Borrowing of Equipment by Steamers for Inspection
Capt. Charles C. Manter, master of the 'Sea Lion', one of the rescue tugs, and Frank C. Freer, purser of the lost vessel, gave evidence of the disaster. Capt. Manter outlined the part he and his vessel had taken in the rescue of the passengers and the crew of the 'Clallam' immediately after the steamer foundered. Freer described the scenes prior to the sinking of the vessel from the time he began issuing life preservers until a few minutes before the 'Clallam' went down, His was one of the narrowest escapes. With Capt. Roberts and others he was rescued from a raft and taken on board the tug "Richard Holyoke', which was towing the 'Clallam'. Both the captain and the purser were almost lifeless, and it took some time to revive them after they were hauled aboard.
Among other things Capt. Manter said:
"The first intimations of the disaster received was about 6:15 p.m. of January 8th. When I saw Capt. Libby, he told me to go at once and I left Seattle at 7 p.m., arriving at Port Townsend at 10:15. Fifteen minutes later I left Townsend and came upon the 'Clallam' at 1 a.m. I was in the act of speaking the 'Holyoke' when I saw the lights on the steamer, which I then approached. I was told to go and tell the 'Holyoke' to let go - that the ship was foundering and to be quick about it. When I got back the 'Clallam' seemed to take a little sheer, followed by a crash and then she went down.
"The scene I witnessed then was something don't want to witness again if I can help it. People were foundering in the water and crying for help everywhere about me. We picked up a good many. Just how many I can not recall. Our little boat - life boat about twenty-one feet long - rescued seven. Others were taken aboard from the water and wreckage.
Capt. Manter stated that he first approached the 'Clallam' to within 100 feet, but that he did not care to get closer. Questions were put apparently with a view to determining whether it would have been possible in such weather for either the 'Sea Lion' or 'Holyoke' to have gotten alongside the 'Clallam' close enough to have permitted a transfer of the passengers.
"We could not get alongside," Capt. Manter answered. "If I had got alongside the 'Clallam' and had we come together that would have been the last of the 'Sea Lion', too. No; I had no trouble finding the 'Clallam'. We approached her in answer to the signals."
Purser Freer testified that the first information he had of anything being wrong on the 'Clallam' came from Chief Engineer DeLaunay. The witness said:
"DeLaunay said that he was going up to ask Capt. Roberts to put her up into the wind. I think we were then off Dungeness. And my recollection is that the chief said the steamer was taking water through her port holes. The conversation took place, as I remember, on the starboard side of the passenger deck. The vessel was rolling heavily and the women and children were frightened.
"Half an hour after I talked with the chief engineer I got out the life preservers and it was perhaps within forty minutes from the conversation with the chief that the boats were lowered. It was no great length of time in any event."
Q. Was there any protest from those aboard about the people going in the boats?
A. None at all. Everybody seemed to think it the best course. I certainly did. Yes I thought it a good plan to launch the boats at that time and apparently everybody thought it a good plan.
Further questioned as to the condition of the main deck, the witness answered that he saw no water, and that he was on the deck a short time before the boats were lowered. He then related that he saw distress signals displayed from the boat, and told of Capt. Roberts' coolness throughout.
"He was as cool," said Freer, "as a man could be, and issued his orders as usual."
Replying to the question of the inspection as to what he would have done or what he would have been his wishes relative to taking his chances in the boats that were lowered, Freer, with some emphasis said:
"I can truthfully say that if I had been a passenger I would have wanted to get in one of those boats."
Witness stated that there was no water in the dining room at the time the boats were lowered, and repeated that the lifeboats were placed in the water about forty minutes subsequently to his talk with the chief engineer.
As to the conduct of the passengers at the time the 'Holyoke' came up to the 'Clallam', Mr. Freer stated that he had heard two or three call out to the master of the tug, asking, to be taken aboard. He was inclined to think that the 'Holyoke' could not hear, as Capt. Roberts had trouble in making himself understood.
In Freer's opinion about as much danger would have attended any attempt to launch the lifeboats when the 'Holyoke' came up as when the boats were lowered from the 'Clallam' in the afternoon with such disastrous results.
William Cox, first assistant engineer of the 'Clallam', who was on a vacation at the time of her loss, testified to knowing of the engine room deadlight being out of order, and that he had felt a little bit worried about it. He stated, however, that he would have lost no time in reporting the matter as soon as the port opened. In his opinion, the deadlight, with the sea receding at times could have been closed or shored up in some way.
The inspectors seemingly desired to show by the testimony of Cox that the proper effort had not been made to close the port.
Chief Engineer DeLaunay interposed a request for the privilege of asking questions of Cox, which was granted. He and the witness could not agree as to the number of suction openings in the 'Clallam's' bottom, and as to the various pumps and bilge connections.
George H. Lent, supervising engineer of the Puget Sound Navigation Company, took the stand to explain the pipe plan of the 'Clallam'. Mr. Lent, answering the questions of the inspectors, stated that he had some experience with deadlights. One, he said, had given way in the steamer 'City of Seattle', of which he was chief engineer, while crossing Queen Charlotte sound. This light came off entirely. It was located five or six inches above the water line. The first flow of water through the hole almost carried him off his feet. Nevertheless, with the assistance of an oiler, he had no trouble in shoring it up.