Outward Bound to the Hall Rock


COME, all hands, ahoy, to the anchor!
From our friends and relations we go;
Poll blubbers and cries, — Devil thank her,
She ’ll soon have another in tow.
This breeze, like the Old One, may kick us
About on the boisterous main,
But some day, if Death does not trick us,
Perhaps we may come back again.


Then heave away, haul away, jolly boys,
At the mercy of Fortune we go;
We’re in for it, damme, what folly, boys,
For — to be so downhearted. Yeo-ho!

THE January morning had risen reluctantly, borne shivering on the back of the bitter southeast wind across from the Continent, and now had arrived at Sheerness Harbor.

H.M.S. Egeria lay opposite the dockyard ready to go to sea, with a slip rope passed through the ring of the mooring buoy. There was ice everywhere; masts, yards, booms, and ropes were sheeted with it; and the decks, which had just been washed down, were covered with a freezing mixture of salty sludge. The only warm place was the stokehold, where steam had been raised (for, though the Egeria was a sailing ship aloft, she was a steamer below), and everything was ready to carry her away that very morning to the west coast of America, on a surveying commission.

It was just after 8 A.M., and daylight was still a dim, half-awakened affair, when, by the captain’s order, the signal was sent in flags to the masthead by ice-stiffened halliards, asking for ’permission to proceed in execution of previous orders ’ — in the circumstances a sufficiently embracing request.

Presently the chief yeoman of signals was knocking at the port, admiral’s bathroom door to report the signal. ‘Affirm,’ shouted the admiral from where he lay wallowing in the pleasant hot water, in happy realization that for him long commissions abroad had passed by, and he had now reached that land of heart’s desire of every seaman — a good shore job.

Up went the white-crossed red flag, the ‘ Affirmative,’ at the dockyard signal staff. ‘ Slip,’ commanded the captain of the Egeria to his first lieutenant, standing by him on the poop. ‘Slip,’ shouted the first lieutenant to the officer of the forecastle. ‘Slip,’ ordered the officer of the forecastle to the men manning the slip rope along the deck below him; and ‘Slip!’ roared the boatswain standing beside them.

The men were already running away with it, however, and the slipped end had already rushed through the ring on the mooring buoy, had come up through the hawsehole, and now was flicking along the deck. On so momentous an occasion as this, all hands and the cook were on deck, and they were running away with this fatal rope with a zeal and vigor such that you might have thought they actually wanted to leave home, and wives, and babies, and everything that was pleasant and familiar and warm, though this was far indeed from the truth.

So there we were slipped from it all, and from our last hold on England, as represented by the ice-encrusted mooring buoy, its cables, and its stout anchors bedded in the Medway mud. Cling-clang went the engine-room telegraph bell. We were off.

With a roaring wind behind us to blow the old ship along, she soon was carried south out of the chill waters of the English Channel into the pleasant latitude of Madeira, and onward thence through the Canary Islands into the tropics. The northeast trade wind at last blew us into Saint Vincent, Cape Verde Islands; and in that hot and windy coal hole we refilled our bunkers. Though the Egeria was largely a sailing ship of the old sort, the ‘brass jib,’ as the screw propeller was scoffingly named, had not infrequently to be invoked on our voyage so far, and, even when not in actual use, had ever to be maintained as a standby.

On from Saint Vincent then we went through the rest of the northeast trades, through the doldrums on both sides of the line, through the southeast trades, and made land at last at Santa Catharina in Brazil. More coal, and off again southward to Bahia, to Montevideo, and southward still, until the winter we had left behind at Sheerness in January met us once again in the Straits of Magellan in June.

The intervening five months had not, of course, all been spent in voyaging and coaling, for we had been surveying all along the route, either sounding the deep ocean, investigating its currents, or improving and bringing up to date the charts of the harbors at which we had stopped, or of the coasts along which we had passed.

We had now to navigate round the southern end of South America through the Straits of Magellan, between it and Tierra del Fuego, and then, turning northward, to do more chart-repairing work along the western side of Patagonia.


