Remains of Purser Lockwood And A.K. Prince Drift into Esquimalt Harbor|
Search For Bodies Is Being Diligently Prosecuted In the Straits
United States Government to Make Strict Enquiry into Clallam Disaster
The officials of the department of commerce admit that the present practice of submitting steam
vessels to an inspection only once a year by officers of the steamboat inspection service is
unsatisfactory. The inspectors may perform their duty most faithfully but the certificates are
issued to vessel owners for the period of one year, and there is no guarantee that within a week
or month after the annual inspection is made the owners and masters will not allow the prescribed
life-saving appliances to get out of repair and remain so until the time approaches for the next
Collectors of customs are authorized to look after these things, but it is customary for them to exercise them sparingly. It is proposed that Collector Ide shall, therefore exercise in the Puget Sound district all the authority of this kind that the laws provide, and that he shall do so constantly. Cases have been known, according to the officials, in which lifeboats or the apparatus for lowering them on large steamers have been out of repair for months at a time. The same statement applies to the fire extinguishing apparatus and other life-saving instruments.
It need cause no surprise if in the near future masters of merchant steamers of Puget Sound are required to conduct an occasional fire drill in the presence of the collector of customs or his representatives of their ability to lower their lifeboats and rafts with energy ad promptness.
Assistance Secretary Armstrong telegraphed several days ago to inquire where the revenue cutters 'Grant' and 'Arcata' were at the time of the 'Clallam' wreck and to be informed as to why they did not go to the assistance of the distressed vessel when word was telegraphed to Port Townsend. He said today that if they were away from port and not within reach of the telegraph, they would of course, be held blameless, but he wants to know that they omitted no duty which was in their power to perform.
Mr. Armstrong has received no reply, but it is presumed that full official report will come by mail.
The United States 'Clallam' disaster investigation, which begins Monday morning before the United States marine inspectors at Settle, promises to be the most important of that character ever held in the northwest, in that an attempt will be made to place responsibility for the loss of fifty-four lives, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Inspectors Whitney and Turner declare they will spare no pains to bring out all the facts pertaining to the case, and Captain Roberts, master of the vessel, and her owners and managers say they court the most rigid inquiry.
One of the questions to be answered is that as to the cause of the leak - whether the vessel opened up or not. Neither Capt. Roberts nor the owners have publicly expressed an opinion as to how the 'Clallam' came to fill so quickly. What their contention will be they decline to state in advance of the inquiry.
While many statements were made by passengers and members of the crew in explanation of how the 'Clallam' filled so rapidly, that to the effect that the water came in through the broken deadlights was not accepted as satisfactory by marine men generally. Their theory has been that the 'Clallam' opened up, and this is the belief of many of the surviving passengers.
The contention of the 'Clallam's' owners and Capt. Roberts will be that the vessel was of the strongest construction; that she was well equipped and absolutely seaworthy.
To enlighten themselves on this point, Inspectors Whitney and Turner, Capt. Gibbs, representing the Marine Underwriters' Association, and Messrs. Walker and Hibbs, Lloyd's agents, yesterday made an inspection of the steamer 'Jefferson', which the Puget Sound Navigation Company is building at Tacoma. This vessel is being built by Heath and under the same plan of construction as was the 'Clallam'.
After his return from Tacoma last night, Capt. Whitney said: "We found the work on the 'Jefferson' satisfactory to us in every respect. She is one of the strongest built vessels I ever saw. The same plan and method of construction were employed on the 'Clallam'.
"It is impossible for me to understand how a vessel built as the 'Clallam' was, could have sprung a leak. It's a mystery how she took so much water in so short a time."
A seafaring man who does not subscribe to the theory that the 'Clallam' sprung a leak and also discredits the story that enough water flowed through the deadlights to put out the fires and sink the vessel, last night said:
"Sometimes the arrangements of the valves in the pipes of a vessel are such that if a valve should accidently be left wholly or partially open, water would back in from the sea and fill the vessel to a considerable depth before it would be noticed. That may have been how the 'Clallam' filled with water."
Aside from inquiring into the manner in which the 'Clallam' disaster originated, the inspectors are prepared to go thoroughly into the conduct of Captain Roberts, his officers and crew after the fact that the vessel was in serious condition was first ascertained by them.
Passengers of the 'Clallam' have asserted, and their assertions have been widely published, that when the steamer was off Victoria, and, in fact, while the lifeboats, laden with women and children, were being put off, no signals of distress were displayed.
There has also been much speculation as to why Capt. Roberts should neglect, as he is said to have neglected, to inform Capt. Hall, of the 'Holyoke', that the 'Clallam' was in a sinking condition, and to look after the safety of his remaining passengers as soon as the tug approached.