Mr. Coombs to Mr. Foster.

No. 34.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith the report of the governor of Tokusima Ken upon the wreck of the American merchant vessel North American upon the coast of that prefecture, and, also, copy of correspondence with His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s minister for foreign affairs relative to the matter. From other sources it appears that the villagers who rendered such timely assistance to the crew of the ill-fated vessel are fishermen in the most indigent circumstances. The place where the vessel struck must be a terrible one when the waves are running high. The shore is precipitous: in places are overhanging cliffs undermined by the surf. The vessel struck upon a large mass of rocks about 50 yards out from a place of this kind, and it was with the utmost difficulty and at great peril to themselves that the villagers succeeded in securing the line let out from the ship, and afterwards in getting the crew up the face of the cliff.

I am informed by Mr. George N. Armstrong, first officer of the North American, that men were let down by ropes from a point 100 feet above the sea to assist the exhausted crew through the surf. After their rescue they were treated with the utmost kindness, the natives vying with each other in parting with their small household treasures and comforts to relieve the sufferings of the strangers whom they had saved from death.

The evidence of the rescue, as given by the officers of the wrecked vessel, is a story of courage and humanity rarely, if ever, surpassed.

Should Congress see fit to testify the appreciation of the people of the United States for the heroic conduct displayed by these poor people it would be a graceful and well deserved recognition.

I would recommend that such testimonial be in the substantial form of money so as to enable them to purchase fishing boats, nets, and other fishing gear, and such things as will assist them in the pursuit of an occupation which to them is life and sustenance.

I have, etc.,

Frank L. Coombs
[Inclosure 1 in No. 34.]

Mr. Kurino Shinichiro to Mr. Dun.

Sir: Referring to the intimation which I have already had the honor to make to you with reference to the wreck of the merchant vessel North American, owned by [Page 384]the American firm of Waitock (Reimers & Co.?), which was wrecked within the jurisdiction of Tokushima Ken, I now beg to inclose for your information a copy of the detailed report made by the governor of Tokushima Ken.

Kurino Schinichiro,
Chief of the Political Bureau.
His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s Department for Foreign Affairs.

Report concerning the wreck of a foreign vessel.

Having investigated the circumstances in connection with the wreck, in a gale of wind and rain on the 23d instant, of the merchant vessel North American, Capt. B. C. Creelman and crew of 23 persons, belonging to the American firm of Waitock (Reimers & Co. ?), of the port of Kobe, I beg to inform you that on the 21st instant at 11 o’clock p.m., the above-named vessel left the port of Kobe for New York direct, laying her course for Hi-No-Ha-Na (Cape Hi) of the province of Kii. While proceeding on the voyage a storm of rain and wind arose about 5 p.m. on the 22d instant, and at 6 o’clock the vessel rounded the Cape of Hi-No-Ha-Na, 60 or 70 nautical miles out, when the sails were torn by the wind and the vessel was left at the mercy of the wind and the waves.

While thus drifting, on the 23d at about 7 a.m. they approached land which was the shore of Oza Shiwagi-Ura-Mura, Township of Mikita Mura, County Kaibu, in this Ken. At about 9 o’clock on the same day the vessel drifted upon the rocks of Daiga-Ura beach on the same shore, while the bottom of the vessel by reason of the violent wind and high waves was turned over to one side. The cook, a Chinaman, named Abau, while hastening along the upper deck was caught by a high wave and carried off. The remainder of the crew climbed the masts. Upon this cries were made for assistance. The middle one of the masts, however, was suddenly broken off by the force of the wind and the waves, and those who had climbed this mast were forced to seek refuge upon the other masts, fore and aft. And while they were ascending these masts they were observed by the people of the above-named village, but owing to the violence of the storm it was impossible to get near the wrecked vessel, fortunately a rope was let out from the ship which was reached by a pole from the shore and made fast to the root of a tree, while on board the vessel the other end of the rope was made fast to the mast. By means of the rope the crew, one at a time, were drawn ashore, although among them there were some who had received injuries. The ship itself, it is said, no sooner than the men got ashore, immediately went to pieces, and whatever of the ships’ cargo that came ashore was taken care of by the head-man and the police officials of the village. This cargo consists chiefly of tea, rags etc.

