The enquiry being held before the two inspectors at Seattle, by the United States government commenced at Seattle yesterday, the last witness called being Capt. George Roberts. J.A. Thomson and R. Collister, inspectors of this city, have gone to Seattle to attend the enquiry. Capt. Roberts in his evidence at Seattle, in explanation of his intention lowering the boats where he did, said:
"It was decided, in view of the fact that it was daylight, to get boats ready as we did not think the vessel would last long. This was done in order that any who wished might leave the vessel. I concluded if we left the launching of the boats until dark, it would result in the drowning of all."
In regard to signals for help, Capt. Roberts said the wind blew the red light out. He said some one raised the Union Jack with the Jack up. He ordered it down and raised it again with the Jack down. He failed, however to state whether or not the Union Jack was again raised as he ordered.
The main drift of the questioning was in regard to whether or not the 'Clallam' was taking water before or at the time she rounded Point Wilson. Both Captain Roberts and Mate Downey said she was not. They did not know she was leaking until after she rounded Point Wilson and got out into the heavy seas.
Harold Jensen, seaman of the 'Clallam', in his evidence given before the coroner's enquiry being held by Dr. F.C. Hart, yesterday stated that if the boats had not been lowered none of the passengers or crew would have been drowned up to the time the 'Holyoke' came, and whether they would have been drowned then depended on the action of Capt. Roberts. He also said that Capt. Roberts did not appear to have full control of himself. Jensen told of visits made to the deck by the chief engineer and of how Chief Engineer Delauney said to witness on his first trip to the deck: "I wish the old man would turn around and go back to Port Townsend." Jensen saw the chief come up again and try to get into the pilot house. Failing to do so he had asked witness to tell Capt. Roberts to try and keep the steamer to the wind and Capt. Roberts had replied that he was trying to do so as much as he could. On the last trip of the chief engineer from the engine room he had gone into the pilot house covered with grease and water and when he came out Capt. Roberts came out with him and ordered all hands on deck to set the jib. Then the crew were set to work to shift cargo, and Jensen knew for the first time of the water in the fire and engine rooms and of the danger of the vessel.
He had been on the steamer for five weeks, and had eighteen years experience at sea. He told of the steamer plunging into the seas, of the shifting of the cargo, and of how he had been told of efforts to repair the deadlight when it was found that water was coming in. He had secured blankets for this purpose on orders from the captain. He did not know of the water coming in until at that time. When Chief Engineer Delauney had come up from the engine room when the steamer was about an hour and a half from Port Townsend, the chief engineer had said to witness, "I wish the old man (meaning the captain) would turn around and go back to Port Townsend," Witness replied: "It's blowing pretty hard, but I guess we'll make Victoria all right." Afterward the chief engineer came and tried to get into the pilot house, and when he was unable to do so he had told witness to ask the captain to keep the steamer to the wind, and the captain had replied as above. It was when the chief engineer came up again and went to the pilot house that the captain came out and ordered all hands to set the jib. It was after helping to set the jib that witness learned of the water on board. He went to the social hall to get blankets to try to block the port, and then he went to the engine room grating and found four or five feet of water in there. The fires were out then. He went back and told that no man could reach that port without endangering life, and he advised that the cargo be thrown over. Capt. Roberts seemed most excited. He did not appear to have full control of himself. He paid no attention to witness' suggestion and went on deck.
When the orders were given to lower the boats, witness was in the social hall. He heard orders that all the women and children were to be placed in the boats. It was the purser who gave the orders; the captain was on the hurricane deck superintending the lowering. The purser was on the passenger deck superintending the placing of the passengers in the boats. He told the passengers there was no danger. He did this to encourage them, not because he felt that there was no danger. He assisted in lowering the boats. Alex Harvey jumped in the second one, and then witness went to the saloon deck, on having seen the first boat capsize. He tried to save a passenger, an elderly man with a black moustache. He said there should have been a boat hook to keep the boats from the steamers side. He did not know if there were any on board, if there were they would doubtless have been used. The first boat struck against the guard of the 'Clallam' and turned over. Orders were given after the second boat had been lowered into the water for another man to go on board. It was the purser who gave the order. Witness tried to get in but was unable to do so as the boat had drifted to fast astern. If the tide had been ebbing he believed the boats could have been kept in the lee of the vessel.
Witness and Kelly noticed Mr. Sullins, another passenger and an oiler clinging to the tackle and tried to haul them on board. They got Sullins and the oiler up, but the other passenger was lost. Harvey Sears and Alex. Harvey, who were in the second boat, had tried to clear with the oars, and had the tide been ebbing instead of flooding, they would have cleared without difficulty. He thought the boats should have been made ready, the oars and rowlocks being put in place by the crew before they were lowered. He saw the second boat swamped about three hundred feet astern, and knew that no help could be given. He saw a number clinging to the boat. He heard no orders given for anything to be done to rescue them.
