The Inquest
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THE INQUEST
from the Victoria Daily Colonist, 21 Jan 1904, pg.1

Witness Says Capt. Roberts Was in a Frenzy, Acting Like a Madman

Capt. Gaudin, local agent of the marine and fisheries gave evidence regarding the efforts to secure assistance for the 'Clallam' at the inquest being held before the coroner, Dr. Hart, yesterday. Capt. J.A. Thomson testified regarding the boilers and machinery of the lost steamer, which he had inspected, and two passengers recounted further details incident to the disaster.

The first witness called yesterday was the boiler inspector, J.A. Thomson. He inspected the 'Clallam' on July 2nd. She had two Scotch marine boilers of the usual type. An engine of 66 horsepower. He detailed he pumps and said she could throw off four hundred tons of water with all her pumps in an hour. There were two hand pumps which could throw forty gallons a minute. They could have become blocked, but this condition could be avoided with ordinary care. The steamer was equipped according to law. The law did not require auxiliary boilers to be carried. He said the 'Maude' could have gone out on the day of the wreck. She might have found it hard to come out of Esquimalt harbor, but when out would have been all right.

Answering Mr. Lugrin, he said the same rules of inspection were followed as in foreign ships with the vessels built here. The statement of the United States inspectors was usually taken regarding the outside equipment of the steamer. There was nothing much outside which materially affected the sea worthiness of the steamer. The inspection had been thorough, occupying a day. Having secured the dimensions of her shaft leading to her propeller, a comparison could be made with the strength of the engines, and it be thus shown whether the shaft was strong enough. He considered that a steamer like the 'Clallam' could have been kept clear of water under ordinary circumstances. There would no difficulty in keeping her clear of the wash through an open deadlight. Inspection of the steamers took place yearly.

Anything with power could have assisted the 'Clallam' when she was drifting off Trial Island. He could not say whether the tug 'Princess' could have weathered the storm that day. The 'Maude' could have done some good. The fires of the furnaces of the 'Clallam' were four feet six inches from the water. Little water would have put the fires out when she was rolling. The hull of the 'Clallam' could 800 to 900 tons of water. All this could have been emptied in two hours if the pumps had been working.

To Mr. McPhillips witness said his duties related only to the machinery of steamers, to see that it was properly placed. He had made his inspection of the 'Clallam' at Seattle, where she was registered. All foreign vessels carrying passengers here were subject to inspection. There were other causes which would have caused the engines to stop than that which did on the day in question. A severe list would have had that result.

Capt. James Gaudin, agent of marine, said he had written to the department in November advising that the D.G.S. 'Quadra' was overhauled annually at the end of the year. The work was late this year.

To Mr. Lugrin - He remembered Mr. Blackwood having telephoned to him on Friday last asking if the 'Quadra' was out of commission. Mr. Blackwood had asked about the tug 'Princess', of the public works department, and witness said she was not under his jurisdiction. He also said he did not think her fit to go out. He had reasons for saying this; recently the 'Estelle', a boat similar to the 'Princess', had sunk in the Gulf of Georgia with hall hands. He believed he had told Mr. Blackwood the 'Princess' might try. He had not told him from whom authority could be obtained to use the tug. If the tug had gone out she could not have towed the 'Clallam' to safety. She had not power enough. She might have been made to tow her around to the wind. He had not thought the 'Clallam' in danger. If he had he would have told Mr. Blackwood where to go to get the services of the 'Princess'. There were bad tide rips off Trial Island. As far as he knew there were no vessels available that day other than the 'Princess'. In answer to a question as to what suggestion he could make for the assistance of vessels in distress, he said that he knew of no other plan other than to maintain a tug with steam up during the winter months. He did not think the number of accidents this vicinity justified a special boat being secured for that purpose.

To Mr. McPhillips - From the time Mr. Blackwood telephoned it would have taken the 'Quadra' up to four hours to get up steam. The 'Kestrel' was under control of her master, who received instructions from the department. He had no authority over the government tug 'Princess'. The tug "Earla' was under the control of Dr. A.T. Watt, superintendent of the quarantine station. He told of the C.P.R. steamers in port, some of which had their machinery apart. The 'Queen City' was to go out next night. None had steam up. If the boilers had been pumped out it would have taken six or seven hours to get up steam. The wind was blowing thirty or forty miles an hour during the wreck.

