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(From the Buenos Aires "Standard" of September 5.)

Estancia Viamonte, Rio Grande,
Tierra del Fuego, July 31st, 1907.  

Dear Mr Mulhall,
About noon on the 28th inst. I was sitting in this, "my little wooden hut," listening to the breakers thundering on the beach and wondering if the sun would ever shine again, for the rain and snow had been taking spell and spell about for over a week, when an Indian looked in at the door and spoke one word: "Koliot," which means white man. Knowing what white men are I looked to my gun and then out at the door, and there, sure enough, two strangers, wet and weary, guided by my old friend "Chalshoat," clad in his guanaco-skin robe, were approaching. The sight of the Indian calmed my fears, and in a few minutes my visitors were at work on bread, mutton and tea.  

On the 23rd of July, the Glencairn, a four-masted sailing vessel, bound  from London to some port in California, bumped heavily on a reef near False Cove, Cape San Diego. Of course it was snowing from the east at the time, thick and heavy, and the captain, finding the water gaining fast on the pumps, commenced to examine this dangerous coast in the hope of finding some nook where he might still save his ship, or at least land his crew.

A lifeboat was lowered, and three men got into her, and managed to cast her adrift, when a huge sea filled her, and the next turned her bottom up, two men were drowned, but the third, a powerful Scandinavian, managed to scramble on the keel.

The captain, allowing humanity to get the upper hand of prudence, called for volunteers, and the second mate, followed by six brave seamen, were soon in the other lifeboat with a narrow, narrow step between them and death. After about two hours' fight, they returned to the vessel, with their comrade still alive but stupid and numb with cold.

On the evening of the 25th, the captain sent off the boat with his wife and 18 months' old babe and the stewardess in charge of the second officer ; but, finding landing impossible in that heavy surf, they returned, soaked to the skin with spray, to the vessel which looked "so low in the water."

Imagine the situation ! A miserable day, fog and rain, the wintry, inhospitable coast, guarded by those rows of angry breakers ; the lonely boat, returning to the sinking vessel ; and then— to look at the rolling dark-grey sea, waiting like some hungry monster sure of its prey, to devour the tiny babe as it had done those two poor seamen, so short a time before. The next morning all hands had to take to the boats without delay. On nearing the shore, the men noticed an Indian, who seemed, they say, to fly along the rocks, making frantic signs to them to land in a certain place ; so they bravely put the boats at the breakers with the same feeling, no doubt, that one puts a tired horse at a fence, only more so. For a few moments, even the old seamen say, the boats seemed to stand on end, and looked to be com- [?] on top of them, as the great waves piled up steep in the shallow water, tossed them, but thanks to splendid handling they passed safely through the breakers into a little quiet pool among the rocks, which no one had even dreamt of. The Indian, Halimine, ran out into the water, carried the baby; helped the women, and hurried the men along the beach, for he knew the danger. The long line of unscalable cliffs on one side and the rising tide on the other might cut off their retreat. Four other Onas soon appeared, having wisely kept out of sight lest their robes should frighten the visitors.

As soon as a place of safety was reached, the Indians made a large fire to warm their guests, who numbered 25. They then all went up to the Indian camp in the woods. Halimine managed to make them understand that not very far away there lived a "large white man in a small house," and that the Indians were his gamekeepers. So the second officer set off with a seaman and Chalshoat, and after two miserable, sleepless nights in the wet woods, arrived here as described in the beginning. Of course, when the horses are wanted they are never to be found, so the short winter day was drawing to a close when I, with three Indians, galloped east, taking some horses and provisions. Towards dawn it stopped raining, but one of the horses broke through the ice in a stream, and it took a long time to get him out, so it was almost midday before we reached the camp, and at sight of us the crew cheered so heartily that I fear many a poor frightened guanaco ran far inland that day. We found all well, living among the Indians, eking out the small supply of food, with meat the Indians brought them. They had taken to wearing moccasins by the advice of Halimine, and found them warmer than boots, and even the "wee babe" had a pair. They took leave of their Indian friends with hearty thanks and hand-shaking all round, the weaker on horseback, the stronger on foot, the captain among the latter, like a brave Scotchman, with his babe strapped en his back, and all arrived safely about two hours after dark, dog-tired and footsore, but thankful. A sergeant arrived here to-day with a few spare horses, so to-morrow we all hope to move on to Rio Grande, where a steamer is expected dally.

Estancla Primera Argentina, Rio Grande, Aug. 2nd. With the help of the good sergeant, Fermin Quintes, we managed to find horses and some kind of saddles for all our visitors. Poor fellows! A few of them had been on horseback before, but what with collecting the fallen and catching the runaway steeds, we only arrived here this evening at sunset. We were met by Mr McLennan, the manager, who soon had his visitors better lodged than they have been for some time, so now I can safely leave my new friends, and to-morrow shall be galloping eastward again, driving a troop of saddled but riderless horses before me, and my return will be, I expect, more rapid if less merry than my ride up.

My story is ended, but there is one thing I should like to ask about if you do not mind. A lot of people smile if one speaks of Providence, but was it instinct, a chance, that guided those strangers to almost, if not quite, the only spot they could land at in over 100 miles of wretched, rock-girt, coast line, and did this same wonderful chance send that wandering band of Onas to the same spot, which perhaps no one may go near again for six long months or more ? The vessel, anchored about two miles from the coast, sank soon after the crew left her, and as she is of iron and laden with cement, she is likely to remain at the bottom of the sea.

I remain, yours sincerely,
Lucas Bridges.

Source: "Townsville Daily Bulletin" (Townsville, Qld.), 28 November 1907
Clipped: 22-IX-2012

(Lesley Nichol writes, XII-2012): On board the Glencairn were Captain John Nichol, his wife Jane and their 17 month old son, John Glencairn. Following their safe return to Ardrossan in Scotland, they went on to have a daughter and another son. Captain Nichol died in 1915, only eight years after their rescue. He was 37. To support the family, his wife opened a small grocer's shop. Around 30 years after their rescue, Lucas Bridges did a broadcast for BBC radio. Mrs Nichol contacted him and, some time later, he visited her in Ardrossan. She enquired after the Ona Indians who had saved their lives and was greatly amused to learn that they had wanted to kidnap her as a companion for Lucas Bridges.

In June 2007 the family held a reunion to commemorate the centenary of the saving of the crew of the Glencairn. It was held on the barque Glenlee, a sailing ship similar in size and age to the Glencairn. The Glenlee is moored on the River Clyde in front of the Scottish Transport Museum. Present at the reunion were 30 direct descendents of the Captain and his wife, all of whom owe a great debt to the Ona and Lucas Bridges.

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