Of Captain Browning, late Master of the Cale-
donia schooner, who was taken from Moreton Bay by pirates, on the 16th of December, 1831.
Our readers may perhaps recollect, that in the month of December last, a schooner called the Caledonia, belonging to Messrs, Mackay and Folkard of Sydney, was taken possession of by a large party of con- victs, at Moreton Bay, and carried off to sea. Mr. Mackay, and the crew of the Caledonia were allowed to go ashore ; but the master, a young man named Browning, was compelled by the prisoners to remain on board for the purpose of navigating the vessel. A considerable time having ex- pired without any tidings of the Caledonia having reached Sydney, it was conjectured
that the Captain had been sacrificed by
the miscreants, on their arrival at some of the numerous islands of the Southern
Seas. However, on Monday last, an American whaler, the Milo, came into port, having on board the long lost Cap- tain Browning; by whom, we have been kindly favored with the following par-
On getting out to sea, the pirates informed Mr. Browning, that he must take the command of the Caledonia and steer for some of the Islands, where English whalers were in the habit of calling,-for the purpose, as they said, of stowing away in some of those vessels, and thereby reaching England in safety. Mr. B. at first was very reluctant to obey their orders, telling them that he did not under- stand the mananagement of a vessel. They swore they would compel him, as they knew he was Captain of the Caledonia. Perceiving no alternative, he at last acquiesced in all their proceedings with a policy and presence of mind, rarely met with in persons placed in such a situation. Captain Browning invariably seemed to applaud their conduct, and listen to their complaints,-saying, that it was a pity for fine young fellows like them to be lagged from their native country, and how natural it was for all men to flee from bondage, and such like expressions; and by this stratagem, gained their confidence, and averted his own destruction.
During the passage the pirates quarrelled, and
several of them were murdered in a most dia- bolical manner. On leaving Moreton Bay,
they were eleven in number, six of whom entered into a conspiracy, to destroy the other five._One man was with difficulty despatched. The villains deliberately fired at him when off his guard, but only wounded him in the hand, and slightly grazed his head. Mr. B. states his cries for mercy were most pitiful ; his supplications were unheeded, and they chased him about the deck with weapons, and endeavoured to make him jump overboard. At last he made a leap, and catching hold of one of the ropes of the vessel, he was suspended between life and death, when the savages cut away the rope and the poor wretch met his fate! Another of their number was put ashore at New Ca- ledonia, where from the known ferocity of the natives, there is little doubt of his having met with a dreadful death, at the hands of these cannibals. The destruction of their comrades, is attributed by Captain B. to old disputes that existed amongst them while at Moreton Bay. Shortly after this murderous epoch, they encountered a dreadful storm which shook their courage, and proved that the monsters were at heart, a most despicable set of cowards ; and the courage displayed by Captain B. on the occasion, tended to raise him in their respect ; some of the fellows went on their knees begging of him to do his best in conducting the vessel in safety to some island. He told them he was certain they would "all go to the devil toge- ther," their crimes were of so aggravated a na- ture. After this he heard them distinctly plan- ning his death, which was to be accomplished as soon as they arrived at their desired haven. The. vessel was to be scuttled with the Captain on board. They observed that Mr. Browning was a good fellow, but he must be sacrificed for their safety. This scheme was concerted at a time when the Captain was supposed to be asleep. The island where this tragedy was to have been performed, was passed by Mr. Browning during the night, and he ran the Caledonia into one of the Navigator's Is- lands, near the Fejees. Here the Captain was on the "look out" for his life, which was saved, in consequence of the natives boarding the boats in an unexpected manner, and seizing the whole
On their arrival at Savi, (by some called Otee- why), the prisoners commenced their work of destruction, by destroying the Caledonia with crow bars and other instruments, notwithstanding the earnest entreaties of Captain Browning, who re- quested them to spare the vessel ; but his efforts to save her proving ineffectual, the Caledonia speedily sank in deep water off the above Island. On coming on shore, the Captain was peculiarly fortunate in gaining the protection and esteem of one of the Chiefs. The pirates represented them- selves as shipwrecked seamen, and the Captain as a missionary, accordingly the whole of them were treated with kindness by the natives.
During Captain Browning's stay at this friendly island, he witnessed and joined in most of their customs. Sometimes he amused himself in shoot- ing pigs, attended with the Chief; at other times he visited their place of worship, which was conducted with the greatest decorum, and assisted the Chief in officiating to his numerous audience. He used occasionally to give them a tune on a violin which he contrived to save from the Caledonia, and en- deavoured to teach them to dance like Europeans, at which they were extremely delighted. One of their customs was very repulsive to Mr. B.; this was the process of making a drink which they called Kava. This liquor was made from some root, which, after having been cut up, was chewed by unmarried females, and then mixed with a liquid, which completed the dish. The Captain with difficulty persuaded them that he could not drink it, and was under the necessity of pretending illness when it was offered to him. Mr. B. repre- sents the natives of this island as a fine race of people, of a copper colour, and they were nearly in a state of nudity. The Captain also states that these Islanders are remarkable for their humanity and kindness towards Europeans.
After residing with them for some time, the Oldham, an English whaler, commanded by Capt. Johnson, touched at the Island. Mr. Browning contrived to get on board the vessel, and represent his case to the officers, who received him in a most hospitable manner. In a short time he succeeded in capturing one of the pirates, named Evans, and had him conveyed on board the Oldham in irons. The rest of the prisoners made their escape to the natives, who would not allow them to be taken. On the passage up Evans escaped from the Old- ham by jumping overboard, in a heavy sea, with the tide running in a most rapid manner ; he was
heard to express the determination of destroying himself rather than be brought alive to Sydney ; but from the violence of the sea at the period al- luded to, the wretched man must have met a watery grave. Captain B. had considerable diffi- culty in leaving the hospitable residence of the friendly Chieftain ; who, with tears in his eyes, endeavoured to pursuade him to stop with them. But on Mr. B. faithfully promising to return again in a few moons, he was allowed to embark on board the Oldham, his faithful friend the Chief supplying him with pigs and other articles of sub- sistence for the voyage. The Oldham shortly after fell in with the Milo, bound to Sydney, and Cap- tain Browning embraced the opportunity of re- turning home. While on board the Milo, Mr. B. was attacked with a severe fit of illness; and which, but for the great kindness of Captain West, would probably have proved fatal. He has, how- ever, arrived in Sydney in good health and spirits, to the great surprise and happiness of an exten-
sive circle of friends.