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1-138 (Original)

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author,male,Broadside,un addressee
Newspaper Article
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Public Written
Newspapers & Broadsides
Ingleton, 1988
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SYDNEY, Saturday, May 21, 1814
We have unfortunately to report the total destruction of the Ship, Three Bees, Captain Wallace, whose private loss we are confidently assured is very considerable indeed.
About half past four yesterday afternoon the ship was discovered to be on fire in the after hold, immediately contiguous to the powder magazine. It has since been recollected that a boy had in the fore part of the day attended an officer on duty in the hold with a candle and lanthern; and it is concluded that a candle snuff had then fallen unextinguished among some oakum, or other strongly susceptive substance, which communicating and extending the fire in a more latent way for some hours, at length kindled into a flame, and burst forth with an impetuosity calculated at once to astonish and confound.
The proximity of the magazine to the place from whence the flames aspired was in itself a circumstance so dreadful as not to leave a moment to decide. To get down to scuttle her was utterly impossible, on account of the suffocating columns of smoke that from her hatches darkened the surrounding atmosphere.
Such was the rapidity of the flame, that in a few minutes they ascended with the smoke above the deck, and in large curls mingled with its vapour, by which the vivid flame was frequently conducted to her mast head, and soon set fire to her standing rigging. As no possibility to save the ship or any of her property existed, and the explosion of her magazine was expected every instant, the crew forsook her.
Her anchorage, close to the Government Wharf, menacing the destruction of the nearest buildings when she blew up, as it was currently reported, she had 130 casks of powder on board (though it since appears there were but 30), and as the wind was from the southward, and it was probable she would drift outwards if disengaged from her moorings, she was cut adrift, and as she swung to and fro with the tide, menacing each point of the Cove with her broadside in turn, with her guns all shotted.
Being past all assistance, the ships and vessels at anchor shifted their births to safer situations. The brig, James Haye was for some time an object of apprehension from the position assumed by the ship on fire when first adrift. This was a tremendous crisis, a crisis of extreme agitation to the inhabitants of the town, and to those especially whose houses and other property were from the approximation of the danger, the more exposed. At this crisis, little short of the total Destruction of the Town of Sydney Was expected every moment to take place by the Explosion of the Magazine. The alarm was so great that numbers of the inhabitants deserted their houses, and fled into the country to avoid being buried in its ruins.
A ship of nearly five hundred tons burden, cast loose, it may almost be said in the middle of the town, unmanageable, and pouring forth columns of smoke and fire, threatening desolation all around her, with her guns all loaded, first pointed upon one object, and then upon another, and every instant expected, by her explosion, to throw down or cover with the dreadful blast all the buildings around or near her!
About half-past six, when lying off the north east corner of the new Government Store, her first gun exploded in a direction, over Mr. Blaxcell's, or the new Guard-house. Fourteen went off in all; and tho' there were several hair-breadth escapes, yet we are happy to find no personal injury has occurred. A swivel ball, which had possibly made part of a charge of grape, as there were no swivels mounted, entered Captain Piper's parlour window, through the lower sash, which it knocked to pieces, together with the inside shutter; took the corner completely off a portable writing desk, and fell expended in the apartment.
By half-past seven, she had drifted over to the rocks on Bennelong's Point opposite Mr. Hook's stores, and about a quarter before eight the long dreaded explosion of her magazine took place, but not by any means so awful as had been expected; for by this time the whole of her upper works, her decks, and every substance that would have otherwise have resisted the force had been annihilated; and it is more than probable that she might have admitted a quantity of water, which finding its way to the powder, had destroyed a great part of it.
After this a number of boats approached her, and several persons went alongside, to gratify a nearer approach a curiosity which a more distant view of the awful spectacle had excited. They found the copper of her sides standing, but the planks, and timbers mostly consumed, and they heard frequently the crash of weighty substances falling into the pile of ashes, smoke, and ruins that filled the small remainder of her hull, which burnt all night, and presented to the distant eye a spectacle exciting awe, and sensible regret in the mind of everyone who witnessed the dreadful spectacle, and was capable of reflecting on its consequences to those, who are the sufferers by her loss.