Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Shipwreck survivors 9: William Hartley and Ariosto

Its an ill wind that blows no good. 

When the American barque Ariosto 361 tons was wrecked on the Back Beach, Durban, on 31 July 1854 while on her way to Boston from Sumatra, carrying a cargo of pepper, a local Byrne settler, William Hartley, saw an opportunity. He knew that pepper did not deteriorate when wet and he dried out the peppercorns then sold them at a satisfactory profit.

The Captain (Balch) had mistakenly kept the ship on course believing their position to be some miles from the Bluff. The sound of breakers alerted the deck watch but it was too late. The vessel struck, bumping over the Bar, and ended up on the beach. The crew of 17 landed in their boat. The ship became a total wreck but no lives were lost. Durban's inhabitants rushed to the scene and William Hartley began to have ideas about the cargo.

Hartley and his wife Isabella had emigrated on the Sovereign, one of Byrne's vessels, which arrived at Natal in March 1850.  Hartley was prompted to go to Natal by James Methley's book The New Colony of Natal. He and Isabella were married a fortnight before they sailed, Isabella sewing into her corset William's parents' gift of a hundred pounds in sovereigns - a bank from which they would withdraw funds as the need arose.

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