Captain William Bell had his fair share of shipwrecks to cope with during his time as Port Captain at Durban.
The 1860s were particularly busy, as the volume of sail visiting the port increased and the difficulties of the harbour entrance, with varying depths of water over the Bar, had yet to be overcome. This was also the decade which saw the beginning of immigration of Indian labour, with ships sailing from Madras and other Indian ports to Natal carrying large numbers of migrants.
Each shipwreck which occurred in the environs of the port would be the subject of an enquiry by the Harbour Board and the findings published in the local press. Bell and George Cato as well as the Lieutenant Governor and the Surveyor General sat on this Board and were closely involved in the harbour works proposed by John Milne, Harbour Engineer.
The Earl of Hardwicke was a British wooden ship of 903 tons commanded by Captain Maddison. She was wrecked on the Back Beach at Durban on 26 Sept 1863 during a north east gale after a voyage from Madras with a cargo of Indian Immigrants. Fortunately no lives were lost. [Natal Mercury 4 December 1863]
There had been a similar incident on 3 January 1861 when the Lord George Bentinck another British barque of 592 tons, commanded by Captain George Case, was wrecked on the Back Beach in a north-easterly wind. She was carrying Indian immigrants and had sailed from Madras. [Natal Mercury 10 January 1861]
The Adelaide was wrecked during a strong easterly gale on 8 Feb 1866. This ship was also carrying Indian immigrants. Several men were drowned in the incident.
[Natal Mercury 8 February 1866]
|Scrimshaw: Sailing vessel on whale ivory.|