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Art&CultureHistory
Part One-The wreck of the Barbara Taylor
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승인 2010.03.16  10:42:37
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▲ Nagasaki, circa 1890s. Photo from Robert Neff collection

In mid-September 1878, southern Japan and Jeju Island were plagued by a series of heavy rainstorms that eventually evolved on Sept. 20 into a powerful typhoon. At Nagasaki, Japan, several small ships, unprepared for the fury of the storm were destroyed while larger and better prepared ships dragged their anchors and smashed into one another, doing great damage to each other. Ships at sea were even less fortunate. Some were stripped of their sails or demasted while others simply disappeared in the roiling maelstrom.

Many ships that were feared lost managed to limp back into the primary ports of the region _ notably Shanghai and Nagasaki _ over the following weeks. Their arrivals were met with relief for the safety of the crews and passengers but with financial anguish over the loss of the cargoes and the damage to the ships.

On Oct. 8, a Japanese fishing boat arrived at Nagasaki from Hirado conveying two shipwrecked victims: Captain John Taylor of the schooner Barbara Taylor and a Chinese sailor whose name has been lost with time. Taylor made his way to the British Consulate where he informed the British consul of his circumstances.

According to Taylor, the Barbara Taylor was a 353-ton-schooner with a crew of 12 men and often sailed between Shanghai, China, and Vladivostok, Russia. On Sept. 9, it had departed from Shanghai with a consignment cargo consisting primarily of tea bales and some general mercantile goods that were highly prized by the Russians.

Although the weather had been foul when the ship departed, it experienced few problems until it was passing through the Korean Strait on Sept. 20 and encountered the typhoon. Soon the sails were ripped asunder or blown away and the ship found itself at the mercy of the sea and was steadily driven north towards the southern rocky coast of Jeju Island.

Fortunately for the crew, the ship grounded upon some submerged rocks a short distance from a sandy beach. It was through the heroics of the chief mate George Grieve that a lifeline was belayed to shore by which the crew members, one by one, were able to rescue themselves.

Of course their arrival did not go unobserved. As they were struggling to shore a group of Koreans appeared and made it clear by drawing their hands across their neck that the foreigners were not welcome. Taylor was convinced that the Koreans were “going to cut our heads off at once,” but there was no other option but to go ashore.

“After getting a footing up to our middle in the water we all approached them, and instead of having our heads taken off, we were very kindly received, though they all appeared to us at the time perfect savages.”

After the crewmembers were all safely ashore they were led to a small warm hut and provided with “a large jar of porridge, made of corn-meal or wheat and a dish of salt.” For two days they were kept in the hut, a source of entertainment for the local population who gazed upon them as if they were exotic “wild animals,” while awaiting word from the magistrate at the island’s capital as to what was to be their fate.

Finally an official arrived with a retinue of soldiers and took charge of them. One of the first things he did was escort them back to the wreck of their ship so that they could secure some of their personal belongings such as shoes, clothing and food.

Taylor was relieved to discover that although his ship was badly damaged by the storm, the cargo, for the most part, was still safe. Using one of his Chinese crewmembers as a translator, he beseeched the Korean official to have the cargo brought to shore and protected.

“After a great deal of correspondence with headquarters they commenced to discharge cargo, but when they found it was tea after taking 50 packages they stopped. Giving me to understand they could not eat tea and that no tea was used on the island; [the Korean official] would not be able to pay for the labor.”

Taylor begged the official to reconsider and promised that if his cargo were saved he would later have rice sent to the island from Shanghai or Nagasaki. Reluctantly the official agreed and the cargo was quickly unloaded and safely stored. The foreigners were then led back to their hut.

Ever since landing upon the island Captain Taylor tried to make the Koreans understand that he “wanted to see the king of the island,” in hopes of negotiating a way back to Japan or China. Finally word was received that he and two of his Chinese crew members would be sent to the island’s capital on horseback to plead their case.




ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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