Melancholy Event

Following on from the post concerning the seizure of the Schooner Active by Native New Zealanders, the demise of aforementioned Captain Henry Wishart three years later was recorded in the Hobart Colonial Times of 20 August 1839.


The whaling ship, Wallaby, belonging to this port, and commanded by Captain Henry Wishart, arrived yesterday from Sealer’s Cove, Wilson’s Promontory, having fished within a few tons of a full cargo, towards which, Mr. Wishart contributed nearly one half, by killing eleven whales, – but with the melancholy intelligence of her Captain being on board, a corpse! The particulars of this lamentable event have been related to us by Mr. Bailey, the chief officer, and are as follows: –

On the 7th inst., a whale was observed, at a short distance from the ship: Captain Wishart, giving orders to get the vessel ready to return to Hobart Town, took his boat and crew, and followed the whale. He speedily came up, and made fast to her; when, after dragging the boat for about fifteen minutes, she suddenly stopped, and before the boat’s way could be checked, it was alongside the fish, which, by a sudden plunge, upset the boat, and cast all hands into the sea. Two of the men could not swim: one sank instantly, without an effort; the other, Capt. Wishart, observed to be struggling, and swimming towards an oar, brought it to the poor fellow, and supporting him thereon, conveyed him to the boat. Captain W. then procured a line, the end of which he placed in the hands of the sailor, and by this kind and careful precaution, the man was saved! Captain W., who was an excellent swimmer, now made for the land, and soon overtook the other three men, who were also good swimmers, but melancholy to relate, when about fifty yards from the shore, our poor friend cried out, that he was “gone,” – prayed earnestly for Mercy and for Grace, – and almost instantly disappeared! The boats, as soon after as possible, put off, and the body was found near the spot where he sank, at about a depth of 14 feet.

The Chief Officer, who has sailed with Captain Wishart for many years, placed his body in a tight-made case, filled with spirits, and delivered him yesterday to his mourning relatives, who have the melancholy pleasure of being able to give him Christian burial in consecrated ground, with the additional pleasing reflection, that, besides being universally respected, his last act in life, was one of extraordinary fortitude and Christain benevolence. His body has been submitted to medical inspection, and it has been discovered to have two wounds made by a shark, one about the middle of the right thigh, and the other, rather above the calf of the left leg, which had evidently been inflicted during life, and which he, no doubt, received while making for land, and which occasioned his death.