Account of the Wreck of the Henry James

Dublin Core


Account of the Wreck of the Henry James


This brief account of the wreck of the Henry James, offers unique descriptions of what survivors found while staying on Palmyra, awaiting rescue. It mentions pre-existing huts and inscriptions on trees, as well as leeches, a first to be heard of in our research.



Gentleman's Magazine




Public Domain





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An iron British barque, the Henry James, proceeding from Australia to California, struck on a coral reef near Palmyra Island, and became a wreck. Her crew and passengers sought safety on this lonely place. Fearing that the two ladies and the four little children would perish if help were long delayed, the chief officer, Donald Macdonald, volunteered, with four sailors, to set out for Samoa in an open boat in order to obtain assistance. On Palmyra Island there were found the ruins of six huts, evidently due to the labours of previous castaways; cocoanuts, eels, birds, eggs, land-crabs, and pepper-grass were plentiful, and sufficient water was found to satisfy the demand. Illegible inscriptions were noticed, cut deep into some of the trees, but defaced by the relentless hand of time. With the exception of leeches, which proved painfully ravenous after rain, and dysentery, all went well on the island until the American steamship Mariposa came and rescued the castaways, in compliance with the request of the dauntless volunteers who had reached their objective point after a terrible trip of thirteen hundred miles, which occupied nineteen days. One volunteer had sucked his own blood to quench a maddening thirst, others had eaten their boots and the telescope cover, and all five had to be carried ashore on arrival at Samoa owing to extreme weakness.

Original Format



“Account of the Wreck of the Henry James,” Palmyra Archive, accessed August 11, 2020,