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Shipwrecked in the South Pacific

Charles Joseph Gordon and Rosa Clara Friedlander Logie joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1852. She was baptized in England before migrating to Australia with her mother and younger sister. Charles was baptized in Sydney within 30 days of Rosa. Charles spotted the beautiful young Rosa sitting on the second floor porch of the church’s mission home in Sydney. He raced up the rose trellis to meet her before the young men with him could gain access to her by the normal method of knocking on the front door. Charles won both her heart and her hand and the young couple married shortly thereafter in Sydney. After a short time, they decided to move to Utah where many other members of the church were gathering to escape persecution by other religious sects.

Charles had been a sailor in the routes around Australia, New Zealand and the surrounding islands for about seven years prior to meeting Rosa. He was also a trained carpenter. Both of these skills would prove to be essential in saving their lives as well as the lives of others in the near future. The trip to America would prove to be anything but routine.

Recently, I found a copy of the diary of Captain Pond’s who was the captain of the ship, “Julia Ann” on which the Logie’s and other Latter-day Saints had booked passage.

The diary was written in his later life and some of the ‘facts’ he states do not match other records of the event, but the diary provides interesting insight into the accident. Grandpa Logie’s own memories of the incident do not always agree with those of Captain Pond. Grandpa didn’t have to protect his reputation as a ships captain so perhaps the differences can be partially subscribed to this reason.

This much we do know. The Julia Ann left port in Sydney on 7 Sep. 1855 bound for San Francisco. It hit a reef in the open ocean on 3 Oct. 1855 and sank with a remarkably low loss of life given the location of the incident.

How did the ship hit a reef in mid-ocean on a route that was fairly well traveled? Let’s enter the world described by Pond in his journal.

“Twenty-seven days out, October 3rd, I was on the lookout for land all day, and carried a press of sail, in order to pass certain dangerous islands before night. At that day those seas were very incorrectly surveyed. At one time, bound from San Francisco to Australia, about sundown, we raised a reef crossing our course directly ahead of us, about ten miles long, not noticed or marked on any chart extant. Had we been an hour later, the ship would have been a helpless wreck. About two P. M., we sailed directly over the position given on my charts of the Scilly reefs on which the vessel was wrecked, and on my arrival at Tahiti, on looking the matter carefully up, I found that my calculations were correct, and that the position given on the charts was from 60 to ninety miles too much to windward.

The ship broke up and sank on the reef, as we know with the loss of five of the passengers. For the most part the sailors and the passengers helped each other abandon ship and get to the reef. However, one husband did not stay with his family for some reason.

“A fearful shriek arose from the cabin, and when I returned not a vestige of my stateroom, or its contents, remained. That resistless sea had stove in the forward part of the cabin washed away the starboard staterooms, with two women and a little child. The poor mother had lashed her infant to her bosom, and thus they found a water grave together. There was a mother with six children; the husband and father selfishly deserted them, and escaped to the reef, before the hauling line parted. I urged the mother to improve the only chance to save her own life. She sobbingly exclaimed, “No, I cannot leave my babes, we will die together.” When the husband and father reached the reef, the sailors inquired where his family was; he replied, “on board the ship.” In their indignation at his cowardly desertion of them, they seized and threw him bodily back into the sea. A friendly wave washed him back again, and they allowed him to crawl to a place of safety upon the reef.“

The situation of the survivors was frightful. They stood on an underwater reef with water up to their waists in mid-ocean. Imagine standing on an unseen footing in mid-ocean with only the curve of the ocean on horizon and the stars above you in a night sky.

“Our situation of the reef can be better imagined than described. It was about eleven o’clock at night, when all were landed; we were up to our waists in water, and the tide rising. Seated upon spars and broken pieces of wreck, we patiently awaited the momentous future. Wrapped in a wet blanket picked up among the floating spars I seated myself in the boat, the water reaching to my waist, my limbs and arms were badly cut, and bruised by the coral.”

They spent a long night, some in the water and some on a little higher ground above the water line. And then came the morning light.

“At morning’s dawn low islands were discovered, distant about ten miles. Again all was activity. Immediately set about patching the boat, whilst others collected spars and drift stuff to form a raft, on which to place the women and children. A little after sunrise, I started for the land, though our boats would scarcely float.

