It was a real scoop for the newspapers – the Royal Navy’s favourite ship was stranded in plain sight. The press followed every twist and turn of the story, even when it was just rumour and gossip. The stories jumped from one paper to another, feeding Britain’s thirst for drawing room chatter.
Keeping the readers’ attention was more important than accuracy. Had the ship been saved or had she not? Had three (inevitably three) drunken crewmen drowned in the hold? Had the Master been critically injured in his panic to abandon ship?
The public interest
Britain was a sea-minded nation. Almost every family had a cousin, son, brother or father in the mercantile marine or Royal Navy. Readers could keenly feel the desperate hope of the gangs working to lighten the ship’s load.
Imagine following the drama as it unfolded. Was your nephew desperately trying to swing a gun weighing couple of tons onto a ‘lighter’ barge in a gale without getting crushed? Was Captain Bentley working to the point of exhaustion, the terror of the inevitable court-martial playing on his mind? Imagine being this close to the story as you read these press reports.