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Tyne and Wear HER(14036): Tynemouth, Black Middens, Cactus - Details

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N Tyneside

Tynemouth, Black Middens, Cactus



Maritime Craft

Sailing Vessel


Early Modern



1883 wreck of an English brig which stranded on the Black Middens, after grounding on the Bar, whilst trying to seek shelter from a gale in the Tyne. En route from Blyth to Gravesend with a cargo of coal, she was a wooden sailing vessel. 7th February 1883. Brig CACTUS wrecked on Black Middens. Captain Baxter and crew rescued by the lifeboat TOM PERRY. (1) The following may refer to the CACTUS, although the date is one day earlier: ...the gale of 6th-10th February put both North and South Shields Brigades, and Lifeboatmen, back on watch, bringing with it casualties on both sides of the harbour. The first casualty was on the 6th February, wrecked on the Black Midden rocks... (2) Here is the report from the Shields Gazette, Wednesday 7th February, 1883:- "Yesterday a strong breeze blew from the southward, and the sea became very rough. Toward nightfall the wind backed to eastward, which increased the sea and caused a considerable extent of white water on the Black Middens. A little after 9pm, the firing of the Spanish Battery guns announced that a vessel had come to grief at the north side of the harbour...The vessel was on the Middens, the tide was exceptionally low, and a long journey across the slippery rocks and seaweed was necessary before anything could be done...It was seen that it was useless to attempt to launch the Battery lifeboat, owing to the state of the tide...The vessel was seen to be a brig, stuck fast, with all sails set. She lay with her stern seawards, and the waves were breaking clean over her. A rocket was fired and it fell apparently a little seaward, and another was sent off, and it dropped apparently right 'twixt the fore and mainmasts. There was, however, no response, and the Brigadesmen waited patiently for some time, considerable shouting being heard. Meanwhile, in the neighbourhood of the wreck, tugs, by their lights, could be seen going round the vessel, but it was too dark to make out whether a lifeboat was at hand. The Brigade burned a blue light to try to discover whether anyone was on board, but without result. There was still no response...and the Brigade party withdrew to the Brigade station. Just as they got there, a message from North Shields came, and informed the coastguard that the lifeboats had been out, but had failed to rescue the crew from the vessel, and that they were in peril...another rocket was fired over the vessel. There was again no response, and after a long wait, it was concluded that the men had been taken off by one of the South Shields lifeboats... "The vessel proved to be the brig CACTUS of Whitby. She was coal-laden, and running for shelter in the Tyne, when she was disabled on the Bar." (3) "North Shields A Brig on the Black Middens : During Tuesday a gale from the southwest prevailed off the Tyne, and towards night it veered round to the southeast, with a strong sea running. About half-past nine o'clock the brigg CACTUS of Whitby, Capt. Baxter, coal laden from Blyth for Gravesend, in running for shelter to the Tyne struck the bar, and becoming disabled, drove on the Black Middens below the Spanish Battery, Tynemouth. Alarms guns were fired and the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade and the North and South Shields lifeboats were quickly ready for action. In a few minutes the brigade fired a rocket which went straight through the body of the mainsail, where the crew could not get it. The brigade, not being aware of this, continued to fire, and there not being any response fears were entertained that some casualty had occurred to the crew, especially as the North Shields lifeboat had returned without any account of the crew. Considerable anxiety was evinced at Tynemouth, and crowds of persons congregated near the watch-house making earnest inquiries, but at that time no information could be obtained respecting them and in hopes they might still be aboard other rockets were fired, but still there was no response, it being thought that they might be landed




(1) Boswell Whitaker 1979 Preservation of life from shipwreck, volume 1 : Skuetender lifeboat Page(s)124 (2) by Boswell Whitaker 1980 Preservation of life from shipwreck, volume 2 : South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade Page(s)111 (3) by Boswell Whitaker 1980 Preservation of life from shipwreck, volume 3 : Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade Page(s)65-6 (4) Newcastle Courant 09-FEB-1883, No. 10858 Page(s)5 (5) National Monuments Record (1366574)

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