Loss of crewmember – 31 October 1888

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Loss of crewmember – 31 October 1888

Of 682 men who sailed on Cutty Sark, only five were lost at sea. One of those unfortunate souls was apprentice Sidney Cook from Bedford. He engaged to serve on Cutty Sark aged 17 for the ship’s 19th voyage, leaving London on 17 May 1888. He tragically lost his life on 31 October that year, just four days after the ship had left Sydney loaded with 4496 bales of wool.

Stormy weather at sea ©National Maritime Museum,  Greenwich

Stormy weather at sea ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Captain Woodget, master of the ship, describes the incident in his log:

Oct 31 – Lat 46⁰ 37’ S., long. 162⁰ E. Course S. 39⁰ E. Distance 202 miles. Strong winds and high confused sea.

At 3am, after hauling taut the lee main brace and before the men left the lee side, the ship was struck by a sea, which caused her to lurch suddenly and fill up all the lee side of the deck. Cook, an apprentice, was washed overboard, he held on to a rope but before anyone could reach him, he lost his hold and was no more seen. The ship being under topsails only and heavy cross sea and dark, nothing could be done to save him.

Stormy weather at sea ©National Maritime Museum,  Greenwich

Stormy weather at sea ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

When a crewmember died on board, the Captain would read a service to honour the lost man. A few days later, there would be an auction of his effects – when AB Fisher died in July 1870, an inventory of these items provides an insight into the typical belongings of a merchant seaman: “One chest, one suit blue flannel, one pair cloth trousers, one cloth vest, one pair drawers, one singlet, two pairs cotton trousers, two pairs socks, one pair stockings, one pair mitts, one pair sea boots, two caps, laid felt hat, one sou’wester, one pair braces, three linen collars, one pillow case, one razor, one pocket knife, two books, needles, thread and buttons, one palm, one sheath, one small looking glass, one comb.” His personal effects, including “a lock of hair, three small pieces of gold (apparently a broken earring), a small inkstand and a carte-de-visite of himself”, were sent back to his sister.

A grisly end to a promising career at sea.

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