All Captain Thought About Was His Ship
Bad Condition of Clallam's Rudder --- Roberts to Give Evidence
Chief Engineer Scott A. DeLaunay, of the lost steamer 'Clallam', gave evidence yesterday at the
coroner's inquest before Dr. E.C. Hart that the disaster to the steamer which involved such loss
of life was due to the broken deadlight, which had been broken at least three months, and
although he had notified the former master, the supervising engineer, port engineer and boss
carpenter, had not been repaired. Had the rudder been in good condition, though Capt. Roberts
would have been able to get the steamer around to the wind and the broken deadlight then brought
into such a position that it could have been blocked. But the rudder - the second that had been
fitted in the steamer - was in bad condition. Its bad condition was so notorious that luff
tackles had been fixed to aid in bringing it round. The long stock of oak was split like a bunch
of straw, and when the helm was put hard over it had little effect on the rudder.
The chief engineer also gave evidence of Capt. Roberts not having informed the master of the 'Holyoke' of the extremity of the 'Clallam', and of how Capt. Hall, of the 'Holyoke', had told witness after picking him up when the 'Clallam' sank that he had known of the condition of the vessel, he could have taken her into the lee of Smith Island. Capt. Roberts would not transfer his passengers to the tug. He could have, but he wanted them to help to save his steamer. "In my opinion," said the chief engineer, "had the 'Clallam' been insured for a hundred thousand dollars not a life would have been lost.
These and other things were brought out in the evidence given by Chief Engineer DeLaunay. He told of the pumps, and of how the list of the steamer caused the water to be mostly on the starboard side, and, as the suction of the pumps was on the port side, the water had to be deep on the starboard side before the pumps could reach it on the port side. He did not think that bailing did any good. As for the statements made of the water coming through the seacock, this was impossible. There was not an automatic valve on the seacock, just an ordinary bulb valve. He could not tell whether the flag was reversed. It was too black to distinguish whether the Union was up or down from the deck, much less from any passing vessel. None of the officers went to the boats to which they were assigned by the rules. He had been assigned to No. 3 boat, but had not been informed when it was lowered. If he had, he would not have gone into it. He said the cargo had been piled around the deck pumps. This was customary. He had not received a bell from the bridge after leaving Port Townsend. He had notified Capt. Roberts without delay of the water coming in through the broken deadlight, and had Capt. Roberts been able to get the vessel, around to the wind he could have blocked up that deadlight.
Chief Engineer DeLaunay said he had been chief engineer of the steamer since she started running. Was eleven years at sea. On the day of the disaster the engine room deadlight broke in when an hour out from Port Townsend. It was eighteen inches above water on the starboard side. It had been without a clamp and been sprung for some time. In fifteen minutes he notified Capt. Roberts, who sent the mate down to assist him. He first whistled through the speaking tube , but being unable to understand Capt. Roberts' reply he thought the captain had not understood him, and he went to the bridge. He met the mate coming down as he went. He told Capt. Roberts that he must get the steamer around to the wind if he wished to save her. Owing to the condition of the rudder the captain could not get the steamer around. There was by that time considerable water in her. In the meantime he and others had been trying by every possible means to stop the inflow of water. He didn't succeed, and he had all the pumps that worked to the bilge attached. The water rose rapidly. Coal and ashes washed into the bilge and choked the pumps. The water got so high he was unable to get down to clean out the strainers. He cleaned out the mudbox a number of times. He remained in the engine room until driven out, until there was about six feet of water there. The fires went out about 4 o'clock. He tried to get the deck pumps working, but they choked in about half an hour. The boats were launched soon after he was driven out, and he went to the main deck; he saw a boat swamped as he looked through a port. A bucket bridge was formed after the boats were lowered, which worked until the tug 'Holyoke' came.
He had noticed that Capt. Roberts had said in his evidence that he had told the 'Holyoke' to tow the 'Clallam' to a place of safety. Capt. Roberts had sung out, "Tow me to Victoria." Capt. Hall replied, "It will be impossible; I'll tow you to Port Townsend." Capt. Roberts made no reply and the 'Holyoke' started to tow. Witness hadn't the slightest idea in the world that the steamer would reach Port Townsend. She went down four hours after. The 'Sea Lion' came fifteen minutes before the steamer sunk. Capt. Roberts told her to go and tell the 'Holyoke' to stop towing. Soon as the tug stopped the steamer went over on her beam, and those on board were washed off. There was no reason why they should not have cut the line themselves then or at the time the 'Holyoke' started towing. He was picked up half an hour afterward. He felt satisfied that the water which put out the fires came through the deadlight. After he had been picked up by the 'Holyoke' Capt. Hall wanted to know why Capt. Roberts had not informed him of the condition of the 'Callam'. If Capt. Hall had known the condition of the vessel he would have tried to save the lives of those on board.
