Wrecked at South Georgia,
Mathew Brisbane, a Scotsman born in Perth in c. 1787, first sailed to the southern oceans in 1822-23 as master of the cutter "Beaufoy". The vessel was accompanying James Weddell in the "Jane" on his epic voyage of exploration, reaching the then furthest southern limit of 74º 15' S.
He returned south in "Beaufoy" for a sealing trip during the years 1824-26. Then he became master of the "Prince of Saxe Coburg" and took her again south on a sealing voyage in 1826. The ship was wrecked at the end of that year at Tierra del Fuego, heavily beset by ice and driven ashore by the severe weather. Brisbane and his crew were saved by H.M.S. "Beagle" in March 1827 and he returned to England.
At the end of that year, Brisbane was appointed master of the "Hope" and instructed to sail south. It was off South Georgia in April 1828 that his ship was wrecked, the crew managing to land in the ship's boats.
The following formal declaration, made subsequently in Buenos Aires, describes the shipwreck and how he and some of his crew managed to get away, back to Patagonia and safety, across 2,800 kilometres of rough seas. This was a man ' who feared no danger and despised hardship'.
By this Public Instrument of Declaration and Protest be it known to all whom it may concern that on the twentieth day of May in the Year of Our Lord One thousand eight hundred and twenty nine personally came and appeared in the British Consulate at Buenos Ayres in South America Mathew Brisbane Master of the Schooner or Vessel called the "Hope" of London of the burthen 145 63/94 tons or thereabouts, who duly noted his Protest in this office on arrival at this Port, together with Isaac Henzell the Mate and John Daniels seaman
who declared that on the 5th January 1828 they the said Appearers set sail on board the said vessel from the Port of London aforesaid in the prosecution of a Sealing Voyage to the South Seas and was forced in consequence of adverse winds and damage sustained in sails and rigging to make for the Island of South Georgia when through a succession of gales and foggy weather with immense quantities of drift ice compelled them to lay too[sic] for three days until Tuesday the 22nd of April when the fog clearing away discovered the Island of South Georgia bearing NE by N distant 3 leagues, made sail and stood in towards the land, upon the fog returning tacked ship and hove to, head[sic] off shore wind about WSW the weather more moderate with a heavy Sea from the Westward.
At 5 pm the fog again clearing found themselves quite embayed and drifting fast on shore. All possible sail being set they attempted to tack ship and beat out but vessel missing stays and the night coming on came to anchor under a point in ten fathoms water.
During the night it falling calm at 4 am on the 23rd weighed anchor and endeavoured to warp out continued warping until 11 am when a sudden gale coming on from the NW obliged them again to drop anchor. At 2 pm the gale having increased the chain parted and in wearing the vessel she struck three several times on a rock but never stopped, made sail on her and stood out to sea.
On the carpenter sounding the pumps he reported her to have four feet water in the hold, both pumps were immediately set on but the water still continued to increase. At 4 pm the water being on the Forecastle Deck all hopes of saving her were lost. They therefore abandoned her and pulled in for the shore. At 9 pm got into smooth water under the land. It blowing hard during the night one of the boats in which was the Log Book unfortunately was lost with the whole of its stores but the Crew although severely bruised and frost bit ultimately saved themselves by climbing up the Rocks and were picked up the following morning by the other Boats.
On examination the whole of the articles saved were about 80 lbs of bread the same quantity of Meat two bolts and a half of canvass part of the Carpenters tools and a portion of wearing apparel. Under these awful circumstances they determined to take up their residence on an extensive beach and out of some old wreck built a house for themselves and crew and subsisted upon Penguins and a few other birds the Island afforded. The severity of the weather caused the loss of Joints in both hands and feet of some of the Crew. One so as to cause both feet to drop off about the ankle.
Nothing further material occurred until the 14th of July when the Boat fell in with the wreck of the Schooner and found 18 casks of bread out of which five dry ones were picked, 1 cask of Slops - 1 cask of Pease - a cask of flour part of which was damaged - one puncheon with some Rum in it - some staves spars &c and also a quantity of rigging.
During this trip of the boat the severe frost caused the loss of one of the crew who was found dead under the Boat. A Shallop having been discovered about sixty miles distant on the Island partly set up the carpenter was dispatched with assistance to make the necessary repairs by putting in some plank caulking and battening her having neither pitch nor tar whilst the stores collected from the wreck were boated round to her.
Sails being made out of the canvass saved, with a few duck frocks and trousers found in the Slop puncheon, and rigging out of that found with the wreck. All being ready on Saturday the 7th of March 1829 they launched the Shallop and same day set sail from the Island leaving ten men behind who were not willing to hazard the voyage.
On the morning of the 5th of April they made the land to the Southward of Rio Negro and continued along shore with heavy Seas. The following day the Gale increasing and finding it impossible to stand out to sea they determined to run the vessel onshore as the only means of saving themselves and crew.