The first island on which we landed presented a very barren appearance; it was covered with the banana tree; birds were plentiful and very tame, but after a diligent search no water, fruit or vegetables could be found. We proceeded to another, and nothing but disappointment awaited us. Water was madly sought for in vain; and late in the afternoon we returned disappointed and unsuccessful to our companions on the reef. I then placed the women and children in the boat, and sent them in charge of Mr. Coffin to the land, while the rest of us remained on the reef for a second night. A small raft had been found, but not large enough for all to sit upon.

Early on the morning of the second day, Mr. Coffin returned to us with the boat, and I immediately dispatched him again in search of water, for the want of which we were nearly famishing; while the rest of us commenced in earnest preparing a couple of rafts, on which we placed what provisions and clothing could be collected. And about ten o’clock made an attempt to reach the island, by wading along the reef, our boats in tow, the old and helpless men, of whom where were several, being placed upon them. Energy, perseverance and above all, necessity, can accomplish almost impossibilities, and we were successful.“

Charles had handed Rosa over the gun whale of the ship into the hands of one of the sailors while he tied his baby daughter, Ann to his back with a brown shawl. In the crush of the moment, Charles and Ann were pushed overboard and would have drowned except for one of the sailors. Bully Williams dove overboard and grabbed Charles by his long black hair and pulled he and Ann to the reef. Even though Charles was a sailor, he had never learned to swim and thus Bully truly saved their lives. Deciding they must reach the island, the company started to move toward it.

“Most of the water for a distance was deep. In one place, for over a mile, it took us to our necks, the shorter men being compelled to cling to the rafts. Several deep inlets had to be crossed when our best swimmers were called into requisition. In one of these attempts I nearly lost two of my best men. Large numbers of sharks followed in our wake, at one time I counted over twenty, and not infrequently we were compelled to seek safety from them upon the rafts. Late in the afternoon we reached the island, completely exhausted, but our hearts swelled with gratitude as we were conducted by the children to some holes dug in the coral sand on the beach, where they had obtained drinkable water. We had been forty-eight hours in the salt water, two days exposed to the rays of a tropical sun, without food or drink. We never found any fresh water supply on any of the small islands other than by digging; the water we obtained in this was brackish, but fairly good.

The island that we reached with our rafts, and where we made our permanent camp was a low, oblong coral reef, rising just above the surface of the sea, perhaps fifty rods long by twenty rods at its widest point, covered quite thickly with a low tree of the banyan species. Our first great anxiety was a search for something to eat. Remember, we had been literally fasting for forty-eight hours, without a morsel of food. Under such circumstances you may well believe that we were neither very particular nor squeamish. We found the island fairly swarming with a small red land crab, about half the size of one’s fist, not a crab, but we knew no other name, and so dubbed them crab. They were a crawly affair, naturally disgusting to the touch or taste, but they were food to the famishing, and we seized upon them with avidity. In about a week we cleared the entire island, not one more of the creeping things could be found.”

Grandma Logie was given some silk for a lean-to shade so that she and her tiny baby daughter would have some protection from the elements. Now the struggle for survival began. The company of survivors had found a supply of fresh meat. However, they were in for a surprise.

“I well remember the excitement and glorification among our little party of castaways on the discovery of our first turtle. About five days after our landing, I was seated with my officers at our camp fire discussing the situation, the rapidly diminishing supply of our only food, the delectable crab, was causing the keenest anxiety, when a loud shout from a party of sailors some distance from us up the beach attracted our attention. They were shouting and dancing in a circle around something to us invisible. Every one rushed to the spot, and there found a large turtle in the hands of the Philistines. And this find meant to us a new lease of life. Knowing the habits of the sea turtle during the incubating season of seeking the land at night and depositing their eggs in the dry sand on the beach, we organized parties, watch and watch, to patrol the beach during the entire night on the lookout for turtle, and when one was found, they would turn him over on his back, and the following day the night’s catch would be brought to camp. Our largest find in any one night was five turtles. Every turtle killed was carefully divided among the several messes, first saving a portion to be jerked and dried in the sun, for the purpose of accumulating provisions for our proposed boat voyage. We soon began to gather more turtle than we needed for our daily consumption. We therefore built a stockade turtle pen to keep them, to be used as needed, believing that they would live on land as well as on the deck of a ship at sea, where they can be kept for months alive by simply throwing sea water over them occasionally during the day. But in this we were disappointed, for every morning we found a dead turtle or two in our pen, and as we could not afford to lose any, we lived on turtle, butchered, alamode, after death.”

