WRECK OF THE FORREST HALL
CAPTAIN'S SENSATIONAL STORT.
RUM RESCUED, WHILE MEN LEFT ABOARD. RIOTOUS SCENES ON THE BEACH. A MAN WITH A KNIFE. A marine inquiry into the circumstances of the wreck, of the Forest Hal], which stranded on February 27 on the West Coast of this island, twenty-five miles south of Cape Maria Van Diemen, and afterwards became a total wreck, was begun this morning. The application for an inquiry was made by Richard Henry Spence, Collector of Customs in Auckland. The applicant stated that the cause of the wreck was the failure of the master to take soundings, or his failurt to keep off the land after passing the last line of soundings as indicated on the chart. Mr. Selwyn Mays conducted the inquiry for the Marine Department, and Messrs. J. R, Reed and F. G. Dunlop for the captain. The questions set out for inquiry into were as follows:— (1) Whether the ship was seaworthy and fully manned?
(2) Generally, what was the cause or what were the causes to which the casualty was due?
(3) In particular, whether the casualty Was due to, or contributed to by, the negligence or wrongful act or default of any person or persons on the ship, and if so who was the person, or who were the persons, and what was the nature of the negligence or the wrongful act or the default?
(4) Could the casualty have reasonably been prevented, and, if so, how?
(5) Whether, under the circumstances, soundings should have been taken, and, if so, at what time?
Mr. C. C. Kettle and Captain Adam son and Reed constituted the Court.
Mr. Mays stated that although there had appeared to be a second and a third officer aboard the ship, he found, that they were not certificated persons.
Mr Mays opened the caee by an outline of the happenings. He said that Nev Zealand was first sighted at daylight on February 27. The vessel was then on the starboard tack, heading N.N.E., and standing in towards land. Shortly after breakfast all hands were ordered to stand by to go about. The master, who had taken the whole responsibility of the loss of the ship, was on the poop. It was clear that soundings should have been taken after the vessel had passed the last line of soundings, as shown on the chart. The ship was drawing 22ft 3in aft and 21ft 2in forward. After the stranding the carpenter took soundings, and found about 22ft of water. It had not yet been ascertained whether or not the vessel was insured at the time of the casualty.
Mr Kettle: We may have to adjourn the inquiry later until we find out.
Mr Mays, continuing, said that certain evidence seriously involving the first officer would be given, but inasmuch as he would probably be separately dealt with at a subsequent inquiry, he would not touch on this more than necessary. The captain had been seriously ill throughout the voyage, and after the wreck, and it was a question whether or not the mate, knowing this, should not have taken charge of the ship. The first officer wanted to go about some time before the vessel struck, which showed that the latter's jxidgment was better at the time than his chief's. "AN ERROR OF JUDGMENT." John Fenn Collins, the master of the vessel, was the first witness. He stated that the Forest Hall was a ship of 1099 registered tonnage. She sailed from Newcastle on February 7 for Autofagasta. in Chili. Her cargo was 3113 tons of coal, and she carried 10 tons of coal for the ship's use. The first officer was William Glass, and there were 25 souls aboard all told. The chief officer was the only certificated officer aboard. Mr. Kettle: How many are necessary by the Board of Trade's requirements? The Captain: Only one. That is all I have had since I have been on the ship —twelve months.
Mr. Kettle: Is that usual? The Captain: Well, they are hard to get.
At daylight, probably about a quarter tc five, his attention was first drawn to the fact that land was in sight. There was a light breeze and they were heading straight for the land with all sails sot. The chief officer wae in charge from 4 o'clock to 8 o'clock. The atmosphere was clear and the vessel was fourteen or ■fifteen miles off when the land was sighted. After 8 o'clock the witness took charge. When he came on deck at 5 o'clock he told the chief officer to keep in as far as possible, so as to make a favourable port back. Frank Hutchison was at the wheel. The ship was averaging about three knots speed per hour. The hands were ordered to stand by to put about at 8.30 or 8.45. She was then about four miles off. Ho kept her on her course, and at about 9.30 she grazed when about a mile and a half off the shore and about three miles inside the last line of soundings. They immediately tried to put her about, but she ■would not answer. About there minutes before she struck the mate told the man at the wheel to put his helm hard up, but the witness countermanded the order and told -him to keep straight on. He did not take soundings prior to striking, and trusted solely to his eyesight as he thought they were well outside the line of danger, and that shoals would be marked on the chart if they were there as they were marked in respect of other localities. The intended course of the vessel was through Cook Strait or rcund the south of New Zealand.
Mr. Kettle: Why did you want to go through Cook Strait when you had a fair wind to take you round the North of New Zealand ?
