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set me right in a few days, but I remained rather weak, and spent most of my time reading in the cabin, which was very comfortable. On Friday, August 6, we were in N. Lat. 30° 30', W. Long. 52°, when, about nine in the morning, just after breakfast, Captain Turner, who was half-owner of the vessel, came into the cabin, and said, 'I'm afraid the ship's on fire. Come and see what you think of it. Going on deck I found a thick smoke coming out of the forecastle, which we both thought more like the steam from heating vegetable matter than the smoke from a fire. The fore hatchway was immediately opened to try and ascertain the origin of the smoke, and a quantity of cargo was thrown out, but the smoke continuing without any perceptible increase, we went to the after hatchway, and after throwing out a quantity of piassaba, with which the upper part of the hold was filled, the smoke became so dense that the men could not stay in it. Most of them were then set to work throwing in buckets of water, and the rest proceeded to the cabin and opened the lazaretto or store-place beneath its floor, and found smoke issuing from the bulkhead separating it from the hold, which extended halfway under the fore part of the cabin. Attempts were then made to break down this bulkhead, but it resisted all efforts, the smoke being so suffocating as to prevent any one stopping in it more that a minute at a time. A hole was then cut in the cabin floor, and while the carpenter was doing this, the rest of the crew were employed getting out the boats, the captain looked after his chronometer, sextant, books, charts and compasses, and I got up a small tin box containing a few shirts, and put in it my drawings of fishes and palms, which were luckily at hand; also my watch and a purse with a few sovereigns. Most of my clothes were scattered about the cabin, and in the dense suffocating smoke it was impossible to look about after them. There were two boats, the long-boat and the captain's gig, and it took a good deal of time to get the merest necessaries collected and put into them, and to lower them into the water. Two casks of biscuit and a cask of water were got in, a lot of raw pork and some ham, a few tins of preserved meats and vegetables, and some
wine. Then there were corks to stop the holes in the boats, oars, masts, sails, and rudders to be looked up, spare spars, cordage, twine, canvas, needles, carpenter's tools, nails, etc. The crew brought up their bags of clothes, and all were bundled indiscriminately into the boats, which, having been so long in the sun, were very leaky and soon became half full of water, so that two men in each of them had to be constantly baling out the water with buckets. Blankets, rugs, pillows, and clothes were all soaked, and the boats seemed overloaded, though there was really very little weight in them. All being now prepared, the crew were again employed pouring water in the cabin and hatchway.
“The cargo of the ship consisted of rubber, cocoa, anatto, balsam-capivi, and piassaba. The balsam was in small casks, twenty stowed in sand, and twenty small kegs in ricechaff, immediately beneath the cabin floor, where the fire seemed to be. For some time we had heard this bubbling and hissing as if boiling furiously, the heat in the cabin was very great, flame soon broke into the berths and through the cabin floor, and in a few minutes more blazed up through the skylight on deck. All hands were at once ordered into the boats, which were astern of the ship. It was now about twelve o'clock, only three hours from the time the smoke was first discovered. I had to let myself down into the boat by a rope, and being rather weak it slipped through my hands and took the skin off all my fingers, and finding the boat still half full of water I set to baling, which made my hands smart very painfully. We lay near the ship all the afternoon, watching the progress of the flames, which soon covered the hinder part of the vessel and rushed up the shrouds and sails in a most magnificent conflagration. Soon afterwards, by the rolling of the ship, the masts broke off and fell overboard, the decks soon burnt away, the ironwork at the sides became red-hot, and last of all the bowsprit, being burnt at the base, fell also. No one had thought of being hungry till darkness came on, when we had a meal of biscuit and raw ham, and then disposed ourselves as well as we could for the night, which, you may be sure, was by no means a pleasant
one. Our boats continued very leaky, and we could not cease an instant from baling; there was a considerable swell, though the day had been remarkably fine, and there were constantly floating around us pieces of the burnt wreck, masts, etc., which might have stove in our boats had we not kept a constant lookout to keep clear of them. We remained near the ship all night in order that we might have the benefit of its flames attracting any vessel that might pass within sight of it.
" It now presented a magnificent and awful sight as it rolled over, looking like a huge caldron of fire, the whole cargo of rubber, etc., forming a liquid burning mass at the bottom. In the morning our little masts and sails were got up, and we bade adieu to the Helen, now burnt down to the water's edge, and proceeded with a light east wind towards the Bermudas, the nearest land, but which were more than seven hundred miles from us. As we were nearly in the track of West Indian vessels, we expected to fall in with some ship in a few days.
