A dramatic headline ! Whilst not strictly famous, I felt it would only right to record the fate of poor Elias Vibert. Further research is being undertaken to discover exactly whom he was. Here is an account of what happened to him.
In the early hours of 29th May 1826 the Jersey registered ship the General Brock was lost following a collision with the brig Francis about 250 miles nort east of Bonavista, Newfoundland. The ordeal of the crew lasted for 10 days during which they faced hardships and choices few landsmen could even comprehend. The General Brock was a 109 ton brig built in Cap Breton by Peter Brouard in 1821 for Philip and Francis Janvrin of Jersey. She had a square stern and a scroll head, she was 62 ft 4ins long, 20 ft 6 ins in the beam and had a depth of 10 ft. Her first master was Edward Hamon who was succeeded by Pierre de la Lande.
A report in the Aberdeen Chronicle of 2nd July 1826 from Captain McBain of the Phesdo who had recently returned from Cap Breton stated that the General Brock while on passage from Jersey to Gaspé had been run down by an unknown brig at 12:30 am on 29 May at 49° 50′ N 48° 30′ W. When the two brigs were entangled three of the crew – Thomas Mallet, James Perrins and Philip Perchard were able to jump on board the other vessel. One man, James Holme was unable to get on deck and so was drowned and the remaining 14 crew members took to the longboat where they spent the next ten days. They had no water and the only food they had was a small Dutch cheese which lasted five days. Once it was finished, the weaker men died – six in the last six days: these were Philip Duval, a Janvrin Company clerk, Francis Chevalier, Philip Syvret, C Rinolp, Elias Vibert and James Brown.
The others resorted to feeding off the dead bodies of their comrades to survive. On 9 June they were picked up by the brig Ann of Liverpool (Captain Forbes). Unfortunately, it was too late for Captain de la Lande, Edward Luce, Charles Meyers, and Francis de la Mare who all died on board.
The four crew men who survived the ordeal were the mate Elias Bundon, Joseph Powell, John Dolbel, and William Hughes.
Joseph Powell returned to Jersey where he wrote an account of his experiences as a shipwrecked sailor. An extract translated from Jersey french is shown below :-
An account of the wreck of the
in 1826 by Joseph Powell of St Ouen.
” May the 8th 1826 we left Jersey on board of the brig of General Brock having put back into port and had much misfortune. Finally we continued our voyage with fairly agreeable weather until the 29th (when) around half past twelve, the night being very obscured with a thick mist, we saw a ship to leeward coming towards us like a thunderbolt. We did everything possible to avoid her but it was to no avail and she ran into us on our starboard bow and smashed it to pieces. With this fatal blow everyone rushed on deck. The ships were entangled for about five minutes.
Four of us ended up on the other ship but I took a rope and let myself down onto our deck . . . I told the captain that we were going to founder – immediately he called the ship for Mercy’s sake to put across for us – they told us they would but the wind swung around behind them and in an instant they were we lost from sight. Seeing that the ship was rapidly going under, we immediately cut the lashings of our boat & as we were pulling it from its chocks the water gained on us so quickly that it floated off the deck. Fourteen people were able to get on board, one remained in the hold as he did not have the time to come on deck. As soon as we were clear of the ship it sank like lead leaving fourteen of us in a little boat with neither bread nor water nor any provisions except a small Dutch cheese about three pounds but we still hoped to see the ship that sank us. In our boat we had two oars, a compass, a lantern and light and a fog-horn. We rowed in our estimation where we hoped to find the ship. We spent the night in the boat calling out, believing that they would hear us, but it was all in vain. Towards six o’clock in the morning we decided to row for land but with heavy hearts not having great hopes of seeing her again. For our first day God gave us some fairly agreeable weather though it was very cold and there was some mist and the sea and wind were against us, but our bodies were still sustained by the food of the previous days. By our reckoning we had rowed 12 leagues, the night was dark and our heart was filled with great sadness to see ourselves in this situation. Hunger, thirst was beginning to take its toll. The next day by eleven in the morning the wind rose and the sea became rough which caused us trouble rowing. We reckoned we had rowed four or five leagues. The night passed with a strong breeze & the sea soaked us all the time we prayed to God to give us his assistance but he had put us to the test to show us how mighty he is. On our third day strong winds blew from the WSW which sent us to the north so that the cold penetrated us because of our lack of clothing. The night came again black and threatening, adding to our sadness, we begged God to deliver us and to shorten our dismal adventure.
On the fifth day about 6 o’clock in the evening, having no strength, we had finished rowing when we looked all around us we saw a ship about 2 miles to windward which was heading east. Revived with a new keeness, even though we lacked strength, we gave everything we had to row for this ship. Shouting with all our strength, making signals with some handkerchiefs and scarves tied to an oar but they did not see us. We resigned ourselves to our cruel fate deprived of all hope. One of our fellow creatures was on his last legs and it pleased God to redeem him around 10 o’clock. . . . The next morning about 8 o’clock we were looking at our poor dead brother, talking about throwing him in to the sea. A young boy, at that moment tormented by the great pains of hunger and thirst, suggested that he had heard that in some such occasions similar to ours that there had been some people who had eaten the flesh of the corpses. He asked if he would be permitted to satisfy his craving on this occasion – nobody opposed this.
He then took a small hatchet and cut the two thighs of this poor unfortunate. He ate some of it himself and then gave some of it to everyone else. We ate some of it – ever so little – crying and looking at each other and saying that the will of God be done. Everyone agreed that if we should die then let the same thing be done with our flesh . . . knowing that we were compelled by necessity we brought ourselves to cut the throat of the corpse and to drink his blood. We found that this was the only thing that could give us refreshment . . . The following night a frightful tempest arose from the North East. It was so cold that the mountainous sea froze as it broke over us. We believed that we would be engulfed at any moment. Around 11 o’clock a young man died very peacefully. The tempest continued for the rest of the night and it was only with great difficulty that we were able to prevent our boat from being swamped. During the night three of our poor survivors were driven out of their mind by the force hunger and thirst.
The next Morning around ten o’clock the sea and the wind had little appeased being all wet and cold the cold had struck us so strongly that it was impossible for us to talk even one word but we asked God by his Grace to redeem us from our miseries but in vain . . . ”
Translated from the French transcription of Dr Frank Le Maistre published in the BSJ 1984 pgs 471-474
Apparently it was not that Lucky to be named Elias Vibert in the early 1800′s. as in December 1830 another Elias Vibert died as a result of being shipwrecked on the 120 ton Brig “ The Quixote ” en route from Spain to Liverpool , England. Whilst there was no evidence he was eaten cannibalism was reported in graphic detail including “ The four survivors clung on to the wreck for the next four days with neither food nor drink.On 9 December another crewman died and the remaining three men lashed his body to a spar to prevent it being washed away in order that they might feed on it. The following day, 10 December, the three men gnawed at an arm and the following day they again fed on the flesh. By 12 December, a full seven days
after the knock-down, the storm began to abate, but the body was becoming putrid and so was inedible.” The crew of the Quixote who died were Captain Francis Bailhache,Elias Vibert, Philippe Lemprière, P Ahier, Pierre Arthur jnr,
Jean Bisson and Charles.