Seattle Inquiry
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SEATTLE INQUIRY INTO CLALLAM WRECK
from the Victoria Daily Colonist, 16 Feb 1904, pg.8

Decision In Full of the Board of U.S. Inspectors Who Conducted Investigation

Evidence Of Many Witnesses is Reviewed in an Exhaustive Manner

Following is the decision in full of the board of United States inspectors who conducted the investigation at Seattle into the 'Clallam' disaster:

"On January 8, 1904, the steamer 'Clallam' foundered in the Strait of Fuca, drowning fifty persons of the passengers and crew. An investigation of the causes of this disaster was commenced on January 18, 1904, by the United States local inspectors of steamboats and finished February 3, 1904. The findings are as follows:

"The steamer 'Clallam', bound for Victoria, B.C., left Port Townsend at 12:10 p.m., January 8, 1904. Shortly after rounding Point Wilson a heavy southwest squall was encountered which terminated in a steady, strong gale from the southwest. All went well until some time about 2 p.m., when the bilge section of the line pump and siphon became choked. Then the reserve pumps were started on the bilges. About this time a deadlight in the engine room on the starboard side, the outer frame of which had been sprung slightly near the hinge, preventing the lid from closing and which had been very inadequately plugged before leaving Port Townsend by the assistant engineer and oiler, had had its lid fastening carried adrift and came open, admitting considerable water. This was soon closed up with blankets held in place by means of boards nailed across the opening in the ceiling.

"After all plunger pumps became choked, the circulating pump was connected with the bilge. The water gained very rapidly and soon reached the furnaces, extinguishing the fires. The blanket, with which the deadlight was closed, became water-soaked and slipped out of place and the light again came open. It was soon closed again by Mr. Doney, the mate, with the assistance of the assistant engineer and one of the sailors in as satisfactory a manner as circumstances would permit.

"About 3 p.m., or slightly after, the fires were put out by the rapidly rising water. The three lee boats were then lowered, and the first one, filled with women and children, was given in command of Capt. Lawrence, an experienced navigator of Victoria, B.C. This boat was struck by the ships guard and nearly capsized, spilling nearly, if not quite all, the occupants into the sea. The second boat, which contained the remainder of the women and children, together with some of the male passengers, was successfully launched and cleared from the ship's side. This boat, which was in command of no officer belonging to the ship, but a sailor who held a British Columbia mate's licence, had gone but a short distance when also was swamped by a heavy sea and the occupants washed overboard. The third boat, filled with passengers and crew, was up-ended by the fouling of the forward fall and nearly all the occupants precipitated into the sea. This boat would not have been in command of an officer of the ship had she been successfully launched. The lowering of the boats took place about 3:30 p.m., or a little later. The weather boats, which it was impossible to launch, were then made ready and lowered to the level of the rail of the passenger deck. Flag signals of distress were displayed about the time these boats were lowered. It was then discovered that only the engine room and the fire room spaces were flooded, the fore hold having but little water in it, and the fore peak being practically free. A hasty conclusion formed by Capt. Roberts, from the fact that the engine room and the fire rooms were flooded, was that the ship had mysteriously opened up, that the flood was generally throughout the ship, that if she continued to leak at the same ratio, she had only a very short time to float; and the hasty lowering

"The later discovery that the forward compartments of the ship had but small amounts of water in them was evidence to Capt. Roberts that the ship had not opened up her seams. This fact, coupled with the fact that the ship was kept afloat nearly ten hours by bailing with buckets, is proof positive to the inspectors that the ship did not leak, and the evidence all shows that she never leaked nor had shown any signs of weakness.

"About 10:35 o'clock p.m. the Puget Sound Tugboat Company's 'Holyoke', which had been despatched from Port Townsend, found and took the 'Clallam' in tow at a point a little to the westward of a position half way from Smith's Island to Cattle Point, San Juan Island. We believe that the sea was too rough to permit the transfer of passengers or crew at this time. Though Capt. Roberts notified Capt. Hall, of the 'Holyoke', that the 'Clallam' was leaking, he did not notify him of the seriousness of her condition, and, though Capt. Roberts' orders were; "Tow me to the nearest port," he should have been more explicit, and have ordered his ship towed to the lee of Lopez Island, which was the nearest practical shelter. There is no certainty, however, that this place would have been reached as the tide was strong ebb at the time and a very heavy sea running before when the 'Clallam' would probably have steered badly, the inclination of all vessels to lie in the trough of the sea in rough weather.

"At 1 a.m. the Puget Sound Tugboat Company's tug 'Sea Lion' arrived on the seen. As the ship at this time was before the sea, the dining room windows had been stove in and water was coming in very fast, the 'Sea Lion' was ordered to ask the 'Holyoke' to stop towing and come back and take the passengers and crew off. As soon as the hawser slacked the 'Clallam' sheered and turned turtle, throwing everyone into the water. The house then washed off and the 'Clallam' sank, a number of the persons thrown into the water at this time being drowned. Too much credit cannot be given the officers and crew of the tugboats in the rescue work.

"The evidence shows that for an interval of about three quarters of an hour, commencing at the time the trouble with the bilge strainers began, a much greater quantity of water entered the ship than could possibly have been admitted through the small port light. From the evidence, which shows conclusively that the ship was not in a leaking condition, and from the evidence given by the different members of the engineer's department, we are convinced that for a time the ship was flooded by the manipulation of the sea and bilge valves. The attempt to show by the testimony on the part of some of the crew that the rudder was detective, we cannot consider seriously, from the fact that the ship had been steered effectively and without trouble until the ship's headway was materially slowed.

"Great stress has been brought to bear to show that a small air port was the principal cause of the foundering of the ship. This port, being in the engine room and immediately under the supervision of the engineer, we hold him responsible for commencing a voyage if he did not consider it absolutely safe.

"The evidence shows that when Mr. De Launay reported the deadlight, on the port, out of repair, he also made the statement that he did not consider it of much importance, and would attend to it himself, and furthermore, we do not consider that the air port, had it been carried away entirely, as sufficient cause to justify the awful calamity.

"We find that the 'Clallam' was well and properly equipped with pumps of the best construction, bilge strainers and suction pipes properly and conveniently placed.

"The amount of water which entered and sunk the ship, and the time consumed in doing so, justifies the conclusion and all the evidence tends to show and results prove that said pumps were not handled in an efficient manner, and we find that the primary cause which led to the sinking of the 'Clallam' was neglect on the part of the chief engineer; neglect in not attending to and keeping the bilges under control; neglect in not notifying the captain immediately the water in the bilge was beyond control, and incompetency in not improving the means to keep the pumps in operation.

"We are of the opinion that Capt. Roberts erred in not having an officer of the ship in the second and third boats. That he did not attempt to take his ship to the nearest shelter, by giving explicit orders to the master of the 'Holyoke', we believe was an error.

"By authority of section 4,450, R.S. the licence of Capt. George Roberts is hereby suspended for one year.

"By authority of section 4,450, R.S. the licence of Scott A. De Launay is hereby revoked.
"BION B. WHITNEY,
"Inspector of Hulls,
"ROBERT A. TURNER,
Inspector of Boilers."
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