Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/393

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359
HURRICANE IN THE PAUMOTUS.

raging waters. Again and again they were dashed from the rocks or stumps to which they clung, and endured a moment of bewildering horror, while carried at the mercy of the swirling waters, till happily some other object presented itself at which to clutch. Further, they were in imminent danger from sharks, which, as they well knew, might attack them at any moment,—a consciousness which formed a horrible item in that night of dread. Mingling with the roar of the waters and the shrieking of the hurricane, came the crash of falling palms, uprooted, twisted, or snapped by the fury of the gale.

When morning broke, the tempest abated; the waters receded to their accustomed bounds, leaving the island a complete wreck, and its shores strewn with the bodies of the dead.

After a few days, a boat arrived in search of Mr Macgee, despatched from the island of Apataki, where he had left the Marion. He found her high and dry on the beach, but otherwise not seriously injured. Of the little May he had himself caught a last glimpse as a huge wave lifted her up and carried her right over the wharf, to disappear in the turmoil of seething waters beyond. Many other small craft have been wrecked. Amongst others the Hornet, a 42-ton schooner; the Nerine, 28-ton; and a great number of boats, which were washed out of the lagoon and carried out to sea.

The isles of Niau, Anaa, and Rangiroa, i.e., long cloud, seem to have suffered the most severely. On the latter almost every house has been destroyed, one hideous detail being that the cemeteries have literally been washed away, and the bodies, bones, and skulls lie strewn over the isle, mingled with the corpses of the drowned, to the gratification of such hungry pigs as have survived the deluge, and who quickly scented out the loathsome festival. Among the bodies which shared this horrible fate, was recognised that of a chief, who had been buried a few days previously.

Nor was this the only isle where the sea disturbed the resting-places of the dead. Mr Boosey told me that on his returning to the miserable wreck of what had been his home at Anaa, he therein found two skulls, which the waves had sportively deposited