“I cannot attempt to describe my feelings and thoughts during these events. I was surprised to find myself very cool and collected. I hardly thought it possible we should escape, and I remember thinking it almost foolish to save my watch and the little money I had at hand. However, after being in the boats some days I began to have more hope, and regretted not having saved some new shoes, cloth coat and trousers, hat, etc., which I might have done with a little trouble. My collections, however, were in the hold, and were irretrievably lost. And now I began to think that almost all the reward of my four years of privation and danger was lost. What I had hitherto sent home had little more than paid my expenses, and what I had with me in the Helen I estimated would have realized about £500. But even all this might have gone with little regret had not by far the richest part of my own private collection gone also. All my private collection of insects and birds since I left Para was with me, and comprised hundreds of new and beautiful species, which would have rendered (I had fondly hoped) my cabinet, as far as regards American species, one of the finest in Europe. VOL. I.
Fancy your regrets had you lost all your Pyrenean mosses on your voyage home, or should you now lose all your South American collection, and you will have some idea of what I suffer. But besides this, I have lost a number of sketches, drawings, notes, and observations on natural history, besides the three most interesting years of my journal, the whole of which, unlike any pecuniary loss, can never be replaced ; so you will see that I have some need of philosophic resignation to bear my fate with patience and equanimity.
"Day after day we continued in the boats. The winds changed, blowing dead from the point to which we wanted to go. We were scorched by the sun, my hands, nose, and ears being completely skinned, and were drenched cont ally by the seas or spray. We were therefore almost constantly wet, and had no comfort and little sleep at night. Our meals consisted of raw pork and biscuit, with a little preserved meat or carrots once a day, which was a great luxury, and a short allowance of water, which left us as thirsty as before directly after we had drunk it. Ten days and ten nights we spent in this manner. We were still two hundred miles from Bermuda, when in the afternoon a vessel was seen, and by eight in the evening we were on board her, much rejoiced to have escaped a death on the wide ocean, whence none would have come to tell the tale. The ship was the Fordeson, bound for London, and proves to be one of the slowest old ships going. With a favourable wind and all sail set, she seldom does more than five knots, her average being two or three, so that we have had a most tedious time of it, and even now cannot calculate with any certainty as to when we shall arrive. Besides this, she was rather short of provisions, and as our arrival exactly doubled her crew, we were all obliged to be put on strict allowance of bread, meat, and water. A little ham and butter of the captain's were soon used up, and we have been now for some time on the poorest of fare. We have no suet, butter, or raisins with which to make 'duff,' or even molasses, and barely enough sugar to sweeten our tea or coffee, which we take with dry, coarse biscuit, and for dinner, beef or pork of the very worst quality
I have ever eaten or even imagined to exist. This, repeated day after day without any variation, beats even Rio Negro fare, rough though it often was. About a week after we were picked up we spoke and boarded an outward-bound ship, and got from her some biscuits, a few potatoes, and some salt cod, which were a great improvement, but did not last long. We have also occasionally caught some dolphin and a few fish resembling the acarrás of the Rio Negro; but for some time now we have seen none, so that I am looking forward to the 'flesh-pots of Egypt' with as much pleasure as when we were luxuriating daily on farinha and 'fiel amigo.'' While we were in the boats we had generally fine weather, though with a few days and nights squally and with a heavy sea, which made me often tremble for our safety, as we heeled over till the water poured in over the boat's side. We had almost despaired of seeing any vessel, our circle of vision being so limited; but we had great hopes of reaching Bermuda, though it is doubtful if we should have done so, the neighbourhood of those islands being noted for sudden squalls and hurricanes, and it was the time of year when the hurricanes most frequently occur. Having never seen a great gale or storm at sea, I had some desire to witness the phenomenon, and have now been completely gratified. The first we had about a fortnight ago. In the morning there was a strong breeze and the barometer had fallen nearly half an inch during the night and continued sinking, so the captain commenced taking in sail, and while getting in the royals and studdingsails, the wind increased so as to split the mainsail, fore-topsail, fore-trysail, and jib, and it was some hours before they could be got off her, and the main-topsail and fore-sail double reefed. We then went flying along, the whole ocean a mass of boiling foam, the crests of the waves being carried in spray over our decks. The sea did not get up immediately, but by night it was very rough, the ship plunging and rolling most fearfully, the sea pouring in a deluge over the top of her bulwarks, and sometimes up over the cabin skylight. The next
· This was the name given by our kind host, Señor Henrique, at Barra to dried pirarucú, meaning "faithful friend,” always at hand when other food failed.