After going to the main deck he went to the steerage to see if the water had reached there, and found that part dry. He then went to the captain and asked for men to help in throwing off the cargo. Soon after he heard that a steamer was in sight and, looking, he saw what appeared to be a steam schooner bound out, about eight miles away. Witness was in charge of the flags, and it struck him to hoist the ensign. He did so. He hauled up the ensign on the jackstaff to the half mast with the Union down. He also hoisted the house flag to half mast on the main gaff. He went below and was gone about fifteen minutes. When he returned he saw that the flag was at the top of the mast and he asked: "Who ordered the flag to the top of the pole?" No one replied and he again put the flag at half mast with the Union down. As far as he knew it remained there. During the time he put up the flag Capt. Roberts was assisting in lowering the weather boats. Witness assisted in bailing, and, finding things going slowly, had asked the passengers to assist, and soon three gangs were working. The pumps were tried but would not work. The water was on a level with the main deck on the starboard side, aft. Bailing was kept up until the 'Holyoke' came.
Shortly before the tug came Griffiths told witness that a deadlight in the steerage was open, and they had tried to get a bolt to fasten it. The captain, who was watching, ordered them to get boards and nail it up. All deadlights below the water or immediately above on any vessels witness had previously been on had shutters to cover them. Those on the 'Clallam' had not. When the tug 'Holyoke' came Capt. Roberts gave the megaphone to the mate. He did not know what conversation passed between the tug and the 'Clallam', but neither of them seemed to properly understand each other. Finally the officers of the 'Holyoke' asked if they wanted to be towed to Port Townsend, and Capt. Roberts replied affirmatively. After the 'Clallam' was in tow they continued bailing. The kitchen windows were broken, at this time and water was pouring in. Griffiths and a quartermaster were trying, without avail, to nail up the windows. Capt. Roberts was afterwards told that the water was gaining, and all hands were ordered to the upper deck. There was no scarcity of lifebelts.
When the tug 'Sea Lion' came about 1 o'clock in the morning, Capt. Roberts shouted, "We want to be taken off. Go to the 'Holyoke' and tell them to stop towing." Had the 'Sea Lion' had not come up the chances were that not a life would have been saved. It was not necessary for the 'Sea Lion' to go to telling the 'Holyoke' to stop towing. Her line being cast off would have had the same effect. This was, though, a serious matter, and rested with the captain only. The 'Sea Lion' returned in abut fifteen or twenty minutes. In the meantime the 'Clallam' had listed to port and commenced to go down by the stern. Witness thought something ought to be done. He assisted the mate to launch the life raft, which was launched clear just as the vessel was sinking and everyone was jumping into the water. He assisted all he could into the raft, which drifted clear of the sinking steamer. He could not tell whether the women went willingly into the boats. It was opinion that Capt. Roberts did not have control of himself. It was not usual for a member of the crew to make suggestions to the captain, but something had to be done. He did not think the captain had done all that ought to have been done to assist the passenger. He did think that the seams of the steamer opened. The water appeared to come through the port. In his opinion it was possible to transfer the passenger to the 'Holyoke' when she arrived.
To Mr. Lugrin. - The squall came up about an hour from Port Townsend. The sea came up quickly. The steamer did no diving into the sea, and witness thought her machinery was not heavy enough to drive her into the sea. He thought the steamer could stand the sea all right. She was shipping no seas. The wind was about four, or say three, points on the port bow. The steamer had quite a list. The chief engineer said he would like to see the captain turn around and go back. The ship then was about one and half hours from Port Townsend. The steamer would be about a third of the way over from Port Townsend when the chief engineer spoke of wishing the captain would turn back. The first order he heard given with respect to the storm was to set the jib and get her head around to the wind. He did not know if there was any water in the ship then. If the cargo had been thrown over before the boats were launched it would have lightened the vessel and perhaps taken the leak out of the water. The steamer would have made less water, but he didn't know if she could have reached Victoria safely. He did not know when the captain first got information of the water in the hold, but he thought if the freight was thrown overboard sooner it would have improved conditions. The freight had to be thrown off before bailing could be commenced. He believed if the freight had been jettisoned earlier and bailing commenced at once the water could have perhaps been kept down. He heard the crew had tried to stop the broken port. He knew of past experiences of oil having the effect of causing the sea to be calmer than ordinarily. If oil had been thrown over after the boats were launched it would have improved conditions. There was a barrel of oil on the deck near the engine room. It was thrown over after dark to get it out of the way. He saw the boats uncovered once before during the five weeks service on the steamer. He believed the boats were all right, but he had never fancied metallic lifeboats himself.
