Saturday, March 03, 2012
Female sailor aboard the wreck of the Sydney Cove
In Max Jeffreys' narrative recounting of ‘The Wreck of the Sydney Cove’, in 1797 a handful of survivors sailed and hiked hundreds of miles over rugged terrain to get help for their mates who they had left on a desolate island in Bass Strait. During an arduous struggle along a cliff top, one of the young lascar sailors fell to the rocks below, and it was soon evident that the body was that of a young woman.
It was the First Mate, Hugh Thompson, who had picked up a group of lascar beggars from the streets of Calcutta and, favouring one in particular, had made ‘Pochari’ his cabin boy. Only after 6 months did he discover she was not a boy. But he told no one and no one suspected the truth.
The wreck of the Calcutta-built Sydney Cove, carrying a cargo of rum, is a remarkable true story of hardship and survival. I enjoyed Jeffreys’ re-telling, apart from the broad Scottish dialect of Captain Hamilton which, as the printed word, slowed my reading.