Irving, John to William Elphinstone Malcolm (1835/06/01)

H.M.S. “Edinburgh,”
1st June 1835.

My dear Malcolm,—We left Malta on the 12th of May, and arrived at Egina on the 19th. I think it a most beautiful island. We remained there one day, and came here on the 22d. We are seven miles from Athens, and I have walked there twice. The place is very much improved since we were here in the “Belvidera.” There are a great many new houses, and they have built a wharf and several new houses at Port Leonis, where there are a number of shipping and shore boats; in fact, all have removed from Napoli to this place.

The King Otho has been visiting the squadron, and we have been manning yards and saluting. He is proclaimed to-day on his coming of age, and the regency is dissolved, and he takes the reins of government into his own hands. Besides our squadron, there are a French liner and two frigates lying here. The weather is very pleasant, and I bathe every day. I suppose you have no opportunity of practising your swimming. I can assure you I found the advantage of it in a signal manner the other day. I was coming off from Port Leonis to the ship under sail, and was under the lee of a point where a tremendous squall came on us like a shot. The land was not 100 yards to windward, so we could not see it coming. Our sheets were let go, but before they had time to render, the boat was bottom up. I had great difficulty to get clear from the sails, which were over my head, and prevented me rising. When I came to the surface, you can imagine my feelings on seeing only ten people out of nineteen who were in the boat. With great exertion we got the rest out from under the boat and sails. There were several who could not swim, and must have been drowned had the rest not held them up. The boat floated keel up, and we got everybody conveyed to her, and by crossing our arms over the keel and holding each other’s hands on the opposite side, we held on till we were observed and boats sent, who picked us up, having been nearly half an hour in the water. The Captain was very angry at me at first, but I referred him to Lieutenant Slade of the flag-ship, to whom I had given a passage off, and to our own pilot, an experienced man, who told him that I was not to blame in the least, and that everything had been done that could be done. It was a very sudden squall, and no fewer than five boats were upset nearly at the same time. Two Frenchmen were drowned. We were kept longer in the water, as the boats were sent away to rescue the others. I am sorry to have been led into this long account by the mention of swimming; but I am sure that saved my life, and perhaps the lives of one or two others whom I assisted to get hold of the boat.

We sail on the 4th for Vourla, to water the squadron. I was afraid the Captain would take me out of the boat, which is a duty I like; but he is all right now, and paid me a sort of compliment about all hands being saved.


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