NEFA - The North East Folklore Archive


The Ship.

The "Windward" North Harbour Peterhead, 1880s courtesy Arbuthnot Museum

The "Windward" at Scott's Pier, North Harbour, Peterhead, photographed at some time during the 1880s. (Courtesy of the Arbuthnot Museum, Peterhead).

The three masted barque was carvel built from oak, greenheart and teak with iron plated bows, 321 tons gross, 36 meters in length with a breadth of 8.8 meters and a depth 5.05 meters. Although she was originally built as a sailing ship, "Windward" was fitted with steam engines in 1866 in order to compete more effectively with the steam whalers from other ports.

The story of the "Windward" began in 1859 at the port of Peterhead when William Mitchell, a successful ironmonger, in partnership with Captain David Ewan, a seasoned arctic whale ship master and fellow native of Peterhead, commissioned local ship builders Stephen and Forbes to build a ship designed and fitted specifically for the Arctic seal and whale trade. Amidst much celebration the ship was launched from Messrs. Stephen and Forbes building-yard on Tuesday, January 10th, 1860.

The Launch.

The inhabitants were all astir, and it seemed rather like a gala day than an ordinary launch. The interest manifested was so intense. At about two o'clock all was ready ; the last cord was cut ; the naming tastefully performed by Miss Mitchell ; and the vessel glided into the water amid the lusty cheers and hearty well-wishes of the multitude.
Peterhead Sentinel, Friday 13th January, 1860.

A few weeks later, the new ship's first attempt to sail to the Greenland Sea ended in near disaster as she ran aground and was stranded on rocks as she left Peterhead harbour.

Accident to the Whale Ship 'Windward' at Peterhead.

We are sorry to have to announce that the fine new whaler 'Windward,' the launch of which we noticed only a few weeks ago, went ashore on the rocks opposite the mouth of the north harbour, while leaving for Greenland on Saturday last. There was a strong gale from the south on Saturday, but, notwithstanding, the 'Perseverance' and 'Polar Star', sailed in safety, and when the 'Windward' started from the inner basin, with the wind fair for her, it was little expected that it was only to be dashed upon the rocks at the mouth of the harbour. We have heard various causes assigned for the sad accident, but whatever was the cause the ship did not come round to the wind as she should have done to enable her to clear the rocks. For the benefit of those who do not know the harbours, we may state that the mouth of the north harbour does not lie fair out to sea, and consequently ships leaving or arriving have, as it were, to turn a corner to open the mouth of the harbour. Opposite the mouth of the harbour lie the Ronheads rocks, and if a ship, when leaving, does not take the necessary turn to eastward, she is on the rocks in an instant. This was the case, unfortunately, with the 'Windward.' After being hauled from the basin and having everything put in readiness for sailing, the ropes were let go and off started the splendid vessel, as everyone present thought, to have her qualities as a sailor well tried by the spanking breeze then blowing. But it was otherwise ordained. Crossing the outer basin and grazing one of the piers in passing out, she cleared the pier-heads, but, instead of coming round to eastward, and keeping the clear channel, the unfortunate ship, as if bent on her own destruction, sailed on, and ere the cry 'she is on the rocks' had passed the lips of those present, the fine vessel was hard aground. The tide being at its height, nothing could be done for the ship, but an attempt was made to get her off with the tide of yesterday morning, without success. Yesterday was employed in removing the stores and rigging, but no attempt was made to get her off as she was full of water and still lies grinding and crushing herself upon the rocks. Should she be got floated off before being hopelessly injured, she may still be in time for the Davis Straits fishing. Much feeling is manifested in the town towards owners and crew, the latter of whom have lost their chance of the season's fishing, unless the ship is got off in time for Davis Straits. We may mention that the 'Windward' is commanded by Capt. D Ewan, a gentleman of great experience. We have not heard of any serious accident happening. One of the crew got two of the fingers of his left hand injured with a rope and has had to suffer amputation of the second finger at the middle joint.
The Banffshire Journal, Tuesday, February 28th, 1860

The incident left the ship "considerably damaged" and led to a Board of Trade inquiry.

Abstracts Returns of Wrecks and Casualties on Coasts of the UK 1860.

25 February 1860, WINDWARD of Peterhead, 321 tons, David Ewan, Master, departed Peterhead for Greenland, seal and whale fishing, stranded on rocks outside Peterhead Harbour, and subsequently got off. Inquiry ordered at Peterhead.

Peterhead, 25th Feb. The WINDWARD (ship), Ewan, bound to Greenland, stranded on the rocks in leaving the harbour this afternoon, and remains (10 p.m.): If the weather moderate, it is expected she will be got off, but considerably damaged.