It is about three hundred miles through the Straits from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The scenery begins tamely enough at the eastern entrance with the flat-topped headland named by Magellan the ‘Cape of the Eleven Thousand Virgins,’ but gradually increases in wildness as you go westward, until you come out at Cape Pillar, all tattered and torn, facing into the open Pacific.

The middle point of the Straits is Cape Froward, the southernmost point of all America, and, as you may say, of the habitable world. Froward indeed it is, turning its perverse face to the westerly gales that beat on it, year in, year out, almost without cessation.

One of these gales was blowing as we crawled past to find a lee for the night behind a group of small islands at the foot of the cape. The next day, the wind having quieted a little, we went on our way through the narrow English Reach and Long Reach until we came to the Isle of Desolation, which is the western end of Tierra del Fuego. Cape Pillar is the final point of Desolation, at the southern side of the entrance to the Straits, while the blessed Evangelists, on their four big rocks, guard with a lighthouse the northern side, and send flashes of comfort to the sailor over those dismal waters.

Just before reaching the Evangelists and the open ocean, it is possible, however, to evade the constant gales and heavy seas, and to turn northward, traveling for another three hundred miles through certain sheltered channels which lie between the mainland of Western Patagonia and a long string of islands, great and small, flanking the coast. It was the channels of this Inner Route which we were ordered to examine and report upon, especially with regard to needed buoys and lights, with the intention of bringing the route into greater use. But though the calmness of the water, together with the splendor of the scenery, would no doubt be very popular with passengers, the navigation is so intricate, and the passage through the channels is made so slow through the necessity of anchoring at night, that it would never commend itself either to the owners of large steamers or to their captains; and, in fact, only a few of the smaller steamers, not pressed for time, made use of the Inner Route. It was for their sakes that we were ordered to make a running survey through it, correcting the older charts where necessary.

From the Straits of Magellan you enter it by Smyth Channel, and leave it at the northern end in the Gulf of Penas, where you come out into the open Pacific, here still probably stormy, but distinctly less so than to the southward opposite Magellan Straits. No one who has not seen it can imagine the grandeur of the scenery of Western Patagonia as viewed from these channels. It is of a kind not to be found elsewhere in the world — a combination of the most majestic bits of Switzerland and Norway, with a something overwhelming besides that is all its own.

As you go along in the ship you see close on either hand sheer brown cliffs, hundreds of feet high, over the indented edges of which cataracts descend, pouring into the sea through veils of mist. Above the cliffs rise the wild mountains, their sides clothed with dripping woods to the snow line above, which at the time of year that we went through — June — was low down on the slopes. Then in a flash the nearer scenery falls back, for the ship in her advance has come abreast of one of the long fiords which branch off from the main channel — deep gullies torn out of the mainland in glacial ages past, and now filled with dark green sea water. It is glassy-smooth, for there is no wind at the foot of the cliffs, though the westerly gale is fierce enough among the mountain tops. Suddenly the clouds are blown asunder before it; there is a burst of blue sky; the sun shines out, and there beyond the head of the fiord miles away spreads a mountain land of soaring ranges, fold beyond purple fold, their jagged summits gleaming white with snow. Every ravine is filled to the brim with ice of a pale, yet definite blueness — immense glaciers spreading down to the sea to spend themselves in torrents over the tattered rocks.

Splendid scenery though all this may be, there is everywhere lacking the human touch necessary to make any prospect truly pleasing, however vile the humans who provide it. There is not a vestige of a habitation; not a sign of life. Not a creature is to be seen except an occasional swimming cormorant, a solitary kelp goose white and motionless on the black sea edge, or a sudden flight of steamer ducks low over the water, beating the surface with each flap of the wings, but unable to raise higher their fat, penguin-like bodies as they ‘ taxi ’ over the sea.


