Thursday, 1 May 2008

Bad Luck Brigs

Some vessles just can't keep away from disaster, and often get a name for themselves as death ships. The same goes for certain vessel names (variations on "Titan", or "Wahine" for example), and skippers: Foul Weather Jack, also known as the "Jonah of the Wager", was dogged by bad weather through his career. He was father to John "Mad Jack" Byron (who happened to be the famous poet's father) who himself had a reputation for losing an inordinate amount of seamen on his voyages. This would take some doing in the 18th century.

Whether or not the Calder ever got such a reputation, it certainly deserved one. Owned at the time by Peter Dillon (a man of no mean reputation himself), it was run aground during a storm while at anchor at Valparaiso, Chile, in 1825. A great deal of the cargo was luckily able to be brought off and sold. However the Calder was very badly damaged. Dillon sold it off "as is where is" and bought out his partner's share in the St Patrick. During the St Patrick's ensuing voyage Dillon discovered evidence of the fate of the Boussole and Astrolabe of the La Perouse expedition and found his place in history.

The unfortunate new owners of the Calder suffered a mutiny. Here the mutiny is reported in the India Gazette (6 July 1829, supplement page 2), published in Calcutta.

Apologies for the poor quality - this source also acts as an object lesson in how not to microfilm a newspaper. In the next few days I'll publish a post detailing a first hand account of the Calder's accident in Valparaiso.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting family then, the Byrons. "Mad Jack" Byron the skipper cursed with sailors dieing under his command, his son Byron the great Romantic poet, with a reputation for wine and buggery, and his daughter Ada who, with Frankenstein like ambitions to build a mechanical mind, invented the computer.