Peterhead, 27th Feb. The WINDWARD, Ewan, bound to Greenland, which was stranded here 25th Feb. remains: she has been dismantled and her stores landed, but is expected to be got off.
The Marine List, LL, No. 14,321, London, Monday February 27th 1860.

Peterhead, Monday, March 19th, 1860.

Board of Trade Enquiry - An investigation as to the cause of the stranding of the whaler 'Windward' was held here on Wednesday last before Provost Anderson and Baillie Paul, acting as Justices of the Peace, and Capt. Warren of the Coast Guard, Aberdeen. The Captain (Mr Ewan) the mate and several of the crew, and others were examined and the result was that the bench found that there was neglect and confusion in taking the vessel out of port and that the Captain had confided too much in the pilot (who is since dead). The certificates of the Captain and the mate were returned.
The Banffshire Journal, Tuesday, March 20th, 1860.

The Board of Trade Inquiry was conducted at the court rooms in Peterhead before Alexander Anderson and George Paul, Justices of the Peace, and Captain J. P. Warren of the Coast Guard, Aberdeen, the proceedings of which were reported in the Peterhead Sentinel on March 16th, 1860. Several witnesses were sworn and examined at considerable length, including the ship's Master, Captain David Ewan, the Mate, Alexander Aiken and John D. Scott, the ship's carpenter.
Evidence regarding the state of the harbour and suitability for the departure of a ship of 'Windward's' size at that particular time was given by Harbour Master Donald Manson. The pilot who had assisted the 'Windward' from the harbour on the day of the incident would have been a crucial witness, but was reported "dead" by the time of the inquiry. That being the case, the harbour pilot was represented by retired Pilot Master Alexander Souttar. There was much disagreement in the opinions of the witnesses as to whether or not the 'Windward' should have left harbour at that time with the tide as it was. The issue was further complicated when it was discovered that a stern rope, intended to steady the ship as she made her way out, was let go without Captain's orders. It was concluded that this was thought to have started the series of events that led to the ship's grounding. After considering all the technical aspects of the case, depth of water at that time of day, wind strength and direction and the manner in which the Pilot and Captain had ordered her sails set, the judges retired to make their decission. An hour or so later, they returned to court to make the following statement:

"The Justices, having considered the proof adduced, find it proved that there was neglect and confusion in taking the vessel out of port. That the captain confided too much in the pilot in not having had 'after' sail on the ship. Find that the pilot is since dead. That there appears to be doubt whether the sailing of the ship, at the hour she did, was not attended with risk. The Justices, however, taking into consideration the whole circumstances, have come to the conclusion that the certificates of the captain and mate shall be returned. Cautioning the captain, however, that they do not exonerate him from blame, although his conduct has not, in their opinion, been such as to cause his certificate to be withdrawn. The Justices further find that there is no blame attachable to the mate. The Court, in their more detailed report to the Board of Trade, intend to call attention to the habit existing at Peterhead of the crews of whale ships leaving the port in a state of drunkenness."
Peterhead Sentinel, 16th March, 1860

Despite her unfortunate start the Windward was fully repaired and sea worthy in time to make a voyage to the Greenland sealing and whaling that year.

The "Windward"

The repairs on this vessel were effected so expeditiously that she was ready for sea in the beginning of this week. On Monday she was safely towed out of harbour by a tug brought round from Aberdeen for that purpose and after waiting in the offing for some provisions, she left on Wednesday morning for the icy regions. Having been got ready so soon, she is to proceed to Greenland notwithstanding the lateness of the season, and if not abundantly successful there, she will of course go to Davis Straits. We can only hope that the "Windward" will return with a cargo that will make up for the loss that has been sustained, and the trouble that has been occasioned.
Peterhead Sentinel, 30th March 1860.

The famous ship went on to enjoy a long and much celebrated career at her home port before being sold from Peterhead in 1894. She served as supply vessel to the Jackson-Harmsworth Franz Joseph Land expedition (1894-1897) and during that time, in the summer of 1896, gained global fame as the ship that rescued and took home Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen and his colleague Hjalmar Johansen after their failed attempt to reach the North Pole. She later served in Robert Peary's numerous arctic expeditions before making a brief return to the Scottish whaling trade.
The "Windward" was eventually lost when she struck a reef at Carey's Island, Davis Strait, during a whaling voyage in June 1907. The crew, after several days in the ship's boats, were picked up by the whalers Morning, Eclipse and Albert. Some of the men were later transferred to the Dundee ship Baleana for the voyage home.



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