Mr Trengrouse's Rocket Apparatus, June 1836

As reported in the Comet of July 4th, 1836. Henry Trengrouse (1772-1854), from Cornwall, was the inventor in 1808 of an early form of the Breeches buoy. As he first presented his invention, however, in 1818, versions of it had long been in use by the time he demonstrated it in Guernsey, despite the Comet's misgivings.

Last Thursday [June 30th], between 7 and 8 o'clock in the evening, a great concourse of persons were drawn together on the North and South Piers, to see the trials of MR TRENGROUSE'S Rocket apparatus, designed to form a rope communication between vessels wrecked, and the shore. The essay took place on board the brig Daphne, lying in the second tier of vessels in our harbour, which was effected in the following manner:

A rocket was discharged from a musket from the vessel's deck, with a line attached to it; it failed the first time in reaching the place of its destination, but in the second it fully answered the purpose, and the line was drawn across the harbour. A hawser was then tied to the end of the line and drawn to the South pier-head where it was fastened, and the other end was rove through a block at the brig's mainmast head, leading down on deck. The hawser was then made tolerably tight, and after some delay, a traveller was applied to the hawser, and a flexible chair suspended to it for the purpose of showing how persons may be rescued from shipwreck when a vessel is a reasonable distance from the shore.

When all things were ready, a young man got into the chair, and the persons on the south pier who were holding the line attached to the traveller, pulled him along, but owing to some defect or other, the traveller did not traverse properly, and when the young man had been drawn as far as the centre of the harbour, a stoppage took place, and he was gently lifted up and down in to the air, with an occasional dip into the water, as he sat in his novel seat, which he did not seem altogether to relish, and not liking to be paraded about after that fashion, he beckoned to some comrades of his who were in their boat, who went and released him, from his unenviable situation. After that, a boy got into the chair, and being made of lighter materials than the former occupant, he was drawn along the rope with more facility, and ultimately reached the south pier-head, after having been refreshed with a few dips in to the briny element, to the no little amusement of the spectators.

We scarcely feel competent to give a decided opinion as to the practicability of Mr Trengrouse's Rocket Apparatus, inasmuch as it did appear to us, that the preparations were not sufficiently matured, to give it a fair trial, and under those circumstances, we think it is a pity that a thing of this kind should be exhibited to the public before the material is in order, as as to prevent, as far as possible, a failure, because, with the generality of persons, first impressions are everything, and unless the project succeeds in the first onset, they are too much disposed to draw unfavourable conclusions as to the utility of the undertaking. From what we saw on Thursday, we think there would be very little difficulty in conveying a line to a vessel stranded at a moderate distance from the shore, by means of the Rocket Apparatus, but it seems to us, that considerable embarrassment would be experienced under a variety of circumstances, in fastening the hawser in such a manner as would render it practicable for persons to be drawn from the vessel to the shore, in perfect safety, and particularly so on a level beach.