After telling of the engines and pumps and pipe plan of the 'Clallam', he told in detail of the bad condition of the rudder. In answer to Juryman Cullin, he said rudder was not in good order that day, or for many days before. Ever since it was installed it was in bad condition. The rudder stock was of green oak, about 28 feet long, and only 10 inches in diameter. It ran up through the galley and the heat warped it, causing it to keep slipping. It already had considerable spring. The result of it slipping on the lag screw was that it was split from the saloon deck as far below the main deck as they could see. There were chain and a rope fall rigged as luff tackle for the purpose of assisting the rudder around. When the tiller was put hard over the rudder would only go around a little way. It was so badly split that it looked like a bunch of straw. The old rudder was the same, and he was told that there was another rudder awaiting the steamer at Seattle. He drew an illustration of the manner in which the rudder stock was placed.
He had notified the captain an hour after leaving Port Townsend that the deadlight was broken by whistling, and, getting no response, went to the bridge. The captain evidently understood the message, as he met the first mate coming down to assist the captain. He believed the deadlight to be the only place where water came in, although he couldn't be sure for some seams may have opened up.
There was an ordinary bath valve on the sea injection. There was no automatic arrangement to close this. He did not know if this was contrary to law. He did not think the water came in that way. If it had it would have filled the steamer quickly. If the captain had got the steamer around to the wind it would have got the broken deadlight up out of the water. When the mate came down they got blankets, rags, woolen shores, etc., and stopped it up, but a sea hit it and sent everything adrift. Capt. Roberts came down to the engine room about 2 o'clock. There were three feet of water in the engine room when the captain came down. There was no metal shutter on the deadlight. Capt. Roberts wanted to know if something could not be done to stop the inflow of water, but nothing could be done.
The deadlight had been sprung three months before. He had reported this to Capt. Carter, then in command; to the supervising engineer, to the port engineer and to the boss carpenter. They had promised to have it fixed, but nothing had been done. If it had been fixed this disaster would not have happened. There were no steamers on the end of the bilge pumps. There was a mud box to stop debris from getting into the pumps. The hand pumps were last used on July 3, the first day she started to run. They were clogged below the suction. There was fire drill on three occasions since the boat started running, when one boat was lowered part way.
Capt. Roberts did not seem to have lost his senses, but he was considerably rattled, although witness could not tell much as he did not see him much. He had steam enough to blow a whistle for an hour after the fires were put out, but the blowing whistle would have one no good in that gale. Capt. Roberts made no efforts to sound the water in the steamer, as far as he knew. The only distress signal he knew of was a white masthead light.
At 6 o'clock witness had suggested to Capt. Roberts that they get blankets and waste and, after saturating them with oil, set fire to them on the hurricane deck to make a flare. Capt. Roberts replied, "What do you want to do, set fire to the vessel? If you set her afire she'll be in worse condition than she is now." It looked as if the bailers were holding their own, but this may have been imagination. The water tight bulkheads assisted in keeping her afloat. Many passengers had asked him to go to Capt. Roberts and use his influence to have Capt. Roberts transfer them to the 'Holyoke' when she came up, but he knew what Capt. Roberts' answer would have been. Capt. Roberts would have politely told him that he was running the ship. He thought the passengers could have been put on the 'Holyoke'. Had remarked at the time that was what ought to have been done. Heard several say they had asked Capt. Roberts to do so, and had been refused. If the rudder had been all right and Capt. Roberts could have got the steamer around, he would have attended to the engine room part of it. She had considerable list to starboard and this kept the broken deadlight under water and a continual stream poured in.
About a week before the disaster he had nailed a board over the broken deadlight, but this had been swept off by scraping on the wharf at Port Townsend. Capt, Roberts had said in evidence that he did not know that the deadlight was not in good order, but, said witness, he seemed to know all about the pumps and the engine room, and testified that everything was in working order there. When he had first notified the captain of the water in the engine room there was about a foot there. The water was about six or eight inches over the floor when the pumps were choked. He could not then get to the end of the pipes. The floor was eighteen inches, or two feet, above the skin.
To Mr. Lugrin - He said there was a fire pump, a hand pump which continually worked on the bilge when the engines were running, a circulating pump, which could be fitted to the bilge, and a small siphon, an inch and a half. The fire pump was working when he notified the captain. Half an hour, or three-quarters of an hour, after the port broke, the circulator was put on the bilge. There were possibly eighteen inches on the starboard side of the floor then. The port side was almost dry. The suction of the pumps was on the port side, but they did not work until the water rose more. The pumps got choked under the skin and he could not reach them. He opened the mud box a number of times. Coal and ashes were washing into the bilge under the skin. The skin had opened up, the seams spreading half or three quarters of an inch under the boilers owing to the heat. The suction of the pumps was all on the port side, and the water was supposed to run under the keelsons, but it didn't seem to. The pumps worked all right until they clogged. In the opening of the mud box five or six minutes were occupied. When the box was cleared the pumps choked under the skin. He was under the impression at first that the seams had opened under the boilers, but could not bring himself to believe that. There was water under the boilers. He did not remember stating in evidence at Seattle that the port did not cut much figure. Water had been coming in from the weather side over the main deck as well as through the deadlight.
