Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Destruction of the U.S.S. Fenimore Cooper in Japan

Just before the American Steamship U.S.S. Powhatan departed for the Hawaiian Islands and the west coast of the United States in early 1860 it had on board a contingent of sailors formerly of the U.S.S. Fenimore Cooper. This ship was destroyed in a typhoon.

The Fenimore Cooper had previously been in Honolulu. As reported in the March 5, 1859 edition (second page) of the Polynesian:

“To-day the Fenimore Cooper leaves, in prosecution of her surveying cruise to the westward, as far as Japan and adjacent seas. We wish her a hearty “God speed,” now and ever, for we look upon her, and her likes –no matter what colors they may fly- as the Noah’s doves of peace, commerce and civilization. We shall anxiously look for the report of Lieutenant Commanding Brooke, believing that no gentleman, short of Lieutenant Maury himself, can do better justice to so vast a subject and so important a mission as the surveying and sounding of the North Pacific Ocean, over the traveled, ordinary routes to Manila, China and Japan. Lieut. Brooke has been singularly fortunate in obtaining so talented and gentlemanly a draughtsman as Mr. Kern.”

The January 21, 1860 edition in the Foreign News section on Page 2 is the following, which I posted earlier this year:

By the arrival of the Russian steamers Rynda and Novick we received San Francisco dates to Jan. 1, and by the bark Yankee, Capt. Lovett, we have European and American papers in advance of the regular mail. Dates from New York are to Dec. 5, Europe Nov. 20, San Francisco Jan. 3:

MORE OF THE “FENIMORE COOPER.” –About the 1st of October a violent hurricane occurred at Yeddo Bay, during which the U.S. surveying schooner Fenimore Cooper was driven on the beach, and was afterwards condemned and sold; no lives were lost, and Captain Brooke saved all his valuable instruments and surveys. The Japanese Government showed great kindness to the shipwrecked crew, sending men to save everything possible, and the officers say that not a single dollar’s worth was stolen. They were provided with good quarters, and furnished with provisions, servants and money. Most of the crew were afterwards taken on board the Powhatan, after her arrival from China. The officers and the balance of the crew would leave for the United States on the above vessel on the 22d February next.

The same column also announced the route of the Japanese Embassy for the United States from letters sent by Townsend Harris, American Minister at Yeddo.

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