J. Hardie and Companys four-masted steel bark Pyrennes
of Glasgow, Scotland, 2,234 tons, with Captain Robert Bryce
in command arrives at Pitcairn Island. The ship, a fire burning
in her hold, stands in toward the Island. The date was December
Pitcairns President James Russell McCoy, recounts the
frightening condition of the ship:
The ships cargo was discovered to be on fire 15
days previous to her arrival at Pitcairn. The captains
intention was to run the ship onto a beach at Pitcairn if possible
in order to save the crew. Since Pitcairn has no beaches, and
because there were strong, contrary winds and heavy seas onshore
I was not able to carry out the captains plans. I advised
that the ship be taken to Mangareva, Gambier Islands, and beached
At first the ships crew refused to go along with
my plan, knowing of the great risk, and that the fie might break
through the deck at any moment. But when the captain asked if
I would pilot the ship to Mangareva I gave my consent. When
the crew saw that I would risking my life for their sake they
decided they were willing to come along.
It was after dark when I landed back on Pitcairn in the
longboat from the ship. A public meeting was called at the school
room, and I told my people of my intention to pilot the ship
to Mangareva if they would consent to my leaving. I told them
it might be a few weeks or perhaps for a few months before I
could find a ship to bring me home. After an hours talking
and advising the people, and reminding them of the time when
they had shipwrecked men on the island and of the trouble made
by them at that time, I asked that all who were willing for
me to leave the island for humanitys sake should raise
their right hand. The majority wee in favor of my going.
I told the people I was not taking my life into my own
hands as some might suppose; neither did I consider the strong
fire that would be burning underneath me every day and night
as we voyaged, because I knew that the strong everlasting
arms would be underneath me. Jesus left His fathers
throne in His bright home above for humanitys sake, why
There was no sleep in Pitcairn that night. While I was
attending to family affairs, the women were cooking food for
the distressed ships company, the men were gathering potatoes,
fowls, bananas, pumpkins, etc., and at 6 a.m., I bad farewell
to home and people. We sailed with a strong and fair wind for
Mangareva, a distance of some 300 miles.
On Sunday morning, after 28 hours at sea, we could not
get the chains from the hold of the burning ship to anchor her,
so we ran her onto the beach under Mangarevas Mt. Duff
and saved ourselves, our personal effects and a few stores.
Two days later the fire broke out from the hold of the ship
and she was suddenly all in flames, and continued to be so until
her cargo of wheat and barley had burned up.
Taken in by the Mangarevans after his dramatic arrival, McCoy
would later write that he was seeking passage back to his Pitcairn
home: If I cannot get a vessel here or in Tahiti to take
me back to Pitcairn, I will have go to San Francisco and take
a merchant ship, as I did once before, and risk making a long
voyage before being on my way home again.
Still later, the world-famous novelist Jack London would chance
upon McCoys exploit and write a novelization of it in
The Seed of McCoy,. one of a group of stories in
his book South Sea Tales.
The Pyrennes was salvaged in 1905 by Captains J. E.
Thayer and Porter, renamed the Manga Reva and returned
to sea service under charter to the Sugar Factors Company of
On October 4, 1914, while sailing for the Californian Atlantic
Steamship Company, with Captain T. E. Willett as master, the
ship calls again at Pitcairn Island, from San Francisco bound
for Falmouth, England. Captain Willett is in command in place
of H. C. Townsend, the ships regular captain who was in
Philadelphia for the trial of his crew which had mutined in
the autumn of 1913. The ship had gone to sea from the Delaware
River on October 12, 1913. On October 25 the crew mutinied,
and ordered Captain Townsend to navigate the ship to Bermuda.
When he refused, they permitted him to return the ship back
to the Delaware breakwater. At trial the seven ringleaders of
the mutiny received prison terms of up to three and a half years
for leading the mutiny.
In 1917 the Manga Reva was reported missing on a passage
from London to Hampton Roads, Virginia. The U.S. government
declared that the ship had been sunk by a German submarine.