The gale continued to increase, and the vessel rolled and pitched in such a manner that the hawser by which the tender was made fast to the buoy snapped, and she went adrift. In the act of swinging round to the wind she shipped a very heavy sea, which greatly alarmed the artificers, who imagined that we had got upon the rock; but this, from the direction of the wind, was impossible. The writer, however, sprung upon deck, where he found the sailors busily employed in rigging out the bowsprit and in setting sail. From the easterly direction of the wind, it was considered most advisable to steer for the Firth of Forth, and there wait a change of weather. At two p.m. we accordingly passed the Isle of May, at six anchored in Leith Roads, and at eight the writer landed, when he came in upon his friends, who were not a little surprised at his unexpected appearance, which gave an instantaneous alarm for the safety of things at the Bell Rock.

[Thursday, 9th June]

The wind still continued to blow very hard at E. by N., and the Sir Joseph Banks rode heavily, and even drifted with both anchors ahead, in Leith Roads. The artificers did not attempt to leave the ship last night; but there being upwards of fifty people on board, and the decks greatly lumbered with the two large boats, they were in a very crowded and impatient state on board. But to-day they got ashore, and amused themselves by walking about the streets of Edinburgh, some in very humble apparel, from having only the worst of their jackets with them, which, though quite suitable for their work, were hardly fit for public inspection, being not only tattered, but greatly stained with the red colour of the rock.

[Friday, 10th June]

To-day the wind was at S.E., with light breezes and foggy weather. At six a.m. the writer again embarked for the Bell Rock, when the vessel immediately sailed. At eleven p.m., there being no wind, the kedge-anchor was LET GO off Anstruther, one of the numerous towns on the coast of Fife, where we waited the return of the tide.

[Saturday, 11th June]

At six a.m. the Sir Joseph got under weigh, and at eleven was again made fast to the southern buoy at the Bell Rock. Though it was now late in the tide, the writer, being anxious to ascertain the state of things after the gale, landed with the artificers to the number of forty-four. Everything was found in an entire state; but, as the tide was nearly gone, only half an hour's work had been got when the site of the building was overflowed. In the evening the boats again landed at nine, and after a good tide's work of three hours with torchlight, the work was left off at midnight. To the distant shipping the appearance of things under night on the Bell Rock, when the work was going forward, must have been very remarkable, especially to those who were strangers to the operations. Mr. John Reid, principal lightkeeper, who also acted as master of the floating light during the working months at the rock, described the appearance of numerous lights situated so low in the water, when seen at the distance of two or three miles, as putting him in mind of Milton's description of the fiends in the lower regions, adding, 'for it seems greatly to surpass Will-o'- the-Wisp, or any of those earthly spectres of which we have so often heard.'

[Monday, 13th June]

From the difficulties attending the landing on the rock, owing to the breach of sea which had for days past been around it, the artificers showed some backwardness at getting into the boats this morning; but after a little explanation this was got over. It was always observable that for some time after anything like danger had occurred at the rock, the workmen became much more cautious, and on some occasions their timidity was rather troublesome. It fortunately happened, however, that along with the writer's assistants and the sailors there were also some of the artificers themselves who felt no such scruples, and in this way these difficulties were the more easily surmounted.

Records of a Family of Engineers Page 58

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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