Another disaster. The Georgia lost by fire !
The burning of the “Georgia”
By Pascal Kainic
On Saturday, 1st of April 1842, intelligence of the loss by fire of this fine Indiaman ship of Newcastle, Captain Mitchell, Bound to London, was received by the underwriters at Lloyd’s, attended with a deplorable sacrifice of human life.
This ship was between 800 and 900 tons burden and was valued at £ 7.000, being splendidly fitted up for he accommodation of passengers.
She had a rich cargo on board, consisting of jewellery, merchandise and other valuable property which perished with the vessel; a loss in total of nearly £ 20.000
The unfortunate event occurred on the morning of the 1st of April, while on her passage to England from Calcutta, which place she left in the early part of February.
From the accounts brought over by the ship Thomas Sparks, from China, which arrived off Dartmouth on Friday morning, it appears that early on the morning mentioned, the watch on deck, when he vessel was in 30° south, 36° east, off Madagascar, discovered a strong smell of burning; he aroused the Commander, Captain Mitchell, and the rest of the ship’s crew and a strict search was determined upon.
On the boats being removed and the main hatches taken off, the burning was found to proceed from the cargo, when orders were given to remove a portion of it, so as to get at the fire. The crew, however, had not proceeded far before a volume of smoke burst upon them, and shortly afterwards it became so intense, accompanied with excessive heat, that they were forced to desist.
Captain Mitchell then had the hatches replaced and blocked upon every aperture in the ship, in the hope of shifting the fire. But this proved inefficient, for, in about two hours, the flames broke through the cabin windows and likewise from the hatchway over the forecastle, to the terror and dismay of all on board. Captain Mitchell, perceiving that the destruction of the vessel was inevitable, directed the crew to leave the ship, which they immediately set about doing by lowering the two boats over the vessel’s side.
The sea, at this time, was extremely rough, with a heavy gale of wind and, with the knowledge of their being 800 to 900 miles from land, every soul expected to meet with a watery grave.
At about 8 o’clock, the chief mate, with nine of the crew, left the burning vessel in the jolly boat and they were directly followed by Captain Mitchell and the rest of the ship’s crew, four in number, in the small boat.
In the course of a quarter of an hour afterwards the work of devastation had reached the masts and she appeared embodied in one mass of flames, forming a terrible, though magnificent appearance.
At this critical period, a vessel was observed at a distance, bearing towards the ill fated ship, and the chief mate turned to make known the joyful intelligence to Captain Mitchell and the rest of the crew, when he was struck by horror on finding that the boat had foundered and none of them were to be seen.
They rowed about in hopes of picking them up, but unfortunately none of the poor fellows ever rose after. The ship Thomas Sparks, which proved o be the vessel they saw bearing down to their assistance, came up alongside soon afterwards and took the chief officer and the rest of the Georgia’s crew on board, remaining within a short distance of the burning ship until she went down, which event took place at a late hour in the afternoon.
The Georgia and her cargo are reported to be insured to the extend of £ 25.000 (Today, it could be more than £ 1.500.000 !)