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The Sole Survivor of Two Shipwrecks and Capture by Indians— Two Years' Suffering of a Castaway.

Among the passengers who arrived in this city on the steamer Monowai was Captain Mackay, formerly master of the schooner Ocean Belle of Plymouth, England, to which place the captain is now on his way. The schooner left London two years ago bound to Montevideo. Until about three months ago nothing had been heard of her, and she was set down as missing.

Captain Mackay was seen by a Call reporter shortly after he came ashore, to whom he gave the following narrative of the loss of the vessel and the fate of most of the crew:

"Soon after leaving London and while in the English Channel we were caught in a heavy northeast gale that nearly sent us to the bottom. Of course, it was a fair wind, but it raised such a fearful sea that the schooner was under water half the time. We hove-to in the middle of the night under a close-reefed foresail, but before daylight had to keep away before the wind, the sail having been blown out of the bolt-ropes.


"The fore topsail was set close-reefed, and that soon went, and for forty-eight hours we scudded before the wind under bare poles. The sea swept over the vessel from stem to stern, tearing all the port bulwarks out of her and washing John King, an ordinary seaman, overboard. Nothing could be done to save him, as the only boat was smashed by the sea, and the rest of the crew had to lash themselves to the main fife-rail in order to prevent the sea sweeping them from the decks."

The storm at last moderated, and Captain Mackay intended putting into the Western Islands for repairs, but when the vessel was nearly into St. Michaels she was caught in another heavy gale that carried her far to the southward and eastward of the islands. Ropes were stretched along the port side, where the bulwarks were gone, and the Ocean Belle kept on her course for South America.

They had no more bad weather until about 200 miles from the mouth of the river Platte, where the schooner was caught in a terrific hurricane, which took her masts out. The falling spars killed one man and two more were washed off the deck. The captain, a boy and a Swedish sailor, all that were left of the crew, lashed themselves to the fife-rail, where for twenty-four hours death stared them in the face.


When the hurricane subsided it was found that they were blown far to the eastward, and, what was worse, the vessel was half full of water, and In danger of going down with them.

The pumps were manned, but the water gained on them so fast that the men turned their attention to providing some means of saving themselves when the schooner no longer became safe. The water casks were stowed in the fore-peak, and by letting the water run out they were able to get them on deck, and from them and some planks taken from the hold a raft was made. On this were placed some boxes of provisions taken from the cabin and two small casks of water, with a gun and box of cartridges. A mast was rigged of a light spar, and a spare topgallant sail completed the outfit. The raft was launched and then dropped astern of the schooner, as there seemed to be a chance of the vessel floating for several hours. Soon after sundown the water was up to the bunks in the cabin and the vessel began to roll heavy. The shipwrecked men then took to thee raft, and by daylight nothing could be seen of the schooner. She had sunk in the night.


The men were then in a sorry condition, as there was but a slim chance of the frail raft holding together long should it begin to blow. Day after day passed and the surface of the ocean was hardly ruffled with a breeze. The days were hot and at night they suffered with cold. The tenth day on the raft the boy took sick and for two days lay groaning and tossing, calling for his mother and sister, until at last death came to his relief. The boy died in the afternoon, and as the sun went down the two men wrapped the corpse in a blanket and consigned it to the deep. The night was spent in silence, Mackay spoke to his companion, but got no answer. When daylight came he saw Mitchell, the sailor, crouched at the further edge of the raft, while in his hand be held the gun, with both hammers at full cock. The terrible look in the poor fellow's eyes told him that his companion was a maniac. Mackay shuddered as he realized the horrors of the situation and eagerly scanned the surface of the ocean In hopes of seeing a sail, but no such welcome sight met his gaze. To make things worse the supply of water was running short and Mackay knew that unless relief came before many days the end was not faraway. All day long Mitchell sat glaring at his companion as if about to attack him, but although he played with the gun he made no attempt to shoot.


Just before night, Mackay made up his mind to get possession of the gun at all hazards, so, taking some biscuit from the box he offered it to Mitchell, who snatched it from his hand like a wild beast, but instead of eating he threw it overboard, and the next instant, raising the gun to his shoulder, aimed at Mackay and pulled the trigger. The gun failed to go off and in an instant Mackay closed with the crazy man before, he could strike him with the weapon. Mitchell, weak as he was, fought like a a tiger, and Mackay soon found he was no match for the crazy sailor. As they rolled and struggled on the raft it rocked as if about to upset. Mitchell was doing his best to drag his companion to the edge of the frail support and cast him into the sea. It was a struggle for life, and Mackay felt he was rapidly going under, when, in the struggle, his hand came in contact with the heavy sheath-knife in the sailor's belt. Then the tide of battle turned, and Mackay rained blow after blow on the head and face of his opponent with the heavy knife-handle. At last a blow on the temple laid the sailor senseless on the raft, and Mackay used his remaining strength to tie him hand and foot. In the terrible struggle every particle of food and water had been knocked from the raft. The water-cask floated alongside the raft, but its contents were as salt as the water it floated in. Half a dozen biscuits were fished up, but they also were soaked with salt water. Still Mackay hoped on.


