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THETIS (46) Built in 1817, Pembroke Dock.
Wrecked in 1830.

  • 1817 Plymouth.
  • 1823 Capt. Sir John PHILLIMORE, 03/1823.
    On 19 October he sailed for Mexico with commissioners appointed to enquire into the political state of that country, and returned to Plymouth on 18 March 1824 with 400,000 dollars and 300 bales of cochineal.
  • In May 1824 THETIS was ordered to Cape Coast Castle with a detachment of the Royal Africa corps. She arrived on 4 July at a time when an Ashantee attack was hourly expected. While the troops marched out to meet the native army, THETIS covered the eastern approaches to the castle and SWINGER the western, both within grape shot range. The boats, under Lieut. William COTESWORTH, were each armed with a brass field piece and sent close inshore. Two watches of the ship's company, marines, and 16 volunteers from a merchant vessel, all under the command of Lieut. Andrew DREW, were landed to garrison the castle. Mr ROSWELL, master's mate, with a midshipman and eight sailors manned a battery of guns on Phipp's tower were a platform had been erected by the gunner and carpenter.
  • On 11 July the enemy made a general attack and, after an engagement which lasted into the night, they were totally defeated and retreated to Coomassie after losing about 2,000 men. The British and their native allies lost 103 killed and 450 wounded.
  • THETIS left Cape Coast on 22 July and returned to Spithead on 29 September.
    For the rest of the year she was occupied off the Isles of Scilly measuring the sailing qualities of three experimental ships and in 1825 and 1826 she carried diplomats to Naples, Constantinople and South America. She returned from Rio on 3 October 1826 and was paid off at Plymouth during November.
  • 1827 Capt. A. B. BINGHAM, South America.
  • On 25 November 1830 when Capt. Samuel BURGESS assumed command of the THETIS at Rio de Janeiro she was about to sail for England with bullion, including 800,000 dollars, which Capt. BINGHAM had collected from merchants at Callao and other Pacific ports over the previous few months. She left Rio on the morning of 4 December. It was a foggy day with light winds and the THETIS made little progress although Capt. BURGESS and the master, Mr William GOWDEY, assumed she was doing 10 knots and the following day altered course progressively to the northward. The coast runs eastwards for about 180 miles from Rio to the rocky headland of Cabo Frio and navigating by dead reckoning they calculated that they were safely past the cape.
  • The following day BURGESS wrote to Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas BAKER in Rio:
    "Sir, Under the most poignant feelings of grief and distress, it is my melancholy duty to communicate to you the total loss of HMS Thetis on Cape Frio, last night about 8 o'clock, with everything belonging to her 00
    I trust you will make every allowance for this hurried statement, the causes being more unaccountable than anything I have met with in the whole course of my naval experience."

    The ship had run her bowsprit into a high cliff and the shock had brought down all three masts which fell aft covering the upper deck with wreckage and killing or wounding a number of the crew.
    Because of the deep water the hull was undamaged and an attempt was made to warp her away with an anchor but she swung round, was holed on a rock and then drifted along the coast until she foundered in a small cove surrounded by high cliffs and open to gales from the south-west.
    About forty of the crew had managed to reach the shore when she first struck and they followed her along the coast. Those still on board managed to pass them a rope and by this means the remainder were rescued.
    In all twenty-eight lost their lives.
  • Lieut. HAMILTON of the THETIS delivered BURGESS's report to Rear-Ad. BAKER on board the WARSPITE in Rio four days later and he immediately set out overland for the wreck. The sloops ALGERINE and CLIO and the WARSPITE's tender, the schooner ADELAIDE, and her launch followed beating their way against an adverse wind and making the best time they could. The general opinion was that the treasure was irrecoverable but nevertheless BAKER ordered a net to be stretched across the 480 foot entrance to the cove to prevent anything being washed out.
  • The sloop LIGHTNING was re-fitting in Rio after a cruise in the Pacific and her captain, Cdr. Thomas DICKINSON, was of the opinion that salvage was possible.
    Being, to quote the Times, "a gentleman of considerable mechanical talents" he offered his services and the admiral gave permission for him to carry out his plans.
    He constructed diving bells out of water tanks and with these, suspended first from a derrick and later from a cable stretched across the cove commenced the salvage operation.
    By the time DICKINSON and LIGHTNING were relieved in March 1832 he and his people had recovered a total of 600,000 dollars. They also lifted the anchors and some of the guns belonging to the THETIS.
    The salvage was continued by Cdr. John de ROOS in ALGERINE who brought the total recovered to 747,909 dollars by the time he finished operations in July.
    The two commanders returned to legal squabbles in London. During the eighteen months work about 157,000 pounds worth of treasure (in 1830 values) had been brought to the surface out of a total of 160,000 pounds. The Admiralty asked for 13,800 pounds for the use of His Majesty's ships and 12,000 expenses. The salvers were only awarded 17,000 pounds by the Admiralty Court but this was increased to 29,000 pounds after an appeal to the Privy Council. Cdr. DICKINSON contended that an award of one-third of the recovered amount should have been made without deduction and continued to try and raise the issue over the next twenty years until his death in 1855 when he was one of the four captains of Greenwich Hospital.
    John De ROOS died, a rear-admiral, in 1861.
  • Capt. BURGESS was tried by court-martial on his return home in March 1831. The court held that both the captain and the master, Mr William GOWDEY had placed too much confidence in dead reckoning and had neglected to take any soundings as laid down in the general instructions. In consideration of their former long service Capt. BURGESS was sentenced to lose only one years seniority and Mr GOWDEY two years.

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