not possibly make any more way forwards, we were forced (though with most unwilling and heavy hearts) to bear up and put in there.
We were troubled for ourselves and the disappointment of our poor companions, at least the long delay of their expectations of relief, increased our trouble. Poor hearts! they looked for a dove with an olive-branch: but now what would they conclude, but that like the raven sent out by Noah they should see no more of us.
However, it pleased God about two in the afternoon, the wind ceased, immediately we put out of Glamp Cove, and rowed along though faint and feeble as we could live, and about an hour, in the night, we all came alive to Renouse, blessed be the Lord, where some crawled and others were helped up to the house of Mr. Kirk, Esquire, who with much compassion and humanity refreshed us with such things as the place afforded.
Immediately we acquainted him with the perishing state of our five companions left in Cripple Cove, begging him passionately to get a boat, men, and necessary provisions forthwith, and dispatch to them; which he promised to endeavor; and accordingly next morning they were to go to them to fetch them off; but there being a boat bound that night to Trepasse, we sent them twenty biscuits, a flacket of beer, and a bottle of rum, which was delivered them timely the next day. But to our great trouble it so fell out, that partly for want of men acquainted with the cove, and partly by the omission of the masters of ships that fished there, the boat designed to fetch them off proceeded not the next day, and foul weather hindered them the following day. So that it was Thursday the 15th of May before the boat departed. Upon the arrival of the boat, they found one dead, whom they there buried, and carried away the remaining four for Trepasse, the wind not serving to bring them to Renouse.
Being come thither, the Admiral, Capt. Berry, of Barnstaple, called the harbor together, not so much to behold a prodigy (though scarce a greater had ever been seen there) but to contribute to their relief and cure if it were possible, by encouraging the surgeons that were to be presently employed about them. There were two or three upon the place, who did their uttermost to preserve their lives and limbs, but found three of them so mortified, that they were forced presently to dismember two of them, cutting off both legs from one, and one leg from another, the third refusing to be dismembered, died, and likewise those that suffered it, in four or five days; one only of those four recovered.
Those that went in the boat to Renouse were all in a miserable case also. One of them died in three weeks time, his feet and hands being perished with the cold, and the rest of us in a sad condition; one lost four toes, the rest had their legs as black as a coal, but by the goodness of God, and speedy use of what means could be had, their lives were preserved to declare the wonders of God among men. So that of twenty-one persons that were first in the ship, five went down with the ship, three perished in the long-boat, one in the cove, and three more at Trepasse, and one at Renouse. So that eight only of the twenty-one survived, of which number the unworthy relater is one; and O! that our lives may be dedicated entirely to his praise, who has so graciously, yes, so miraculously delivered them out of the jaws of death.
The Second NARRATIVE
MASTER Thomas Reed, yet living to attest the truth of this narrative, (an abstract whereof I procured from his nearest relations from Ratcliff, himself, at that time, being at sea,) was some years since in Carolina Bay, in Newfoundland, to load fish, with which he designed to go for the Straits. The ship accordingly being loaded, he took up his powder, and made what room he could in his bread-room to stow away what fish he could; and this being done, the powder was put down again, and all things being put in order, they went to supper, and so to their cabins.
At supper-time, the master had no disposition at all to eat, he therefore retires himself into his cabin, to take his rest, but could not sleep. Whereupon he called in the boy to bring a light, which no sooner came, but he perceived smoke to come out of the ceiling, which gave him an apprehension of danger, and taking more notice of it, he hastened out of his cabin, and cried out, Fire, fire.
The mate being by, feared it might be in the gun-room, and would have gone down immediately to examine it; but before he could stir a foot farther, the ship blew up.
The terrible blow was given just behind the master's back, which rent and carried away all the clothes from his back-parts, and blew him up upon the main-yard, where it laid him in a trance, but so equally and exactly poised that he fell not; the mate fell also upon his back, and lay upon him: but the master recovering at last some sense, and feeling an heavy weight upon his back, he began to struggle to take hold of the shrouds, which turned over the mate, who fell into the sea, and was seen no more.
The ship sunk immediately, and that with such a noise in the water, that he was forced to climb as fast, and as high as he could, and so hang until a boat from another ship came and saved him. Thus one among many was miraculously plucked out of the jaws of death, and he so bruised and weak with the blow, that it was long before he recovered; yet at last his lameness was cured, and he returned, to the wonder of all men.
1. IN this relation, there is a concurrence of rare and wonderful circumstances: As, (1.) The indisposedness of the master that evening both to meat and sleep, though he knew no reason to hinder him from the one or other. Here seems to be a plain presage of approaching danger, while as yet there was not the least suspicious circumstance in sight. This, some ascribe to a certain unusual crasis of the body, others to an overpoise of complexion, which is much the same: for my own part, I am satisfied that such presages as this, (the like whereunto has been observed in divers others before their death, or some imminent danger) is from the inspiration of some spirit, in a supernatural way.
Bodinus tells us of a good man of his time and acquaintance, who had many remarkable and strange premonitions given him of approaching danger; and that one time being in very great danger, and newly gone to bed, he was unquiet, and could by no means rest, but was forced to rise again, and spend the night in watching and prayer. The day following he escaped the hands of his persecutors in a wonderful manner; which being done, in his next sleep he seemed to hear a voice, saying, Now sing: "He who dwells in the secret places of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
2. The providence of God was also wonderful in nicking the very minute, wherein he was to be preserved, which had it been slipped, there had been no escape from destruction: for had he stayed a minute longer in the cabin, he had been shattered to pieces, and had he come out sooner, he and the mate had certainly gone down into the gun-room, and both had perished there. O how many substantial documents and instructions may that one circumstance of time afford to the wise and serious observers of providence.
3. It was little less than a miracle of providence, that the same blow which shattered a stout ship in pieces, blew others away to destruction in a moment, had its commission from Heaven only to blow off the clothes from his back, and place him in a perfect equipoize upon the yard of the ship, where he was settled as the earth itself is evenly balanced or poised with its own weight; the least struggle of a man deprived of sense as he was, had been his ruin.
I do heartily wish a life made so remarkable by the wonders of providence, may be no less remarkable for eminent and serious godliness, and that his life may be devoted to God, which has been so miraculously preserved by him.