As the locality is a very inconvenient one, situated over 30 miles from the Kencho and connected by a difficult mountain road which, in ordinary times it takes a messenger a whole day to travel over, and as the unprecedented violent wind and rain storm [on] the 23d instant, together with the continual flood in all quarters, rendering the road difficult the first messenger dispatched by the head-man of the country and chief of police on the morning of the 24th, did not arrive at the Kencho until the evening of the 25th at 11 o’clock, and the second messenger dispatched by the same officials did not arrive at the Kencho until the morning of the 26th. It was, therefore not until 11 o’clock last night that the circumstances of the shipwreck were known at the Kencho, from whence, without delay, an attaché was at once dispatched to the place and to-day another official has set out. In accordance with the departmental order B, No. 45 of September, 1881, of the treaty with the Government of the United States for the return of expenses of ship wreched sailors, a full protection was accorded and suitable clothing, food, etc., were provided and an urgent message was dispatched to the governor of Hiogo Ken in order that the company at the port of Kobe might be informed of the matter, and also to learn from them if there was any preparation made to send a vessel out to the wreck.

I inclose herewith a list of names of the captain and crew.

I have the honor to communicate the above without delay.

Seki Yoshiomi,
Governor of Tokushima Ken.

Viscount Enomotto Takeaki,
Minister for Foreign Affairs.

List of officers and crew of the North American.

Capt. B. C. Creelman, American; First Officer, George N. Armstrong, American; Second Officer, F. Fitzgerald, American; Boatswain, Frank Harris, American; seamen, [Page 385]Fred Phillips, English; J. Lasson and James O’Niel, Americans; Harry Luno, Denmark; John Johnson, Norway; Alexander, Russian; Fred Brown, American; Charles Arthur, German; Harry Hangson, Denmark; Manuel Nelson, Swede; seven Japanese: Ishii Esaku, Matsushinia Torasaburo, Hirahara Rinkichi, Okada Seshiro, Yamamoto Katsuji, Murakami Kurataro, and Horita Hachiro, Cook, Ahau (Bankok, Siam), drowned.

Note.—It is stated that the Chinese cook is on the register as a Siamese subject.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 34.]

Mr. Coombs to Mr. Mutsu Munemitsu.

Sir: Having received through Mr. Kurino Shinichiro, chief of the political bureau of His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s foreign office, a copy of the report of the prefect of Tokushima Ken, to His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s minister for foreign affairs, relative to the wreck of the American merchant vessel North American on the coast of Tokushima Ken, at Daiga-Ura beach and the rescue of the crew of the ill-fated vessel from imminent peril by the people of the village in the neighborhood, and, also, relating the steps taken by the local authorities of Tokushima Ken for the relief of the unfortunate men and the salvage of the cargo which drifted ashore from the wrecked vessel, I beg to express to your excellency, on behalf of my Government, my sincere thanks for the action, on this occasion, of the local authorities of Tokushima Ken, and my high appreciation of the kindness, and courage of the Japanese people, who, by their humane and timely assistance, rendered at great personal risk to themselves, were the means of saving the lives of my unfortunate countrymen.

I have the honor to request that your excellency will convey to the governor of Tokushima Ken, and through him to the local authorities and to the people of the locality where the vessel was wrecked, this expression of my gratitude for their kindness and appreciation of their courage.

I will convey to my Government an account of this matter, together with a copy of the report of the governor of Tokushima Ken.

I avail, etc.,

Frank L. Coombs.
[Inclosure 3 in No. 34—Translation.]

Mr. Mutsu Munemitsu to Mr. Coombs.

Sir: I have had the honor to receive your excellency’s note of the 10th instant, requesting me to convey your thanks to the local authorities concerned and the people who rendered assistance in rescuing the crew of the American merchant vessel North American on the occasion of its wreck near the coast of Shiwaki-ura, Tokushima prefecture. In compliance with your request, I have at once taken the steps to convey the expression of your thanks.

I avail, etc.,

Mutsu Munemitsu,
Minister for Foreign Affairs.