Shifting Blame
previous page     BC Lists     Clallam Index     next page
SHIFTING BLAME FOR DISASTER
from the Victoria Daily Colonist, 21 Jan 1904, pg.1

Investigation Now Being Conducted at Seattle Into Foundering
of the Clallam Has Developed a Peculiar Bias in Favor of Officers


Evidence Before Coroner's Jury In This City Continues to Disclose
Serious Discrepancies in the Tales as Told in the American City


The investigation is being formed in connection to the disaster to the steamer 'Clallam' that the enquiry now being conducted by the United States Inspectors Turner and Whitney, is to be a whitewash for Capt. Roberts, and that Chief Engineer DeLaunay has been elected as the scapegoat upon whose shoulders the blame is to be placed. A special from Seattle says that this is the general belief in that city, and on the evidence of the captain and the manner in which the inspectors examined the chief engineer being read by Victorians, the same impression became current in this city. A Seattle despatch says the demeanor of the inspectors tends to confirm the belief to this effect, for whenever a witness made statements contradictory to those of Capt. Roberts, and others who have taken his side, the inspectors new brow-beating tactics in an apparent effort to have the witness contradict himself. It is Inspector Turner's duty to inspect and see the engines and boilers of all Sound boats are in good order, hence he takes every opportunity to discredit the statement of Chief Engineer DeLaunay that the pumps would not work. Whenever witnesses make statements corroborating DeLaunay the inspectors subjected them to rigid cross-examination.

Purser Frank Freer gave evidence yesterday favoring Capt. Roberts throughout, although he admitted that the passengers had requested the captain to put them on the 'Holyoke' and he would not do so. The purser lauded the captain and said he had been cool throughout and had used good judgment. Stewart J.R. Watson also gave evidence to this effect and, and told of giving each passenger a life belt. P. Maddock, fireman, said of the deadlight being broken for some time prior to the disaster, and William Cox, an engineer, who had been on a vacation, said the captain and the mate had been many times notified that the deadlight was broken.

Chief Engineer DeLaunay, when recalled at the second day's session of the 'Clallam' investigation yesterday, announced with greater emphasis than when he was first upon the stand that he believed the primary cause of the loss of the 'Clallam' could be traced to the engine room deadlight, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

This much-discussed deadlight was located abreast of the engine and boiler room, about eighteen inches. DeLaunay testified, above the water line and perhaps three and a half feet below the main deck.

J.L. Atkins, an oiler of the 'Clallam', testified that he closed the sea injection valve and that he knows no one bothered this contravance thereafter. With equal positiveness Edward Parker, another oiler, testified that he closed the valve and that Atkins was then replacing the water glass in the engine.

This statement respecting the water glass in the engine instantly drew Inspector Turner in a half raising posture, with the question:

"When that ship was sinking did the chief engineer send a man to fix the water glass on the engine."

Mr. Turner displayed great earnestness. He had been hastening to the examination of the witness he conducted by Capt. Whitney. But with "Excuse me, captain, for a minute," he put his question excitedly.

Parker replied that the chief had not given such an order; that Atkins took it upon himself and that when DeLaunay discovered what he was doing he told him to come on and help the others of the crew.

Parker and Atkins flatly contradicted each other on another material point respecting the conduct of things in the engineer's department, Atkins swearing that he had at least three times removed the cover on the bilge box and that the lid was finally left off altogether. That was the condition of the bilge he stated, when the 'Clallam' sunk.

Parker testified that he stood by the bilge and removed the cover four times, cleaning the box of debris, and that when he placed the top on the box no one removed it after that and that the vessel foundered with the bilge box top in position.

Incidentally it discovered, according to the testimony of Chief DeLaunay on recall, that two firemen left the engine room at a critical time. Chief DeLaunay stated, in effect, that they had deserted, retreating he supposed, to the upper deck or some other part of the vessel.

The inspectors wanted to know why DeLaunay did not have the men brought back and the chief replied that he looked about for them, but at that critical moment had not time to make a search for them, that they were green hands and would doubtless have proved of no great service in the handling of the pumps.

E.W. Heath, the builder of the 'Clallam', went into detailed verbal description of the boat. He stated that the hull and joiner work of the 'Clallam' cost $28,000.

Replying to Capt. Whitney as to whether he considered the 'Clallam' a well built vessel, Mr. Heath said, "I aimed to build an honest boat. She represented the best workmanship skilled labor could produce. She was my fiftieth boat." Mr. Heath went into every detail of construction of the 'Clallam', describing minutely every principal stick of timber used.

