A survivor’s account of the Pandora wreck


“About Sun rise, the Armourers’ Mate Joseph Hodges, was sent down to knock the  Irons off Skinner,  Muspratt & Byrn,  who were ordered up,  but Skinner being  in too much hurry,  got up with his hand-cuffs on,  and as soon  as  they  were up,  the Scuttle  was  barr’d,  leaving  the Armourers Mate below, who in the mean time knocked off my Irons & Stewarts  & we begg’d of the Master at Arms to open the  Scuttle, to  which he answered “never fear my Boys,  we’ll all go to  hell together”.  The words were hardly out of his Lips before the Ship took  a Sally,  and he and the Corporal rolled overboard;  at the same instant I saw Capt Edwards,  thro’ the Stern Ports; swimming to  the Pinnace, and the Boats shoving off as fast as  possible.  

 Burkitt  & Hillbrant were yet hand-cuff’d,  the others  had  been broke the Night before; the water flowing in on us, when the hand of God directed the Boatswains Mate (Molter) to the Place, he was scrambling  upon the Box & heard our Cries,  had the presence  ofmind  to haul out the Bolt,and take the Grating off,  which he dove overboard  and  followed himself,  upon  which  all  except Hillbrant,  got  out,  tho’ with much difficulty;  and for my own part, I had as much as I could do to get clear of the Driver Boom before she sunk.

 I was to the best of my recollection, about an hour and an half in the water, when I was taken up by Mr. Bowling in the blue Yawl & soon after landed on a small sandy Key, about 2 1/2 or 3 miles from the Wreck.”

This account is taken from James Morrison’s narrative which he recorded as his report while waiting for his trial in

Reynolds’ pen & ink sketch (c. 1792) of a shipmate in the water  (Private Collection)

Portsmouth in 1792. It mentions the names of other prisoners and recounts what happened in and around ‘the Box’ during the last hours the Pandora was afloat.

An ms-version of this account is kept in the Mitchell Library (State Library New South Wales)  as Morrison’s “Report” to Reverend  Howell   (Mitchell Library MS Safe 1/33)


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