Makes a Statement
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MAKES A STATEMENT
from the Victoria Daily Colonist, 14 Jan 1904, pg.8

What Captain Roberts Says in Regard to the Clallam

Captain Roberts of the 'Clallam', is virtually wrecked in mind and body over this catastrophe. He remains at his home in Seattle as much as it is possible for him to do, and even when he does enter the offices of the company he represents, he sits with bowed head. For the past twenty-nine years he has been connected with vessels on the Sound and Pacific waters, and the is the first serious accident he has ever had.

Let alone the fact that the lost of life was appalling, the 'Clallam' was almost his life, and his business associates say that his love for the ship almost passed understanding. Captain Roberts is loath to discuss the calamity. He has said this, however: "I realize I made mistakes, and yet I did what my judgment and common sense told me to do. When a captain of a boat steps on his craft the life of every man, woman and child, aboard lies in the hollow of his hand. By that I mean should the worst come to the worst, upon the captains shoulders the blame must fall.

"I have never taken charge of a ship in my life that I didn't think of that as I stepped on board. And then, too, as I see the women and little ones on deck, I think of my own wife and baby, and I want to tell you, in spite of appearances, a captain never has a really easy moment until the voyage is over and all hands, ship and cargo are safe.

As far as the 'Clallam' was concerned, she was the pride of my life. My money helped to build her. She had carried me to safety so many times that it is hard, even now, to realize that she is gone. She was a staunch little craft. She must have been to have kept afloat as long as she did. She fought the waves as long as there was a plank left of her, and even then the break of day saw her pilot house still afloat.

"And now for my explanation of the affair. I thought for a time we could make Victoria. When I found we were unable to do that; my first thought was for the safety of the women and children. The shore was only a little way off. I knew that by the time assistance reached us we might be miles away from land. We had to go with the wind and tide and they combined were taking us rapidly away from shore. I knew it was next to impossible to sink a lifeboat such as we had on board, and, thinking as I did that the 'Clallam' was likely to sink at any moment, my best judgment was to put the women and children in boats, man the craft carefully and let them make shore if possible. They were all supplied with life-preservers and that plan was carried out.

"It is true the 'Clallam' stayed up for ten hours after we had launched the small boats into the sea. But at the time they lest us I thought she would go down at any moment. I doubt, however if any more lives would have been saved even had the women remained on board until the end. Suppose I had not launched the small boats, wouldn't people be asking' "Why didn't you send the women away in the lifeboats while you were so near the shore?"

"My God man," said the captain with tears in his eyes, "do you think it wasn't maddening for me to stand on the deck of my own ship and see innocent women and children fighting for their lives in the waves?

"I had my duty to perform toward the passengers, the boat and the company I represented. I tried to do that duty. I did the best I could. My judgment and sense made me do what I did. I must stand or fall by the result and am willing to do so. That is all I care to say, all, in fact, I can say."
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