“A Piratical Proa in Full Chase”: 19th C illustration by Charles Ellms.
Luttrell may have been attacked by something similar.
Course was now set for the Straits of Malacca where friendly shipping might be encountered – this was still some thousand miles away and the provisions consisted of ten corncobs, three pumpkins, and two bottles of water. Progress for the next ten days was good and showers provided fresh water. The survivors were however badly weakened by exposure and hunger. By December 15th they had reached islands off the coast of Sumatra and were immediately attacked by two proas – fast Malays outrigger sailing craft. (The general area was to remain a hotbed of piracy for decades to come.) One of the Betsey’s seamen was run through with a spear and died instantly, while another was wounded. Luttrell, the mate, had a very narrow escape from a spear piercing his hat. Now prisoners, Luttrell and one other survivor were taken in three days to “an island called Sube” (which I have been unable to identity – names having changed so much over the years). They were handed over to the local rajah, who kept them prisoners, fed only on sago, for the next four and a half months. In late April 180s the Rajah decided to release them and had a proa take them to the Riau Islands (just south of modern Singapore, which would not be founded for another thirteen years). Here they were handed over to a “Mr. Koek of Malacca”, who could have been a Dutch trader – no further details are given in the book. The rajah’s motivation for releasing the two men is not clear – he did perhaps fear retaliation by Royal Navy vessels if the continued detention got heard of.
Mr. Koek treated Luttrell and the other survivor “in the kindest manner” and they were then carried on to the trading centre of Malacca by a British ship, the Kandree. Thereafter they disappear from history.
If any reader can fill in some of the blanks in this remarkable story – a small epic – I would be glad to hear from them. Brooks, Luttrel and their companions were indeed iron men and worth remembering.
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