The Inquest
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THE INQUEST
from the Victoria Daily Colonist, 17 Jan 1904, pg.8

Clallam's Steering Gear Had Been Defective Prior to the Disaster

Richard S. Griffiths, continuing his evidence before the coroner's enquiry being held by Dr. Hart yesterday morning, said in answer to C.H. Lugrin that the 'Clallam's' steering gear had been known to be in bad condition, and a month before when she was leaving Victoria harbor luff ropes had to be used to make the rudder work properly. The witness indicated the position in which the steamer was rolling when he was aroused from his berth by the shifting of the cargo, and the points where the lifeboats were launched, and where the steamer was then taken in tow were also indicated. The engines were working when the cargo began to shift, and the vessel could have returned to Port Townsend. He thought the circulating pumps were working then. The steamer was pounding heavily. The engines were working for an hour and a half after that. Witness and others were setting the jib when the engines stopped, the water being then up to the fireman's knees in the fire room. The water had not then reached the grate bars which were about three or four feet high. The steamer rolled considerably after the jib was set.

When the boats were launched the steamer was about three or four miles from Trial Island. She was nearest to the islands when the boats were launched. The 'Clallam' was on the lee side of the island, heading towards it. The boats were launched about 3:30 or 4 p.m., and the steamer then swung around broadside to the wind and drifted. He saw no efforts made to being the vessel around to the wind. If the anchors had been lowered, even if they didn't hold, tide would have brought the vessel to the wind and made her ride easier. The staysail were set about dark and carried away in an hour. It was poorly arranged. The tide was flooding when the steamer was drifting.

When the boats were lowered the water was up to the engine room gratings. If the cargo had been thrown over before the boats were lowered the ship would have been lightened and the list would have been less. No bailing had been done up to the time the boats were lowered. He heard that the water was coming through a port and heard that the mate and some officers had tried to fix the port. The port would be about ten inches in diameter. He thought what was called a deadlight and a port were the same. The broken one was on the starboard side, about a foot and a half above the water line if the steamer had been on an even keel. As far as he knew an effort was made to stop it from the outside. It was not accessible from the main deck, being two feet below. A man, with proper precautions, could have got at it from the guard.

Three ports were broken. They had been broken for some time. Clamps had been off for three months. He did not regard the steamer in danger from the general appearance of things before the boats were lowered. He seemed to him that the vessel would reach some places of safety, probably drifting on one of the islands, He did not think, personally, that she would go down.

A barrel of oil was thrown overboard after the boats were lowered. It was thrown over out of the road. He did not think it was thrown over to calm the waves. It would not have done much good. When the port (the weather) boats were lowered no attempt was made to bring them across the deck to the starboard side. The captain was on the hurricane deck when the boats were lowered. The second boat was in the davits and the mess-boy was passing the painter to the captain, when witness went to the saloon deck and threw a line to Capt. Lawrence. he second boat was in the water right after the first capsized. The second also turned over when about 30 feet away. No effort, that he saw, was made to rescue the people in that boat. He did not see any life-buoys thrown over to them. The third boat was lowered about fifteen minutes after. It took from ten to fifteen minutes to lower the boats of the 'Clallam' Witness was on the port side. One of the hooks of the tackle of the third starboard boat was unfastened. It was not the fault of those on board that the hook was not fastened. This might be because the boat had not been lowered far enough.

When the flag was put at half-mast it was just after the boats were launched. When the steamer passed it was in the afternoon, in good clear daylight. Nothing happened, other than the bailing until the 'Holyoke' came about six hours later. The steamer was still drifting broadside to the sea. Her bow was toward Trial Island. When the tug took hold she was turned. The bailing appeared to keep the water down. The 'Clallam' had no auxiliary boilers, no donkey on deck to work the pumps. When the 'Holyoke' came she went on the weather side and it was difficult to speak as the 'Holyoke' could not have laid alongside, but a boatswain's chair could have been made to take off the passengers. He had not heard the captain give any orders in regard to the tug. The towboat appeared to keep the vessel out of the water, pulling on her at starboard bow. When she started to settle her bow went down more than it would otherwise had she not been in tow. The steamer appeared in an easier position when in tow than before.

