CHAPTER XXXIII. ARRIVAL OF BARK "PALMETTO" - DRIVEN ASHORE BY GALE - DISCHARGING CARGO UNDER DIFFICULTIES - NEGRO CREW MUTINIES - LONELY TRIP TO ANADYRSK - STUPID KORAKS - EXPLOSIVE PROVISIONS
The brief excitement produced by the arrival of the Varag and the Clara Bell was succeeded by another long, dreary month of waiting, during which we lived as before in lonely discomfort at the mouth of the Gizhiga River. Week after week passed away without bringing any tidings from the missing ships, and at last the brief northern summer closed, snow appeared upon the mountains, and heavy long-continued storms announced the speedy approach of another winter. More than three months had elapsed since the supposed departure of the Onward and Palmetto from San Francisco, and we could account for their non-appearance only by the supposition that they had either been disabled or lost at sea. On the 18th of September, Major Abaza determined to send a messenger to the Siberian capital, to telegraph the Company for instructions. Left as we were at the beginning of a second winter without men, tools, or materials of any kind, except 50,000 insulators and brackets, we could do nothing toward the construction of the line, and our only resource was to make our unpleasant situation known to the Company. On the 19th, however, before this resolution could be carried into effect, the long-expected bark Palmettoarrived, followed closely by the Russian supply-steamer Saghalin, from Nikolaievsk. The latter, being independent of wind and drawing very little water, had no difficulty in crossing the bar and gaining the shelter of the river; but the Palmetto was compelled to anchor outside and await a higher tide. The weather, which for several days had been cold and threatening, grew momentarily worse, and on the 22d the wind was blowing a close-reefed-topsail gale from the south-east, and rolling a tremendous sea into the unprotected gulf. We felt the most serious apprehensions for the safety of the unfortunate bark; but as the water would not permit her to cross the bar at the mouth of the river, nothing could be done until another high tide. On the 23d, it became evident that the Palmetto - upon which now rested all our hopes - must inevitably go ashore. She had broken her heaviest anchor, and was drifting slowly but surely against the rocky, precipitous coast on the eastern side of the river, where nothing could prevent her from being dashed to pieces. As there was now no other alternative, Captain Arthur slipped his cable, got his ship under way, and stood directly in for the mouth of the river. He could no longer avoid going ashore somewhere, and it was better to strike on a yielding bar of sand than to drift helplessly against a black perpendicular wall of rock, where destruction would be certain. The bark came gallantly in until she was only half a mile distant from the lighthouse, and then grounded heavily in about seven feet of water. As soon as she struck she began pounding with tremendous violence against the bottom while the seas broke in great white clouds of spray entirely over her quarter-deck. It did not seem probable, that she would live through the night. As the tide rose, however, she drove farther and farther in toward the mouth of the river until, at full flood, she was only a quarter of a mile distant. Being a very strongly built ship, she suffered less damage than we had supposed, and, as the tide ran out, she lay high and dry on the bar, with no more serious injury than the loss of her false keel and a few sections of her copper sheathing.