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The Peninsular and Oriental Company's Ship Candia
Under Repair on the Atakah Reef

Illustrated London News, January 11, 1862

In October, 1860, the Candia, becoming disabled in the Red Sea by the fracture of her screwshaft, was towed into Suez and anchored off Point Zenobia. There being no docks there, it became a very serious question with so large and valuable a ship what was to be done to repair the damage so as to render her efficient and capable of resuming the important duties assigned to her between that port and Calcutta. But one mode presented itself, requiring much practical seamanship, inventive skill, and much resolution in encountering the great responsibility of risking the safety of a ship of 3000 tons for so long a period as it was likely to occupy from any sudden advent of a violent storm of wind so frequent in those latitudes.

picture of candia

Captain Curling, however, appears to have been quite equal to the emergency; and, as his plan perfectly succeeded, it is thought worth being thus publicly recorded, as well from its intrinsic interest as an example and guidance to future young commanders who may unfortunately meet with any disaster from which their ship becomes disabled.

We proceed with our account of this bold and skilful [sic] performance by condensed extracts from the Candia's log:--

"The ship was taken under canvas from Zenobia Point Nov. 6, 1860, to leeward of Kal el Keberch shoal, to the south-westward of the Atakah Reef, and brought up her stern towards the reef at 300 yards distance, with two anchors and 90 fathom of cable. The anchors weighed 50 cwt., chain 2 inches.

"The Atakah Reef is about two hundred yards in width, with only a depth of three feet at low water, but at a short distance ten fathoms. At high water cable was veered away to 120 fathom, having emptied her from the mainmast aft, and loaded her from the boilers to the bowsprit forward with 500 tons of coals, 100 tons of water, and 100 tons of sundries.

"Her heel being then over the reef, two cables were passed over it, and anchors let go in ten fathom, and the same was done from each bow and quarter, having thus eight anchors to secure her in position during the operation, which lasted until Jan. 6, 1861.

"Her draught of water was then 21 ft. forward and 13 ft. Abaft, and when, from the falling of the tide, her heel grounded on the reef, it was 26 ft. forward and 9 ft. abaft, her head being forced down by her heel lodging on the reef. This enabled the armourer's men to get at the screw during low water, and the first thing to be done was to get out and land the broken shaft, which occupied us ten anxious and hard-working days.

"This was accomplished. She was hauled off the reef, and securely anchored for a period of several weeks until a new shaft was procured from England, causing much surprise and interest to the many nautical men passing and re-passing to and from Suez to India, from her situation and position giving her the appearance of being wrecked. However, on learning the true state of the case, they were loud in their approbation of the seamanship and skill displayed in the handling successfully so large a ship, under such peculiar circumstances and in a locality of such a character as appeared to render all chances of relief hopeless. It must be understood the ship was seldom kept more than a week at a time on the reef, when the tide was such as to admit of the men repairing the screw, which had sustained some injury also. This was done during the interval they were awaiting the arrival of the shaft from England. When it was instantly replaced, every arrangement made succeeded, and, after a short trial-trip down the Red Sea, the screw being found to work accurately, she proceeded to Calcutta, arrived there in perfect order, was docked, examined, and pronounced by the authorities as not requiring the slightest interference with her new shaft or repaired screw."

Upon the admirable conducting of so important an operation under such critical circumstances it is unnecessary to comment, beyond observing that it goes to show Captain Curling's previous reputation was well deserved; and it would be an injustice to the Peninsular and oriental Company, as to the class of ships they employ, to omit stating that the Candia, although so large, long, and heavy a ship, so often moved and removed upon and from the Atakah Reef, sometimes remaining in a most trying situation upon it for a week did not show the slightest symptom of straining.

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