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2 corrections, most recently by doug.butler - Show corrections



With a view of obtaining an accurate ac count of some of the remarkable performances of the late Pilot Germein one of onr reporters waited on Mr, H. D. Melville, who was closely associated with marine matters in the early days, and who was for 16 years harbormaster at Robe and receiver of wrecks for the south east. Mr. Melville has been one of the old marine officers of the Civil Service and possesses a remarkable fund of information con cerning early marinediBasters of the colony. He is now living in retirement at Glenelg, and on

interesting chat with him concerning the great event in the career of Pilot Germein, namely, the rescue of portion of the crew and pas sengers of the wrecked vessel Admella. Mt7 Melville was an intimate acquaintance of the deceased pilot and consequently speaks with authority aa to his capabilities and bravery. Said Mr. Melville : — 'I nave had an experience which dates back 54 years, and during that period it has been my lot to encounter many ours and scamps, and also my good fortune to come in contact with a number of true and brave men. I have very pleasant recollections of my many asso ciations with poor Ben Germein, and he always .proved himself to be a man of in domitable pluck and true human instinct, the successful qualifications for a mariner. ' I oould Tecount numberless incidents in his career which are worthy of everybody's com mendation, but to be brief I will relate one episode of his life which gained for him world-wide fame and praise. I refer to the wreck of the Admella, 20 miles north of the Cape Northumberland light, in August, 1859. Ben Germein was lightkeeper at the time and was the tiret to receive an intima tion of the wreck, the news being brought to him by two of the wrecked men, named Leitch and Knapman, who drifted ashore on a raft. Germein at once proceeded to the nearest telegraph-station and the colony was ap prised of the disaster. There was intense ex citement in Adelaide in consequence, as on board the wrecked vessel were some very in fluential people, including two sons of Sir James Hurtle Fisher, an uncle of Dr. Magarey, and many others. Assistance having been telegraphed for in the shape of steamers, I was instructed by the President of the Marine Board to proceed to tbe scene of the wreck and take charge of the shore party. Here I found Ben Germein. He organised a crew to man the pilot-boat, which had been washed ashore from the wreck, and attempted to reach the third reef, where the Admella had met her fate, bnt the immense sea which was run- ning was too strong for the boat, and the occupants, Ben Germein included as coxswain, narrowly escaped with their lives. 'To board tho wreck from the shore

seemed an impossibility, as two huge reefs intervened between the shore and the vessel, which was a mile out. The only craft which was at their disposal was the Admella's lifeboat, which had been washed ashore, the sides of which had been stove in. The steamers Penola and Corio had arrived, but could do nothing. It could be seen that the number on board the Admella was gradually decreasing, bodies being washed overboard by the seas which broke on board. On tbe fourth day of the wreck tbe lifeboat was patched up, and under Ben Germein I organised another crew to man her. Despite the previous disaster which happened to the boat the men willingly risked their lives, so confident were they in the powers of Germein. The boat again set ont to the wreck. It was a sight I'll never forget. When a little way out a huge sea struck the lifeboat and tossed it in the air as you would a nutshell. The crew were thrown into the violent surf and were with difficulty rescued from their perilous position; not, however, without having sustained injuries. Thus it was seen that another attempt to reach the wreck meant a sacrifice of life, but Germein's heart did not fail him as subsequent events show. The Portland steamer Ladybird with a lifeboat and crew then arrived, but owing to the heavy sea the attempt to board proved un 'Fate seemed against the shipwrecked people, who were on the reef for eight days ; but on the morning of the eighth day Germein's pluck again led him to ' do or die.' Despite his previous experiences he again re solved to get a crew together and attempt to rescue those in peril, as the Ladybird and lifeboat had gone ont of sight. He left the beach with his gallant crew after coming to an understanding that if the Ladybird hove in sight he would let

them try to ettect a rescue, as the water was now calmer than before. After a hard struggle with the sea Germein and his crew accomplished what they had so nobly striven to perform. They reached the wreck and took on board their craft Captain McEwen, two drovers, and a German pedlar who bad become a raving lunatic. As the Ladybird's lifeboat now came on the scene and rescued the other 19 perrons who were on board Germein's boat was directed towards the shore, which was not reached without a fatal mishap. When in the surf near the beach the boat was again cap sized and all the occupants were thrown into the water. The German pedlar was drowned in the backwash, but all the others were eaved. I certainly think there was not a better boatman in the colony than Pilot Ger- mein. He was a man who did not know what fear was, and he would never hesitate at any time to risk Ins life in order to save others. I do not think that Germein got the acknow- ledgment for his deed that he deserved, but it is not for me to say why.' Mr. Melville, at the request of the then Governor, Sir Richard McDonnell, prepared a plan of the lines of reef upon which the Admella went to pieces, copies of which are etill extant.