Thomas Hinderwell was a famous Scarborough historian. He was also a shipowner and personally involved in the establishment of the first lifeboat in Scarborough. His animated account of two Scarborough men shipwrecked in the Baltic and helped by locals.
The Diligence (Richardson) a brigantine belonging to Scarborough, was forced on shore near Dantzic in the Baltic, by a violent storm. The dangerous position of the vessel, exposed the decks so much to the fury of the sea, that the crew were obliged to take refuge in the rigging, and the intensity of the cold of a severe climate, at a late season of the year, was almost insupportable. One of the poor seamen was swept overboard, and buried in the waves in sight of his distressed companions, in vain struggling for life and calling upon them for assistance. Another, enfeebled by exertions, and affected by the severity of the frost, was unable to sustain himself, and dropping from the shrouds perished in the sea. A third, had just strength to climb as high as the main-yard, where he continued until the current of life ceased to flow, and the powers of animation were totally arrested.
"With awful look, the sailors ey'd the strand,
Where death's inexorable jaws expand,
Now on the trembling shrouds, before, behind,
In mute suspense they mount into the wind,
Swept from the ship, the seaman strives in vain,
Thro' hostile floods the vessel to regain,
The hostile waters close around his head,
He sinks for ever, number'd with the dead,
Whilst one benumb'd was forced to forego,
His slippery hold, and sink to depths below,
Bereft of power to help, their comrades see,
The wretched victims die beneath the lee,
With fruitless sorrow, their lost fate bemoan,
Perhaps, a fatal prelude to their own."
The Master and his brother, possessed of great bodily strength and resolution, fortunately reached the main-top; but so much exhausted, that they despaired of surviving the accumulated hardships. In this pitiable situation, they waited the awful moment of their dissolution,expecting the vessel to be either broken up by the violence of the waves, or that they should perish by the piercing: severity of the storm. A torpid insensibility had aIready seized them - the pulse of life beat feebly - the shades of death gathered around, and every ray of hope seemed to be extinguished; but a vital spark of animation which still remained, excited them to action, and they determined to make an effort to loose the main-topsail to shelter them from the violence of the gale, but it appeared an insurmountable difficulty in their deplorable situation, to ascend the yard for that purpose. The skin was stripped from their hands and feet, their bodies were bruised, their legs benumbed and almost deprived of motion, so that they were obliged forcibly to move the joints of their knees for some time, before they recovered the liberty of action at length after many painful exertions, they ascended the yard and loosened the sail, which hanging before the top, defended them from the vehemence of the storm, and afforded a comfortable shelter. The poor solitary mariner upon the main yard, before he expired, called upon them for assistance. Alas! they were unable to help him! He made several attempts to gain the top, but his strength ailing, all his efforts proved fruitless. Perceiving his dissolution approaching, he said with a feeble voice and a tender concern for his shipmates, "My lads are you both alive" and in a few moments expired.
"The last faint accents trembled on his tongue,
That now inactive on the palate hung,
He spake no more: - the chilling ice of death,
Congeal'd his blood, and stopp'd his feeble breath."
The Master and his brother continued in the main-top from the noon of one day to the morning of the next, but were so affected by the severity of the weather, that the principle of life was almost extinguished, and they appeared like frozen statues.
The inhabitants of a little village near the place where the vessel was stranded, launched a boat into the sea, as soon as the waves subsided, and conveyed the unhappy sufferers to shore, treating them with the greatest tenderness and humanity; but life hung doubtful for some hours, without any favourable symptoms of recovery.
"The generous natives mov'd with social pain,The feeble strangers in their arms sustain;With pitying sighs their helpless lot deplore,And lead them trembling from the fatal shore."
The hospitable foreigners sheltered them under the friendly roofs of their humble cottages, and administered every consolation and comfort within the extent of their little possessions! - Kind and generous men! this instance of liberal compassion shall not pass unregarded - Your unpolluted and simple manners, teach you all the gentleness of soft humanity - The shipwrecked mariner upon your hospitable shore finds a kind asylum; and when he relates the moving tale of his dangers and hardships upon the tempestuous ocean When he tells you of his feelings for his distant family in his native land! his affectionate wife! his tender offspring! Struck with the sympathetic tale, you gently mingle the tears of sweet compassion, and endeavour to soothe his sorrows and solace his heart, with the consolations of a Superintending Providence, and the hopes of fairer scenes and brighter prospects.
"The humble peasants tho' with want opprest,
Can share affliction with the wretch distrest,
Tho' lost to science, and the nobler arts,
Yet nature's lore informs their feeling hearts."
What a contrast is this to the barbarous customs of others, who are insensible to all the tender feelings of compassion ! It sometimes happens, when an unfortunate vessel is cast by the raging elements upon some inhospitable strand, that bands of daring plunderers, commit the most shameful depredations in the open face of day, in violation of the most sacred rites of humanity ! - What an atrocious crime! - What an INDELIBLE STAIN to any Civilized Nation! - Unfeeling men! INHUMAN BARBARIANS! to make a spoil of the property of the unhappy, defenceless, shipwrecked mariner! Nay, - what is worse, to strip with sacrilegious hands the body of the miserable suffer, which the more merciful waves have cast upon your coast! - Reflect a moment, and check your rapacious cruelty, lest the judgement of heaven arrest you suddenly in the commission of the impious deed, and extend you breathless by the side of the unfortunate seaman, who has thus fatally perished.
"The muse shall now a horrid tale unfold,
A tale by shipwreck'd seamen sadly told,
How oft the shiv'ring sufferers have view'd,
With murd'ring weapons arm'd, a lawless brood,
On England's dread inhuman shores, who stand,
The foul reproach and scandal of our land!
To rob the wanderers wreck'd upon the strand,
These, while their savage office they pursue,
Oft wound to death the helpless plunder'd crew,
Who' scop'd from every terror of the main,
Implor'd their mercy, but implor'd in vain,
The dreadful miscreants prowling round the shore,
With foul intent the stranded bark explore,
Deaf to the voice of woe, her decks they board,
While tardy justice slumbers o'er the sword,
Th' indignant muse, in mercy taught to feel,
Shrinks from a theme she blushes to reveal,
With conscious horror struck, our seamen stand,
And for a time detest their native land,
They blame the sleeping vengeance of the laws,
That thus forget her guardian sailor's cause."
It may not be improper upon this occasion, to recommend the unwearied exertion of every possible means for the restoration of persons apparently dead, whilst a glimpse of hope remains. In such cases let no difficulties discourage, let not the want of success in some instances, prevent the trial of every means calculated for a recovery; for though the torch of life may seem to be extinguished, yet a latent spark may still remain, which by proper care,preseverance,and attention, may once more enlighten the whole body, and restore the lamented object of virtuous affection to the agonized bosom of conjugal sympathy; the support of helpless indigence to the prayers of orphan'd misery; and him whose spirit is ready to take it's flight with all his imperfections on his head, to the means of repentance and eternal peace.
The following extract from a poem on Humanity, is impressive on this occasion:
"And oh! 'tis Thine, when vital breath seems fled,
To seek the awful confines of the dead,
Drag the pale victim from the whelming wave,
And snatch the body from the floating grave,
Beneath the billow, tho' entomb'd it lies,
Thy dauntless zeal the roaring main defies,
Tis Thine, to plunge into the whelming flood,
Clasp the swol'n frame, and thaw the frozen blood,
Breathe in the lips re-animating fire,
Till warm'd to Second Life the drown'd respire."