Monday, February 1, 2016

Shipwreck survivors 12: the Dodington 1755

Staying with the 18th c, the Dodington (499 tons commanded by Captain James Sampson) was wrecked in July 1755 on Bird Island (Algoa Bay), at night, while outward-bound for India from England. 

A south-west gale was the cause of the disaster. Of a crew of 270 only 23 survived the wreck. But these proved to be hardy and imaginative survivors, who built a vessel they named The Happy Deliverance from bits of timber left by the wreck. In this they sailed to Delagoa Bay.

Before that these survivors lived on Bird Island for several months. It was far from a Robinson Crusoe idyll, the island being covered in guano from the many visiting birds. However they were fortunate in salvaging items from their wrecked ship, including gunpowder and flints, candles, water casks, beer, flour, salted pork and seven live hogs. A blacksmith among their number was able to use tools to improve their lot. They also had navigational aids washed up on shore.
It was this combination of factors which led to the men's being able to construct the boat which would be their lifeline. On reaching Delagoa Bay they sold the boat and were taken on board another ship. A Happy Deliverance indeed.

Later salvage attempts brought forth tons of copper, guns and lead as well as many silver pieces of eight. It is thought that this treasure, or part of it, had belonged to Robert Clive (Clive of India) who had intended sailing on the Dodington and sent some of his possessions aboard, but then had taken another ship. thus changing the course of history.

Bird Island

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