The disaster in pictures | State Library of New South Wales

The disaster in pictures

The dramatic tale of the Guardian disaster was romanticised in print and image. The following pictures all show the moment when some of the crew escape in the jolly boats and cutters (small open boats used as work boats by the crew of a larger ship).

The last aquatint engraving, by Robert Dodd, includes the story of the Guardian below the image, as follows:

The Guardian, a forty four gun ship, armed enflute commanded by Lieu’t Riou, was loaded with stores for the Colony of Botany Bay, and in her passage fell in with several Islands of Ice, floating in the Ocean 400 leagues from land, and on the 24th Dec’r 1789, being surrounded with a dark fogg [sic], unfortunately struck on one of them, and by the Violence of the shock, had her Rudder carried away, and received so much other damage, that all the Exertions of the Officers and Crew at the pumps could not keep the Ship free, and being in a sinking state from all the Numerous leaks, chief part of the Crew being worn out with fatigue, abandoned themselves to despair and the fate of the Ship, while those who had a little strength remaining betook to the Boats;  but the Commander, inflexible in his duty tho supplicated to accompany them, determined not to quit the Ship while a Man remained on Board, and tho there was not much probability of the Boats reaching land, yet while they were preparing to depart wrote the following letter to the Admiraltry [sic]. ___

H.M.S. Guardian Dec.r 25. 1789.
If any part of the Officers or Crew of the Guardian should ever survive to get home, I have only to say, their Conduct after the fatal stroke against an Island of Ice was admirable and wonderful in every thing that relates to their duties, either as private Men or in his Majesty’s service ___ As there seems to be no Possibility of my remaining many hours in this World, I beg leave to recommend to the consideration of the Admiraltry [sic], a Sister, who, if my conduct or Services should be found deserving any Memory, their favor might be shewn to, together with a Widowed Mother ____ I am ,Sir __ reimaning with great respect __ Your ever obed’t. Serv’t.
E. Riou

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