The crew of the wrecked Sunderland ship Laurel Branch, which went ashore off the Chilean Coast towards the end of September, wre landed at Liverpool on Monday by the Pacific Steam Navigation Company's steamer Oravia. They umbered 32 all told, and belonged mostly to Sunderland and South Shields. The master Mr John T Lee, lives at East Boldon. Captain Lee remained in Liverpool yesterday, but some of the officers rerached their homes during the course of the evening.
The story of the loss of this vessel and the subsequent experiences of those on board as gleaned by our Sunderland correspondent, in an interview with one of those concerned, reads like a romance. The Laurel Branch left Coronal, Chili, on August 23 bound for Sunderland having to call en route at Punta Arenas, At two o'clock in the morning of the 28th of that month, during the prevalence of a mist, the steamer struck on a part of the Pacific Coast about 40 miles north of Tros Moutes. Therre was a heavy sea on at the time, and the operation of landing was an arduos one. Several journeys were made, the last person to leave the vesel being captain Lee. Every man on board was eventually safely landed, but most unfortunately a sad catastrophe occurred on one of the journeys to the shore, involving the loss of two children. The Laurel Branch had on board four girls, daughters of Mr Alexander Maclaren, chief purser to the Nautilus Company. These chidlren were being sent to their home at Glasgow. The boat in which the girls were placed capsized in the turbulent surf. Those who manned her succeeded in getting ashore and also in saving alive Isabella, aged 13, and Alice, aged four. But the two other sisters, Mary, aged eight and Agnes, aged six were drowned.
The spot on which the wreck took place is a most out of the way place, quite uninhabitied andwith little chance of any passing vessel ever being sighted. It seems almost incrediable that nowadays a shipwrecked crew could spend 29 days on a mainland utterly lost to the world, their friends totally unawarre whether they were alive or dead, but this is what actually befell the members of the ill-fated Laurel Branch. As soon as all had been got safely ashore steps were taken to make their condition as passably comfortable as circumstances would permit. Fortunately the vessel, which lay partly on sand and partly on a rock, did not break up, and it was a comparatively easy task to bring off a good supply of provisions and many useful and valuable articles. The stores were untouched by the water. Searching out the most suitable spot in the immediate locality, tented shelters were fashioned out of canvas and tarpaulins, The utmost solicitude was manifested in the comfort of the two little girls, and they do not seem to have fared very badly, while the officers and men wre living under what the sailor regards as comparative luxury. They had our correspondent was informed, plenty to eat and drink, and they all enjoyed tolerably good health thoughout their enforced sojourn on this deserted coast. Had their ship been totally wrecked their fate would have been terrible to contemplate, for the land furnished but little means if any, for human substainance.
After three attempts a boat manned by some of the survivors reached Port Otway, where it was sighted by a Chilian transport Casma. The chilian steamer behaved most gallantly, after picking up the boat at port Otway, the ship proceeded to the place where the other shipwrecked mariners were, and made desperate efforts to rescue them on three disitnct occasions, tremendous seas and heavy gales prevailing. Ultimately they succeeded in getting the men on board.
A Very touching scene occurred when the shipwrecked sailors found themselves on board the Chilian vessel Casma. They embraced the Chilians and wept and cheered again in transports of joy. All the crew spoke in the highest terms of Captain Lee's behaviour.
|Paper:||The Preston Herald|
|News Article||The subsequent board of enquiry exonerated the crew from all blame and it was stated thath the accident was due to an exceptionally strong inset of current.