A Narrative of the sufferings of Mr. Obed Lanyon, of Vellingey-Saint Agnes, Cornwall; Margit Lanyon, his wife; and seventeen persons (mostly Americans) shipwrecked among the Quinaiult Tribes of the N.W. Coast of America, in the winter of 1807-8. With some remarkable Experiences of the said Margit Lanyon, formerly Pedersen. Written by the Survivor, Edom Lanyon, sometime a Commander in the service of the Honourable East India Company.
My twin brother Obed and I were born on the 21st of March, 1759 (he being the elder by a few minutes), at Vellingey-St. Agnes, or St. Ann’s, a farm on the north coast of Cornwall, owned and cultivated by our father Renatus Lanyon. Our mother was a Falmouth woman, daughter of a ship’s captain of that port: and I suppose it was this inclined us to a sea-faring life. At any rate, soon after our fifteenth birthday we sailed (rather against our father’s wish) on a short coasting voyage with our grandfather–whose name was William Dustow.
A second voyage in the early summer of 1776 took us as far as the Thames. It happened that the famous Captain Cook was just then recruiting for his third and (as it proved) his last voyage of discovery. This set us talking and planning, and the end was that we stole ashore and offered ourselves. Obed had the luck to be picked. Though very like in face, I was already the taller by two inches; and no doubt the Captain judged I had outgrown my strength. But it surprised me to be rejected when Obed was taken; and disappointed me more: for, letting alone the prospect of the voyage, we two (as twins, and our parents’ only children) were fond of each other out of the common degree, and had never thought to be separated.
To speak first of Obed:–Captain Cook put some questions, and finding that we were under our grandfather’s care, would do nothing without his consent. We returned to the ship and confessed to the old man, who pretended to be much annoyed. But next day he put on his best clothes and went in search of the great seaman, to Whitehall; and so the matter was arranged. Obed sailed in July on board the Discovery; shared the dangers of that voyage, in which the ships followed up the N.W. Coast of America and pushed into Behring’s Strait beyond the 70th parallel; was a witness, on February 4th, 1779, of his commander’s tragical end; and returned to England in October, 1780. Eleven years later he made another voyage to the same N.W. American Coast; this time as master’s mate under Vancouver, who had kept an interest in him since they sailed together under Cook, and thought highly of him as a practical navigator and draughtsman. It was my brother who, under Vancouver, drew up the first chart of the Straits of Fuca, which Cook had missed: and I have been told (by a Mr. G–, a clerk to the Admiralty) that on his return he stood well for a lieutenant’s commission–the rule of the Service being stretched now and then to favour these circumnavigating seamen, many of whom worked their way aft from the hawse-hole to the quarter deck. But my father and mother dying just then, and the former having slipped a particular request into his will, Obed threw up the sea and settled down in Vellingey as a quiet yeoman farmer.
Meanwhile, in 1779, I had entered the sea service of the Honourable East India Company; and with passable good fortune had risen in it pretty fast. Enough to say, that by the spring of 1796 I was looking forward to the command of a ship. Just then my fortune deserted me. In a sudden fear of French invasion, our Government bought the four new ships which the Company had building (and a bad bargain they proved). This put a stop for the time to all chance of promotion; and a sharp attack of jaundice falling on top of my disappointments, I took the usual decrease of pay and the Board’s promise to remember my services on a proper occasion, and hauled ashore to Vellingey for a holiday and a thorough refit of health.