All night long Mitchell kept up his struggles to free himself, and at last managed to gain his feet. Mackay started toward him, thinking he had untied his hands, but before he could get hold of him the poor fellow gave a scream, flung himself into the ocean and Mackay was alone on the raft. The day wore on, and by night a brisk breeze was blowing and the shipwrecked sailor had to lash himself to the raft to keep from bring washed overboard. Once more the sun arose, but Mackay lay on his frail raft indifferent to his fate. All hope was now gone from the breast of the castaway, yet help was at hand and the poor fellow was rescued almost from the jaws of death. About noon, had Mackay raised his head, he would have seen a bark bearing down on him. Some of the crew had seen the strange craft, and the captain gave orders to run down to it. As the vessel approached a human figure was seen stretched on it. A boat was lowered and quickly rowed alongside. Mackay started to his feet with a wild cry as he saw the boat, realized that he was rescued, and then sank senseless on the raft. He was carried on board the bark, and when he came to his senses found himself in the cabin of the bark Gloria, a Chilean vessel, bound from Havre to Valparaiso.


The captain spoke good English and did all he could for the castaway, who was soon able to get around on his feet again, The bark kept away on her course and was soon off Cape Horn. Here a heavy gale sprang up and inside of twenty-four hours the vessel was dismasted and became a helpless wreck. The crew staid by the vessel until the gale subsided and then abandoned her. Plenty of food and water were placed in the three boats. There were six men In each and each had a compass. The course of the nearest land was given them by the captain, but only one of the three boats ever reached it. This was the captain's boat, which, after eight days, during which they were often nearly swamped, they made a landing on the shore of Terra del Fuego. The place was not very inviting, but there was lots of wood and a fire was made and the men lay down to sleep. How long they slept they could not tell, but when they awoke they found that they were surrounded by about twenty natives, their boat was gone and they were virtually prisoners. Resistance was useless, so when the savages took their bread and began to eat the unfortunate men could do nothing. Next day a larger party of natives put in their appearance and by night the men were on their way to the interior.


Not knowing what their fate would be Mackay and the Chilean captain determined to escape if possible. That night they eluded the natives, who did not keep a very sharp lookout, and made their way back to the seashore. Here they spent the day searching for the boat, but did not find It. Their only food was shell fish, eaten raw, but of this they had plenty, and they also found plenty of water. To get out of the country they determined to follow the coast line north as well as possible, in hopes of reaching the Straits of Magellan and being picked up by a passing vessel. The sharp rocks soon cut their shoes to pieces, and the half-starved men made but slow progress, as the country was mountainous and often a whole day was spent in scaling a cliff or crossing a swift stream. Twelve days the two men struggled on ; and then an accident occurred by which Mackay found himself, once more alone. In the afternoon they came to a stream about thirty yards wide. It was full of rocks and the water ran very swift. Mackay got across all right, but his companion was seized with cramps and drowned before Mackay could render him any assistance. After this the lonely castaway made his way along the coast, living on berries and shell fish, half naked and foot sore, and looking more like one of the savages he had escaped from than a civilized human being.


At last he reached the straits, but he was a long way from Sandy Point, the nearest place where he could hope to meet civilized men. Still, there was a chance of being picked up by a passing steamer, and Mackay spent hours each day for a week perched on a high bluff watching for a passing vessel. On the eighth day after reaching the straits he was seen and rescued by the English steamer Plymouth Rock and taken to Punta Arenas, where he was sent ashore and put in charge of a doctor. It was fully two months before he recovered from the terrible hardship of his journey, and then he was sent up to Valparaiso to give the story of the loss of the bark and the probable fate of her crew. While in Valparaiso he met a cousin who was master of an English ship, and with him went to Sydney, where he remained until the owners sent for him to return to England. Mackay is a tall man, not over 40 years of age, but looks nearer 60. His hair is nearly white. "I don't like to talk of what I have been through," he said, "and wish I could forget it. 1 have done with the sea,' and when I reach England shall settle down on a little place I own there. "I don't think either of the other two boats ever reached the shore, and I think the men who were left in the hands of the natives were killed."

Source: "San Francisco Call", 11 July 1891
Clipped: 29-VI-2013
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