1799 - Loss of the Proserpine


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol II
1799 Light Squadrons and Single Ships 316

to pieces by the ice. This sad expectation, the darkness of the night, the extreme coldness of the weather, and the heavy snow storm that raged, rendered the situation of the people on board the frigate truly deplorable. On the next morning ; the 2d, the gale increased, and the ice rose to the cabin windows ; the sternpost also broke in two, and, the ship received other important damage. It was then proposed, that the officers and crew should attempt to reach the shore over the ice. This, considering the severity and thickness of the weather, the ignorance of the way, and the numberless dangers attendant on such a journey, struck every one as hazardous in the extreme. But, to stay any longer on board was useless, and might be attended with the most dreadful consequences.

Accordingly, at 1 h. 30 m. p.m., the ship's company, in subdivisions, attended by their respective officers, commenced their march on the ice; and at 3 p.m., Captain Wallis, and Lieutenant Ridley of the marines, the two last persons on board, quitted the Proserpine. After a journey of six miles, in the severest of weather, over high flakes of ice, and sometimes up to their middles in snow and water, the ship's company, whose subordination and perseverance were highly praiseworthy, reached the island of Newark ; but not without the melancholy loss of seven seamen, one boy, four marines, and one woman and her child, frozen to death. Others had had their legs and fingers frozen, but were fortunate enough not to lose the use of them. The whole number of males, mustered on landing, were 173.

The storm lasted, without intermission, until the night of the 5th. On the following morning, the 6th, owing to the scarcity of provisions, half the officers and ship's company, accompanied by Mr. Grenville and his suite, proceeded to Cuxhaven ; travelling, as before, over the ice, and encountering a similar succession of difficulties. At length, however, the party arrived in safety. The captain, with the remainder of his officers and men, remained at Newark, in hopes to be able to save some of the stores from the ship. On the 8th, the master, Mr. Anthony, volunteered, with a party of seamen, to go on board for that purpose. He did so, and found the frigate lying on her beam ends, with seven and a half feet of water in her hold ; having her quarterdeck separated from the gangway six feet, and to all appearance, only kept from entirely parting by the ice that surrounded her. From this account, it was agreed not to visit her again ; but, on the 10th, the clearness of the day induced Mr. Anthony, taking with him the surgeon, one midshipman, the boatswain, and two seamen, to go off a second time. These bold adventurers got safe on board, but neglected to return when the tide suited. At about 10 p.m., a violent storm came on from the south-south-east ; and the tide rose, in consequence, to an uncommon height. This, as it raised the ice that stuck to the ship, floated her and that together ; and the wreck, after

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