Seattle Inquiry
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from the Victoria Daily Colonist, 6 Feb 1904, pg.6

Captain Roberts Contradicts De Launay and Jensen on Many Points

Griffiths, a Deck Hand, Declares That Clallam Had Defective Rudder

Capt. Geo. Roberts, master of the 'Clallam', again occupied the witness chair on Wednesday afternoon at Seattle, says yesterday's P.I. (Post-Intelligencer), during the 'Clallam' disaster inquiry and his testimony closed the investigation, probably the most important and far-reaching ever held on Puget sound.

While he repeated in the main the story of the loss of the 'Clallam', Capt. Roberts left the stand having given a great deal of new and interesting testimony.

Relating that the 'Clallam' left Port Townsend at 12:10 o'clock p.m.: that the wind began blowing strong soon after the vessel rounded Point Wilson, Capt. Roberts stated that the first information he had of anything being wrong in the engineer's department was about 2:30 when De Launay spoke through the tube from below saying that one of the ports had gone. Continuing, Capt. Roberts said:

"De Launay said nothing, absolutely," the captain continued, "about the deadlight or of me getting the vessel's head to the wind. But I then requested the mate to go below and see what was the matter.

"Eighteen or twenty minutes later, shortly after 2:45 p.m., for I looked at the clock at that time, De Launay came up in person. He told me then that the deadlight had broken in and requested me to go below and look at it. There was no discussion as to getting the ship to the wind.

"I went down and when I looked in the water was about three and a half feet deep over the engine room floor. I asked De Launay if he had plugged the deadlight, and he said that he had done all that he could.

"When I returned above I tried to get the vessel around to the wind, but could not do it. Capt. Lawrence then told me that the engines had stopped, with 125 pounds of steam on. After learning that the fires were out and the engines stopped we began to lower the boats, getting them ready about 3:30 o'clock.

When I went below and found that amount of water I did not think that the vessel would last over three-quarters of an hour. The water seemed to be coming in rapidly. I based my action on lowering the boats on the conclusion that the ship could not last a great while. I thought the boats would live. I did not have to urge the people to get in. They were anxious, and in fact, at this time I was not on the passenger deck. I was on the upper deck looking after the lowering of boats.

"Capt. Lawrence, who commanded the first boat, agreed with me. He was a man of experience in marine matters, and I consulted with him. The mate at this time was below. Capt. Lawrence was perfectly willing to take command. He took my boat, No. 1."

Capt. Roberts related that there were two of the crew, Capt. Lawrence and two other male passengers manning the first boat, with Harvey Sears in charge and two other sailors and some male passengers in the second. There were no women in the third boat, which had two firemen and an oiler of the crew. Capt. Roberts stated that he saw a customs officer jump into the third boat.

Cross-questioned by the inspectors, Capt. Roberts answered:

"I had no idea that there was any water in the ship until I went down with De Launay. But the vessel was going down.

"Yes, the ship answered her helm perfectly. I did not have to resort to using the auxiliery steering gear.

"I did not at any time know there was anything wrong with the deadlight. It was never reported to me."

Asked if he had heard the testimony of Capt. Robert Hall, the witness stated that he had and the Capt. Hall was mistaken "in saying that I requested the ship go to Victoria. I did not make any request to go to Victoria. I told him to tow me to the nearest place he could possibly get to."

Did you tell him the ship was leaking?" Capt. Whitney asked.
Yes, sir." answered Roberts.

Making further reply to questions on this point, Capt. Roberts said:

"I thought he would try and tow me around back of Lopez Island. After the tug had straightened away I did not call it back because of the loss of time it would have entailed and I thought the ship would float until we could get to Townsend.

"As soon as I knew she was sinking I signaled the 'Holyoke' to come back. About that time the 'Sea Lion' came up and, seeing our signals, responded. We had no time to get our port boats down."


Chief De Launay asked Capt. Roberts how he knew of the condition of the pumps, and the witness replied:
"You told me the pumps were choked up."

Capt. Roberts declared, answering De Launay on the question of the 'Clallam's' rudder, that the "vessel steered as well as she ever had."

Having asked Capt. Roberts various questions regarding the rudder, the time he was notified of the condition of things in the engineer's department, and having received unsatisfactory replies, De Launay, addressing the witness, said:

"It is very evident, Capt. Roberts, that these gentlemen will hold me responsible for this accident."

"I object to any conclusions you have," Capt. Whitney interposed. But De Launay persisted:

"I am positive, Capt. Roberts," he said, "that no man will ever convince you that I was responsible."

Capt. Roberts declared that in giving his testimony he had told nothing but the truth, to which De Launay rejoined:

"I hope you have a clear conscience; I have, I was taught from my infancy to tell the truth."

Inspector Turner, addressing De Launay, said: "I believe you told the truth right straight through as you saw it."

Griffiths stated that he had been going to sea more or less for seven years. He declared his belief that the 'Clallam' had a defective rudder and asserted that the passengers could have been transferred from the 'Clallam' to the tug 'Holyoke' saying:

"If no other way, I would have got a line between the two ships and used a boatswain's chair, sliding the people from one ship to the other."

Griffiths modified his statement, made in a affidavit submitted Tuesday to the effect that "Capt. Roberts reminded me of a crazy person.: The captain, during the lowering of the boats, he said, appeared to be very excited.

In further explanation how he would have prevented loss of life after the 'Holyoke' came up Griffiths stated that he would have attempted to lower the boats and life raft. This he was convinced could have been done. If the boats could not have lived the raft certainly would.

"The boats lowered were not properly manned," Griffiths said, referring to the lowering of the boats, "and I would have had a crew of sailors in each."

Capt. Whitney asked Griffiths if his various schemes for preventing the loss of life had not come to him after talking ashore with members of the crew. Griffiths declared that they had not; that he was not excited at any time and never believed the 'Clalam' would sink until just a few minutes before she went down.

"Tell us everything you think was not right in the management of the 'Clallam'," Inspector Turner said, when the witness paused, as if he had concluded his testimony.

"Well, the rudder was not a very good one," Griffiths resumed. "Once coming out of Victoria harbor we had to get the tackles onto it in order to get it to work well. The tackle, I suppose, had to be put on to pull the rudder around. The rudder stock turned, and the tiller would not turn half as much as the rudder."

"Again, we had to tighten the nuts on the rudder several times, once in this harbor."

The witness stated in conclusion that he had found a deadlight open in the steerage, but that he closed it. A little water had come in, but how much he could not tell.
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