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Man saved by ‘Maori Jack’ after boat capsizes

Year 1862

Read by Henry Bernard – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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August 9, 1862

On Saturday 9th of August 1862, Mr. William Rogers was returning from a visit to Mr. W. G. Bees at the Shotover Lake, Wakatip, New Zealand, in a boat accompanied by Mr. Mitchell and Maori Jack; they left about 8.30 a.m. with a fair wind. It appears that about an hour after starting, the wind freshening, Maori Jack asked Mr. Mitchell to take the sprit out. Whilst he was trying to do this, a squall struck the boat, and with the heel over, Mr. Mitchell (who was standing on the thwart) was thrown to leeward ; and with this, the boat immediately capsized, and turned keel up.

When Mr. Mitchell rose to the surface, Jack was clinging to the keel, and Mr. Rogers, after swimming a short distance, also turned back and took up a position beside them. Jack made every effort to right the boat, but with the heavy sea running, she kept rolling over and over, and the intense cold soon rendered Mr. Rogers and Mr. Mitchell almost powerless. This continued for a whole hour, and twice during that time did Jack save both Mr. Rogers and Mr. Mitchell, by bringing them back to the boat when shaken from their hold.

At last, with another complete roll over, Mr. Mitchell, on rising to the surface, found himself under the boat, and seizing one of the thwarts, he managed to find breathing space between the water and the boat’s bottom. But another sea turning her over, he was again seized by Jack, and when brought to the boat, poor Mr. Rogers had disappeared. Mr. Mitchell, now utterly powerless to hold on himself, was held up for nearly an hour by Jack, who, with one hand on the boat and the other on Mr. Mitchell’s waist, gallantly supported him.

At length Jack (who had before tried to get the mast out of its step) managed to cut the hamper that kept it from coming out. This done, the boat righted, and by the aid of the oars, which fortunately were jammed under the seats, they managed to paddle to the shore, distant about a mile and a half, the sea, however, making a complete breach over them. Mr. Mitchell does not remember bow they landed, as be for some time lay almost insensible. They bad no means of kindling a fire, but by the aid of some blankets that were found under the half-deck forward, they managed to pass the night.

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