Symzonia; Voyage of Discovery, by Adam Seaborn (pseud. John Cleves Symmes?), , at sacred-texts.com
Hurricane off the Isle of France.—Its consequences.—Death of Mr. Slim.
We were now to windward off the Isles of France and Bourbon, and nearly up with the land. This tract of ocean is the scene of the most violent hurricanes which are experienced on the external world, and it was our lot to encounter one of the most terrific.
A sudden change of the wind from S. E. to N. W. warned me of the coming storm. The ship was promptly secured for a gale; as much of the water which had been stowed on deck, was secured below, as the consumption of provisions had grade room for; the top gallant yards and masts were struck; booms sent down from the yards, dead-lights secured, and every precaution taken to weather out the gale without damage. I never experienced a more awful tempest. The wind blew for some time
with such violence as to make the face of the sea quite level, the pressure of the atmosphere, combined with its rapid motion, being so great as to prevent the swell from rising. The ship, under bare poles, drove broadside to the wind, nearly on her beam ends. When the violence of the first onset abated, the sea rose with a swell of full twenty feet perpendicular elevation. Having a strong vessel, although she was very deeply laden, I did not mind this much; but when the wind chopped round to the S. W., a heavy gale, bringing with it a large sea across the swell which the Northwester had produced, our situation was not devoid of danger. The tops of the waves, blown off by the wind, flew like the spray of a waterfall, and filled the air with water as high as the mast head while the waves, curled and lashed into foam by the whistling blast, gave the whole face of the ocean the appearance of one immense cataract. The vessel, assailed by the crossing sea from two points at once, laboured excessively, and was fairly drowned with water. She frequently plunged the bowsprit quite out of sight beneath the wave, and had it
not been of unusually firm construction, it must have gone to pieces.
Night set in without any abatement of the hurricane, and served but to heighten the terror of its effects. The water in this part of the world, being charged with animalculæ or phosphoric matter, assumed in the darkness of the night, the appearance of a sea of liquid are, boiling and whirling with ceaseless agitation. A poet would not need a better type from which to describe the infernal lake provided for the wicked.
Happily we rode out the storm until nearly day-light, when the gale having abated, and there being every indication of more moderate weather, I went to my cabin to put on dry clothes, and left the deck in charge of Mr. Boneto, to whose watch Mr. Slim was now attached. I had not been long below when a violent shock, like that of a ship striking her side against a floating wreck, induced me to hasten back. I found my people in the greatest alarm, and the repeated blows, which made every timber in the ship tremble, were indeed sufficient cause of apprehension. I soon discovered the difficulty. The lashings of
the starboard paddle port had given way; the port was open, and the shutter was swinging at liberty.
The gale had left a prodigious sea, which rolled the ship so much that at times she appeared to be going quite over. This caused the heavy port shutter, which was thirty feet long by three feet wide, to fly quite open, and then return against the side with frightful violence. It appeared that the lashings had been chafed in consequence of the boxes being badly stowed; and that the weight of the boxes in which were the large bones and all my scientific collections, together with the weight of the cable stowed upon the top of them, had burst open the port, through which the big bones, all my curiosities and ological treasures, as well as the cable, had launched into the sea!
To secure the port, which struck the ship with such force as to threaten to start the plink or fastenings, was an object of deep solicitude to every one. Mr. Slim, for once, was very active and forward. He was evidently filled with apprehension of losing his life, or, what was not less dear to
him, his share of the cargo; for, instead of looking deliberately about him to see what remedy was practicable, he seized a rope, and sprang into the space between the double sides, probably with the intention of fastening the shutter to the ring bolt, when it should swing to; but, losing his footing on the wet and slippery floor of the inner side, he launched half way out of the port, and as the ship rolled to windward, the slam of the shutter instantly killed him.
There was a sense of grief expressed in every countenance, on this melancholy occasion. Seamen invariably exhibit feeling for the sufferings and misfortunes of their comrades; however vicious and disagreeable they may have been.
The paddle port was, with great difficulty, secured; but without any other essential damage. Fine weather soon returned, and we pursued our course pleasantly towards home.
The remainder of the voyage was marked by no uncommon circumstance. When we approached the coast of America, I called my officers and men together; and
endeavoured to impress their minds with a strong sense of the importance of profound secrecy in relation to the subject of our voyage, and particularly enjoined upon them the necessity of refraining from liquor, which always makes sailors thoughtless and loquacious.