STORM AT MARGATE – THE JETTY PARTIALLY DESTROYED
(Subject of Illustration)
The top block in the front page of this week’s POLICE NEWS is devoted to a representation of the scene of the jetty during the recent storm. Our engraving is a reproduction from a sketch made expressly for this paper, and is as nearly as possible a faithful representation of the scene, which is thus described by a local journal: –
If the ‘oldest inhabitant,’ in company with the gentleman who ‘lives at home at ease,’ had taken the trouble to walk into Andrew’s passage on Sunday morning last week, they might (provided they had previously made arrangements to obviate the incident of being blown back into to High-street over the pailings) have discovered a situation the like of which they have never seen before; for the oldest inhabitant, who, by the bye, never remembering anything, would probably have made common cause with his enervated friend in a solemn declnration that he was witness to a scene of devastation and ruin so complete that he could only find its parallel in a nightmare, for beneath his feet the bowsprit of the ketch ‘Anne’ had made an unsuccessful attempt to get into the Misses Woodcock’s veranda and broken short off in the attempt. The ‘Robert and Hannah,’ bound with herrings for Londonderry, had essayed to mount the Terrace in front of the Hall-by-the-Sea, keeping close company with the lugger ‘Industry,’ of Eastbourne, which lay dismasted along the wall; the schooner ‘Merton,’ of Turo, waterlogged and abandoned, had thumped herself into a comfortable dock fifty yards astern, not alone, however, in distress, for a French brig, coal laden, had done precisely the same thing in her immediate neighbourhood. On the Nayland or thereabouts eight vessels lay at the mercy of the winds, with rudders and keels torn away, bulwarks stove in, and with their remnants of ragged sail tearing away from the yards to a prolonged accompaniment of north-east wind that shrieked and whistled through the rigging. But are the crews of all these ships in safety? Are the huge white sea horses that rush and roar over the deserted decks powerless against human life? All but in one instance; the farthest ship is a schooner, the ‘Jane Cameron.’ The ‘Friend of All Nations’ too has been busily engaged trying to rescue her crew, and we can distinctly see the people on board are making frantic signals of distress – the tide is rising rapidly, the water-logged ship lies boating its life out on those angry rocks, and there is no time to lose. With stubborn purpose the lifeboat goes to save them, and with a steady, unflinching stroke the boat’s head is turned to meet the huge breakers. Once out of the harbour it is apparent to every looker that the task is no holiday one, and that the sea may do its worst too well, for the boat is old, and no one feels confidence in her. Still the ‘Quiver’ is away at Whitstable on another errand of mercy, hardly less perilous, and the wrecked men must not be left to perish. On they go, but little heading the waves, and when, as often happens, a gigantic roller buries the crew, the backs of the men are but bent to allow it to pass over them, and the rowing never ceases for an instant. Slowly, but surely, they lay up to windward, and there is ow sufficient room for the turn to be made that will lead them to the sunken ship; but carefully this turn is taken, the result is disappointing, and for a moment appalling, for at the instant the broadside turns it meets a wave, in another instant the boat has disappeared, and is on its beam ends. But its buoyancy is superior to the water’s force; it rights again, and in the manner most marvellous. The steady stroke is resumed to recover the long strip of lost ground, and we venture once more to hope. Meanwhile a good glass allows us to see exactly what is taking place on board, the tide is still rising rapidly, and the crew is huddled together in the bow, looking with agonised faces for the help that may arrive too late – a man, with a sou’wester in his hand, is clinging to the lee shrouds franticly waving on the boat, and ever anon a cry of hope or a shrick of entreaty is heard above the howls of the wind, while the torn flag, hoisted at half mast, appears to flutter more frantically as the danger increases. Where is the boat? Where is the boat? Beaten to leeward, the men are pulling for their lives, and again are on the verge of rescue, when they are again beaten back; but by the most super-human exertions the waves are once more breasted by those sodden, half frozen men – whom someone has called ‘storm warriors’ – and again, for the third time, the effort is made. It is apparent to all who look that they will do all that in them lies to board the ship, and so the charge is made, through the rollers, under the rollers,, over the rollers, on, on; they will surely succeed; they pull like men whose existence depends on the result. They pull in such a way that the boat in a short