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Blown North
by [?]

The brig “Wansbeck” sailed on a February day at about four in the afternoon. She was a fine little vessel, but very badly found in sails and running-gear. The crew had signed for a voyage to Malmo; and the owner hurried the ship away because he feared she might be “neaped” in the little river, as the tides were taking off. The cargo was very badly stowed; and when the pilot came on board it was discovered that part of the pump-gear had not arrived. The captain told the owner of this; and that gentleman said the ship should go to sea without any pumps at all rather than he would see her lie on the mud. So the moorings were cast off, and the tug took the tow-rope on board. Luckily, just as the stern-rope was cast off, the missing pump-gear came to hand.

The sky was heavy and grey; a snoring breeze blew from the E.N.E., and the vessel went away on a south-east course under double-reefed topsails and foresail. Everything moveable about the decks was secured, and the pumps were set on; but after pumping for an hour, and not getting even a rolling suck, the mate gave orders to sound; when, to the dismay of the crew, it was found that nine inches of water still remained in the well. The men had been hard at work all day; there was every sign of a heavy easterly gale; yet the dismal work of pumping had to go steadily on. At midnight the gale increased, and the watch was called out to close-reef the topsails. The owner would not have been pleased had he heard the language that was used by the men on the yard-arms. One speaker went so far as to express a wish that his employer was lashed under the cathead; and, since the cathead was never above water, the suggestion was received with much applause. The “Wansbeck” had sailed on the 8th of the month, and until the 11th the pumps were kept constantly going. The morning of the 12th broke with a wan glare in the sky, and a tremendous sea came away. The captain was obliged to veer the ship with her head to the north, and she went away fast before the gale under two close-reefed topsails. The men’s hands were beginning to get badly damaged by the constant labour, but no rest was possible. On the 13th the wind rose to a hurricane; and masses of water were flung bodily down on the vessel, so that she was immersed most of the time and the sailors worked on up to their waists in pouring water. As one of the crew said, “things was no mistake dreadful.” At the end of every watch the men who should have gone below were forced to take a two hours’ spell at the pump; they then wrung their clothes, hung them up before the little fire in the forecastle, and turned in naked. Then, after a brief snatch of sleep, they jumped out, put on their steaming clothes, and went to the pumps once more. At 6 a.m. on the 14th the handspike was thumped on the deck, and a sailor said, “Turn out, boys; she’s going down!” Worn out with want of rest, their hands and feet half flayed, the men staggered out and went desperately to work again. The brakes of the pumps hung far above their heads, and after toiling for three hours one of the standards broke and things looked hopeless. By six o’clock next day there were four and a half feet of water in the hold, and still the struggle was kept up with dogged resolution. At ten o’clock the water had risen to six feet, and all the time the hurricane blew with unabated force. The ship was plunging away northward, and not a sail could be seen on all the grey waste of the sea.