A NARROW ESCAPE FROM SHIPWRECK.
Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XXV, Issue 5, 11 January 1866, Page 3
A NARROW ESCAPE FROM SHIPWRECK.
[From the Nelson 'Examiner, December 23.]
The narrow escape which the fine steamer Tararua had from shipwreck, on "Wednesday morning last, at Cape Farewell, must not be dismissed with a simple notice of the occurrence. Had the vessel been wrecked, or bad she sustained any serious damage by going on shore, an inquiry into the cause of the accident would have been made, and the public would have learnt the particulars; but as the steamer was most fortunately sot off the beach upon which she was Blindly run, without sustaining any material damage, and with the loss only of her deck cargo, unless the press take the subject up, nothing more will be heard of it, and the warning it should be made to serve will be lost. It is unfortunately too common, in accidents of this nature, to treat them simply as accidents, and to say but little about them. There is not always a sufficiently searching investigation into the causes of such occurrences, and, through a sort of false delicacy, or foolish good-nature, officers of vessels, who are highly culpable, are screened from the blame their conduct really merits. A man who has in his charge the lives of a large number of his fellow-creatures — to say nothing of the property likewise intrusted to him — should err rather on the side of overvigilance than of neglect. Tet in the instance of the large steamers which have been lost on the coast of New Zealand, the cause has always been attributable to the carelessness of those in command, and not to rough weather, which is supposed to be the chief cause of danger to shipping. The wreck of the William Denny, near the North Cape ; the Victory, a little below Otago Heads ; the Lord Worsley, on the beach south of Taranaki; and the White Swan", north of Castle Point, are all instances of vessels being run carelessly on shore. The wreck of the Scotia was an equally culpable and unnecessary act ; and the last, and as far as life was concerned most fatal of all these accidents to steamers, the wreck of the City of Dunedin, was also, there can be little doubt, an act of carelessness, as she must have been lost through hugging too closely a dangerous shore an hour after leaving Wellington.
That the Tararua b not added to the list of wreckß on the coast of New Zealand, is certainly not through the foresight of the person principally responsible for the safety of the vessel. It is with great reluctance we write on the subject in this manner, but a sense of duty compels us to do so. Captain Gardyne bears the reputation of being a good officer, and we have no wish to detract from the estimation in which he is held, but the fact of running his vessel on shore, and imperilling the lives of from seventy to eighty persons, and the safety of property of the value of at least £60,000, must not be blinked, and the facts, such as they are, ehould be told. t The Tararua left Sydney on Friday, the 15th instant, at noon, and after Saturday, no sights could be got through the prevalence of thick easterly weather. In common with the general rule of masters of steamers running between Sydney and Nelson, Captain Gardyne made a direct course for Cape Farewell, which he expected to nmke.on the
morning of the 20th. The steamer Otago, belonging to the same company, has made the ruu in considerably less time, as we beeve also has the Tararua, when more favoured oy weather. On approaching the coast of New Zealand, the wind, which had been as we have said easterly during the passage, blew from the north, so that the vessel had a favourable wind. The night of the 19th was exceedingly thick, with light rain ; but, although the land was known to be at no great distance, no steps appear to have been taken to guard against accident, should the vessel have overrun the distance given by the log in a voyage of upwards of 1,000 miles. Although steering direct for a bold shore, and the night so thick that nothing could be distinguished at a distance of three ships' lengths, the commander of the steamer relied securely on his log, and does not appear to have made the slightest allowance for any possible mistake. Captain Gardyne did not remain on deck all night, as is often, and indeed we may say generally done by commanders of steamers when approaching the land in such weather, although the customary instruction to be called every second hour, and furnished with a report, had been given to the watch. Fortunately, this sense of security did not prevail with all on board, and to this fact the safety of the vessel is wholly to be attributed. Mr. Gunby, the chief engineer, who has been for some years on the coast, having come out from England as engineer of the Lord Worsley, felt anxious as to the safety of the ship, knowing that she was approaching the coast, and although it was his watch below, he