A tale of shipwreck told by Sir Walter Runciman about by Captain John Curry:

“He was master of a brig called the "OCEAN QUEEN". I think he said it was in the month of December, 1866. They sailed from a Gulf of Finland port laden with sawn timber. After many days they reached the longitude of Gotland; they were then overtaken by a hurricane from the west which battered the vessel until she became water-logged and dismasted. The crew lashed them-selves where they could, and huddled together for warmth to minimize the effects of the biting frost and the road turmoil of boiling foam which continuously swept over the doomed vessel, and caked itself into granite-like lumps of ice. At intervals they would try to keep their blood from freezing by watching a "slant" when there was a comparative smooth, and run along the deck load a few times, keeping hold of the life-line that was stretched fore and aft for this purpose.

After twelve hours the force of the tempest was broken, and they were able to take more exercise, but they were without food and water, and no succor came near them. They held stoutly out against the privations for two days, then one after another began to succumb to the combined ravages of cold, thirst, and hunger. Some of them died insane, and others fought on until Nature became exhausted, and they also passed into the Valley of Death. There were now only the Captain and a colored seaman, Julius Fortus, left. The wind and sea were drifting the vessel towards the Prussian coast, and on the fifth morning after she became water-logged the wreck stranded on a sandy beach two hours before daylight.

The Captain and his colored companion attached themselves to a plank end by superhuman effort reached the shore. They buried their bodies up to the waist in sand under the shelter of a hill, believing it would generate some warmth into their impoverished systems. Their extremities were badly frost-bitten, and when they were discovered at daylight by a man on horseback who had been attracted to the scene of the wreck, they were both in a condition of semi-consciousness. He galloped off for assistance, and speedily had them placed under medical treatment, and under the roof of hospitable people.

A few days’ rest and proper attention made them well enough to be removed to a hospital. It was soon necessary to amputate both of the colored man’s legs, and also some of his fingers. The Captain had the soles of his feet cut off, and he told me that he always regretted not having the feet taken off altogether, as he had never been free from suffering during all these years. He said the doctor advised it, but that he himself was so anxious to save them that he preferred to have the soles scraped to the bone, hoping that the diseased parts would heal; “but,” said he with an air of sober melancholy, “that never have.””

Captain John Curry, 1837– 1916
Julius Fortus, 1835 Cape Verde Islands –1880 Northumbrian, Canada
Extract from the book “WINDJAMMERS AND SEA TRAMPS" 1902, by Sir Walter Runciman (later Lord Runciman), a Northumbrian ship-owner & politician.