• Updated 2022.5.11 12:33
  • All Articles
  • member icon
  • facebook cursor
  • twitter cursor
Part 2 The Wreck of the BarracoutaA fateful encounter with Jeju in 1863 by the British bark
폰트키우기 폰트줄이기 프린트하기 메일보내기 신고하기
승인 2011.06.11  17:48:05
페이스북 트위터
▲ Korean high official circa 1900. Photo courtesy Robert Neff Collection

[For Part 1, please click here]

In the morning light of July 22, 1863, the survivors of the British bark Barracouta arose after a restless night to survey what was around them – or at least what their Korean saviors and guards would allow them to see. The land about them was completely cultivated, and “cattle and horses were plentiful, and both appeared good strong animals.” The beach was covered with huge abalones in great quantities and, according to Captain Kemp, “there appeared no want of food.”

It wasn’t until mid-morning that the Korean magistrate arrived (as was the case the previous day.) His arrival was heralded with pageantry and brutality: music, flags and a severe castigation on those who had somehow offended him. While the magistrate was brutal to his subordinates, to the Westerner he was cordial but strict.

When the Barracouta sank, nearly everyone had been sleeping, and thus few of them were clothed in anything more than their sleeping gowns. Only 10 minutes had passed between the ship striking the rock and sinking, and no one had time to do anything but save themselves. The crowd of curious Koreans, anxious to glimpse the scantily-dressed women and children, soon drew the ire of the magistrate, who acted as a guardian. However, the captain was suspicious of the magistrate’s behavior and was convinced that he sought to carry off the women for some immoral purpose. All were sheltered as much as possible by the Western crew and, as a further precaution; his eldest daughter was passed off as the first mate’s wife. Fortunately, the captain’s fears were unfounded.

After some pleading by the captain, the magistrate finally agreed to allow some of the crew to go and try and salvage what they could from the sunken ship. They eventually managed to salvage some of the sails, a piece of the mast, ropes, and chains. That evening they also had a further demonstration of the Koreans’ view of theft:

“The people seemed to set much value on the wire, for a girl of about 15 years of age who was detected with some in her possession, was laid down upon the grass, close to the tent, stripped and flogged in the manner before mentioned; the old chief all the while laughing at her cries.”

Throughout the evening and up till midnight other Koreans of various ranks arrived at the main camp. They were entertained with music and food throughout the night. In the morning, a bullock was skinned and the four quarters cut – only then were the entrails allowed to be drained out of the carcass. It was shortly afterwards that the magistrate and two other “persons of distinction” paid a visit to the Westerners. The newcomers, described as being younger and appearing “far more intelligent” than the magistrate, seemed to understand the needs of the Westerners better and were sympathetic to the captain’s youngest child who was quite ill. Noticing that the foreigners had not touched the seaweed that had been given to them as breakfasts and dinners, one of the younger men presented them with a “very small fragment of beef [which] was served out, cut into little morsels, as a relish for breakfast.” Cucumbers seemed to be especially valued. The man, after gesturing for the captain to hide them, gave him three cucumbers.

With tools supplied by the Koreans, the ship’s carpenter immediately went to work on making the two lifeboats seaworthy enough for them to attempt to sail to Nagasaki. The carpenter was optimistic, which quickly raised the party’s spirits.

Meanwhile, the Koreans began to catalog all the items the Westerners had in their possession – including the clothes they were wearing – and annotating what their uses were. Some items seemed to bewilder their hosts.

“A print dressing gown worn by Miss Kemp, seemed especially to attract attention, as they did not appear to understand how the pattern could be put on.”

For the next couple of days the castaways would awake at dawn and commence working on the boat. Some cut and sewed sails while others scoured the beach for flotsam – like chicken coops – from the Barracouta that they salvaged for the nails. On Friday morning, July 24, a ship was seen in the far distance – it was the American schooner, Nelly Merrill.

Quickly, the first mate and four men boarded one of the boats and began to row desperately the schooner. It took several hours of rowing, but eventually the lifeboat was spotted by the schooner and rescued. Captain Staples, the commander of the Nelly Merrill, assigned three of his crew to accompany the lifeboat back to shore and to assure the shipwrecked survivors that he would do all that he could to rescue them.

According to the North China Herald, an English language newspaper published in Shanghai, “The chief caused these three men to be brought before him, and they had to bow to the ground and salaam him: in fact, everything was done to keep the natives in good humour, so that they might not put any obstacle in the way of the shipwrecked people getting off the island.”

In the same newspaper, Kemp recalled: “After a little time, I told my wife and daughter to rise from the ground and make for the boat, but the old governor made sign for them to stop, and then we all went to the boat together, himself and people following. When we came there, they wished us to take every little piece of rope and chain away with us, but we left them with thankfulness and many good wishes for their kind treatment, and, as soon as we got the boat out of the surf, we gave three hearty cheers and pulled for the vessel which was laying to for us. I could see the natives standing on a hill watching us get on board. We arrived on board with little more than sufficient to cover our nakedness.”

On Aug. 2, the Nelly Merrill arrived at Hakodate, the same port that the Barracouta had departed nearly a month earlier. Instead of praise for the benevolent and civilized manner in which the Jeju Islanders had treated the shipwrecked survivors, the editor of the North China Herald proclaimed that it was Providence that accounted for the loss of only one man and the subsequent arrival of the Nelly Merrill “as the means of salvation to Europeans on an unfrequented island, amongst a semi-barbarous people.” It was an undeserved stereotype and one that Korea would be plagued with for a great many years.

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
All materials on this site are protected under the Korean Copyright Law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published without the prior consent of Jeju Weekly.
폰트키우기 폰트줄이기 프린트하기 메일보내기 신고하기
페이스북 트위터
60 Second Travel
Jeju-Asia's No.1 for Cruise

Jeju Weekly

Mail to  |  Phone: +82-64-724-7776 Fax: +82-64-724-7796
#505 jeju Venture Maru Bldg,217 Jungangro(Ido-2 dong), Jeju-si, Korea, 690-827
Registration Number: Jeju Da 01093  |  Date of Registration: November 20, 2008  |  Publisher: Hee Tak Ko  | Youth policy: Hee Tak Ko
Copyright 2009 All materials on this site are protected under the Korean Copyright Law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published
without the prior consent of jeju