The Ship Corydon sunk in the Bahama Straits off the Florida Coast in an Atlantic Hurricane on September 11, 1919, while carrying sugar from Cuba.
Offering a superb 22 pp account, written by Third Mate Ben Mellows to his wife, Beatrice, narrating in harrowing detail the foundering of the 2351-ton vessel, the escape of Mellows and nine others to a lifeboat, watching their ship go down with 27 shipmates, suffering on a small boat in shark infested waters, tongues swollen from lack of drinking water, watching one survivor go mad and drown, and their final rescue.
Written on Hotel Aberdeen stationary and dated September 20, just nine days after the ship’s sinking, Mellows writes, “Arrived here yesterday afternoon and came to the hotel last night…Have been down to the office all day going through an investigation and I don’t feel like much now…I don’t know when I will leave here as I expect to go to the hospital Monday but had not ought to be there long unless they have to operate on my side where I got hurt, also my knee is pretty bad. The rest of my bruises are about all healed up except under my arms where they were cut up from the life preserves…Now I will try to tell you a little bit about the whole thing.
“We left Antilla, Cuba Sept. 6th about 5 pm with fine weather and were making good time until Sunday night about midnight when the weather began to look kind of dirty but nothing to indicate a hurricane coming. When I came on watch again Monday morning at 8 am, it was blowing heavy raining and a bad sea and kept getting worse…By night it was all I could do to keep the ship head…and getting worse all the time…We knew what we were up against but could not do anything but fight it out and make the best of it…We fought all night until about 9 am Tuesday when we could not do any more and were all pretty tired as we had nothing to eat or drink since Monday supper as everything was flooded with water. Around 10:30 am the chief Eng[ineer] reported that all of the machinery was out of commission and then we lost control of the ship altogether and she was laying over on her side with half of her deck underwater…We tried to get No. #1 boat overboard but couldn’t…Then one man & myself ran to No. #2 boat which I had charge of and cut everything clear then I went to cut the working boat clear and while I was doing that, a sea came and when I looked No. #2 boat was drifting clear with one man in her. Well I said, ‘there goes one who may get ashore to tell how we went as I had no idea she would ever come near enough to the ship for any more to get in.’ Well, I started to finish my job of cutting the boat clear when a sea came along and mashed her up so I started from the bridge when I noticed the boat was working towards the ship so I went to the Capt. and tried to get him to leave but he wouldn’t and told me to go and get in if I could and save as many as I could.
“Then I left there and ran along the side of the ship until I got forward and waited a minute then jumped overboard and swam to the boat and got in. Then we picked up all the rest that jumped which were 9 besides myself. The wind blew us away from the ship and we could not get back again. At 11 am…the ship rolled over and sank, taking 27 with her and I’ll never forget that night and we could not help them. I did not see anything of any of them again. Then we started on what turned out to be 48 hours of torture.
“We had not been drifting long before a big sea hit our boat and over she went and threw us in all directions. Well, we had all got on top of her and got her right side up again and got into her, although she was full of water, when she rolled over again twice and at last we got her back again. We could not bail her out and she only just flooded with us all hanging on. All we had to do now was to hang on the best we could & trust to luck…Every once in a while some one of us would wash clean and we would hold each other back again only to be washed away again until finally we tore up what clothing we had…and then a new trouble started as the sharks started coming and playing around us but they kindly left us alone. The second pm we saw a steamer coming but she didn’t see us…By this time, we were suffering from the want of water as we had not had any for two days & our tongues were all swollen & cracking. The second night, one man went crazy just as we sighted a lighthouse and tackled me with a knife but I overpowered him & hung on to him until I got too weak and had to let him go & he drowned. We drifted right up to the light and thought we were going to get there when the sea carried us right on by. Then I thought it was all over with us but the daylight came. I saw land and we finally drifted ashore at Cape Florida where we were found laying on the beach by a man and his wife…I don’t know what happened after we crawled ashore until I woke up in the hospital in Miami. In all we were 48 hours hanging to a sunken boat and I can’t express the suffering we went through…Fondest of Love, Ben”
Toning, folds with a couple of small tears reinforced with archival tape. Paper clip remnant at the top of the first page. Punctuation added in transcription for clarity. Basically, a very easy letter to read and a superb narrative about the sinking of a ship and the rescue of some of its crew.
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