The loss of the Hibernia, April 1833

From a letter in the Star, May 2, 1833. The Hibernia, Captain Brend, left Liverpool 6 December 1832, and sank on February 4, NW of Acension island, 1100 miles from Brazil. There were 79 males, 80 females, and 50 children as passengers; 4 of the crew were boy apprentices. 150 died. There were insufficient lifeboats, and they were very poorly maintained. The survivors were rescued by the Guernsey vessel, Isabella.

We stated in our last that the Duke of Gloucester, Captain De La Rue, then just arrived from Rio de Janeiro, had brought the melancholy intelligence that the ship Hibernia had been burnt at sea, and that many lives had been lost. It will be seen from the extract of the following letter received here, with which we have been favoured, that the Hibernia was bound from Liverpool to van Diemen’s Land, with upwards of 200 emigrants on board, of whom at least one hundred and thirty perished by the 'devouring flood or more devouring flame.' The conduct of the crew of the Lotus, convict ship, towards some of the unhappy sufferers whom they picked up, was such as must call forth the indignation of every honest mind,—contrasted with it the kind treatment which others received from the master and crew of the Isabella, of this island, stands out in bold relief:

The Lotus, convict ship, lately brought in sixty-nine, and the Isabella, of Guernsey, seventeen persons, saved from the Hibernia, bound from Liverpool to Van Diemen’s Land, with emigrants, of whom there were two hundred aboard, exclusive of the men. The ship took fire at sea, lat. 5 south, and the above 83 persons were picked up in the three boats, after being seven days in them. A Mr. M., a single man, having laid out £3,500 in goods, has lost the whole, as they were not insured. Another poor man has lost his wife, two boys, and three daughters, besides £200, the only property he had. Four beautiful girls (sisters), of German extraction, sank together in each others’ arms just after the boats left the ship. I think there must have been some foul work, as out of the crew of 23 there are sixteen saved, including the master and mates. The poor doctor assisted the most and he is lost.

The surviving passengers complain bitterly of the treatment they received on board the convict ship. The first evening they got on board they were made to sleep on deck, and even the women were not allowed a drop of tea, after of course being nearly starved for seven days in the boat, but seventeen charity children gave up theirs to these miserable people. On board the Isabella they could not have been better treated. It is supposed that among the English and other foreign merchants and clerks here a subscription of 10,000 milreas (£1,350) will be raised for them. The day after they arrived, 6,700 milreas were signed for. All the American houses gave 100 milreas each, and nearly all the Germans signed also. It is said that they might have gone to any other part of the world, and that such a subscription would not have been raised for them.

Pictures of both the Duke of Gloucester and the Isabella brigs can be seen in John Sarre’s digital collection, Guernsey Sailing Ships: 1786-1936, which can be consulted at the Library. The brig Isabella was out of Trieste for this voyage; from the list of local shipping in the Guernsey Almanacs the Isabella of 229 tonnes was owned by J Bonamy & Co. and captained by Capt. Fleure. Sarre’s CD also tells us that it was built in 1832 in Guernsey; the watercolour, by Poli of Trieste, gives the Captain’s name as John Flère, and is in the Guernsey Museum, (GML 1995.42).

It may have been difficult for the Lotus to have been more hospitable; it had 216 male convicts as passengers.