1888; Chesil swallows up another wreck.

Chesil beach in Dorset is  world renown. It is part of the World Heritage Jurassic coastline. A more stunning place for scenery is hard to find…but it does have it’s dark side, as anyone who’s witnessed it in storms will realise.

Many a ship has fallen foul of the weather and tides here, the sea floor is littered with wrecks along this seemingly innocuous, but deadly stretch of coastline

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Late on Thursday evening in March in 1888, an iron built barque, the 665 ton Lanoma was making her way from Tasmania back to her home port of London. Belonging to merchants Messrs T B Walker of Fenchurch street, she was laden goods, her hull filled with wool, hides and blue stone.

In charge of her was Captain Whittingham,  on board a crew of 18.

The journey home had been a plain sailing , nothing remarkable to break the monotony of the days sailing. That was until the Thursday….when they had reached West Bay. A thick fog had descended, but there was also a heavy sea running. not a problem for experienced sailors like this crew.

One of the young apprentices on board was Ernest James Arnold,  that night he was at the helm, a responsible job for one so young, but that was life at sea. About 1/2 hour before midnight, the look out shouted out a warning, through the fog he had spotted breakers close by, they were too near the shore! The captain somehow had miscalculated his charts, and they were off course.

Ernest responded quickly and spun the wheel desperately trying to turn the ship,  but by the time she had started to turn it was too late…she grounded on the steep pebbled shore, with large waves washing over her.

The men frantically tried to right things, but nature saw to it that they were thwarted every time. The boiling seas dashed away the maintop gallant mast,  followed by the mizen-top gallant mast and finally the mizen mast. The smaller boats were dashed off the davits and disappeared.

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Two of the men, apprentice Edward Allen and able seaman  Jones grabbed a line, leapt in to the boiling sea to try to swim for the shore, but the surge near the beach was too strong. Allen managed to finally make shore, but he had lost the vital line in his battle to stay afloat.  Jones was washed back towards the stricken ship, and had to be dragged out of the water half drowned.

While battling the surging waves that were washing over their stricken vessel,  the men tried tying the line to a belaying pin, once they had it attached they tried to throw it on shore, but it was too far…there was nothing for it, they had to admit defeat and start burning the blue lights to attract attention to their dire plight, they needed help, and needed it fast!.

Not long after, a rocket lit the sky, their cry for help had been seen…now they could be rescued. The men at the Wyke station had spotted their lights and were on their way with rescue equipment, with Chief Officer Young in charge. Joining the men were those from the Fleet coast guard.

Once on the Chesil bank the men battled the constant battering from the waves, but they finally managed to get a line on board using a rocket, and the breeches buoy was sent out to start pulling the cold and wet men off the doomed vessel.

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It wasn’t going to be straight forwards, it never is, half way across the gap, the lines tangled ,and the man who must have thought he was almost home safe and dry was washed beneath the sea, never seen again.  Trying again, they managed to sort the lines and pulled two more to safety through the surf.

Davy Jones had one last trick up his sleeve…a huge wave broke with ferociousness onto the wreck, washing the remaining men who were waiting patiently to be rescued right off the deck.

For one of those men, an angel must have been watching over him… he found himself desperately swimming for shore, but his way was hampered by bales of wool that were all around. Almost on the point of  giving up he spotted a wooden plank, dragged himself onto it…that’s all he remembered until he came to on the shore nearly an hour later. The tide had washed him in and the coast guards spotting him had pulled him ashore.

In total only 6 of the boats crew were rescued.

The frozen, wet, exhausted survivors were taken to the Fleet coast guard station where they were given dry clothes. Next morning they were transferred to the Sailor’s Home in Weymouth to be met by the Shipwreck mariners Society agent. He sorted them fresh clothes and arranged for them to be sent back home to London, back into the arms of their anxious families.

The 6 survivors were 3 Able seaman; Hansen; Stephen Kenseth; and Fox.

and 3 apprentices; Allen, Bussey and Ernest James Jones.

Those who sadly lost their lives; Captain Whittingham; Mr Cruse, chief mate; Mr Fox, second mate; Mr Black, carpenter; Mr Smith, steward; Mr Montaro, cook;

able seamen Jones, Johnson, and Wilson.

apprentices Edwards, Finnis and Hood.

The wreck of the Lanoma broke up in the surf, and joined the litter of debris that haunts the seabed.

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I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many more, including local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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http://www.chesilbeach.org/ (Chesil beach website)

http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~imw/chesil.htm ( Chesil beach)

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