The Survivors of the Chancellor
The "Chancellor" Released From Her Prison
NOVEMBER 21 TO 24. -- There was assuredly no time to be lost before we ought to
leave Ham Rock reef. The barom- eter had been falling ever since the morning, the sea
was getting rougher, and there was every symptom that the weather, hitherto so
favorable, was on the point of breaking; and in the event of a gale the Chancellor must
inevitably be dashed to pieces on the rocks.
In the evening, when the tide was quite low, and the rocks uncovered, Curtis, the
boatswain, and Dowlas went to exam- ine the ridge which had proved so serious an
obstruction. Falsten and I accompanied them. We came to the conclu- sion that the only
way of effecting a passage was by cutting away the rocks with pikes over a surface
measuring ten feet by six. An extra depth of nine or ten inches would give a sufficient
gauge, and the channel might be accurately marked out by buoys; in this way it was
conjectured the ship might be got over the ridge and so reach the deep water beyond.
"But this basalt is as hard as granite," said the boatswain; "besides, we can only get at it at
low water, and conse- quently could only work at it for two hours out of the twenty-four."
"All the more reason why we should begin at once, boat- swain," said Curtis.
"But if it is to take us a month, captain, perhaps by that time the ship may be knocked to
atoms. Couldn't we man- age to blow up the rock? we have got some powder aboard."
"Not enough for that," said the boatswain.
"You have something better than powder," said Falsten.
"What's that?" asked the captain.
"Picrate of potash," was the reply.
And so the explosive substance with which poor Ruby had so grievously imperiled the
vessel was now to serve her in good stead, and I now saw what a lucky thing it was that
the case had been deposited safely on the reef, instead of be- ing thrown into the sea.
The sailors went off at once for their pikes, and Dowlas and his assistants, under the
direction of Falsten, who, as an engineer, understood such matters, proceeded to hollow
out a mine wherein to deposit the powder. At first we hoped that everything would be
ready for the blasting to take place on the following morning, but when daylight appeared
we found that the men, although they had labored with a will, had only been able to work
for an hour at low water and that four tides must ebb before the mine had been sunk to
the required depth.