The capsizing of the first boat was known to everybody before the second boat was launched. He believed the captain knew of this. He saw of nothing done, other than he did himself, to save the passengers. No attempt was made to lower the raft. After the weather boats were lowered and all had gone, the captain said he would leave the life raft to the last. The boats were not overcrowded. It requires four men and a steersman to properly man those boats. That many should have been put aboard the boats before they were lowered. He did not believe this was done. As far as witness knew the only man giving orders on the passenger deck was the purser.
Shortly before the 'Holyoke' came alongside he had spoken to the mate about getting the anchors over, and he replied that it was no use getting them out there, for the boat had not chain enough. Witness then enquired about a lead line. This was after dark. Shortly before the tug came the order came to get the anchors ready, and e and others went down to the windlass. There was supposed to be four bars at these patent windlasses. He and another looked for the bars belonging to the windlass, but could not find these. He told the mate the bars could not be found. The mate showed him a crowbar, which could have been used as a break bar. Nothing further was done, and he went on deck to assist in reshipping the tackle on the starboard davits, and arranged the fall and anchor ready for lowering. Then the tug came and nothing further was done regarding the anchors being lowered. If the anchors had been put out when the jib was hoisted and failed to bring the steamer around, they would have caused a drag and brought the steamer around. No sea anchors were put out; there were none on board. Some could have been made of the gangway or other things. If a drag had been put out the broken ports might have been brought around to the weather side. The effect of the sails was to increase the list. He noticed that the steamer righted a little when the staysail carried away. Nothing was done other than to shift the cargo to get the leak out of the water. He did not think the leak could have been reached from the water. The captain had been down to see the condition of the water before the passengers were lowered. An effort had been made to stop the broken deadlight before then.
When he said to the passengers that there was no danger, he thought the vessel was sinking, and what he said was for the purpose of encouraging the passengers. He came to the conclusion that the steamer was sinking because he believed the captain had given up the vessel when he heard the order to lower the boats. The steamer was afloat nine hours after, and would have floated longer if the tugboat had not taken her.
He did not know if the steamer had a full set of signals on board. If those signals had been set when the vessel's jib had been set, they could have been seen from the lighthouses and could have been seen from the lookout at Esquimalt. The signals could have been made out by the steamer which passed, but he could not say whether they could have been read. If the tide had been on the ebb when the boats were lowered, the boats could have remained on the lee of the vessel, but the flood tide crowded them past the side of the vessel. He believed those boats should have been made ready before leaving the ship's side. The crew ought to have got into the boats fixed with rowlocks and oars, and then got the passengers in. If this had been done they could have kept them alongside under the lee of the vessel despite the flood, but the crew could not get the rowlocks out until the tide swept them out past the vessel. He advised the crew to get the vessel's head to the wind. The people were placed in the boats all right. They were all sitting in the bottom. He thought there was something wrong in lowering these boats without having the oars ready for use as soon as the boats struck the water. A half-masted flag did not mean danger. It meant death.
When the 'Holyoke' came up the captain did not tell the tugboat captain the condition of the steamer. The 'Clallam' still had cargo in her. He did not think the steamer was taking water through her seams. Between the time the 'Sea Lion' came and ran to the 'Holyoke' to inform her of the 'Clallam's' extremity, ten or fifteen minutes were lost. When the passengers were swept off, the 'Sea Lion' was lying about a hundred feet off. When the 'Sea Lion' came back on the leeward side, everyone's thought had been to get the tug to take them off. He thought there was no reason why the captain could not have attempted to transfer his passengers at once to the 'Holyoke' or get her under the lee of an island. He believed the boats could have lived then.
To Mr. McPhillips. - He could not say whether the small boats had rudders, The first boat which capsized had been filled mainly with women and children. The flag was hoisted at the top of the mast after he had lowered it for fifteen minutes. Nobody had thought of throwing out mattresses to the drowning passengers. The mattresses would have floated. There were about 45 passengers and 25 crew on board when the 'Holyoke' came. If the anchor had been lowered when the steamer was near Trial Island and had caught, the steamer would have been brought around to the wind. She would have had her head to the sea. There was no one lost from the vessel from the time the boats were launched until the time when the 'Sea Lion' came. There were four gallons of coal oil on board that might have been used to quiet the waves. Capt. Roberts was much excited when the boats were launched. The deadlight was of plate glass. There was no shutter.
To Mr. Lugrin. - If the passengers had been allowed to remain on board the steamer up to the time of the arrival of the 'Holyoke', none would have been drowned up to that time. What happened afterward depended much on the captain's action.
The hearing was then adjourned until this morning.