To Mr. McPhillips - He knew nothing about the water in the engine room when he saw the storm signals at Port Townsend. He did not go to the engine room. He seldom did. When he came from his berth, because of hearing the noise of shifting freight, he went to shift the break to make a gangway. The freight aft of the gangway caused the list. The freight was all on the deck. He did not know whether the law permitted this. The shifting caused a list to starboard. This list put the ports under the water. They would not have been under the waterline, but for the list. He had always understood a port hole to be the same thing as a deadlight. He first heard the deadlights were letting in water as soon as he came from his berth to shift cargo. One port hole, or deadlight, in the engine-room was letting water. He had seen it before and no water was coming in. With the list and the broken condition, it did not seem strange that the hole let in water. The list would not have any effect on the engines. They stopped because the fires were put out. If a vessel was pitching it would have the effect of causing the engines to race. Only three boats were launched. One hung in the davits, three boats got clear of the steamer. Two boats made away. The third was cut away by the oiler, and others embarked with him in it, making the third boat to get away. Two boats, one and three, were launched and got away by passengers. One was launched by one end, the other end being neglected. The passengers were spilled out or clambered out. This was the boat cut away by the oiler. The boats were lowered and launched from the hurricane deck. When the second boat was swung out he fastened the line to the cleat, but he could not say who lowered the boat. He could not remember in detail what the captain was doing. He knew the captain aided in launching the boats. The passengers he thought - he could not see - got in from the saloon deck.

Capt. Lawrence be understood to be in command of the first boat. He heard the second engineer was in command of the second, but not say who had the third. He saw the first boat capsize. The second boat was in the davits then. The capsizing of the first boat caused him to run down to the saloon deck. He did not know, of his knowledge, if the captain saw the first boat go over. The purser did. The captain was there while the boats were being lowered. The crew all knew their duty; even orders were not given. The pumps could have kept the water down much - he could not say it would have kept the vessel clear - if they could have been used and steam applied. There was a searchlight operated by dynamo in the engine room on the pilot house. The power for the dynamo came from the boilers. If there was no steam up the dynamo could not be worked.

No detonators, small cannon, mortars or rockets were on board, as far as he knew. He had hot a towel from a stateroom on the texas to put over a lantern he had secured. He could not say whether the collier or steamer ought to have seen the flag reversed. The United States flag is difficult to notice in reverse position. The fact that it was half mast would not necessarily indicate distress. That was the sign of death on board. He knew there was a code of distress signals. Capt. Roberts had a set of signal flags on board, but never used them. He remembered them. The flags of the international code of signals had been used for decorations on different excursion trips. He had thought of suggesting this but having heard the captain tell a passenger that he was running the boat and thought that was what the captain would have told him. He could not swear that the 'Clallam' had the flags on board that day, whether they had been taken off or not. The deck hands had not been instructed to use the flags. This was not customary. All that deckhands were instructed to do about here was to handle freight.

Witness had taken part in the bailing. In the fire room Capt. Livingstone Thompson seemed to take a leading part in the work. It was probably half an hour after the bailing stopped before he got into the rigging. He could not say why the 'Holyoke's' line had not been let go from the 'Clallam' instead of wasting the time in sending the 'Sea Lion' to tell the 'Holyoke' to let go. He did not know if this had occurred to the captain. It would have been the most reasonable thing to do. If it had occurred to the captain he would not have sent the 'Sea Lion' to the 'Holyoke'. The broken port in the engine room had been broken for about three months. There was nothing said about saving the passengers in the water. It happened to quick. They were gone before anyone could think. He had heard no references by officers or passengers relative to saving the passengers. One lady seemed to go down with a life-preserver on. She may have come up under the boat. She took one of the deck hands with her. He thought her life-preserver was properly fastened. They went out of sight quickly, and any attempts would have to be made quickly. He was not alongside the captain and could not say what he had said relative to the drowning of the passengers. The steamer had what he considered a pretty good load that day.

The steamer was about three miles from Trial Island heading to the lee of Trial Island, when the boats were launched. He thought the 'Clallam' drew seven feet aft when light. She was down pretty near to the guard when the water was in her. He did not think the captain could have run her into Shoal Island at that time. The wind drove us more to Discovery Island than to there. Efforts all failed to get her before the wind with the jib sheet. She lay in the trough of the sea. The steamer could not have been run on Trial Island. He did not think the captain could have beached the ship anywhere near there. He thought that if Capt. Roberts could have beached the vessel he would have done so to save the ship.

To jurymen he said one boat was left on the vessel when she went down. Several drills, called fire drills, had been held on the boats. The boats were then swung out in the davits, lowered half way down and then hauled up again.

To Mr. McPhillips - He said the chart showed 60 fathoms and less in the position the boats were put out. There would be anchorage there, in his belief. He would have tried to get a hold there at this point where the boats were launched, but he had never thought of anchoring when the boat was lost.

The enquiry was then adjourned until Monday morning at 9:30 o'clock.
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