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Dreadful sufferings in the Polar sea – 15th December 1860

The Hudson's Bay Company ships Prince of Wales and Eddystone bartering with  Inuit off the Upper Savage Islands, Hudson Strait;  Robert Hood (1819)

The Hudson’s Bay Company ships Prince of Wales and Eddystone bartering with Inuit off the Upper Savage Islands, Hudson Strait; Robert Hood (1819)

South Australian Advertiser p3
DREADFUL SUFFERINGS IN THE POLAR SEA.(abridged)

The only survivor of the crew and passengers of the barque Kitty, a sailor named William Armstrong, arrived at Galway by the Prince Albert last August. Armstrong, on the 29th of June, 1859, shipped as mate of the barque Kitty, from Newcastle-on Tyne, which sailed with a cargo consigned to the Hudson’s Bay Company. She was commanded by Alexander Ellis, and besides her crew of able-bodied seamen she took a few passengers, who intended to settle in the locality.
The voyage from the outset was rather boisterous and protracted, for the vessel did not get off the American shore till the beginning of August. On the 11th of that month she was enveloped in a fog off Cape Resolution, and she was suddenly surrounded by huge mountains of ice, so as to render escape almost hopeless. The bergs could be seen through the fog, gradually drawing nearer and nearer, until at last the vessel was touched by them.

Icebergs, Cape York, Greenland Wikipedia.org

Icebergs, Cape York,
Greenland
Wikipedia.org


The crew and passengers wore naturally panic-stricken, but they soon recovered, and commenced efforts to save their lives. Two boats were got out, and as much provisions as could be put into them in a hurry were stowed away. One was under the command of the captain. The other under Armstrong, the mate, left, the ship’s side, just as the bergs closed upon the ill-fated vessel, and crushed her into pieces. She then went down. The remaining boats managed to get through an opening, but only to find themselves in a field of ice, its pieces threatening destruction at every moment.
For days the two boats beat about making attempts to reach the open sea, with no success. The cold began to take effect, and the fearful symptoms of frost-bite became painfully apparent. Remedies such as were within their power were applied, but they were useless. The poor creatures gradually became worse, and dropped off one after another.
Finally the botls separated in a fog. The captain’s boat was never heard of again. Armstrong, with the few persons in his boat still surviving, pursued his course, the little crew in his boat getting fewer in number, while the survivors were becoming weak and sickly. Those who were sinking under the privations, as their hour approached, became maniacs. Two or three besides Armstrong only remained when the welcome cry of ” Land” was raised, and the men strained their eyes and asked one another could it be real. It was at length reached, but too late for some of them. The ecstacy of such a discovery, after being 62 days in an open boat and suffering such privations in a polar region, was too much for them, and all, with the exception of Armstrong, sank to the ground and died. It it is no wonder Armstrong dropped upon his knees, and returned thanks to his God that he had been spared.
Having obtained a little rest, he wandered along the shore, and was fortunate to fall in with some Esquimaux on a hunting expedition. They conducted him to their huts, and there kept him for a considerable time, until he had recruited his strength. They then brought him to a place where some Moravian missionaries were residing, who forwarded him to St John’s in the early part of August. Up to the present no tidings could be got of the vessel, and it was long since supposed that every soul had gone to the bottom.
Haslem Counties Herald.

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About The Burren and Beyond

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2 thoughts on “Dreadful sufferings in the Polar sea – 15th December 1860

  1. Hi, I’ve researched this particular wreck. We found my wifes Grt Grt Grandad was aboard. We know this as its stated on his sons orphanage entry, it reads “Father murdered by esquimaux following the wreck of the Kitty of Newcastle in the Davis Straits in the fall of 1859”. It turns out the boat that “went out of sight” had captain Ellis and 10 other crew aboard. Also we find evidence that the crew in Armstrong’s boat all survived, they were Groom, Munson, Markham and Stuart. If you’d like to share any info, let me know! I’ve uncovered all sorts about the wreck, Ellis and Armstrong.
    My ultimate goal is to find the official crew list, its really hard to find as records didn’t begin until 1861…
    The ON of the ship is 1127

    Would love to share this story with you.

    Cheers, Iain

    Like

    Posted by Iain Turner | January 4, 2014, 7:32 pm

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