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The Brigantine

Dispatch Wrecked Off Newfoundland 1828

By James Donahue

The brigantine Dispatch was one of many wooden hulled sailing ships to have gone down at sea or wrecked on the North American shores during the years when Europeans rushed to settle the new continent.

Although a small ship, recorded at 187 gross tons, the two-mast Dispatch, under the command of Captain William Lancaster, was carrying 152 passengers and crew members when it went on a reef near Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, on July 10, 1828.

The 27-year-old vessel was bound from Londonderry to Quebec when it struck.

Rescue efforts were hampered by high seas and stormy weather that hammered the stranded wreck for days. Captain Lancaster and some of the ship’s crew members were drowned attempting to launch a life boat that was swamped by the high waves. At least 30 more lives were lost during the next few days as attempts to launch boats or swim to land, some three miles distant, were made.

One newspaper account said some that made it to shore died of starvation and exposure in the Canadian wilderness.

A local man, George Harvey, his 17-year-old daughter, Ann, and 12-year-old son managed to row a small boat from shore to the wreck on July 13 and bring survivors to safety. The three spent the next three days making a series of trips to the wreck until all of the survivors were rescued.

Sir Thomas Cochrane, the Governor of Newfoundland, awarded the Harvey family a gold medal and 100 pounds sterling for their efforts.

The survivors arrived in Halifax from Port aux Basques aboard the HMS Tyne on July 26. Most arrived in only the clothes they were wearing when they left the wreck. All of their personal belongings were lost.