Fortunately there are many good anchorages along the Inner Route, usually on the mainland side, and one evening as we went on our way surveying we turned into one of them named Gray Harbor, a small quiet bay, where we secured the ship for the night. It was midwinter, and as evening fell a thin skin of ice formed over the surface of the bay, for the top layer of water was fresh, owing to the many streams which poured into the harbor from the surrounding hillsides. It had been a tiring day of constant sextant work on the bridge, for a running survey such as we were making of the channels is one of the most exhausting operations imaginable. It allows of no pauses whatever, nor any rest to eyes, brain, or legs. Every one of us had been employed on it, and after the ship had been safely anchored it was not long before sleep had descended on all except the quartermaster on watch on deck — the only open eye in the ship.

In the dark of the early morning I was roused sharply into wakefulness by the penetrating, terrifying smell of burning wood. Undoubtedly the old ship must be on fire; and, as first lieutenant, I must take instant steps. I leapt out into the wardroom (for in that old-fashioned ship all the officers’ cabins opened upon our mess place), and as I did so — thud, thud — at each cabin door there appeared a pyjamaed form; everyone had been awakened as suddenly and as definitely as I by that alarming smell.

Thrusting myself swiftly into a great coat and sea boots, for it was well below freezing on deck, I rushed up the ladder — and there found a scene of complete peace.

The quartermaster of the watch was leaning out over the starboard gangway, looking intently into the water below — so intently that he did not at first hear my loud demand as to why (et cetera) he had allowed the ship to take fire, and did nothing about it. It was monstrous; for, as I could see plainly in the moonlight, there was a thin column of smoke rising up under his very nose where he stood looking down.

’Beg your pawdon, sir,’ he said, humbly, ‘but jus’ look down ’ere,’ and he pointed below him.

I looked, and there at once became apparent the cause of our alarm, and the lack of any need for it. Alongside the ship at the foot of the gangway ladder was a large native canoe, with unsymmetrical sides and a flat floor. In the middle of this floor were several slabs of stone, and on them a wood fire was smouldering, sending up a thin, acrid smoke. Huddled closely round the fire was a Fuegian family, consisting of a man, some women, several children, and dogs, all of them wideawake at this dismal hour of 4.30 A.M., and all entirely naked to the freezing air. Very occasionally it is possible to meet with a tiny group of these nomads of the waters in single canoes, hunting for food along these desolate shores, and this was evidently one of them.

The quartermaster said that the canoe had appeared suddenly, not long before, coming out of the darker side of the harbor, and making no sound beyond the crackling of the thin surface ice as she was paddled through it. She had come straight alongside the ship, and the man had secured the canoe just outside my cabin. It was the smoke from the fire on her hearth which had come in through the cabin scuttles on the starboard side, had awoken all of us there, and then had been wafted across, to arouse in like fashion the port-siders.

Nothing more primitive could be imagined than the condition of these savages, and nothing more hideous than their features, but they seemed to be harmless enough, and in spite of these disabilities they were allowed to remain where they were, secured alongside. When daylight had come and we were preparing to get the ship under way for our day’s work, the man of the canoe climbed up the ship’s side to the upper deck. He knew just three words of Spanish. Pointing to himself in general, he said, ‘Capitan Antonio,’ and then, pointing to his stomach in particular, he said, ‘Pan.’

So bread was brought him in the ironclad form of biscuit then current in the Navy. He nibbled some himself, and then kindly distributed the remainder among his wives and offspring in the canoe. Round his shoulders, his sole attire, was a half-tanned, extremely dirty sea-otter skin; and this he gladly exchanged for an old uniform coat, and a further supply of pan.

A little later when we were under way with the anchor at the bows, the canoe was still alongside, but Capitán Antonio hung on in spite of all attempts to make him shove off while our engines started and the ship began slowly to move out of the little bay.

