MEN-OF-WAR AT SPITHEAD

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IN this Engraving (a vignette) is presented a stern-view of a seventy-four, with
her guess-warp booms* out, moored at Spithead. To the right is a victualling hoy,
dropping alongside of the seventy-four; and in the distance is seen a first-rate. The time
is evening, which invests the whole scene with its calm. We may conclude that the day
has been fine, as both ships seem to have availed themselves of the opportunity thus
afforded of “drying hammocks;” they are seen suspended from their yards and between
their masts.

The roadstead of Spithead, which is sufficiently large to afford convenient
anchorage for nearly all the ships of the British navy, lies between Portsmouth and
the Isle of Wight; and the usual place in which ships of war ride is about three miles
distant from Portsmouth harbour. It derives its name from the Spit, or end of a sand
bank, extending from the western shore of the estuary towards Southsea Castle, about
a mile below Portsmouth. The channel for the harbour, from Spithead, is comparatively
narrow, and is commanded by the batteries at Southsea Castle. To the westward
of Spithead is the sand called the Motherbank, on the edge of which merchantmen
generally anchor; and to the north-eastward are St. Helen’s roads, a frequent
rendezvous as well for ships of war as for vessels in the merchant service. All these
roadsteads are protected from southerly winds by the high laud of the Isle of Wight.

Within the last few years considerable interest has been excited by the attempts
which have been made to raise the guns, and various other articles, belonging to
the Royal George, which sank at Spithead on 29th August, 1782. This ship carried
108 guns, and was considered one of the finest in the navy, had just returned from
sea, and, as she had made more water than usual for some time before, it was at
first intended that she should go into dock. The surveying officers, however, having
discovered that the leak was not very far below the water-line, it was resolved to
repair the defect, with a view to saving time, by giving the ship a heel as she lay at her
moorings at Spithead. On subsequent

• The guess-warp booms are the spars suspended at right angles from a ships side, to which the
boats are made fast when she moored.

examination, it was found that a pipe which supplied the water for washing the decks
required to be replaced, and, as it lay considerably below the water-line, it became
necessary to give her a greater heel than had been at first contemplated. For the
purpose of affecting this, some of her guns and part of her ballast were removed to
the opposite side. As the ship lay thus considerably inclined on her side, she, from
some cause that has not been clearly ascertained, gave an additional heel, and the
water rushing in through her lower-deck ports, which had been carelessly left open,
she almost instantly filled and sank, carrying down with her a victualling hoy that was
lying alongside. At the time of the accident there were nearly twelve hundred persons
on board, of which number about nine hundred, including two hundred and fifty women,
were drowned. Among the sufferers were Admiral Kempenfelt and several of the
officers. About three hundred persons, chiefly belonging to the ship’s crew, were saved.
Admiral Sir P. Durham, at that time one of the lieutenants of the Royal George, was on
board when the accident happened, and saved him by swimming to the shore.

Mr. Kingstone, of the Portsmouth dockyard, who went down to the wreck in a
diving-bell in 1817, gives the following account of its appearance at that time: — “The
quarter-deck, forecastle, and roundhead, with the larboard topside as low down as the
range of the upper deck, are entirely gone. The oak-strakes and midships of the flat
of the upper deck are much decayed by worms in several places so as to show the
beams and framing beneath. The whole of the fir appears as sound as when first laid.
The deck is much twisted, from the ship’s falling so much fore and aft. The wreck has
a beautiful appearance when viewed about a fathom above the deck, being covered
with small weeds, interspersed with shells, star-fish, and a species of polypus, lying on
thin, greasy, grey sediment. All below the deck Is a perfect solid of fine black mud; and,
when suspended over the larboard side, she appears a rude mass of timber lying in all
directions.”

During the summer of 1853, Spithead was the scene of a grand marine review
and sham fight. Her Majesty and Prince Albert were present, with numerous suites
of naval officers. The nautical skill displayed on the occasion received the highest
encomiums from those best qualified to judge of its value; and the merit of the screw
propeller, as attached to vessels of war, was strikingly manifested.

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