Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
By the post which arrived from Santiago this morning, an English merchant received a laconic account of the total loss of his Majesty's ship Challenger. This report spread as quickly as bad tidings are wont to do: but no official information arrived during that day, or the ensuing night. Recollecting that a Swedish ship had come lately into Valparaiso, whose officers had seen what they described as "an American brig" cast away near Mocha; I found out the ship and questioned the master and mates. They had arrived at Valparaiso on the 25th of May, and all agreed in stating that on the 20th of that month, they saw a large vessel ashore on the coast of the mainland, to the northward and eastward of Mocha. They saw her at daylight, but as they had light airs of wind and a very heavy swell until three in the afternoon, to save themselves from danger they were obliged to make all sail away from the land, and lost sight of the wreck.
The vessel looked large, with fore and main masts standing, and top-gallant masts an end until eight o'clock, when the fore-topmast went over the side, or was struck: her fore-topsail yard remained across; no main-top-gallant yard was seen; the main-top-gallant mast was standing all day, and there was a large ensign at the mast-head: white and red were seen, therefore it was thought to be American. Her bow was to seaward, as if she had anchored; her sails were loose all day; people were seen on the after part of what appeared to be a roundhouse painted green. Bulwarks very high — ports very large — no boats on deck or at the quarters — no guns on upper deck. Looking at her end on, with the masts nearly in a line — all her upper deck could be seen, though very indistinctly, owing to hazy weather, the additional haze caused by spray thrown up from a furious surf, and their own distance from the wreck; which was never less than four miles.
The log of the Swedish ship was produced, which exactly corroborated their statement. The master said he could not lower a boat, so great was the swell; and during five hours of almost calm, he was drifting helplessly towards the wreck, and expecting to share her fate. The two masts and red and white ensign, caused them to consider her an American brig, and as such she was reported to the consul for the United States.
A few of the preceding data convinced me they had seen the poor Challenger, but I was more strongly assured of the fact by pointing to the Conway, then at anchor near us, and asking whether she was like that ship — and near her size? Yes, sir, they replied. The green roundhouse abaft, seemed to have been a deception caused by looking at the curved green taffrail of the Challenger. I concluded that the mizen-mast had been cut or carried away; perhaps used as a raft: that the boats had been lowered, and that the ensign was St. George's, (Sir G. E. Hamond's flag being white at the mizen) but did not fly out, as there was no wind. The quarter-deck guns were close to the side, or perhaps below. Such were my thoughts, but other persons were of a totally different opinion. I was astonished that the Commodore did not hear officially from Santiago — particularly as the merchant's private notice was received through our Consul-general.
16th June 1835
Captain Fitzroy’s Journal: