“A brave vessel, Who had, no doubt, some noble creatures in her” – the wreck of the “Sea Venture” in 1609, the earlies of Virginia and “The Tempest”
25 July 1609, During a three-day hurricane in the West Indies, Admiral Sir George Somers sailed his flagship “Sea Venture”, part of the “Third Relief” bound for Jamestown, Virginia, on the reefs off Bermuda, inspiring Shakespeare’s “Tempest”.
“If by your art, my dearest father, you have Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them. The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch, But that the sea, mounting to the welkin's cheek, Dashes the fire out. O, I have suffered With those that I saw suffer! A brave vessel, Who had, no doubt, some noble creatures in her, Dash'd all to pieces! O, the cry did knock Against my very heart! Poor souls, they perish'd! Had I been any god of power, I would Have sunk the sea within the earth, or e'er It should the good ship so have swallow'd, and The fraughting souls within her.“ (William Shakespeare “The Tempest”)
Miranda witnessing the shipwreck in Shakespeare’s “Tempest”
as imagined by John William Waterhouse (1849–1917) in 1916
|Leaving out “Disease, starvation and rather lamentable relations with the locals” – a 1906 print of Captain John Smith landing in Jamestown, Virginia, 1607. From “The Story of Pocahontas and Captain John.“|
“Sea Venture” left Plymouth as flagship of the eight vessels of the “Third Supply” mission on 2 June 1609 on her maiden voyage. There is, however, a trick in in doing no half-measures, for example thinking things through and consider a few details from the beginning to the end of the design stage. In the case of the “Sea Venture” it was that she was not yet ready for sea, her timbers were new and had not set and when the fleet ran into a storm in the West Indies, the 300-ton floating death trap filled up with water faster than all hands on board could bail. Sir George Somers, Admiral of the small fleet, took the wheel himself and drove the ship on the reefs of the island that was sighted on the morning of 25 July. Thanks to Sir George’s rather desperate action, all 150 souls aboard could be brought safely ashore, marooned, though, on an island in the middle of nowhere, later known as Bermuda. Based on Smith’s “rude answer”, the castaways consisted of rather capable hands and managed to survive for the next ten months on Bermuda and constructed two small pinnaces, one-masted 50’ ships displacing about 30 tons, from local cedar and parts salvaged from the wreck of the “Sea Venture”. They left Bermuda in the “Deliverance” and “Patience” in May 1610 and reached Jamestown a fortnight later, out of the fire and into the frying pan. Without the provisions from the “Third Supply”, the colony was indeed dying and Somers decided to ship its 60 survivors on board of his two pinnaces and head back home to England. And just while the two cockleshells sailed out of the James River into Chesapeake Bay, they ran into the next relief fleet under the newly appointed governor of Virginia, Thomas West, Baron De La Warr, Delaware, who persuaded the people of “Deliverance” and “Patience” to return to abandoned Jamestown with him and make a new start. They did and it was for keeps this time, while Somers, trying to salvage more supplies from the wreck of “Sea Venture” in Bermuda with “Patience”, died en route, allegedly from a “surfeit of pork”, probably scurvy.
Construction of a small pinnace in the early 1600s,
albeit under more favourable circumstances than on Bermuda
And more about the wreck of the “Sea Venture” on:
|John Gadsby Chapman “The Baptism of Pocahontas“ 1840|