Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/374

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289
THE CALAMITY OF WRECK REEF

was compelled to lie at a little distance from the ship, to prevent being stove in; so he jumped overboard and swam to her. She leaked badly, and there was nothing with which to bale her out but the hats and shoes of the ship's cook and two other men who had taken refuge under the thwarts. Flinders steered towards the Bridgewater's lights, but she was standing off, and it was soon seen to be impossible to reach her. It was also unsafe to return to the Porpoise through the breakers in the darkness; so that the boat was kept on the water outside the reef till morning, the small party on board being drenched, cold under a sharp south-easter, and wretchedly miserable. Flinders did his best to keep up their spirits, telling them that they would undoubtedly be rescued by the Bridgewater at daylight; but he occupied his own mind in devising plans for saving the wrecked company in case help from that ship was not forthcoming.

Meanwhile blue lights had been burnt on the ship every half-hour, as a guide to the Bridgewater, whose lights were visible till about two o'clock in the morning. Fowler also occupied time in constructing a raft from the timbers, masts and yards of the Porpoise. "Every breast," says Smith's narrative, "was filled with horror, continual seas dashing over us with great violence." Of the Cato nothing could be seen. She had struck, not as the Porpoise had done, with her decks towards the reef, but opposed to the full force of the lashing sea. Very soon the planks were torn up and washed away, and the unfortunate passengers and crew were huddled together in the forecastle, some lashed to timber heads, others clinging to any available means of support, and to each other, expecting every moment that the stranded vessel would be broken asunder. In Smith's expressive words, the people were "hanging in a cluster by each other on board the wreck, having nothing to