HMS Megaera (1849) - Final Voyage - St. Paul Island

St. Paul Island

On 17 June, the ship anchored at St. Paul in 84 ft (26 m) of water so that the leak could be examined, and a diver was sent to inspect the damage. However, the anchor cable broke and they were obliged to take the diver back on board before he could carry out any work. After she snapped a second anchor cable, Megaera's divers were finally able to make an inspection and the leak was found: one of her iron plates was worn away, and had a hole whose edges were so thin they could be bent by hand. In addition, many of the ship's beams were corroded through at the bottom, and others nearly so. The bilge pumps were continually becoming choked by pieces of rusted iron. As Thrupp stated in his later despatch concerning the wreck, the ship's girders were separating from the bottom, the bottom was leaky in one place and very thin in many others, and the pumps were continually becoming choked with thick pieces of iron. The chief engineer of the Megaera, George Mills, advised Thrupp on 17 June that it would be most unsafe to proceed with the voyage to Australia, the nearest point of which was 1,800 mi (2,900 km) away, and his advice was backed up by two other ship's engineers on board, Edward Brown of HMS Blance, and J.B. Richards of HMS Rosario.

Since the weather was very stormy, and the anchorage could not be depended on, Thrupp announced to the ship's company on the morning of Sunday, 18 June, after reading prayers, that they would land at once. The following day, due to the stormy weather, which had halted the landing of stores, and the difficulty in keeping the ship in position (she had had three anchors carried away and lost since first anchoring), it was decided to beach her. Thrupp had Megaera run on to a bar at full speed, in a depth of 10 ft (3.0 m) of water forward and 18 ft (5.5 m) aft, and at high water she filled up to the level of the main deck. Her provisions and stores were put ashore over the following week, and she was not finally abandoned for 11 days, when Captain Thrupp declared the dangerous wreckage to be off-limits. Two-thirds of the cargo had by then been unloaded.

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