During the night of the 6th, the Blonde passed rapidly northward, running before a fresh southerly breeze; and at eleven in the morning of the 7th, she was off Point Tumbes, when seeing a dismasted vessel, with an English blue ensign hoisted, about five miles to the northward of us, the frigate stood towards her, and finding that she was the schooner Carmen, closed and took her in tow. But for the Blonde's opportune arrival, she would have been drifted to the northward, and obliged to run into any port she could reach. Mr. Usborne came on board, and as soon as he had refreshed himself by a few hours' sleep, gave me the following account of his proceedings and accidents.
After leaving Talcahuano, wind and weather favoured the Carmen until she had run along the coast from Tucapel Head to Cape Tirua, at about a mile from the surf, without seeing either smoke, flags, people, or wreck; but, during one night, a fire was seen on Tucapel Head. When Mr. Usborne spoke the Blonde, on the morning of the 29th, the schooner was on her way to the place where she had seen the fire; and he would have said so when the Blonde hailed him had he had time, but as she passed on without stopping, and he felt sure that the Challenger's people were not in the direction which she was taking, he kept a different course. At about two in the afternoon of that day, while four seamen were aloft on the topsail yard, furling the topsail, the schooner gave a sudden plunge into a high swell, and away went the foremast head, fore-topmast, and topsail-yard. The four men were carried overboard, but saved; though one (James Bennett) was severely bruised. The mainmast followed, being dragged downwards and broken by the rigging attached to the head of the foremast; and in this state, a mere wreck, the Carmen drifted towards Mocha. So wretchedly was the vessel provided in every way, that the only tools which they had to cut the laniards of the rigging with, were knives and a cooper's old adze.
After clearing the wreck, they got up a small spar abaft, on which was set the Beagle's boat's sail; and by means of cleats, Bennett and J. Nutcher (boatswain's mate of the Blonde), got to the head of the stump of the foremast, although, being loose in the step, it swayed to and fro as if it would go overboard, and fixed temporary rigging. A staysail and trysail were then set, and just saved her from going ashore upon the weather side of Mocha, while it was blowing hard, with a high sea running; and in all probability, not one person would have been saved had she struck. If Mr. Usborne had not known this land well, from his late survey, it is not likely that they would have escaped, because when they found themselves about half a mile from the breakers, the tack which appeared to the others to be by far the best, was in truth the worst: had they gone on that tack, nothing could have saved them. Mr. Usborne saw their position exactly, and knowing how the current would affect them, determined upon what they thought the wrong tack, and rescued them. I say that Mr. Usborne did this; because Mr. Biddlecombe was sick, and the master of the vessel reluctantly yielded to the person who he saw was at home, while he himself was utterly bewildered.
After this narrow escape, the schooner was drifted to the southward, as far as the latitude of Valdivia, before the southerly wind, which took the Blonde to the mouth of the Leübu, drove the Carmen back slowly to the northward. Mr. Usborne and his companions had almost entered the opening of the Bay of Concepcion early in the morning of the day on which the Blonde took them in tow, but had been drifted away again by a fresh wind, and were falling to leeward fast, for want of sail, when the Blonde arrived. Mr. Usborne recovered from his fatigue in two or three days, but Bennett was ill for a fortnight.
During the few days they were away, they suffered much. As for the ten men belonging to the vessel, they were utterly useless, being frightened or sick during the whole time; so that but for the exertion of the Blonde's seamen, of Bennett, of the master of the vessel (Mr. Thayer), of Mr. Biddlecombe, and above all, Mr. Usborne, the Carmen might have left her remains on the shore, when perhaps few, if any, would have survived to tell the fatal tale.
The Blonde worked to windward, with the schooner in tow, during the remainder of the day and early part of the night, and at midnight they both anchored off Talcahuano.