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HMS Zephyr (1873)

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Launched11 February 1873
Builders measure 
Displacement438 tons
Ships bookADM 135/519
Note1889 sold as salvage vessel.
1929 broken up
Extracts from the Times newspaper
Th 18 February 1875The Sydney Empire, of the 11th. of December, gives an account of a collision between South Sea Islanders and the schooner Sandfly, 1 gun, Lieut. Howell, which returned to Port Jackson on the 10th of December:—
"The Sandfly commenced her cruise on the 2d of July, on which date she cleared Sydney Heads, and proceeded to Norfolk Island. Nothing of importance occurred till reaching Tapoua, on the 14th of September, in quest of water. A large number of canoes came off on the 17th, but brought no trade. The natives were very friendly and offered the crew inducements to go on shore. A watering party landed, being accompanied by some of the natives, and searched for water, but found none. Early in the afternoon, when most of the crew were below, the natives began firing arrows at those on deck. Orders were at once given to get ready to repel the attack. A few shots were discharged and they dispersed, many taking to the water and deserting their canoes. Twenty of these were destroyed and two villages were fired. On the 20th of September, the island of Santa Cruz was being approached, and extreme caution was exercised, as the treacherous and warlike nature of its inhabitants was known. Canoes fully manned came out to meet the vessel. The largest canoe pulled astern and made signs for a rope to tow with the schooner. They appeared annoyed at not getting one and became impatient. At half-past 10 a.m. anchored in 14 fathoms, 200 yards from the shore, and inside Carlisle reef. Natives came off in great numbers, many of them bringing pigs, cocoa-nuts, &c., which they gave in exchange for articles of trade. Several canoes, however, were well armed and they began to get very thick round the schooner. It was noticed that the boys were all swimming for the shore, and as the natives were detected uncovering their bows and arrows, it was thus surmised that they meant mischief. The marines got their rifles on the after-deck, taking care to keep them out of sight. The natives, who thronged the gunwale in great numbers, were becoming noisy and insolent. A blank shot was fired from the ship's gun, but had little effect in frightening them. At a quarter-past 11 a.m. the natives opened fire with poisoned arrows. Lieutenant Howell discharged his revolver at the leading native, and gave the order to his men to commence firing, which the crew responded to with deadly aim. In an instant the natives were panic-stricken. Those on the vessel's gunwale either fell or jumped into the sea, many of them dead, others wounded and struggling for the shore. The canoes' crews were so astonished at the effect of the rifle shots that they jumped overboard and struck out for the shore. During the short time the engagement lasted, about 30 natives were killed; the majority escaped into the bush. The Sandfly lowered her boats and the crews spent the afternoon in destroying all the abandoned canoes, some of which were very large, and set fire to two of the natives' villages. In the evening the schooner hoisted in the boats and kept a good watch, in case of another attack. On the 2lst of September a watering party proceeded on shore for water, taking a war rocket in the boat, and fired at random into the bush. They managed to get a supply under cover of the rifles of another boat. On the 22d watering the ship was continued. The bush was thick with natives, and a few shots were fired to keep them off. A shell was also thrown from the gun on deck. After the boats had left, at a quarter past 3 p.m., the crews saw the natives at the ruins of their village. One of their number came down to the beach and fired two arrows at the vessel. In return for this a shell was lodged in their midst, and they at once scampered off for the bush. They were not again visible till the 23d, when they came on to the beach, but a few rifle shots soon dispersed them. On the 24th the Sandfly left for Havannah harbour, and then went to Cherry Island. The natives of this place were friendly, and were fine, stalwart men. The schooner called at Api Island on the 20th of August. At this place a boat's crew of the Zephyr had been murdered and eaten some time since. An attempt was made to capture the perpetrators of the crime. As this failed, the village was shelled."

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