Unlike Tom Hanks, in the recent movie “Castaway”, the company had tools to start fires in their possession.

“On the night of the wreck, when I found the ship was hopelessly doomed, I tried to provide as fast as possible for just such circumstances as we were finally placed in, among other things, the need of matches. I therefore put a large quantity in my overcoat pocket, but on leaving the wreck I threw off my overcoat and all surplus clothing. Afterwards this coat was found floating on the reef, but the matches were water soaked and spoiled. Fortunately a sailor had three or four matches in the lining of his hat, where he had been in the habit of keeping them to use in an emergency for lighting his pipe. With these we started a fire, and took good care to never allow it to go out while we remained on the reef.”

The reef sat about eight feet above high tide at the center point. Having established immediate sustenance, additional food sources were needed and fresh vegetables and fruits were needed to prevent scurvy.

“Three days after our landing I took an exploring party in the boat, and upon an island some eight miles, from the one on which we had located, discovered a grove of cocoanuts. Our hearts dilated with gratitude, for without something of this kind, our case would have been indeed desperate. Our living now consisted of shellfish, turtle, sharks and cocoanuts. We also prepared a garden and planted some pumpkins, peas and beans. They came up finely and flourished for a few weeks, then withered and died, for lack of deepness of soil. I have been asked where we got seeds to plant. The damaged provisions, such as bags of peas and beans found upon the reef furnished seeds that when planted grew; a pumpkin was also picked up on the reef, from which we obtained seeds.”

Shelter of some type was needed from the hot south Pacific sun and frequent rainstorms.

“We divided ourselves into families, built huts and thatched with the leaves of the pandanus tree. All the provisions found were thrown into one common stock, and equally divided among each mess every morning, and we gradually became reconciled to our sad fate.”

We know from grandpa’s own history that survival became tenuous and something had to be done to escape their imprisonment. Captain Pond decided to strike out in a rowboat to some islands that lay a long distance away according to his charts.

“I determined to steer for them, trusting to a kind Providence for our success. I selected four of my men for a boat’s crew, and fixed the day for our departure.”

The day for departure to find rescue came, but unfortunately it was not to be.

“On the following day I determined to make the trial. But my own spirits now seemed crushed. I felt like one going to the stake, a foreboding of evil came over me. The weather was unsettled and threatening, and I retired to my tent as I thought for the last time, unhappy and without hope. The clouds gathered in gloomy grandeur, and finally broke in a tornado over the island. In vain I sought repose and sleep. About three o’clock in the morning I arose and walked down upon the beach, and there indeed was experienced the climax of my distress, for the boat upon which all our hopes centered had disappeared.”

After a search of the island, the boat was found and would be made ‘seaworthy’. However, not all of the company agreed with the venture.

“I endeavored to cheer them with the hope that the boat had dragged her anchor into deep water, and after drifting across the lagoon would anchor herself again off one of the leeward islands. This eventually proved to be the case, and the boat was recovered, nearly full of water, but not injured. The weather now seemed to be breaking up; the trade winds blew less steadily, and all appearances indicated change. Secretly influenced by a gloomy, undefined premonition of evil and disaster, as the result of my proposed attempt to reach the Navigator Islands, I was now determined on the apparently more desperate course of double banking the boat with a crew of ten men, and watching a favorable opportunity, endeavor to pull to the nearest windward islands.

Against this course Captain Coffin, an old whaler, opposed all his influence and experience. Said he would rather venture alone than with ten mouths to feed, that it would be impossible to pull our boat, so deeply loaded, against a headwind and sea, and there was no place under our lee where we could make a harbor in the event of our encountering what we might expect--easterly weather; that in fact, it was a life of death undertaking, success or certain destruction awaited us. But desperate diseases require desperate remedies. I proposed it to my crew, and with but a single exception, they all volunteered. We now impatiently waited for a suitable opportunity to launch our boat.”

