Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/373

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on her starboard beam ends. "It was," says Seaman Smith, "a dreadful shock." The reef—now called Wreck Reef—was in latitude 22° 11' south, longitude 155° 13' east, about 200 miles north-east of Hervey Bay, and 739 miles north of Sydney.[1]) The wind was blowing fresh, and the night was very dark. The heave of the sea lifted the vessel and dashed her on the coral a second and third time; the foremast was carried away, and the bottom was stove in. It was realised at once that so lightly built and unsound a ship as the Porpoise was must soon be pounded to pieces under the repeated shocks.

Anxiety for the safety of the Cato and the Bridgewater was felt, as they were following the lead of the King's vessel. An attempt was made to fire a gun to warn them, but the heavy surf and the violent motion of the wrecked ship prevented this being done. Before any warning could be given the Cato dashed upon the coral about two cables' length from the Porpoise, whose company saw her reel, fall over, and disappear from view. The Bridgewater happily cleared the reef.

After the first moments of confusion had passed, Flinders ordered the cutter and the gig to be launched. He informed Fowler that he intended to save his charts and journals, and to row to the Bridgewater to make arrangements for the rescue of the wrecked people. The gig, in which he attempted to carry out this plan,

  1. Extract from the Australia Directory Volume 2 (Published by the Admiralty): "Wreck Reef, on the central portion of which the ships Porpoise and Cato were wrecked in 1803, consists of a chain of reefs extending 18½ miles and includes 5 sand cays; Bird Islet, the easternmost, is the only one known to produce any vegetation. Of the other four bare cays none are more than 130 yards in extent, or exceed six feet above high water; they are at equal distances apart of about four miles, and each is surrounded by a reef one to one and a half miles in diameter. The passages between these reefs are about two miles wide...On the northern side of most of them there is anchorage."