[p. 59] for the foreign shipping. The clippers were often hard pressed to find a cargo. Many of the ships were used in carrying guano and other undesirable trades and they often had to pick up what cargo they could find. The Ringleader was one of these. She had sailed from Hong Kong in May, 1863, bound for San Francisco with a load of about five hundred coolies. When a few days out she was caught in a typhoon. The dismay can be imagined when on May 9 the rapidly falling barometer and the ominous hush indicated something terrible was impending. Lifelines had been set up on each side of the deck. All sails had been furled and secured with studding sail tacks and long gaskets. Topgallant masts and yards had been sent down on deck and the tops cleared. Relieving tackles had been put on the tiller, scuppers cleared, and the pumps ready. Each man wore a belt to secure himself, if necessary, to the most convenient place. It was in every way similar to the experience of the steamship Nan-Shan, even to her cargo of coolies, so vividly described by Conrad in his story,‘Typhoon’:
An outburst of unchained fury, a vicious rush of the wind. . . . It was something formidable and swift, like the sudden smashing of a Vial of Wrath. It seemed to explode all around the ship with an overpowering concussion and a rush of great waters, as if an immense dam had been blown up to windward. She was like a living creature thrown to the rage of the mob, hustled terribly, struck at, borne up, flung down, leaped upon.The typhoon of this date was an unusually severe one and was followed by a tidal wave.
Nobody,—. . . who caught sight of a white line of foam coming on at such a height that he couldn't believe his eyes,— nobody knew the steepness of that sea and the awful depth of the hollow the hurricane had scooped behind that running wall of water. . . . She pitched into the hollow straight down as if tumbling from a cliff. . . . Instead of recovering herself she hung head down while the souls of men on board cried aloud to her to rise.