The sailors decided to follow the captain but not all of the passengers agreed. This was especially true of grandpa Logie who disagreed with the proposal thinking it would only lead to the eventual deaths of both the sailors and the passengers. However, at this point in time small miracles began to occur.

“On the day before our departure, with a small party of sailors, still in the prosecution of what seemed a hopeless search for a stone that could be used with steel and tinder, I had reached a small island, the most distant one from our camp and somewhat difficult of access, and in consequence had been seldom visited by us. Working our way through a thick tangle of underbrush, we came to an open space, and I believe that my eyes fairly bulged with astonishment as I descried a small pool of freshwater, beside which lay a bucket and large flint stone. I seized the stone, and with a shout, exclaimed, “A gift from God, boys we are saved, we are saved.”

On our subsequent arrival in Tahiti, I met the man to whom the stone and bucket belonged. Some years previously he had visited those reefs in search of pearl oysters, and made his camp by that pool of fresh water, and left his flint and bucket on his departure.”

A change in plans undoubtedly prevented the loss of the sailors. It appears that grandpa Logie, a seasoned mariner himself, spoke to the captain after receiving an answer to his prayers. The captain had little or no faith in God, nor the religion of his Mormon passengers, but found in the end that it saved them, though he was wrought to acknowledge the fact. We know from his personal history that grandpa Logie was part of the crew of the ‘rescue’ boat. Pond’s journal only describes one ‘Mormon’ as part of the crew. The remainder of his text refers to his sailors.

“My passengers were mostly Mormons, bound to Salt Lake City, were bitterly opposed to my first proposition of trying to reach the Navigator Islands. They argued, the distance to be so great, some fifteen hundred miles, that if we succeeded in reaching them they would starve to death before we could hope to send them relief. They could not, or would not understand why we might not steer in the face of head wind and sea to the Society Islands, which were so much nearer. We, however, as nautical men, determined to act on our own judgment in that matter, and steadily continued our preparations until our plans were blocked in a most unexpected manner. One of their Elders had a dream or vision (grandpa Logie). He saw the boat successfully launched upon her long voyage, and for a day or two making satisfactory progress. Another leaf in the vision, and the boat is seen floating bottom up, and the drowned bodies of her crew floating around her. This tale so wrought upon the superstitions that not a man would volunteer to go with me, and I was reluctantly compelled to change my plan.

I then gave strict orders that there should be no more visions told in public unless they were favorable ones, and first submitted to me for my approval. After some days the same Mormon Elder came to me having had another vision (again grandpa Logie). I asked him if it was a good one. Yes, a very good one. He saw the boat depart with a crew of ten men, bound to the eastward; after three days of rowing, they reached a friendly island where a vessel was obtained and all hands safely brought to Tahiti. When I, by compulsion, changed my plans and decided to double bank the boat and try to pull to windward, only nine men offered, including myself. It was useless to start short handed, and I had been waiting unsuccessfully to get one more man to complete my crew. On hearing this very good vision, I looked my man over. He was a fine, athletic fellow, and asked him if he believed his vision. “Yes, indeed, was it not a revelation from God?” I then suggested that it would be a good way to prove his faith by volunteering for the boat. “Of course he would”, and he did with alacrity, and thus was my crew completed. You have heard the account of how literally his dream was fulfilled against every probability.”

The miracles continued to happen as the crew rowed across the open ocean in search of a rescue for the survivors.

“Having cleared the boat from the reef and obtained the open sea, we were almost immediately compelled to throw overboard a large portion of our water, provisions and every article that could possible be spared to lighten the boat. And thus our boasted liberal supply that we had collected and saved with so much perseverance and economy suddenly vanished in the sea, leaving us a scant pittance for perhaps five or six days.

