Loss of the Mercurius in 1835

Wreck of the Mercurius.

On the 16th of January 1835 the Dutch East India ship 'Mercurius' came into Scilly to shelter from a storm. She was on her way from Pardang to Middleburg at that time. The ship was 300 tons when fully laden; as indeed she was when she came to anchor in St Mary’s Roadstead. The Mercurius is described in the Dutch archives (Stichting Maritiem Historiche Databank) as a 3 masted frigate and that Captain Harmanus Esink had been in command of her ever since she was built in Zeeland Binnenland in 1826. She was also described as copper sheathed and was carrying a cargo of around 100 tons of Coffee and sugar when she arrived at Scilly on the 16th.  Three days later, on the evening of the 19th 1835, the weather worsened and a very heavy squall hit the islands from the North North West. It later turned to come from a N. N. Easterly direction where it is reported to have then grown in strength, eventually going right up to a full hurricane force wind. As a result, the Mercurius parted her chains and drifted over to the Garrison shore where she bumped and immediately began to fill with water. The main and fore masts both fell over board and the Mercurius soon became a total wreck. Another report in the Royal Cornwall Gazette stated that the Mercurius: "had been laying a few days in St Mary's Roads and was driven on the rocks under the garrison and soon became a total wreck. The crew were providentially saved; but they have lost everything. The Captains loss is said to be very great. Nearly the whole cargo is destroyed. The adjacent rocky shore is covered with spars, planks, and other fragments of the wreck; but the islanders are busy saving what they can, for the benefit of the owners"  200 bales of coffee were saved and these were reported to have all been in a damaged condition. Nothing is known of the exact position of this wreck. However, I have found an anchor and a few guns under the north side of the garrison in very shallow water. Also found in the area are a scattering of small iron shot and a few broken artifacts. The top quern stone from a pair (used for the grinding of corn etc) which I found in the same area about 10 years ago and went into the Isles of Scilly museum at that time, could also be connected. However, none of these things are yet identifiable as being from the Mercurius. Closer inspection of the guns may determine whether or not they are Dutch in origin and if fragments of the copper sheathing are found it would be helpful. The statement that things from this wreck covered an: "adjacent rocky shore" suggests that the Mercurius hit an outcrop on the north side of the Garrison rather than one of the stretches of rocky beach there. This fits well with the items of wreckage found thus far.

Todd Stevens.


BACK TO CONTENTS

BACK TO IMAG