Capt. S.B. Gibbs, agent and surveyor of the San Francisco board of marine underwriters, gave it as his opinion that the 'Clallam' was one of the best built vessels he had ever seen. She was well constructed by Mr. Heath, whom he regarded a first-class workman. Capt. Gibbs closed his testimony saying: "I never saw a better work than that on the 'Clallam' and 'Jefferson'."

John T. Heffernan, proprietor of the Heffernan Engine Works, metalled the 'Clallam's' engines, which he built, and her pumps and other machinery. On taking the stand, Heffernan stated that George H. Lent, supervising and constructing engineer of the Puget Sound Navigation Company, had told him to spare no expense in equipping the 'Clallam', and that wherever he saw he could make an improvement to do so, and to tender the bill for any increased cost. Heffernan described her system of pumps and declared the pumps were the product of the best manufacturers in the country. Witness stated that the 'Clallam' had a seven inch injection pipe, and the same size discharge.

Inspector Turner's estimate of the total capacity of the 'Clallam's' pumps, given Monday during the examination of Chief Delaunay, Heffernan said, was very conservative. This estimate was 100 tons of water an hour. The 'Clallam's' pumps, under pressure, he stated, would discharge materially more than 100 tons of water an hour.

Mr. Turner questioned Mr. Heffernan closely regarding the sea injection, trying in every way to elicit some opinion as to the real source of the water in the 'Clallam's' hold. Heffernan in his description of the hull, brought out the fact that there were three holes in the 'Clallam's' bottom, one the suction for the fire pump, another the suction for the handpump forward, and the third the circulating injection. Either one of two, the circulating injection or the handpump forward, if left open, would in time sink the ship.

Continuing his testimony, Mr. Heffernan in effect said:

"There was nothing wrong with her machinery. It was of the best. Her pumps were larger and more powerful than are ordinarily used in vessels of her size.

L. Meyer, one of the 'Clallam's' quartermasters, testifies that the house flags and the usual distress signals were displayed from the time the 'Clallam's' engines gave out.

Capt. John D. Cox and Harry F. Bullen, both of Victoria, were called as witnesses to the good standing and competency of the late Capt. Thomas Lawrence, one of the 'Clallam' victims, with whom Capt. Roberts conferred as to the advisability of launching the three lifeboats. Both gave Capt. Lawrence a good reputation, and said they had always looked upon him as a good navigator. His competency as a sea faring man they did not think had ever been questioned.

Chief Engineer Delaunay recalled was asked to explain why he had gone to sea with the deadlight in such a condition. He replied that he could do nothing else; that the engineer's crew had kept it patched up as well as they could.

"Once," he said, "we nailed a board across the deadlight on the outside, but it was knocked off somehow while the vessel alongside the dock at Port Townsend. This deadlight was continually giving us trouble - the water seemed to be pouring in all the time."

"Now, is it not a fact, Mr. DeLaunay," Capt. Whitney interposed, "that that deadlight was the least of your troubles before going around Point Wilson?"

"No," Delaunay answered promptly, "the most of my troubles."

No water of any consequences, DeLaunay stated, came in through the - deadlight in the fireman's forecastle.

DeLaunay, in closing his testimony, dwelt upon the severity of the weather, at which Capt. Whitney remarked:

"The Alice Gertrude went through the same storm without injury."

"Yes, by keeping under the lee of the land," DeLaunay answered.

"How could she keep under the lee of the land with the wind from the west?" Capt. Whitney retorted.

H.B. Arnold, a mild mannered quartermaster of the 'Clallam', told in a clear and concise manner of the closing hours of the disaster. He had been off duty and in his bunk asleep during the first of the trouble. When he arose it was to find the men of the steward's department handing out life-preservers. While in his bunk he had heard nothing unusual going on in the engine room.

Passing over many details given by previous witnesses, Arnold was asked whether, in his opinion, it would have been safe to have attempted to lower the lifeboats after the 'Holyoke' reached the 'Clallam'. He was inclined to think not, as heavy seas were running, through not as heavy as when the three boats were lowered.

"I heard no one criticize Capt. Roberts," Arnold answered, in reply to Inspector Whitney's question, "for not placing the passengers on the tug until after the loss of the vessel."
previous page     BC Lists     Clallam Index     next page     Top