Blaine Banker Tells of the Clallam
|Lester W. David, a banker of Blaine, Wash. was a
survivor of the 'Clallam' disaster, said: "The trouble started about 3:45 p.m., Friday, when we
were half an hour's steam out of Victoria. One of the deadlights broke in as we cruising the
straits, and ere long the water reached the engine room, and, of course that put out the fires.
We hoisted a jib sail, but we could make no headway under that power. It only enabled us to keep
out of the though of the sea.
"By 5 o'clock we saw that it was only a question of time before she went down, and the captain advised, that the women leave the ship in small boats. It was impossible to launch any one of the three boats on the windward side of the ship, although on the leeward side all three boats were launched successfully.
"Two of them swamped and went down right before our eyes, and we powerless to assist them. The other one we watched out of sight. I do not know whether she succeeded in reaching safety or not, but if she did then there are at least twenty unaccounted for who will turn up alive and well.
When we became convinced that the 'Clallam' was doomed, the captain instructed us all to put on life-preservers, and that move undoubtedly saved many lives. Every man on the ship turned to when the pumps could be worked no longer and did his level best to bail the water out. But it came in faster than we could bail it overboard, and we finally quit work altogether. It was a useless effort, and we finally reached that conclusion and saved what strength we had left for one battle with the waves.
"The 'Clallam' sank stern first. No, indeed, she did not go down all at once. She was too brave a boat for that. In fact, one could hardly say that she sank at all. She just went to pieces bit by bit. When her stern was under water we all crawled forward. Some of the passengers slipped as far down as the guard rail. Gradually, as the boat went to pieces, persons were either thrown or slipped into the water. When the sun rose Saturday morning the pilot house of the wrecked vessel was still above water. She was loath to go down and did not do so without a great struggle.
"Cold? I should say not. True, the sea was running mountains high, and the wind was blowing a terrific gale, but I tell you a man had to fight, and in fighting kept warm. I was probably in the water a half an hour when a small boat from the 'Sea Lion' picked me up.
"At no time was there panic on board the 'Clallam'. Every one acted manly, I tell you. The officers and crew did everything men could do, and the loss of the vessel and so many lives cannot be charged up to them. Capt. Roberts did everything a human being could do. He is a man through and through.
"When the small boats were lowered late in the afternoon, there was no scrambling. The men stepped back and allowed the women and children to enter first. Perhaps had they all remained by the 'Clallam' so many lives would not have been lost, but we all thought the move for the best and none of us could foresee what the future held in store for us.
"The 'Holyoke' reached us about midnight and was no time at all in passing us a line. She turned towards the lights that were plainly visible, either in Dungeness or Port Angeles, I do not know which. The 'Clallam' was so waterlogged, however, the tide, wind and waves were so strong that it was a mighty difficult task to make headway.
"The tug 'Sea Lion' saved many lives. There is no telling how many would have perished had she not been hand by to pick us up. I know, personally, I could not have kept above water very much longer.
"The last ones to leave the sinking ship went on a life raft. I understand that they were found dead; probably losing their lives through exposure. That, however, is something I do not know. It was merely a rumor that reached us, and I give it to you for what it may be worth. The 'Sea Lion' took us all to Port Townsend."