Arrangements Among the Partners- Mr. Hunt Sails in the Albatross. - Arrives at the
Marquesas- News of the Frigate Phoebe.- Mr. Hunt Proceeds to the Sandwich Islands.-
Voyage of the Lark.- Her Shipwreck.- Transactions With the Natives of the Sandwich
Islands - Conduct of Tamaahmaah.
MR. HUNT was overwhelmed with surprise when he learnt the resolution taken by the
partners to abandon Astoria. He soon found, however, that matters had gone too far,
and the minds of his colleagues had become too firmly bent upon the measure, to
render any opposition of avail. He was beset, too, with the same disparaging accounts
of the interior trade, and of the whole concerns and prospects of the company that had
been rendered to Mr. Astor. His own experience had been full of perplexities and
discouragements. He had a conscientious anxiety for the interests of Mr. Astor, and,
not comprehending the extended views of that gentleman, and his habit of operating
with great amounts, he had from the first been daunted by the enormous expenses
required, and had become disheartened by the subsequent losses sustained, which
appeared to him to be ruinous in their magnitude. By degrees, therefore, he was
brought to acquiesce in the step taken by his colleagues, as perhaps advisable in the
exigencies of the case; his only care was to wind up the business with as little further
loss as possible to Mr. Astor.
A large stock of valuable furs was collected at the factory, which it was necessary to get
to a market. There were twenty-five Sandwich Islanders also in the employ of the
company, whom they were bound, by express agreement, to restore to their native
country. For these purposes a ship was necessary.
The Albatross was bound to the Marquesas, and thence to the Sandwich Islands. It was
resolved that Mr. Hunt should sail in her in quest of a vessel, and should return, if
possible, by the 1st of January, bringing with him a supply of provisions. Should
anything occur, however, to prevent his return, an arrangement was to be proposed to
Mr. M'Tavish, to transfer such of the men as were so disposed, from the service of the
American Fur Company into that of the Northwest, the latter becoming responsible for
the wages due them, on receiving an equivalent in goods from the store-house of the
factory. As a means of facilitating the despatch of business, Mr. M'Dougal proposed,
that in case Mr. Hunt should not return, the whole arrangement with Mr. M'Tavish
should be left solely to him. This was assented to; the contingency being considered
possible, but not probable.
It is proper to note, that, on the first announcement by Mr. M'Dougal of his intention to
break up the establishment, three of the clerks, British subjects, had, with his consent,
passed into the service of the Northwest Company, and departed with Mr. M'Tavish for
his post in the interior.
Having arranged all these matters during a sojourn of six days at Astoria, Mr. Hunt set
sail in the Albatross on the 26th of August, and arrived without accident at the
Marquesas. He had not been there long, when Porter arrived in the frigate Essex,
bringing in a number of stout London whalers as prizes, having made a sweeping
cruise in the Pacific. From Commodore Porter he received the alarming intelligence
that the British frigate Phoebe, with a store-ship mounted with battering pieces,
calculated to attack forts, had arrived at Rio Janeiro, where she had been joined by the
sloops of war Cherub and Raccoon, and that they had all sailed in company on the 6th
of July for the Pacific, bound, as it was supposed, to Columbia River.
Here, then, was the death-warrant of unfortunate Astoria! The anxious mind of Mr. Hunt
was in greater perplexity than ever. He had been eager to extricate the property of Mr.
Astor from a failing concern with as little loss as possible; there was now danger that
the whole would be swallowed up. How was it to be snatched from the gulf? It was
impossible to charter a ship for the purpose, now that a British squadron was on its way
to the river. He applied to purchase one of the whale ships brought in by Commodore
Porter. The commodore demanded twenty-five thousand dollars for her. The price
appeared exorbitant, and no bargain could be made. Mr. Hunt then urged the
commodore to fit out one of his prizes, and send her to Astoria, to bring off the property
and part of the people, but he declined, "from want of authority." He assured Mr. Hunt,
however, that he would endeavor to fall in with the enemy, or should he hear of their
having certainly gone to the Columbia, he would either follow or anticipate them, should
his circumstances warrant such a step.
In this tantalizing state of suspense, Mr. Hunt was detained at the Marquesas until
November 23d, when he proceeded in the Albatross to the Sandwich Islands. He still
cherished a faint hope that, notwithstanding the war, and all other discouraging
circumstances, the annual ship might have been sent by Mr. Astor, and might have
touched at the islands, and proceeded to the Columbia. He knew the pride and interest
taken by that gentleman in his great enterprise, and that he would not be deterred by
dangers and difficulties from prosecuting it; much less would he leave the infant
establishment without succor and support in the time of trouble. In this, we have seen,
he did but justice to Mr. Astor; and we must now turn to notice the cause of the non-arrival of the vessel which he had despatched with reinforcements and supplies. Her
voyage forms another chapter of accidents in this eventful story.
The Lark sailed from New York on the 6th of March, 1813, and proceeded prosperously
on her voyage, until within a few degrees of the Sandwich Islands. Here a gale sprang
up that soon blew with tremendous violence. The Lark was a staunch and noble ship,
and for a time buffeted bravely with the storm. Unluckily, however, she "broached to,"
and was struck by a heavy sea, that hove her on her beam-ends. The helm, too, was
knocked to leeward, all command of the vessel was lost, and another mountain wave
completely overset her. Orders were given to cut away the masts. In the hurry and
confusion, the boats also were unfortunately cut adrift. The wreck then righted, but was
a mere hulk, full of water, with a heavy sea washing over it, and all the hatches off. On
mustering the crew, one man was missing, who was discovered below in the forecastle,
In cutting away the masts, it had been utterly impossible to observe the necessary
precaution of commencing with the lee rigging, that being, from the position of the ship,
completely under water. The masts and spars, therefore, being linked to the wreck by
the shrouds and the rigging, remained alongside for four days. During all this time the
ship lay rolling in the trough of the sea, the heavy surges breaking over her, and the
spars heaving and banging to and fro, bruising the half-drowned sailors that clung to
the bowsprit and the stumps of the masts. The sufferings of these poor fellows were
intolerable. They stood to their waists in water, in imminent peril of being washed off by
every surge. In this position they dared not sleep, lest they should let go their hold and
be swept away. The only dry place on the wreck was the bowsprit. Here they took turns
to be tied on, for half an hour at a time, and in this way gained short snatches of sleep.