When he had asked Capt. Roberts to get the steamer around to the wind she was about four miles from Dungeness Spit, and he believed that the captain could have got her under the lee of the land of Protection Island, if necessary, if the efforts with the deadlights had not been successful when the steamer was brought around. The steamer was to the northwest of Protection Island when he first noticed the water. The steamer had never leaked before. She had been very tight, but had not been in any storm before. If Capt. Hall had know the condition of the 'Clallam' he could have taken her to the lee of Smith Island, and had fair wind going there.
When Capt. Roberts was notified of the condition of the steamer, there was nothing, inasfar as the engine room was concerned, to prevent her getting around. He would have known of the water on board by the manner in which the steamer handled. He had seen Capt. Roberts put the wheel hard over to port when he went to the pilot house to notify him of the water, but the helm did not have much effect on the rudder. The jib had been hoisted in the effort to bring her around the other way, but did not seem to have any effect. The water in her was not sufficient to prevent her from going around. The steamer could have gone back to Port Townsend if she could have been got around.
The deadlight had been blocked at first with woollen blankets and shored up in from the skin to above the skin with wooden wedges. As they were about to secure it a sea struck the deadlight and sent everything adrift. The blanket went out through the port; water poured in. They rushed around, found other blankets and wood, but the water knocked everything away. There was a distance of sixteen inches between the skin and the deadlight. There was no lead in the deadlights. He kept working at the deadlight until so much water got in that he could not reach it. He was working at it after the pumps had stopped, after the fires were out. He notified Capt. Roberts before the pumps were clogged. They were working when the captain sent the first officer down. There was steam on then. There was a foot of water on the floor.
The circulating pump had been put on the bilge by an oiler at his instructions. It was necessary to close the main injection. The oiler closed this while witness opened the suction to the bilge. If the main injection had not been closed water would have continued to flow into the bilge. It was impossible for the sea to have flooded the vessel through this seacock. At the last the deadlight was under water altogether. The greater the list, the more water came in. If running before the wind the deadlight would have been out of the water. If she was bow on to the wind she would have straightened. The cargo was light and didn't affect her much. The shifting of the cargo made little difference. His relations with Capt. Roberts had always been friendly.
The 'Clallam' made more water after the 'Holyoke' took her in tow than before. Towing seemed to sink her quicker. He saw the flag flying, but it was too black to distinguish the Union being up or down from the deck, much less from a passing vessel. He would assume that a ship a mile away would not see it. All the officers were billeted to the boats; he was billeted to No. 3 boat by the rules. He was not in charge. Had not been notified when she was launched. He would not have gone in her if he had. He thought she would have been smashed on alongside the steamer. There were rules for the officers to take charge of the boats, but they were supposed to be notified by the master of the ship. No. 1 boat was the chief's boat, but he had not gone in it. Not one of the officers billeted to the boats went with them. He did not think any boat was assigned to the captain under the rules. Some of the crew, two deckhands, three firemen, an oiler and the messboy had gone in the boats. Most of them were drowned. He had seen a boat capsize from a port on the lower deck. She was away from the steamer's side; there were people clinging to it, he saw many others in the water. Nothing was done that he saw to help them. He went to the hurricane deck after the boats were launched and assisted to put the weather boats over. This occupied an hour. They were all smashed against the steamer's side, except one, in which an oiler got away as the steamer was sinking. Donkey boilers were not required on inland steamers, although the Alaska boats have them.
It was customary to pile cargo about the deck pumps. He had moved cargo for ten to fifteen minutes before they were manned. They soon choked. When the 'Holyoke' came she was near enough for the passengers to be saved by lines. He was positive that Capt. Roberts had not told Capt. Hall, of the 'Holyoke', of the condition of the steamer. If the steamer had been insured for a hundred thousand dollars, he said, no one would have been lost. The only object that the captain had was to try and save his ship. When he got to Seattle and was interviewed by a reporter the first thing he spoke of was his ship and of his money having helped to build her. He wasn't worrying about the lives that were lost.
He thought the reversing of the engines might have done some good when the captain could not get the steamer around. When the pumps were clogged it was almost impossible to have dis-connected them and cleaned them out. He had tried, but found it no good. He was given a crew of five men, an oiler, fireman and deckhand, and two others for his boat. He did not know about the boat's equipment. It was not his duty to look after that. The average deckhand on the Sound steamers did not know anything about handling boats; they were not required to. All they were required to do was to handle freight.
Capt. George Roberts, master of the lost steamer 'Clallam', who has been so severely criticized on account of his actions in connection with the 'Clallam' disaster, and First Officer W. Doney, will come to Victoria to give evidence before the coroner's inquest. The coroner was notified to this effect yesterday by Mr. Blackwood that they would come to testify when the Seattle inquiry closes.