Saturday, February 1, 2014

Wreck of the Luna Natal 1880

Another Wreck on the Back Beach: Natal Mercury 6 September 1880

On Friday afternoon (Sept 2) some sensation was created in town by a rumour to the effect that another ship had been driven ashore on the back beach, and become a wreck. On further inquiry the rumour proved true, and though the day was inclement, large parties were to be seen winding their way to the back beach to witness the struggles of the schooner Luna, after parting her anchor at the outer anchorage, in drifting slowly towards the shore. The Luna is a schooner of Elsfleth, 22 tons, (Captain) Grube, and arrived at this port with a general cargo, Messrs. J.T. Rennie acting as agents.

It was at 2.30 when the flag-staff on the Bluff signalled the danger of the vessel, when, with a promptitude that was highly commendable, the port officials under Captain Airth were at once on the beach, and by means of signals directed the vessel to the shore, just at the end of West Street East. A south-easterly gale was blowing at the time, and though all possible efforts were made by the men on board to get the ship's head to the wind and brave the blast, the attempt was fruitless, and a little after 3 o'clock the vessel was stranded, where pointed out by the pilot.

The rocket apparatus was quickly put into use, and though the vessel was rolling violently amid the huge breakers, the line was got through the rigging; but here again, as in the case of a ship stranded a short time since, the crew seemed quite unable to understand the working of the apparatus until Mr. Chiazzari boldly plunged into the waves, and by following the line of the apparatus was able to get on board, where he at once had things put in order, and in a short time the crew was landed.

Though there was a thick drizzling rain and rather a stiff breeze blowing, there was a large concourse of people on the back beach, and help was willingly tendered by all in assisting the crew ashore. All were loud in their praise yesterday of the expert style in which the work was performed by the port officials.

The officer in charge of the rocket apparatus complains of the manner in which the public crowd round coming inside the rope, and preventing the men from performing their duty. Much valuable time is thereby lost. As in many instances precious lives depend upon promptitude of action by those on shore, it would be as well if this were kept in mind in future.

Late at night the vessel was rolling heavily among the breakers within 50 yards of the shore. The opinion is that she will become a wreck.

This later proved to be the case. The Luna, a British brig (referred to as a schooner in the Mercury) of 184 tons, built in the Sunderland yards, was on a voyage from London. The rocket apparatus at Natal once again proved the means of preventing any loss of life in the shipwreck. Mr Chiazzari was of the firm of Landing Agents, Harcombe & Chiazzari.

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