time is alongside, and the battle is all but over, when a roller of awful size and force lifts them up from below, submerges them utterly, and bears them under the water, nigh on a hundred yards. The suspense of these two minutes is intense to the multitude of eager spectators on shore, within almost a stone’s throw, but unable to render assistance. Will the boat reappear capsized, and will the water be filled with her crew? At length, in a manner marvellous to a landsman, she rises like a duck, the men are still in their seats, but the oars have been torn away, and these few minutes of inaction have driven them nearly ashore. But while they deliberate, the Ramsgate tug comes round the jetty head, she brings her attendant lifeboat, and the help of steam may do what pluck and muscle are powerless to achieve. With consummate skill the tug lies off the wreck and casts adrift the boat to do its errand. The wrecked crew by this time have all taken refuge in the shrouds, for the decks are covered by the raging waves, and the is no place for safety but the rigging. Slowly the lifeboat bears down to the rescue, the man with the sou’-wester waves them on, and it is with a feeling of intense relief that, one by one, the men in the shrouds are seen to jump into the boat, and are caught in the boatmen’s arms. Proudly the tug steams up, and the roaring wind howls a futile protest, for its prey has been snatched from the jaws of death! But what of the past night? What
Airy devil hovering up aloft
Had poured down mischief
Such as this?
A westerly wind had ‘chopped’ round suddenly to the north-east, and the violence of the gale had caught the coasters lying in the roads. But there is not space to tell of half the incidence crowded into the few short hours between eleven o’clock and daybreak. An abler pen than ours may paint the coast lighted up by the ‘flare’ from the doomed vessels, while the moon guided the lifeboats on their errands of mercy – may tell how the Westgate coastguardsmen launched their little boat to save the crew of the French schooner ’Marie et Adále’ ashore on the rocks, and how half-drowned they brought the seven sufferers ashore; how the ‘Enterprise’ lugger, parting with half her crew to two Guernsey vessels, enabled them to reach Dover in safety; how the ‘Quiver’ lifeboat saved seventeen men, and took them to Whitstable; and how the destruction of much of the jetty was caused by the wreck of the ‘Davenport’ (to have been sold a day or two previously). Of this latter calamity, which will pass into history as an event of only slightly less importance than the total destruction of the pier in 1808, we can hardly at this present moment convey and adequate idea, or tell how utterly a portion of this magnificent erection has been wrecked and spoiled. The looker-on, who found a ruin in a place of the refreshment room, and a chaos of broken columns, torn girders, and wrecked flooring, instead of a jetty, might ask in astonishment whether it were possible that a structure which had withstood the gales of twenty winters had succumbed to the force of the waves of Saturday night; but the huge wreck which lay among the twisted stays and debris showed clearly how all this mischief had arisen. The wreck alluded to was a portion of the ‘Davenport,’ which has gone ashore off Cliftonville a few weeks previously, and lay on the afternoon of Saturday, with a broken back, high up on the rocks. But the wind had torn her asunder, had wrenched her to pieces, and thrown her again on the relentless waves; the rest of the tide and wind took these huge broadsides in the direction of the jetty, and it became apparent to any looker on, as they were swept rapidly on, that they were fearful instruments of destruction. The first portion passed between the columns harmlessly enough, but the rest that followed battered and hammered the cast-iron columns to pieces, flinging them down in a manner terrible to see, and in spite of the repeated warnings of the officials who were present, a number of people refused to leave the promenade, although it was apparent that communication with the shore must be inevitably cut off. These people, however, paid the penalty of rashness, for the ultimate collapse was very sudden, and all were compelled to remain until daybreak, with a prospect, (by no means remote) of sharing the total destruction of the entire structure, which at one time appeared to be in imminent danger. The directors of the pier and Harbour Company have, however, been up and doing. Investigations are to be taken with a view to the restoration of the jetty, and there is no reason why this should not be carried out within six months at latest. The expense may be roughly estimated at £5000.
A word more – is there no fund from which the lifeboat crews can receive substantial recognition? The greater part of these men have wives and children dependent on them, and a passing wave may in a moment create a widow and a family of orphans.