As soon as we were clear of it and were on our course northward through the channels, the quartermaster, as usual at the beginning of the day’s run, put the patent, log over the stern and began to pay out the line by which it was towed. On seeing this take place, Capitán Antonio let go of the ship’s side, and the canoe gradually dropped astern until, when he was abreast of it and was able to do so, Antonio seized hold of the log line and refused to let it go in spite of the shouts and maledictions of the quartermaster. Presently the line was fully paid out, and there was the canoe still towing by it a little distance astern of the ship. One of the women then crawled forward to the bow of the canoe, and, taking the log line out of the hands of the man, she hung on by it in his place.

Capitán Antonio, thus released, then calmly turned about and hauled up into the canoe the part of the log line towing astern of it, with the patent log on the end. This being all safely bestowed, he seized a perfectly good steel axe (stolen, no doubt, from some passing ship) and with three hard chops cut through at the bows of his canoe the log line in his wife’s hands by which it was being towed. Thus released, away went the canoe southward, bearing Antonio and family rejoicing in their barefaced robbery of a patent log and twenty or thirty fathoms of good log line, while we had perforce to proceed in the other direction, cursing helplessly. These Fuegians, for all their savagery and nakedness, were not quite so simple as they seemed. The stolen log line would, no doubt, be very useful in the canoe, while the patent log would readily be exchanged for food from passing ships, and no questions asked. Obviously Capitán Antonio had played that trick before on other unsuspecting ships passing through that way.


Our running survey having been ended satisfactorily, we reached the open sea at the Gulf of Peñas, and then shaped course for Coronel, about six hundred miles to the northward up the coast. The name of Coronel has become painfully well known since the disastrous naval action which took place in the early part of the war not far to seaward of it, but at the time of our visit its chief claim to fame was due to the coal mines not far inland, the produce from which was exported from the piers of the little town. The coast of Chile, generally speaking, runs in a straight line north and south, but a little to the southward of Coronel it takes a sudden bend out to the westward for fifteen miles, forming Arauco Bay. The bay ends in a bold promontory, one thousand feet high, named Cabo Rumena, at which point the coastline resumes its original straight line to the southward. The island of Santa Maria lies five miles out to westward of the cape, and the strait, between the island and the mainland is called the Boca Chica, the Little Mouth. Ships making to Coronel from the southward almost always pass through it and thus save a few miles, instead of taking the longer route to the westward, outside of Santa Maria.

Somewhere in the Boca Chica lay the Hall Rock, but nobody knew its true position. In the middle of the nineteenth century the good ship Hall had struck there, and become a wreck, and since then several ships had touched on it at different times, some with disaster, some without, but not one of their captains had been able to provide the information necessary for laying down the position of the rock on the chart. Each one gave a ‘supposed position’ for the rock different from that given by any of his predecessors; the Boca Chica chart was full of them, so that the rock had become a menace and a nightmare to every ship passing through the strait. Many ships of different nations, some of them surveying ships, had searched for the Hall Rock at all of these ‘supposed positions,’ and in other likely spots as well — every one of them fruitlessly. For this reason, and because for some years past no vessel had reported having touched on it, the Hall Rock had come to be for many skippers nothing but a ‘Mrs. Harris’ of the sea. Its existence was disbelieved, and no precautions were taken to avoid any of the many ‘positions’ marked with its name.

This fools’ paradise had been shattered, however, not long before we left England, by yet another report of a ship having struck on it. Another ‘ supposed position ’ was given, and thus the Hall Rock had again become a reality and a grave anxiety to all seafarers through the Boca Chica. To find this elusive danger was to be our first important job in the Egeria after our arrival on the Pacific Slope. We were ordered not to leave for the north to begin the other surveys on our long programme for the commission until we had found and charted the Hall Rock. That was that.

So at it we went. It was stormy, cold, and wet; there was always a big sea running, and the atmosphere was so thick with moisture that the marks on shore by which we fixed the ship’s position were continually in a semifog, and the glasses of our instruments were similarly blurred. More hateful weather for boat or ship sounding there could not be; still, the work had to be done, and every possible moment seized to sound, and sound, and sound, until the bottom of the Boca Chica had everywhere been fully explored, and its smallest irregularities laid down on paper.

