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A Strange Series of Shipwrecks

The most bizarre chain of maritime accidents in history

The sinking of the Governor Ready

Some argue that there's no such thing as bad luck. However, if you were a sailor in 1829 you probably would think otherwise: For that year marked the beginning of an uncanny series of shipwrecks that defies logic and explanation.

The strange story begins in October of 1829, when the English merchant ship Mermaid was driven on the rocks of the Torres Strait, between Papau New Guinea and Australia. The ship was dashed to pieces, and the crew clung to the shattered remains for dear life. After hours adrift in the water the fragments of the Mermaid began to sink one by one, and just when it appeared that all hope of survival was lost, a passing frigate named Swiftsure rescued the crew.

The Swiftsure resumed her northward course, only to be foundered in a horrible gale three days later. Luckily, a warship by the name of Governor Ready, en route to India, caught sight of the foundering frigate and saved the combined crews of the Mermaid and Swiftsure. And if you guessed that this ship would also meet a similar fate, well, you are correct: The Governor Ready encountered a fierce storm and was driven miles off its course. It ran ashore on the barren coast of an uninhabited island in the Indian Ocean and its crew (now comprised of men from the Mermaid, Swiftsure and Governor Ready) managed to make it onto the island without a single casualty.

After being stranded on the island for a week, the castaways were rescued by a cutter named Comet, which soon sprang a leak and sank slowly a few days later. As luck would have it, a rescue ship was nearby; the four crews were saved by the Jupiter. And, as luck would also have it, the Jupiter foundered just as she was entering the harbor of Port Raffle. All of the men were rescued by a boat dispatched from the harbor.

Thus, the crew of the Mermaid endured five wrecks in a single voyage, the crew of the Swiftsure endured four, the crew of the Governor Ready three, and the Comet twice. But perhaps the most incredible part of this story is that not a single crewman lost his life during this bizarre string of misfortunes.

Source: The Princeton (Minnesota) Union, May 17, 1906

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