E.E. Ferris, of Traverse City, Mich., who had been a passenger on the lost steamer, said that when the sea became rough, enquires had been made from the purser if there was danger, and he had assured those who asked that everything was all right. It was when the purser entered the smoking room and asked those there to put on life-preservers that the first intimation of danger was given. Then, shortly after the purser returned and said, "Take off your life-preservers; everything is all right." Witness asked if he was sure and the purser replied, "Sure, the engines are running again." He thought a few took off their life-preservers. Shortly afterwards the passengers were called to the upper deck and asked to assist in lowering the boats. He saw three boats lowered, the first two being filled with women and children. He thought it improbable that the boats would live. He refused an opportunity to go in the boats. He had seen no one forced to go in the boats, but they had been commanded to take their places. Everyone was under the impression the steamer would sink at once. No information was given as to the probability of her remaining above water any length of time.

Witness asked an officer, either the mate or purser, before the boats were lowered, if it was not possible not to keep the water down by bailing until assistance arrived. He was told it was useless to attempt anything of the kind, as the water could not be got at. Bailing was commenced an hour after the boats were lowered, and for four or five hours the water was kept down. When the third boat had been lowered the stern davit paid out, but the bow one had not, either from faulty tackle or bad management, and those in the boat were spilled into the sea. He had seen a boat drifting away half a mile from the steamer, but could not say whether this was the first or second one lowered.

When the 'Holyoke' arrived all anticipated being taken off by the tug, but instead she commenced towing. He was under the impression that the steamer was being taken to Victoria, and went down to recommence bailing. Had the steamer been allowed to drift instead of being taken in tow and bailing kept up she would have been afloat until daylight. Witness and some others went and asked Capt. Roberts to put them on the tug. The captain refused, saying they were safe where they were, and that he would put them on the tug if there was a likelihood of the steamer sinking.

Capt. Roberts was in a frenzy, acting like a madman, when the boats were lowered. He was self-possessed, though, when they had gone to him to request to be transferred to the 'Holyoke'. No effort was made to put the passengers on the tug until the steamer careened over to port, it was then that the 'Sea Lion' came and was asked to go and tell the 'Holyoke' to stop towing. When she returned the 'Clallam's' decks were almost perpendicular, and passengers and crew that remained were clinging to the side and rail. Some were swept off, witness among them. He was picked up by a boat from the 'Sea Lion'. The surveyors could have been transferred to the 'Sea Lion' before she foundered. Ten or fifteen minutes were lost by her going ahead to notify the 'Holyoke' to stop towing.

To Mr. Lugrin - It was between 3:30 and 4 o'clock that the boats were lowered. Two or three men had been placed in charge of them as they went down. All were lowered about the same time. The purser seemed to be in charge of the work of filling the boats. The interval in the time the passengers were told by the purser to take off their life belts and the lowering of the boats was but a few minutes. When the 'Holyoke' took hold of the 'Clallam' her course was changed. He had seen Captain Livingstone Thompson among those bailing.

To Mr. McPhillips - He had not seen any of the passengers from the capsized boats in the water. There appeared to be some people in the boat he saw about half a mile away from the steamer. When the 'Holyoke' came there were forty or fifty people on the 'Clallam'. Questioned as to the words of Captain Roberts when the passengers requested to be transferred to the 'Holyoke', he said Capt. Roberts had stated: "Just keep quiet where you are, and I assured you I will signal the 'Holyoke' to came back and remove you before the vessels sinks." The captain was possessed with an intense desire to save his steamer, and did not want to take the time to transfer the passengers to the tug. He said that in view of the fact that the steamer had kept afloat for ten hours after the boats were lowered, he considered it short-sighted policy to put out the boats.

Ralph Case, a Michigan lumberman, who had been a passenger, said he agreed with the previous witness in general. When he was on the main deck as the boats were being lowered, he said to the purser: "Purser, are you going to get into those boats?" The purser replied, "No, I am going to stay with the big ship. You can do what you like." In reply to questions as to why the boats were being lowered then, the purser said it was the captains orders. He went by the judgment of the purser and stayed with the steamer. George Jeffs was there and got into the boat. When the steamer careened over witness went out on a stay of her smoke stack, and, as he saw the 'Sea Lion' coming back, he jumped into the water near a life raft. He was pulled onto the raft. A short fair haired lady of about middle age had her face bleeding when she got in the boats. Before he heard what the purser said about the boats, witness had been asked what he thought of going in them by a young lady of 18 or 20, and declined to give an opinion. The captain was trying to give commands, but he was very excited. He was running from one end of the steamer to the other, with his hat off and his hair waving in the wind. He did not seem to be in command of the boat nor the crew. There was no one actually in command.

The inquest was adjourned until this morning.
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