remained in the engine-room, and with almost an instinct of what was about to happen, while slightly slackening the speed of the ship, kept up a good head of steam to be prepared for any emergency that might arise. At a quarter past two, the second officer, whose watch it was on deck, gave the word "stop her," and Mr. Gunby's hand was immediately ready to shut off the steam, while the cry which directly followed, of "full speed astern," was as instantly attended to. The vessel was thus checked before she took the beach, for the look-out which had been kept forward had descried broken water, which led to the orders to stop the vessel, and reverse the engine, and these orders being so promptly acted upon, the force with which the Tararua took the ground was considerably lessened. Any delay in the engineroom in attending to these commands, would have caused the ship to run so high up the beach that the chance of her ever being got off again would have been exceedingly problematical. As it was, the vessel grounded so lightly, that it did not awake many of the passengers, and she was fast only as far as her fore-rigging. Most luckily, the tide was rising at the time, and there being a smooth sea, by lightening the vessel of her deck cargo, and making use of her powerful propeller, she was launched after remaining fast for fifty-five minutes. Preparations were made, while the vessel was on shore, to land the passengers in the boats if necessary. The spot where the vessel struck was under the easternmost point of the Cape, and although the cliff there stands high, it could not be seen when the vessel had drawn off a couple or three lengths. After steaming astern for half an hour, her head was turned a few points to the North," and when Captain Gardyne thought he could do so with safety, the course of the vessel was changed for Blind Bay, and the weather still remaining thick, the first land sighted waa the French Pass.
The Tararua hadan exceedingly heavy cargo on board, principally for this port, and, after discharging yesterday, she waa put on shore on Fifeshire Island, and an examination made of her by Captain Johnston, Government Inspector of Steamers. No damage appears to have been sustained by her, and she will therefore proceed on her voyage to Melbourne, via Southern Ports, this day. The question naturally arises, What degree of blame attaches to the Captain of the Tararua for this accident to his vessel? That no serious consequences attended it, is fortunate for all who were interested in the welfare of the ship, for the danger was very great. We are constrained to say, that Captain Gardyne is open to grave censure for neglecting the precautions which a prudent man should have taken in his position. Running down dead onthelandin a pitch-dark night, the speed of the vessel should have been slackened, soundings taken, or the head of the vessel slightly diverted from her course, which would have cleared both Cape and Sandspit. But not one of these precautions was taken. The Captain, when called at two o'clock, a quarter of an hour before the vessel struck, and the character of the night reported to him, gave instructions, it is true, to keep a bright look out a-head ; but this look out would not have saved the vessel but for the judicious conduct of the Chief Engineer, who, although off duty, had we believe, without instructions, slackened the speed of the vessel a couple of knots, and sat prepared to act with promptitude should anything be required of him. Having said thus much, we drop the subject, hoping the lesson this accident teaches will not be thrown away on those who were on board the Tararua, or on the officers of other steamers on the coast.
The Mail Subsidies.— " It is pretty certain," says the Wellington Independent of the 30th ultimo, " from what took place at the interview on Wednesday, between Mr. Stafford and the deputation representing the N.Z.S.N. Company, that the former is disposed to act fairly relative to the mail subsidies. The members of the deputation fully expressed their views on the subject, pointed out the injustice which would be inflicted on a colonial undertaking by withdrawing from it the subsidies for carrying mails, which were at the same time continued to another company, and pressed on the Government the grounds on which they thought its recent action should be re-considered. Mr. Stafford, in reply, admitted the general force of their arguments, but entered into an elaborate explanation of the difficulties which beset the Government in connection with this question. To these, pending certain arrangements as yet uncompleted, it would be premature to allude in detail, but the wish of the deputation was so far acceded to, that a guarantee was given that the existing services, which by the previous notice were to cease and determine on the Ist of February, would be continued till the Ist of March, at which time tho whole question would be re-opened."