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Faithful and Historical Reminiscences of Captain Manby

Contributed by Time and Tide Museum

Faithful and Historical Reminiscences of Captain Manby

During four winters after my appointment to the charge of the Barracks at Yarmouth in 1803, I resided near the beach, and was witness each year to the loss of vessels and their crew while within a few yards of the shore and safety.  But in the dreadful gale of February 18 1807, I beheld, when his majesty’s gun brig ‘Snipe’ was stranded, no less than sixty seven persons perished, within fifty yards from the shore, from the impossibility of getting any communication by a rope or a line with the vessel, though every attempt was made for several hours to rescue them by the methods then in use.  On the close of that mournful event I vowed that if Providence spared my life, I would apply myself to discover some means by which not only the sufferers might have been rescued, but similar occurrences prevented in future.  Many months produced uniform disappointment in my attempts; all the modes by which a rope might possibly be conveyed from the distressed vessel to the shore were tried, and all rejected, on finding that nothing, having a line to it, however buoyant, would come to the beach.  I thus entertained the idea of casting a weight, with a line attached to it, from the shore to the vessel, either by mechanical force, or that of gunpowder, and I attempted the projecting of a shot with a chain from a carronade; but finding chains invariable break from the want of proper and immediate connecting medium, and that stout rope, was consumed, and thus defeated my efforts in innumerable experiments, I began to despair of success.  At last procuring a royal mortar better adapted to the purpose I hit upon a better medium of connection between the shot and the line (platted ox hide), which did not, as all ropes had done before, burn at the discharge, and thus succeeded in effecting the objects for communication.

From that time not a single life, has been lost on that part of the coast, where many, had annually perished.  I should observe, the important fact has been confirmed to me, that since its adoption, crews have felt the confidence in their safety, and do not, as formerly, cut and run to the shore for self preservation in violent gales of wind; and  can add with truth, not only from what has been related to be by persons on board vessels in cases of great danger, but from what has come under my own observation, that many vessels and valuable cargoes have been saved entirely by the confidence with which this plan has inspired the crews.

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Captain George Manby

This page is part of the Online Exhibition(s): Shipwreck! For Those in Peril