We expected at first to be engaged for no more than seven days or so over the job, but owing to the constant southerly gales we were at it for six weeks, anchoring under the lee of Santa Maria Island in the intervals when the weather prevented work in the strait. The shores of this island, as seen on a map, form the sides of a triangle, two of which are flat sandy beaches and measure about five miles altogether in length. Our anchorage was off the northern of these two beaches, and was a fairly good one, but it had a strange and horrible drawback. The sand was wide between high and low water marks, and its whole surface, as well as that of the other beach, was covered with millions (literally) of large dead cuttlefish or squids — long pale creatures with a bunch of tentacles at one end. These animals, for reasons best known to themselves, had cast themselves up on the sand to die — we were told it was an annual event. You could scarcely see the beaches, so covered were their surfaces with suicided squids, and when the wind blew from them toward the ship at her anchorage (as it usually did) the smell of the decomposing multitude defies description — defies, anyway, polite description.

In spite of many interruptions by gales, it seemed, at the end of five weeks, that every inch of the bottom of the Boca Chica must have been touched by the sounding lead, either by that of the ship or by those of the four boats which, whenever it was possible to send them, were away sounding in places unsuitable for the ship herself to work in. Yet the rock evaded us; no sign of it could be found; it was still a mystery. We were experiencing exactly the same negative results as every other searcher throughout the preceding fifty years; but, for all that, there could be no giving up the search. The Hall Rock had to be found.


At this moment of exasperation, as the last possible bit of ground (as we thought) was being fruitlessly sounded over, there rushed out upon us from a suddenly blackened sky a full-dress southerly gale, ushered in by a theatrical display of thunder and lightning. Hastily picking up the scattered boats, we hurried back to the friendly if odoriferous lee of Santa Maria Island. It blew and blew, it rained and rained, and the old Egeria lay tugging at her anchor, while she rolled miserably on the swells, now coming in a most unpleasant manner round both ends of the island. The cross-swell had the advantage, however, of giving decent burial to the dead squids on the beaches, for the sand was swept over them by the surf, and those that the sand failed to inter were dragged out to sea by the retreating waves, so that when the swell subsided the beach was squidless and the air once more fit to be breathed.

After three days there came a slight sign of moderation in the weather, but so slight that when the Captain’s Order Book came round that evening, headed as usual ‘Ship will sound in the Boca Chica,’ we all thought that the skipper, the Chief of the Survey, must have got slightly touched in the brain. Sounding work, we knew, would be quite impossible in the sea then running, both from the danger of the hundred-pound lead swinging about as the ship rolled in the swell and from the difficulty, when the lead had reached the bottom, of reading the correct mark on the lead line; for, as the waves rose and fell several feet up and down the line, there would be no knowing which mark indicated the true depth. But there was the order, and, mad or not mad, there was one thing we had learned about our chief: namely, that when he said a thing, he meant it. Grousing heavily, we all turned in.

By seven o’clock next morning the dark and stormy night had gradually dissolved into a pale and gloomy day. The wind was dying down, and it was not actually raining, but that was the best that could be said about the weather; and as to the sea, when we reached the Boca Chica, a huge swell was running there, exactly as we expected. Clearly it was impossible to sound with a deepsea lead, and when the gray set face of the skipper was turned away pitying smiles passed between us all standing beside him on the bridge, accompanied by significant tappings of the forehead and upcast eyes, in recognition of the manifest breakdown of a once fine intellect.

And then, suddenly, came complete justification for this seeming aberration of his brain. We were plunging on to the southward, and had just gone by Cabo Rumena when a huge swell passed under the ship, tumbling us from side to side as it went rolling by. We were on the crest of the next roller when we saw that the smooth back of the first one as it retreated had, at one point, become broken water. At the same moment there came to us the voice of the sea, proclaiming in an unmistakable low roar that it was being torn on a rock below.

‘Look!’shouted the skipper. ‘There it is! There’s the rock! Get a fix at once!’

