Originally published as The Three All At Sea
in the East Cleveland Advertiser.
Third Lifeboat Lucky
Samarang after she took the ground. At the foot of the mainmast her broken keel is evident.
Chris Scott Wilson Writer
Not often do three lifeboats attend a wreck. Not nowadays, but they did on the morning of 10th October 1884.
High on the cliff top in his watch cabin in Saltburn, a coastguard noted in his log that at 2 a.m. a north-westerly gale sprang up. At 4 a.m. a ship came into sight, battling round the shoulder of Huntcliff. She was obviously in distress. The coastguard fired a rocket to summon the lifeboat.
Samarang was a wrecker's dream. Homeward bound from Quebec, she was making for Shields carrying a valuable cargo of timber. It was the next best thing to whisky. The captain's mistake was in holding her so close to the coast. The increasing north-westerly and the fingers of the growing sea pushed the barque steadily toward the lee shore.
Samarang fought, responding to her helm, edging seaward before the wind and currents dragged her inside the breakers. It was the beginning of the end. As green water spilled across her decks, surf piled against the transom to drive her onto the beach between Saltburn and Marske. Seven of her crew took to the boat and claimed sanctuary on shore. When the Saltburn lifeboat, Charles and Ann, horse drawn, arrived, the eleven men left aboard Samarang had taken to the rigging, pleading with God and Providence to deliver them from the huge breakers combing the decks and climbing the masts. Charles and Ann was launched from the beach to windward in the slanting rain. Her oarsmen lost against the storm. The running sea carried them past the wreck and disdainfully flung the lifeboat back on the sand.
Meanwhile, Redcar’s streets echoed to the sound of heavy leather sea boots as her lifeboat men ran to their posts. When the Free Gardeners' Emma reached the wrecked barque, rowed through the breakers from Redcar, the Saltburn brigade was still firing rockets which fell short. Emma was rowed out to the Samarang, but the sea heaved her back time and time again.
Redcar's other lifeboat, Burton- on-Trent, was dragged over the sand dunes on its carriage by a team of horses. By then the Coatham brigade had joined the crowd on the shore, hissing rockets vanishing in the spray.
Burton-on-Trent was launched, ploughing through the surf, spindrift curling away from the wave crests. Almost within touching distance, the sea once again sneered man's efforts, beating the boat back.
Resolute, the crews of all three boats bent their backs and rowed again into the howling wind, rockets plunging into the heaving sea around them. Under the guidance of Mr. Williams, the chief of Redcar Coastguard, the rocket brigade fired rocket after rocket before managing to land a line across Samarang's storm-washed deck. Lifeboat men in Burton-on-Trent immediately grabbed the line to pull their boat alongside. Patiently, fighting the sea and wind every moment, they held on while Samarang’s crew were transferred. Once safely on board, Burton-on-Trent let go, then after a dangerous voyage back to the shore, the eleven mariners, cold, wet and exhausted were taken to Saltburn to recuperate from their ordeal.
Samarang herself had suffered a broken back at the hands of the North Sea. Within days she disintegrated A fortnight after that fateful morning her crumpled hull was sold for £100 in an auction on the beach, with spars, anchors and blocks sold separately.
There was the small matter of her cargo – that expensive timber from Quebec. Contemporary reports offer no clues. Had the locals spirited it away like so many other shipwreck cargoes?
Today we shall never know.
- o 0 o –
Godfrey, A & Lassey,P Shipwrecks of The Yorkshire Coast Dalesman 1976
Dibdin, J.C. & Ayling,J Book Of The Lifeboat
Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier 1894
Phillipson, D Come Along Brave Boys Sotheran 1980
Redcar & Saltburn Gazette 11/10/1884, 25/10/1884 & 1/11/1884