Having made everything snug as possible, we shaped our course, proposing to send before the wind, but suddenly the wind lulled, a dense black cloud rolled up, covering the entire firmament, shutting out the day, and enveloping us in almost Egyptian darkness, and such a downpour of water burst from the cloud--in the language of scripture, it seemed as though “All the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of Heaven were opened.” The rain seemed to fall in solid sheets; though intensely sharp, far beyond any previous experience of ours, the downpour was very brief in its duration. The clouds cleared as suddenly as they arose; the sun burst out upon the face of the great deep; the rain had beaten down the boisterous sea, which now rolled in long smooth swells. It was a dead calm, and for three days and nights there was not breeze enough to blow out a candle. I will also mention another curious fact. We were all of us, for a day or two, very seasick. The men labored at their oars, and vomited over the thwarts. Mr. Owens, my second officer, was so intensely sick that he lay stretched in the bottom of the boat, and for the first twenty-four hours I had to run the boat without relief, before he could take his trick at the helm.

After three days of incessant toil, hope, fear and despair alternately predominating, A Land ahead! Oh, how the cry, the thought, the reality thrilled our every nerve, and our anxious longing eyes gazing at the dim, cloud like outline of a far distant island, gradually lit with renewed fire, and hope again shone out, bright and clear, and yet the most fearful portion of our voyage had still to be experienced, for now old Boreas blew out fresh and strong, contrary to our course, and the sea yesterday so sluggish arose in all its might and power, threatening to engulf us in its appalling throes.

For hours and hours, the fearful but unequal contest was maintained, till human endurance could bear up no longer, and we lay exhausted in the bottom of our little boat, now floating at the mercy of the sea, the goal of our hopes, and our very lives, that dim cloud upon the verge of the horizon, gradually faded from our view.

Oh, the blank despair of that moment! And as we drew the tarpaulin over the boat to shelter us from the dashing spray, thought of home mingled in our prayers. Late in the afternoon, as we lay huddled together under the protecting cover of the tarpaulin, drenched by the salt spray, faint and exhausted by severe toil, listlessly gazing out upon the combing, raging sea, that threatened instant destruction, the sudden cry of “Land, land,” again startled us from the lethargy of despair, which seemed with its cold icy hand to grip our very hearts.

And true enough, as the sun emerged from the dark storm cloud to sink into the sea bright and beautiful in the far west, lighting up the circling horizon, the clear outline of an island mountain peak could be distinctly seen in the southeast. Tears of gratitude filled our eyes. Our sail was hoisted to the now favoring breeze. Again our oars were manned, and our little boat fairly trembled at the onward impetus given by the hope resuscitated nerves of my but recently faint and exhausted crew. The darkening shades of night soon shut from our view that lone mountain top, rising as a beacon hope from the sea, and in its stead, the mariner’s compass served as our sure guide till morning again dawned, and discovered to our enraptured gaze the fertile slopes of a mountain island, distant about fifteen miles. As we neared the land, the wind gradually subsided, and the sea no longer broke in heavy combers as on the day previous but rolled in long, heavy swells upon a reef that encircled the island. We pulled along outside of the reef about two hours, looking in vain for an entrance, and in our impatience, once more to tread a hospitable shore, and partake of the luxurious fruit that hung so temptingly beyond our reach; we had about made up our minds to attempt to land upon the reef through the breakers, when a native who was engaged in spearing a fish inside, guessing our difficulty, motioned to us to proceed further up the reef. On complying with which we soon found a ship entrance to a fine harbor, and saw the huts of a native village at the head of the bay. And now having safely reached one of the Windward Islands against all human probability when we departed from Scilly reefs, I will give you a peculiar episode in connection with that boat voyage. I can simply vouch for the facts, without any attempt to argue, or explain.”

The crew was saved when they reached the island’s shores. However, the remainder of the company was still on the reef and food was rapidly disappearing. Captain Pond continues with his narrative about finding a rescue ship.

