A Case of Necessity
The book is a historical novel, based on one of the most incredible sea stories, ever written about. The author came across an old case whilst he worked on his doctoral thesis in the United States during 1976. The book is written in two parts. Part one is complete fiction, and introduces some of the main characters of the sea drama. (The manuscript appraiser of the" Queensland Writer's Center" described this part as: "This is a first class piece of work, an intriguing story with well developed characters and a very professional style. It certainly warrants publication by a major publisher.") It traces the lives of some Scotch-Irish families, and what had prompted them to embark on a voyage to the "New World". It describes in detail, their departure on Friday, the 13th of March, 1841, and the superstitious misgivings associated with the unlucky departure date.
The ship left Liverpool, bound for Philadelphia, but never reached it's destination. The book deals with the voyage, the rough seas, and then the disaster, when she hit an iceberg and sank within two hours with 31 passengers on board. The Captain made good his getaway in a half empty jolly boat, and left the remaining passengers to their doom. Forty-two passengers and crew managed to scramble into the only long boat. Most of the passengers were half-naked, not having had time to dress themselves properly in the pandemonium that followed the collision with the iceberg. The one seaman, who is the main character in the book, exhibited unbelievable strength and courage, when he climbed back on board the sinking ship with a rope. Back on board, he lifted a sick young woman onto his shoulder, and then climbed down the ship with one hand, using the same rope, and restored her to her mother in the lifeboat. (All factual). Most of the passengers were half frozen, and barely managed to survive through the first night, as the sea was strangely, very calm.
The events on board the overcrowded long boat are fiction, but are based on the facts that emerged from the later trial. The second night however, saw the sea rising and the rain pelting down onto the frozen survivors in the sluggish lifeboat. The wind also came up during the night, and incredibly, the boat started to leak from one of the plugs which had come loose, and which they couldn't find. They became further imperiled by the over crowded lifeboat, which then only had some six inches of freeboard left. The women became hysterical, and all realized that one big wave could send them to the bottom of the sea. At this point, the main character in the book, the one that had saved the young girl, took charge of the situation. He was an ordinary sailor, but nonetheless assumed command after the first mate had abandoned all hope. Everyone aboard realized, that if the long boat was not lightened immediately - all would perish. That same seaman, assisted by three crewmen, started to throw those male passengers overboard, who had no family in the lifeboat. Sixteen passengers were put over, but amongst them were two sisters, who voluntarily sacrificed themselves. In a heart-rending scene, they went over the side on their own, in order to secure the life of their only brother. These dramas aboard the lifeboat are depicted quite graphically. (The manuscript appraiser of the, "Queensland Writer's Center" commented on this part of the manuscript, as follows: "The author as seafarer stirs the blood"). Their actions did lighten the boat, and they managed to survive through the scary night.
The following day, it was again the same sailor who kept on encouraging the survivors, and pushed the crew to row the lighter and more buoyant boat to clear water, away from the ice-floes. Later that same day he saw a ship and single-handedly attracted it's attention, which resulted in their rescue.
The survivors reached Philadelphia, but a few days later, the crew were all arrested. Part two of the