On the 14th, the first mate died at his post, and was swept off by the surges. On the
17th, two seamen, faint and exhausted, were washed overboard. The next wave threw
their bodies back upon the deck, where they remained, swashing backward and
forward, ghastly objects to the almost perishing survivors. Mr. Ogden, the supercargo,
who was at the bowsprit, called to the men nearest to the bodies, to fasten them to the
wreck; as a last horrible resource in case of being driven to extremity by famine!
On the 17th the gale gradually subsided, and the sea became calm. The sailors now
crawled feebly about the wreck, and began to relieve it from the main incumbrances.
The spars were cleared away, the anchors and guns heaved overboard; the sprit-sail
yard was rigged for a jury-mast, and a mizzen topsail set upon it. A sort of stage was
made of a few broken spars, on which the crew were raised above the surface of the
water, so as to be enabled to keep themselves dry, and to sleep comfortably. Still their
sufferings from hunger and thirst were great; but there was a Sandwich Islander on
board, an expert swimmer, who found his way into the cabin, and occasionally brought
up a few bottles of wine and porter, and at length got into the rum, and secured a
quarter cask of wine. A little raw pork was likewise procured, and dealt out with a
sparing hand. The horrors of their situation were increased by the sight of numerous
sharks prowling about the wreck, as if waiting for their prey. On the 24th, the cook, a
black man, died, and was cast into the sea, when he was instantly seized on by these
They had been several days making slow headway under their scanty sail, when, on
the 25th, they came in sight of land. It was about fifteen leagues distant, and they
remained two or three days drifting along in sight of it. On the 28th, they descried, to
their great transport, a canoe approaching, managed by natives. They came alongside,
and brought a most welcome supply of potatoes. They informed them that the land they
had made was one of the Sandwich Islands. The second mate and one of the seamen
went on shore in the canoe for water and provisions, and to procure aid from the
islanders, in towing the wreck into a harbor.
Neither of the men returned, nor was any assistance sent from shore. The next day, ten
or twelve canoes came alongside, but roamed round the wreck like so many sharks,
and would render no aid in towing her to land.
The sea continued to break over the vessel with such violence, that it was impossible to
stand at the helm without the assistance of lashings. The crew were now so worn down
by famine and thirst, that the captain saw it would be impossible for them to withstand
the breaking of the sea, when the ship should ground; he deemed the only chance for
their lives, therefore, was to get to land in the canoes, and stand ready to receive and
protect the wreck when she should drift ashore. Accordingly, they all got safe to land,
but had scarcely touched the beach when they were surrounded by the natives, who
stripped them almost naked. The name of this inhospitable island was Tahoorowa.
In the course of the night, the wreck came drifting to the strand, with the surf thundering
around her, and shortly afterwards bilged. On the following morning, numerous casks of
provisions floated on shore. The natives staved them for the sake of the iron hoops, but
would not allow the crew to help themselves to the contents, or to go on board of the
As the crew were in want of everything, and as it might be a long time before any
opportunity occurred for them to get away from these islands, Mr. Ogden, as soon as
he could get a chance, made his way to the island of Owyhee, and endeavored to make
some arrangement with the king for the relief of his companions in misfortune.
The illustrious Tamaahmaah, as we have shown on a former occasion, was a shrewd
bargainer, and in the present instance proved himself an experienced wrecker. His
negotiations with M'Dougal, and the other "Eris of the great American Fur Company,"
had but little effect on present circumstances, and he proceeded to avail himself of their
misfortunes. He agreed to furnish the crew with provisions during their stay in his
territories, and to return to them all their clothing that could be found, but he stipulated
that the wreck should be abandoned to him as a waif cast by fortune on his shores.
With these conditions Mr. Ogden was fain to comply. Upon this the great Tamaahmaah
deputed his favorite, John Young, the tarpaulin governor of Owyhee, to proceed with a
number of royal guards, and take possession of the wreck on behalf of the crown. This
was done accordingly, and the property and crew were removed to Owyhee. The royal
bounty appears to have been but scanty in its dispensations. The crew fared but
meagerly; though, on reading the journal of the voyage, it is singular to find them, after
all the hardships they had suffered, so sensitive about petty inconveniences, as to
exclaim against the king as a "savage monster," for refusing them a "pot to cook in,"
and denying Mr. Ogden the use of a knife and fork which had been saved from the
Such was the unfortunate catastrophe of the Lark; had she reached her destination in
safety, affairs at Astoria might have taken a different course. A strange fatality seems to
have attended all the expeditions by sea, nor were those by land much less disastrous.
Captain Northrop was still at the Sandwich Islands, on December 20th, when Mr. Hunt
arrived. The latter immediately purchased, for ten thousand dollars, a brig called the
Pedler, and put Captain Northrop in command of her. They set sail for Astoria on the
22d January, intending to remove the property from thence as speedily as possible to
the Russian settlements on the northwest coast, to prevent it from falling into the hands
of the British. Such were the orders of Mr. Astor, sent out by the Lark.
We will now leave Mr. Hunt on his voyage, and return to see what has taken place at
Astoria during his absence.