Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas
CHAPTER VII AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
Australia Saved by a Boy
A DAY or two before reaching Australia we passed through a dangerous bit of sea, called the Coral Sea, where, although we were a long way out of sight of land, there were solitary rocks and reefs just level with the top of the water and quite invisible at night except for the waves breaking on them.
It was on one of these reefs, about twenty-four miles from land, that Captain Cook got wrecked in his ship the Endeavour in 1778.
She was sailing gaily along when she suddenly ran on to a hidden rock and there stuck fast, rolling and grinding with a rather lumpy sea.
Sails were promptly hauled in, and some heavy but not necessary cargo was got up and thrown overboard in order to lighten her. But still she stuck there, and gradually the rocks began to prise planks off her bottom.
She had, of course, a double skin, so that for a time it was only the outer hull that was thus badly holed; still, the inner skin was also pierced, and the water rose to a considerable depth in her hold in spite of three pumps that were set going to throw it, out again.
Six of her guns had to be dropped into the sea, and many other valuable things, till at last with an exceptionally high tide she was floated off the rock.
But everybody was afraid that she would then sink, as she was far from the land. The men were completely worn out with pumping. They could not keep at it for more than five or six minutes at a time; also she had not enough boats to take more than half the crew, so it was with most anxious and almost hopeless hearts that they made sail in their water-logged ship for the distant shore.
But one young midshipman, who was evidently a Boy Scout at heart, remembered having been told of a way of stopping a leak which he then and there suggested to the captain.
This was to pass a sail over the bow and lower it with ropes over each side so that it could be hauled along under the bottom of the ship till it came over the hole.
Here the suction of the water sucked it hard against the ship’s side and so stopped the water rushing in.
The experiment was a complete success, and thanks to this boy having Been Prepared for such an accident, and having kept his head in spite of the danger, at the same time knowing what to do, this ship was saved.
Indeed, Australia was saved to the British nation, because, although Australia had been discovered long before by Spanish and Dutch explorers, Captain Cook was the first to examine it seriously and to annex it in the name of his country. Had he not done it on this occasion, other nations would probably have stepped in and taken it.
How Australia Grew
Before Captain Cook’s visit, another great English sea rover had explored over a thousand miles of Australian coast in 1688, and that was Captain William Dampier; and he carne to it again some ten years later in H.M.S. Roebuck.