Who was drowned on July 24 in attempting to swim through the whirlpool and rapids at the foot of the Falls of Niagara, was born at Irongate, near Dawley, in Shropshire, January 18, 1848. He was 5 feet 8 inches in height, measured 43 inches round the chest, and weighed about 14½ stone. He learnt to swim when about seven years old, and was trained as a sailor on board the Conway training-ship in the Mersey, where he saved the life of a fellow seaman. In 1870 he dived under his ship in the Suez Canal and cleared a foul hawser; and, on April 23, 1873, when serving on board the Cunard steamer Russia, he jumped overboard to save the life of a hand who had fallen from aloft, but failed, and it was an hour before he was picked up almost exhausted. For this he received a gold and other medals. He became captain of a merchant ship, but soon after he relinquished the sea and devoted himself to the sport of swimming.
At long distance swimming in salt water he was facile princeps, but he did not show to such advantage in fresh water. In June, 1874, he swam from Dover to the North-East Varne Buoy, a distance of 11 statute miles. On July 3, 1875, he swam from Blackwall Pier to Gravesend Town Pier, nearly 18 statute miles, in 4 hours 52 minutes. On the 19th of the same month he swam from Dover to Ramsgate, 19¼ statute miles, in 8 hours 45 minutes. On August 12, 1875, he tried to cross from England to France, and although he failed, owing to the heavy sea, he compassed the distance from Dover to the South Sand Head, 15½ statute miles, in 6 hours 48 minutes. On the 24th of the same month he made another attempt, which rendered his name famous all over the English-speaking world. Starting from Dover, he reached the French coast at Calais, after being immersed in the water for 21 hours 44 minutes. He had swum over 39 miles, or, according to another calculation, 45½ miles, without having touched a boat or artificial support of any kind. Subsequently he swam at the Lambeth Baths, and the Westminster Aquarium, and last year, at Boston, U.S., he remained in a tank nearly 128½ hours.
Latterly he had suffered from congestion of the lungs, and his health had become much impaired.
CAPT. MATTHEW WEBB.
The story of his final and fatal effort needs here but a brief description. At two minutes past four, on July 24, Webb dived from the boat opposite the Maid of the Mist landing, and, amid the shouts and applause of the crowd, struck the water. He swam leisurely down the river, but made good progress. He passed along the rapids at a great pace, and six minutes after making the first plunge passed under the Suspension Bridge. Immediately below the bridge the river becomes exceedingly violent, and as the water was clear every movement of Webb could be seen. At one moment he was lifted high on the crest of a wave, and the next he sank into the awful hollow created. As the river became narrower, and still more impetuous, Webb would sometimes be struck by a wave, and for a few moments would sink out of sight. He, however, rose to the surface without apparent effort. But his speed momentarily increased, and he was hurried along at a frightful pace. At length he was swept into the neck of the whirlpool. Rising on the crest of the highest wave, he lifted his hands once, and then was precipitated into the yawning gulf. For one moment his head appeared above the angry waters, but he was motionless, and evidently at the mercy of the waves.
He was again drawn under the water, and was seen no more alive. Some days later his body was found four miles below the fatal Rapids. It bore tokens of the fearful violence of the struggle which he had undergone. His bathing drawers were torn to fragments, and there was a deep wound in his head. An inquest was held, and the jury returned a verdict of "Found drowned."
Captain Webb was married about three years ago, and leaves a widow and two children. It is understood that he risked his life in this last fatal attempt to obtain money for the support of his family.--London Graphic.