The foam where the wave had broken lasted a few seconds before the position of the rock became once more concealed by dark, gale-discolored water. We were all of us standing by, sextant in hand, and at this word of command up went each instrument to each right eye to take the necessary angles to fix the ship’s position, while the determined optic of the Chief of the Survey was directed through his sextant to the rock itself, to fix a line to it when the next swell, as it went by, should break on its top. It was necessary, of course, that all the angles, both his and ours, should be taken simultaneously.

‘Are you all ready?’ he called, and ‘Ready, sir,’ we each and all replied.

Then, when for the second time the rock ‘ broke’ in a plume of foam, ‘Fix!’ he roared. Thus was laid down on the plotting sheet the ship’s position, and a line from it — the first to be protracted on any chart — on some point of which lay the position of the Hall Rock. Then we steamed to a second, a third, and (to make matters quite sure) a fourth position, getting from each of them a line of bearing to the Rock when each time it broke as the swells passed over.

All these four lines when plotted on our chart crossed at a single point, so here at last we had the exact position of the Hall Rock securely captured — and all through coming out to search for it on an ‘impossible’ day!

It was a wonderful moment to succeed all our weary weeks of toil. We stood grouped round the plotting table gazing at the long lines of soundings, both ship’s and boats’, with which the sheet was closely covered; amazed to see that the true position of the rock was in most cases literally miles distant from any of the ‘supposed positions’ supplied by those who had struck on it, and also to see that it lay actually on the very line laid down as ‘ track recommended’ for ships passing through the Boca Chica. It was by good luck rather than by good guidance that so many ships had missed striking on it during all the years of traffic, both steam and sail.

Our own lines of soundings showed that we had often in the Egeria passed closely by the Hall Rock quite unknowingly, and, as the figures representing the depths in fathoms showed, in deep water. Evidently it was what is known as a ‘pinnacle rock,’ standing up solitary out of the depths, giving no evidence of its existence — a truly venomous danger.

While thus we pondered, sobered yet rejoicing, there came a sudden flash of lightning, and with the succeeding thunder a soaking squall of rain burst over the ship. It was as if the sea demons who arrange shipwrecks had realized, too late, the damage our discovery had done them and had come shrieking to drive us from one of their most promising preserves.

Evidently there was no more to be done that day, anyway, and we went back to our anchorage off Santa Maria Island until this final outburst of hate should pass by.


Convalescence of sea and sky proceeded regularly, and on the morning of the third day the surface of the Boca Chica was nearly smooth, and was glistening in bright sunlight. In a completely cheerful frame of mind we weighed anchor, and set forth to see the end of our labors. We now know precisely where the Hall Rock was, isolated at a mile and a half out from the land, and could take a boat directly to it, though its top was completely invisible from the surface. What remained to do was to find out by sounding on it how far below the surface lay this top of the rock, and also by lead and line to discover the contours of its sides from the floor of the sea up to its deadly summit.

It turned out that on a smooth day there was only twenty-four feet of wafer over the rock at low water, and in the trough of any swell this would be reduced by several feet — a serious danger to a steamer of ordinary draft. Its top was very small, only about thirty feet across, and its sides were so precipitous that the sounding lead could find a resting place nowhere, but slipped and tumbled for a hundred feet down them to the base of the pinnacle at the sea bottom. It was thus easy for a big ship to pass in safety close to the rock — so close that (if you had known where it was) you might chuck the proverbial biscuit on to it.

It happened to be my job to make these observations, and before I had quite finished with the rock the sacred hour arrived of noon, when in the Surveying Service, no less than in the General Service of the Navy, comes the dinner hour, and a much-looked-forward-to ‘stand-easy’ from work.

The sun still shone and the sea remained quiet, so I decided to stay where I was during the dinner hour, anchored on top of the rock, and thus be on the spot to finish off directly it was over. The meal had barely begun when, happening to gaze southward where the coast stretched away into the distance, I saw through my glasses a small dot on the horizon which was separating itself out from the dark of the land. Presently the dot emitted a tiny puff of smoke, and resolved itself into a steamer coming northward for Coronel through the Boca Chica.

Now it is the understood duty of all small boats under way to keep clear of all grown-up ships, no matter how their relative positions as ‘vessels at sea’ would be governed by the rule of the road. We were at anchor in our steam cutter, and so, strictly speaking, not under this law; but the officer of the watch on board the oncoming steamer certainly would not realize that a boat could be anchored over a mile out from the land in deep water, and would suppose that she must be under way and therefore obliged to keep clear of his ship. In spite of this I decided to remain where I was, for the very important reason that I was acting as a mark buoy for the Hall Rock, and I could signal this fact to the steamer when she was near enough. It seemed incredible, in any case, that she would deliberately run me down if I did not get out of the way.

Such, however, was what the officer of the watch appeared determined to do.

As the ship drew nearer we could see that she was a fairly large passenger steamer — evidently one on the regular coastwise trade. She came along heading straight for my boat. We could see that the perpendicular line of her stem exactly bisected the space between the port and starboard slopes of her bows, and that her foremast and mainmast were precisely in line with one another. The officer of the watch in the steamer, though he must have seen as easily as we did that the boat lay exactly ahead of him, evidently had no intention, on that account, to deviate from the course the captain had given him to steer before he went down to lunch in the saloon.

We blew shrill blasts on our little steam whistle; we sent up black columns of smoke from the funnel; and the boat’s crew stood up along the sides of the boat and waved signal flags. It was all of no use. On came the black bows still heading directly at us — a figure of swift-approaching doom, irresistible, unavoidable.

Murmuring soft nothings (at least they shall be nothings on this prim page), I gave a reluctant order to ‘up anchor.’

The small chain by which the boat was anchored was quickly shortened in, but when it came ‘up and down’ it was discovered that the anchor had got jammed in a cleft of the rock below, and could not be moved. We steamed against it, heading this way and that, veering and then shortening it, trying to coax the anchor from its hold, but it remained firmly stuck in the rock.

And still the big black mass of the steamer came heading straight for us, now dangerously close. There was nothing now to be done but to veer out the whole of the chain and cut the rope seizings by which its end was held in the chain locker, for we had no tools with which to cut through the chain itself.

I have never known a closer thing.

Exactly as the inboard end of the chain flipped out over the bows, the steamer began to pass over the spot where, a few instants before, we in the boat had been tugging at the recalcitrant anchor. Our engines were going full speed astern at that moment, so that we just missed being run down — but only just!

In the very bow wash of the steamer, I hailed up to the officer of the watch, staring stupidly at us, ‘ You are going over the Hall Rock!‘

At that a white-faced man, the captain, suddenly up from his lunch, pushed the officer of the watch out of the way, and, looking downward from the bridge, must have seen beneath him the ugly dark patch in the water which indicated the position of the Rock. ‘Hard-a-starboard! ’ he roared. Over went the helm, but it was too late.

From the boat we could hear no sound, but we saw the after-part of the ship give a lift, and her stern an ominous wriggle as the bottom plating grated on the rock, but she passed over it into the deep water beyond.

It is a shocking thing to admit, but to all of us in the boat, this was a really pleasurable sight.

Of course the steamer was leaking badly in her afterhold when she got into Coronel two or three hours later, for three-eighths-inch steel plating will not stand that sort of graze at twelve knots over a rock surface. It was lucky for her that it was no more than a graze, and also that she could get temporary repairs done at Coronel before docking at Valparaiso, a day’s run to the northward .

Let us hope that she will be the last ship to touch on the Hall Rock, for its position is now securely charted, and traffic which, in ignorance, must, often have shaved it by a few yards now passes at a respectful distance. To the old hands of the coastal trade the anxiety it ever caused has now become no more than a bad dream; to the new hands its name on the chart is but the headline of a set of tales of ancient disaster, which have become as unbelievable as those that are told of Scylla and Charybdis.