This section is from the book "Moose-Hunting Salmon-Fishing And Other Sketches Of Sport Being The Record Of Personal Experiences Of Hunting Wild Game In Canada", by T. R. Pattillo. Also available from Amazon: Moose-Hunting, Salmon-Fishing and Other Sketches of Sport: Being the Record of Personal Experiences of Hunting Wild Game in Canada.
" Do you hear anything unusual ? "
" Yes," we all replied, as it was not difficult to hear a rumbling, roaring, terrifying sound, resembling heavy breakers, or tumbling water.
Then he shouted again, " Secure yourselves with your ropes, and grasp something solid with your arms, and hold for your lives; for a tidal wave the roar of which we hear is right upon us."
Here was where experience saved us again, for scarcely had we carried out his precautions, when, by a flash of lightning, we saw the mountain of water coming, rolling, tossing, tumbling, as if ready to engulf our almost helpless little craft. When it tumbled on us over she went on her beam ends, that is, on her side, and we were all several feet under water. The buoyancy of her cargo and the passing along of that terrible roller soon allowed her to right herself, lifting us all from an unwelcome bath. As soon as we got breath to speak, the captain shouted
" Boys, are you all right ?" when the joyous response from each and all of us was, " All right, thank God! "
Closely following on the heels of this wave was the wind with its hurricane force, and those of my readers who have not experienced its power know little of it. All the sail on that vessel was not over 180 square feet when the real hurricane struck her and bore her down on to her beam ends again. As she gathered speed, and the wind, which was at first puffy, grew steady, she righted so that her lee-rail was in the water. With wonderful speed she was angling her way across the track of it, when all of a sudden our topsail blew away, leaving only the rope behind. To add to our troubles which we all know never come single even to sailors the yard-arm gasket of the square-foresail had blown loose, and, unless immediately secured, was likely to blow away too, or, if loosened, to upset us.
While the mate was obtaining canvas to supply the place of the lost topsail, the rest of us started aloft to secure the foresail. To state here that on our way up the fore-shrouds a puff of wind was so violent that we were actually, for an instant or so, pressed so firmly against the rigging that we could not move upwards, may seem exaggeration. Yet I assure you it was a fact. The hurricane had increased at such a terrible pace we dare not, nor could we show any sail to it, so that the captain and mate decided " to heave her to," nautically expressed that is, to arrange the sail so that the wind, striking it, will keep the vessel's bow in such a position that her hull escapes its force. That you may gain a still better idea of a hurricane's power, let me tell you that all the canvas we dared show to the monster, and all that was necessary, was a piece the size of two towels, or about 4 square feet.
When this had been secured to the main rigging and the wheel lashed, she rode on that stormy sea like a duck. It was then, and not till then, were we poor drenched souls able to change our clothing. Thankful, I trust, we all were to our Maker, that in His overruling providence we were under the control of an experienced master; otherwise none of us would have been left to tell this tale.
Had the brig been overtaken with all her sail spread, or any considerable portion of it, she would have been turned bottom up and all of us drowned. About nine o'clock the captain called our attention to the peculiar appearance of the ends of the yards and the tops of the mast, which looked as if ablaze with a bluish light Some of the crew had noticed this before, and, as sailors generally are superstitious, dared not speak of it even to their comrades. So the calling of our attention to this relieved their fears and helped to explain the mystery to the others. In nautical language this blue light phosphorescent in its composition is called " composantes; " and shows a state of the atmosphere which experience and observation explain as reached when the storm is nearing its height. It is really an electric "glow," caused by a rapid upward discharge to a highly charged atmosphere. These lights at this state begin to form on the most prominent projections, which on the brig were the ends of the yards. They were first seen on the lower yard, then the topsails, next the top-gallant, then the royal, finishing with the truck of each mast.
There they were visible for at least half an hour, when the captain remarked " The worst of the blow is over. Do you notice the lights have left the mast-heads and the upper yards, and are growing fainter below?"
By midnight we were able to make more sail and set the watches again. Thankful, I believe, every soul was for our wonderful preservation. When the sailor referred to heretofore as calling the captain " a d-d old fool" came to take the wheel, he (the captain) was there.
"Now, Jack," he said, "where do you think we would be now, if it had not been for ' that old fool' you were pleased to term me ? You ought to know me well enough by this time that we have no work-up jobs on this vessel. My men always have enough to do without those."
Poor Jack made a very humble apology. I seem to hear him saying now. " Ah ! captain, I ask your forgiveness. It was my ignorance. I couldn't see what you could. I ought to know you better than to think you would give us a work-up job. Do forgive me, captain I
Your judgment and the dear old mate's saved us all."
" All right, Jack boy," replied the captain ; and the hurricane was past, leaving us a topsail to mend, as the most of the damage done.
In closing this recital let me remark that when and where the tidal wave and hurricane struck the Island of Antigua and others in its route, terrible disaster followed in loss of life, houses, property of various kinds, and destruction of vessels discharging cargoes in port.