Search billions of records on Ancestry.com
   

SINKING OF THE JOSEPHINE WILLIS
The New Zealander July 2nd 1856

On Sunday last a most appalling catastrophe occurred in the Channel, resulting in the total loss of the fine ship Josephine Willis, bound for Auckland, NZ.   About eight o’clock in the evening, when five miles from Folkestone, this ill-fated vessel was run into by the iron screw-steamer Mangerton and in a very short time the Josephine Willis foundered; most of her passengers, amounting to about sixty persons, and a crew of thirty, we grieve to relate, met with a watery grave.

The scene on board the vessel just before she careened over on her starboard side and went down, is described by the survivors to have been truly horrible.  Captain CANNEY, the unfortunate master, it should be observed, was below at the time making out his course on a chart he had on the cabin table, the chief officer, Mr CLAYTON, having charge of the watch on deck.  William GRINDLE, seaman, was at the wheel and two look-out men (John SHEEN and another man) were forward.  Sheen, in his depositions before the Receiver of Droids at Ramsgate, states that the ship was going about six knots at the time, on the port tack, the wind being SE (and not ENE as reported).   Seeing a steamer approaching, he notified the same to the mate, who immediately called out to the man at the wheel to put her helm a-starboard.  The mate at the same time shouted to the steamer but no notice was taken.  The steamer continued her course and in less than five minutes the collision took place.  Captain BOUCHIER of the steamer Mangerton, in his report of the occurrence to Lloyd’s agent at Deal, admits that he observed the Josephine Willis apparently starboard her helm, he (Capt Bouchier) having just previously put his helm hard-a-port and before there was time to reverse the engines the vessels met, the ship striking them on the port bow and the steamer striking the ship abaft the rigging on the starboard side.

In the cabin, along with the captain, were Mr Alexander JARVIS (the surgeon, who at the time was conversing with him on the superiority of the chart before him and the probability of the ship making St Catherine’s Point by five o’clock the next morning), and Mr ANDREWS; the other passengers, being rather sea-sick, having retired to their cabins.  Hearing the terrible crash, the captain rushed upon deck.  His first order was to sound the pumps and on the steamer backing out, which might have occurred some eight or ten minutes afterwards, he called to the man at the helm to keep her due north.  The helm was put up but by this time she was careening over and she would not steer.  The poop-deck was crowded with the passengers and the captain, seeing that the ship was foundering, told them to throw the hencoops overboard and hold on to them.  All the boats were gone; they were capable of holding all hands but they were sent adrift with only a few people in them.  The last that was seen of the captain – if the passenger cook speaks correctly – was after the ship had fallen over on her beam-ends with her top gallant yards in the water.  He was then clinging to a hencoop in the water, together with two females.  The first boat that left the ship contained only Mr Henry RAY, his wife, a steerage passenger named Catherine MAY, the ship surgeon Mr JARVIS and three seamen.  The boat stove in lowering would have sunk but for the surgeon pulling off his coat and thrusting it into the hole in the bottom.  Several of the crew next lowered the pinnace and the life-boat but ere the passengers had time to get into them they were cut away.  They were all shortly picked up by the steamer.  One of the crew states that he thinks there were at the time about sixty people collected on the side of the ship.