“A small yacht was lying at anchor in the bay, belonging to the king, and through the interpreter, who professed a great desire to aid us to the best of his ability, I endeavored to persuade the Captain to carry us to Tahiti distant some sixty to seventy miles further to windward, where an American Consul resided, but he refused to have anything to do with us; seemed to fear that we would take possession of his vessel. However, after a good deal of dickering, he finally offered to take me alone, starting the next day, if I would immediately, that same afternoon, send off my crew to Riatia, lying some fifteen miles to the southward of Bora Bora, where they informed me a British Consul lived. I felt this to be pretty hard lines for me personally, but it was the best, and in fact, only thing to be done under the circumstances, and I reluctantly consented. And now I encountered almost as much difficulty in persuading my own men to leave me alone on that island. They had no confidence whatever in the Asurley natives. However, to use their own words, “The Captain knew best, and they would obey orders.” But I will confess to an awful feeling of loneliness and desertion creeping over me as I stood upon the beach and watched them pull away to sea again, leaving me behind and alone. At daybreak on the following morning I was astir, hoping to get a bright and early start for Tahiti, only to find that during the night the yacht and my friendly interpreter had disappeared, gone to parts unknown. I sat down quietly in my tracks, making no effort whatever to communicate with the natives, sick, heartsick, discouraged, utterly helpless. A little after mid-day, I observed a six oared whaleboat pulling rapidly across the bay, apparently a new arrival from the sea. As I lay there listlessly watching their movements as they stepped ashore, the natives gathered around them pointing towards me, as I supposed, telling the story of my advent among them. Presently one of the new comers started towards me, and as he approached, the scales seemed to fall from my eyes, the blood shot through my veins, as I recognized the face of an old familiar friend, a Mr. Barfe, whose home was in Huania. He had come across collecting cocoanut oil. He was profuse in offers of assistance; gathered his men, and we immediately started in his boat, in an effort to overtake my men at Riatia. About half way across we met my boat’s crew returning to me, bearing a letter from the British Consul full of sympathetic expressions for my disaster, and requesting me to remain in Bora Bora, as he had dispatched an express to Huania, where several American vessels were lying, containing the assurance that I might expect one at the earliest possible moment to call for me and proceed to the rescue of the castaways remaining on Scilly Reefs. In response I returned with my boat’s crew to the island of Bora Bora, and there awaited the promised assistance.

The day following a large number of boats arrived at Bora Bora from Riatia, the news of the wreck having spread like wildfire in all directions, to visit the scene of the disaster, but they were all too small to be of any service. However, on the morning of the second day, the fine large schooner, Emma Packer, appeared off the harbor, Captain Latham having received the British Consul’s dispatch while lying at Huania made no delay in getting his vessel to sea, and coming to my relief. He also brought a letter to me from the Captain of the ship Oregon, saying that I might expect his vessel to be under way from Scilly Reefs within a few hours after the departure of the Emma Packer to render any needed assistance.

I boarded the Emma Packer, and sailed for the rescue of my poor, distressed fellow-voyagers of the Julia Ann. We sighted Scilly Reefs about ten days after our departure there from, and much to our surprise, with our glasses we could discover no signs of life on the islands, though we sailed entirely around them, and Captain Latham was quite disposed to return, arguing that the people must have been taken off by some other vessel. He however, in compliance with my earnest request, remained off the reef over night, for I was determined not to return without first effecting a landing, and personally inspecting my old camping grounds, and we were rewarded early the following morning by discovering a group of people gathered on the point of reef nearest to our vessel, frantically waving a signal. Words simply fail me in any attempt to describe the scene that met me, as I sprang from the relief boat into the outstretched welcoming arms of those more than half-starved castaways.

They were speedily embarked, and taken to Tahiti, where the American and British Consuls took charge of their different nationalities, and provided for their necessities.

We exit Captain Pond’s journal at this point, with his thoughts on the nature of a sailor in his day.

“While toil, exposure and hardship, peculiarly incident to the life of the sailor, may possibly drive some to the abandonment of their profession, it is this very sense of peril and danger to be encountered and overcome that proves almost its sole attraction; courage and true manhood are as inseparable as light, and the sun’s rays pass an object between the sun and our earth and daylight is obliterated, ‘tis all obscurity and darkness, and so likewise, take from man the principle of courage, and you have a human monstrosity.”

As for the Logie's, grandpa worked in Tahiti for a many months to secure the funds needed to complete their journey to America. They eventually landed in San Francisco and were greeted by Latter-day Saints there. Over the next two years, they made their way to Utah while stopping along the way to work on a ranch near Reno, Nevada. They are buried in the American Fork Cemetery with a number of their descendants’ graves surrounding them. Their headstone is prominent there today.