No Distress
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NO DISTRESS SIGNALS WERE DISPLAYED
from the Victoria Daily Colonist, 14 Jan 1904, pg.1

No Efforts Made by Those on the Steamer to Warn Passing Vessel of Dire Necessity of the Foundering Clallam

Wreckage Found Transferred to U.S. Revenue Cutter by Steamer Maude and Was Beached --- Another Body Fund

Yesterday the harvest of the dead was not so great as in the days preceding. One body was recovered. The steamer 'Maude', which was chartered by E.E. Blackwood, local agent of the Puget Sound Navigation Company, owners of the lost 'Clallam', found the corpse at Darcey island. The steamer 'Maude' had been despatched to Darcey island to recover the upper part of the 'Clallam', which the steamer 'Princess Beatrice' had found ashore there. The 'Maude' picked up the wreckage and was sighted by the steamer 'Charmer', on her way to Esquimalt with it. The 'Maude', however, is reported to have been unable to handle the wreckage, and it was turned over to the United States revenue cutter 'Grant'. The 'Grant' is reported to have left the wreckage at Sidney Spit, although no confirmatory advices to this effect can be secured from Sidney. The wreckage included the main deck, which was there intact, and had apparently been torn away from the hull. One of the deck houses was found intact and the door was locked with a Yale padlock. However, the boys forced the door and on going in found that it had been a storeroom, for they threw out hams, bacon, biscuits and other food. On the upper deck were the empty davits, the capstan and other articles were there. The ice house was intact and was found to contain a quantity of meats and vegetables. The deck was rather light and rose and fell from the wash of the waves. Near the wreck was a large number of life belts floating about. Among the wreckage of the 'Clallam' was found her house flag on the after deck.

Had the 'Maude' not been intercepted by the 'Grant' she would have arrived at Esquimalt early yesterday. As it was when the 'Grant' came she turned over the wreckage to the revenue cutter and returned to Darcey island. There was little disposition on the return of the steamer to tell anything regarding the wreckage or particulars in regard to its location, etc. On returning to Darcey island the body of Col. W. Thompson was found.

At the coroner's inquest yesterday some remarkable details regarding the disaster were brought to light. Edward Lannen of Seattle, a survivor, swore that the steamer 'Clallam' did not display any distress signals, nor was any attempt made on the part of those on board to attract the attention of a steamer which passed the foundering steamer about 4 o'clock on Friday, an hour after the women and children had been drowned. Capt. Roberts would not accede to the request of a number of passengers to put them on the tug 'Holyoke' after the sinking steamer was picked up. During the terrible night only the light on the vessel was a lantern hung about half way up the foremast. The only other lights on board were four lanterns used by the bailers. In view of these facts, and the fact that it is shown that Capt. Roberts could have had the tug tow the 'Clallam' around Cattle Point into the lee of San Juan and in comparative calm water in forty-five minutes at the most instead of allowing the tug to proceed on into the heavy seas on a three hours tow to Port Townsend, the criticism of Capt. Roberts grows space. It is by no means confined to Victoria. The Portland Oregonian voices the sentiment of that district to the effect:

"It is always difficult to learn from the first excited reports of a calamity of this kind just where the blame may be, but the fact that more than fifty lives have been lost by the breaking up of a steamer on a short run of forty miles on an inland sea, is evidence that some one has been guilty of ignorance, carelessness or a lack of judgment that is nothing short of criminal. Travelers who have made anything like frequent trips across that treacherous stretch of water between Port Townsend and Victoria, have often encountered storms which even the experienced and hardy veterans on the route would admit were "close calls".

"All kinds of boats, good, bad and indifferent, have run on the route and a kindly Providence has seemingly watched over some of the cockleshells that have jeopardized the lives of passengers, ignorant of the risk they were assuming. Press dispatches inform us that the 'Clallam' was a staunch new steamer, and the inference conveyed is hat no craft afloat could stand the awful battering of the seas to which she was subjected. And yet the tug 'Richard Holyoke', a wooden craft built more than twenty-five years ago, steamed across the straits in that gale, and was enabled to render assistance which if properly directed would have apparently resulted in saving a greater number of lives. It is not customary to build passenger steamers for inland routes as strong as tugboats for ocean service. They should be built sufficiently strong, however, to prevent their being knocked to pieces by a gale before they are six months old, especially when that gale, serious as it was, did not prevent a twenty-five year old wooden tugboat getting a line aboard the doomed craft.

"An official investigation will probably fix the blame for the disaster, but it will not bring back the lives that have been sacrificed. Like the Iroquois theater disaster, which has hurriedly thrown safeguards around theatre-goers from the Atlantic to the Pacific, it may result in making travel on the Victoria route safer in the future. The storm which ended the brief career of the 'Clallam' was apparently of sufficient severity to have tested the strength of a steel vessel with safety compartments, and in the future no craft should be permitted on the route that cannot face such storms without imperiling the lives of the passengers.

"Whatever blame may be attached to Captain Roberts for a possible error in judgment in taking an apparently poorly constructed vessel out into the teeth of such a gale, his conduct after the craft broke down was that of a brave man, and in striking contrast to that of the poltroon McIntyre, who abandoned the South Portland and her helpless passengers. In his efforts to save the ship Captain Roberts was seemingly aided by a well-disciplined crew."

Some of the rescued passengers have gone so far as to say that had not the officers of the ship been armed they might have been severely dealt with at the time of the launching of the small boats, says the Seattle Times.

The fact that the 'Clallam' remained on top of the water for a period of ten hours after the small boats were sent away leads many to severely censure the captain. It is said that the second boat did not leave the ship until the first had capsized and spilled the people into the water.

It is also said that Capt. Roberts did not fly a signal of distress as he was approaching Victoria, as he should have done, and that he made a grievous mistake when he gave the captain of the 'Holyoke' orders to tow them to Port Townsend instead of ordering him to throw the 'Clallam' on the nearest beach.

Unfortunately Capt. Roberts made mistakes on the eventful night of January 8th. That he did what his best judgment told him to do, however, is believed by many an old sea dog, some of whom retired years ago from a life upon the deep.

It is certain that the captain did not want to give up the ship. While the Alaska Steamship Company owns many boats, the 'Clallam' was the only one built by them out of the money they had earned in the steamship business. The staunch little craft was the pet and pride of the entire fleet. Capt. Roberts himself is a large stockholder in the concern and was interested in more ways than one in the vessel.
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