Little Bits of History

Doom Bar

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 15, 2014
HMS Whiting type of ship

HMS Whiting type of ship

September 15, 1816: HMS Whiting runs aground. The ship was built in 1811 by Thomas Kemp as a Baltimore pilot schooner and launched on December 11. At the time, she was named Arrow. On May 8, 1812, she was captured by the British navy under Orders in Council for trading with the French. The Americans felt the British had no reason to interfere with their trading agreements. Arrow was returning from Bordeaux fully loaded with brandy, champagne, silk, and other goods when overtaken by the 38-gun frigate, HMS Andromache who seized the ship and her cargo. One month later, the Orders in Council were repealed and on June 18, 1812, the US declared war on England. The British kept the ship and refitted her for their purposes.

Whiting was used to capture several ships during the War and one of them was another laden ship from Bordeaux, carrying the same types of goods. The Whiting was also one of ten ships involved in the Battle of Fort Peter which took place after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent but before the Senate had ratified it. On this day, the ship was closer to home with Lieutenant John Jackson in command. Now sailing from Plymouth around Land’s End to the Irish Sea, she was to find smugglers. She encountered a gale and so Jackson took the ship into the harbor at Padstow on the north coast of Cornwall. The wind dropped as she came around a point and the ship ran aground on the Doom Bar.

During the next high tide, Jackson attempted to float the ship off the sandbar, but it was taking on water and the project was abandoned. Over the next few days, the crew was taken ashore. A court martial board reprimanded Jackson for having attempted to enter the harbor without a pilot as well as failing to lighten the load before trying to float the ship off the bar. Jackson lost a year’s seniority. Five crew members had taken the opportunity to desert. Three were caught and punished with 50 lashes. The ship was sold but nothing happened. Today, there has been some interest in finding the wreckage, even with shifting sands a promising locality has been found but nothing has yet come of it.

Doom Bar is a moving sandbar at the mouth of the estuary of the River Camel where it meets the Celtic Sea on the north coast of Cornwall. It is a permanent sandbank and is composed mainly of marine sand continually being carried up from the seabed. It has been a known danger to shipping. When ships were powered by sail, they lost power and the ability to steer as they rounded the point and often were grounded. There have been over 600 beachings, capsizes, and wrecks documented on this sandbank since the beginning of the 1800s. Pilots would wait at Stepper Point and offer assistance to ships in need. According to local legend, the Doom Bar was created by the Mermaid of Padstow as a dying curse after being shot.

To reach a port we must set sail – / Sail, not tie at anchor / Sail, not drift. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

You can’t believe how bleeding scary the sea is! There’s, like, whales and storms and shit! They don’t bloody tell you that! – Libba Bray

I can’t control the wind but I can adjust the sail. – Ricky Skaggs

Keep your hand on the helm. – Matthew Goldman

Also on this day: I Feel the Need for Speed – In 1881, Ettore Bugatti is born.
What is That? – In 1916, tanks were first used in battle.
Railroads – In 1830, inter-city passenger rail travel began.
Life in a Vacuum – In 1947, RCA released a new vacuum tube.


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