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Sailing Disaster 1823 - LOSS OF THE ALERT PACKET

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(From the Liverpool Advertiser of April 6, 1823.)

It is our painful duty to record the loss of one of the sailing packets of this port, by the sinking of which, while on her homeward voyage from Dublin, it is sup-posed (according to the general reports of the few survivors) upwards of one hundred of our fellow creatures, men, women, and children, have suddenly perished.

The Alert sailed from Dublin on Tuesday night, about half-past eight, and on Wednesday morning made the coast of Wales. The wind had been general-ly favourable, but about ten o'clock, a.m. the Captain finding the breeze abating, and the vessel driving to-wards the West Mouse rock, sent their boat a-head, in full expectation of clearing it by towing. There was, just before, a fine light breeze, which, had it con-tinued (and of which there was every appearance) the vessel would easily have avoided the rock. The tide, however, at this unfortunate juncture, became so power-ful as to render abortive the efforts of the rowers in the boat, and soon drifted the vessel upon the rock, which she struck, though not with very great violence. But it was soon discovered that the shock caused the vessel to leak considerably, and the pumps were im-mediately set to work. The water, in defiance of every exertion, continued to gain upon them, and in a few minutes reached the cabin floor. All who could, now lent their endeavours to bale out with buckets. The leak continued to increase rapidly, and it was soon perceived that all efforts to keep the vessel were of no avail. She became water-logged, and there be-ing no wind, it was impossible to throw her on the shore, which was perhaps a mile and a half distant. In this desperate situation, several individuals leaped into the sea, to reach the boat which had been towing a-head and which contained the greater part of the crew. Those in the boat picked up as many as she could con-tain, numbering in all 17, amongst whom is the Cap- tain, who, by the exertion of the mate (who was be-fore in the boat) was saved. The boat was but twelve feet long, and with this load, being nearly level with the water's edge, was with difficulty, though in a com-paratively smooth sea, rowed to the shore. Mean-time terror and despair seized the unfortunate beings left on board the vessel. But a veil, never to be pene-trated, is drawn over the terrific scene that. closed their earthly career. Those saved in the boat can but give a confused and imperfect relation of the horrors of those awful minutes which preceded their escape. One only of the cabin passengers was saved, a re-spectable tradesman of Liverpool. He thinks there were about one hundred persons on board ; the Captain supposes not more than seventy, exclusive of those saved. In either account we find a mournful reckoning ; and as, with the exception of those in the cabin, the passengers were chiefly persons in the humbler walks of life, the truth it will be impossible to ascertain. The gentleman saved, to whom we have alluded, states that when the boat pulled towards the shore, they left those on the vessel, amongst whom were three ladies, many other females, and some children, weeping and praying. On reaching shore (after rowing three quarters of an hour) a Welchman who observed the disaster from a hill, informed them that the vessel had dis-appeared. The boat returned to the fatal spot im-mediately, and we, learn, saved two more individuals (men) who had contrived to keep afloat. The rest, to the number of one hundred to one hundred and thirty (for reports are various), had sunk to rise no more, — We do not consider ourselves warranted in publishing any of the names of those who, it is supposed, on no very certain authority, perished on this melancholy occasion. Little on this point is yet precisely known, and to put forth surmises might but unnecessarily dis-tress the feelings of individuals. So far as we can ascer-tain, the dreadful catastrophe was purely accidental ; and we have reason to believe, that, considering the immediate peril of every one on board from the time the vessel struck, every exertion was made to keep the vessel afloat; and to draw her towards the shore for preservation. The boat in which the survivors escaped, was but twelve feet in length, and was loaded almost to swamping. And here we cannot help regretting, that vessels destined to carry so many passengers,

should not be better provided with boats, in case of accidents of this nature, or by fire ; and it is with sin- cerity and respect that we applaud our townsman, Mr. Gladstone, for his valuable exertions relative to the Steam-boat Bill, by which every steam-packet must be provided with a sufficient number of boats, to render effectual aid in the event of a similar catastrophe.

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