On the Ninth they arrived in a boat at the town of Rio Negro where they made a similar declaration to the foregoing facts and circumstances before three Merchants residing there. That they sailed away from Patagonia on the 23rd April in the Smack "Triunfo" and arrived in this port of Buenos Ayres on the second May 1829.
And the said Appearers further declared that the said Schooner "Hope" at the time of her departure from London aforesaid upon the said intended voyage was tight staunch and strong and was well and sufficiently manned, provided and furnished with all things needful and necessary for the said voyage and that during the said voyage and most especially during the time of the aforesaid disasters the said Appearers and the rest of the said Ship's Company used their utmost endeavours to preserve the said Schooner and the goods of her loading from damage.
Whereupon the said Matthew
Brisbane Master of the late said Schooner "Hope" entered this Protest
to the end that all such loss and damage as the said schooner her Cargo Tackle
and Furniture may have suffered and sustained by the happenings aforesaid and
all costs charges and expenses attending the same shall be borne and paid by
those whom of right it may concern as being occasioned by the reasons aforesaid
and not by and through any insufficiency or neglect of the said vessel her Tackle
Furniture or Crew.
Reserving to himself the right and privilege at any future period to amend the same or to make addition thereto for the furtherance of right and justice to all concerned. Thus done and protested they the said Appearers have hereunto subscribed their names in the British Consulate at Buenos Ayres the Day and Year before written.
(signed) Mathew Brisbane,
(signed) Isaac Henzell, Mate
(signed) John Daniels, Seaman
In Buenos Aires, Brisbane was left with the problem of how to rescue the ten crew members who stayed behind on the shore at South Georgia. The following Charter with the Captain Keating lays out the details. The "Betsy" left Buenos Aires for the Falkland Islands a month later, as reported in the British Packet and Argentine News of 20 June 1829.
Charter Party between Louis Vernet and Mathew Brisbane for the American Brig "Betsy" to fetch from South Georgia for the Crew of Schooner "Hope" left on that Island.
We the undersigned have
made the following Agreement
L Vernet charters with Mathew Brisbane the Brig "Betsy" Captn Keating for the sum of one thousand Spanish Milled Dollars for every calendar month that she may be at his disposal the charter to begin from the day the Brig is placed at the disposal of Captn Brisbane and to cease from the day she is returned to safe moorings at Port Louis of Falkland Island the brig now lying in the Port of Buenos Ayres is destined to touch at Port Louis Island of Soledad, to land at Staten Land some men and sundry necessary articles for their use after which said Brig shall be held to the disposal of Captn Brisbane.
The only object of this Charter is to enable Captn Brisbane to deliver his Seamen that were wrecked upon the Island of New South Georgia in the Schooner "Hope" of London and are presumed still to exist upon said Island to the attainment of which object Vernet engages that every possible reasonable assistance shall be rendered by the Captn and Crew of the Brig "Betsy". Captn Brisbane shall accompany the Brig to shew the place where his men were left by him and will take out sufficiency of provisions for the maintenance of those men.
The success of the undertaking shall however not influence the effect of the Charter that is to say the Freight will be due whether the object be attained or not.
Therefore on the Brig's return to Port Louis Captn Brisbane engages to give to Vernet or to Captn Keating a Certificate per Triplicate stating the day in which the Brig was placed at his (Brisbane's) disposal and the day on which she is returned by him at Port Louis which Certificate being presented Mr F. G. Vermuelen of this City, his heir executor or assigns will be a sufficient Document to receive from the British Consulate the amount of freight or its equivalent in a Bill on England calculated at the rate of one thousand Spanish Milled Dollars for every month elapsed between the two days specified in said Certificate and lastly Vernet engages to give to Captn Brisbane and his men a free passage in the Brig when she returns from the Falklands Islands to the River Plate.
(signed) Louis Vernet, Mathew
(signed) Simon Sharpe, witness
Thus done and executed in
the British Consulate of Buenos Ayres the Fifteenth day of May in the Year of
Our Lord One thousand and eight hundred and twenty nine.
Which I attest
(signed) Charles Griffiths HBM Vconsul -
Mathew Brisbane resumed his career as a sealer captain. He was given another vessel, the name unknown, and for a third time in February 1830 he was wrecked, this time on the east coast of Tierra del Fuego. Once again, he and the crew were able to save themselves and they made their way to the Falkland Islands, arriving on 7th May.
It seems that he remained
in the Islands and in 1833 had been placed in charge of the British settlement
at Port Louis. At a time of confusion and disruption, he was murdered by a band
of malcontents on 26th August 1833.
For a fuller account of Captain Mathew Brisbane's life by A. G. E. Jones, see the Falkland Islands Journal, 1975, pages 1-4.