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Monday, June 23, 2014

Murder off Norfolk Island

Another seaman's grave -- and another one with a story

Captain Gifford, of the American whaling ship Hope, has furnished the particulars of a fearful assault which was perpetrated onboard his vessel whilst at sea, and which resulted in the death of both the victim and his murderer.
On the 7th [August], at 9 p.m., whilst in latitude 24.7 south and longitude 168.36 east, Captain Gifford heard the alarm of a man being overboard, and, going on deck, he was informed by the man on watch that a lad named F. A. Warren, 18 years of age, and nephew to the captain, had been stabbed whilst lying in his berth.

On going down below, he found the un-fortunate lad in a state of unconsciousness, with a fearful wound completely through from the back to the left breast. A boat had been lowered in the meantime for the purpose of rescuing the man who was in the water; but he appeared to avoid them. They were compelled to return to the vessel; when doing so, the man  called out for help, and they again returned to his assistance; before they could reach  him, however, he sunk, having been seized, as it is supposed, by a shark.

The unfortunate lad lingered for four days, when he died. From his statement it appears that he was stabbed by the man who was drowned and whose name was N. Dourant, by birth a Greek. He was observed to rush from the forecastle, and is supposed to have jumped overboard to avoid the consequences attending the perpetration of the horrible deed. The young lad was greatly respected by all on board, and bore the character of being a quiet inoffensive person
Courier, Brisbane, September 19, 1861

There is a postcript to the sad tale.  Perhaps you can see the words "Alas, my brother" at the bottom of the stone. The fourth mate of the ship Hope was Samuel Warren, Frank's older brother. Evidently it was he who arranged for the stone to be carved and erected.

Evocatively, too, Captain Leonard Gifford's wife, Lucy Ann, was on board. She had experienced tragedy of her own -- two babies had been born to her, over the first three years of the voyage, and both had died. At the same time that Frank was being buried on Norfolk Island, she was on shore, bearing a third, a little girl by the name of Ella. This time, the baby survived, as did a fourth child, a boy who was born on Guam, early in 1863.

Returning to Norfolk Island, Leonard put Lucy Ann, little Ella, and the baby boy on shore for a rest while he sailed to Sydney to provision the ship for the voyage home.  He expected to pick her up before Christmas, 1863. Instead, the ship was wrecked off the north of Australia.  It was October. No man was lost.  Instead, the captain and crew sailed in the ship's boats to Brisbane.  Leonard did not manage to pick up his family until September 1864, when he arrived at Norfolk Island in the leaky old Addison.  Lucy Ann, very understandably, refused to board such an unsafe vessel, and so they went home on the Desdemona, instead.

Understandably, too, she never went to sea again.  

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