The Captain: "I had been up there and lost four or five days and was determined to go South after losing all that time." His health was bad after leaving Newcastle, and he had suffered from fever and ague over three years ago. There were no entries in his log, T>ut there would have been had he any to make. The mate was responsible for the ship's log. Witness had an epileptic, fit on Friday (the 26th) and another on the following Sunday. The ship took a list to starboard before noon on the 27th, and he then gave the men permission leave. He did not know that the second officer (Spragg) and an A.B. named Passmore were left on the ship when the last boat left, nor that they remained there till Sunday. Ashore, witness and his brother (the third officer) stayed in a hut away from the others. On Sunday he went to Parengarenga for assistance. iHe last saw the vessel on Thursday,
March 4, when she was a total wreck. She was sold privately to Mrs. Yates, of Parengarenga, for £30. After the stranding, he only gave out one drink to each member of the crew. Two bottles of rum were taken from the ship in his boat, but they were stolen. There was a keg of rum left aboard, and he heard afterwards that it was taken ashore. He would have destroyed it had he known anyone would have gone back for it. THE CREW AND THE RUM. Mr. Mays: As a matter of fact they went out to the ship to rescue the eecond officer and Passmore, and came back without them, but brought the mm. Before he left on Sunday complaints were made to him that some of the crew were destroying the stores. They were throwing food over the rocks, and breaking chests of tea. They must have been mad and drunk. Complaint was made that a man named Ramsay had chased one of the crew about the beach brandishing a knife and threatening him. He saw Petersen with hie head cut open. Witness was too ill that night to give instructions even if they had come to him. The mate knew this, and should have acted. He was not interested in the vessel or its cargo, and did not know whether or not the ship was insured. To Mr. Kettle: He attributed the wreck to an error of judgment, and his judgment may have been affected by the state of his health. On Sunday he was not well enough to get on to the trolley on which he was taken to Parengarenga, and he had to be lifted on to it.
To Mr Dunlop: There were fourteen gallons of rum aboard, and several bottles of brandy and several of port wine. In Mr. Dunlop" s cross-examination it transpired that it was suggested that the first officer had had more liquor than was good for him, but that there was not the slightest suggestion that the captain had been drinking or that he was in the habit of drinking. CHIEF OFFICER QUESTIONED. The chief officer, William Glass, was subjected to some very pointed questioning. In his evidence he said that he joined the ship at Newcastle, New South Wales. He was on watch from 4 o'clock to 8 o'clock on the morning of the wreck. At daylight he reported to the captain that he had sighted lend. They were then about 18 miles off land. The ship was close-hauled,, and was on the starboard tack, sailing at the rate of about 3i knots. When he told the captain that land was In sight, the captain ordered him to "stand on" till 8 o'clock, and then tack ship. When witness went below at 8 o'clock they were about three miles off land. A few minutes before she struck he went on to the poop and said to the captain, "Are you going to turn her round now? We are' getting close to the land." The captain answered, "I am the responsible man aboard this ship." Witness said, "The ship's going ashore, sir," and then called out to the man at the wheel, "Hard up the helm and keep her away." The master then said, "Keep her full and by. I take all the responsibility here." The captain then ordered witness off the poop. Witness made no suggestion that soundings should be taken. He had only heard the captain complain once since the vessel left Newcastle, and he saw nothing unusual about his health. He had only one glass of rum that morning, and one in the afternoon. There was no justificacation for any person saying that he had been under the influence of liquor from breakfast time onward. He did not know till they got ashore that the second officer and Passmore had been left aboard. He took no steps to have them brought ft shore. He did not see any riot on Saturday night, but the men were jolly. When thoy were getting the stores off the vessel he had a "few words" with the steward, and struck him, and a "slight quarrel" and "a very slight struggle" with him in the alley-way, where the cook lifted an axe to him. He did not remember Ramsey assaulting the steward. The captain never complained during the voyage about missing liquor from his room.
Mr Kettle: What about the ship's log?
Witness: The ship's log was taken from my room on Friday evening. It was made up to Thursday evening. The captain was supposed to sign it, but never did so since leaving Newcastle. I told the captain the log was missing.
Witness, continuing, said that he knew no reason why the captain came south from the vicinity of the north of New Zealand. He should have gone north. After the wreck everybody packed up for themselves. No orders were given to the crew. The captain was one of the first to pack \ip. He supposed he should have taken charge of the men ivhen they were on the beach. He went to Parengarenga with the captain because he knew the rnptnin had been ill, and because he felt slighted through the captain telling the third officer to look after things in his absence. He did not force himself on to the conveyance, and the captain did not t<>ll him that he had better stay. He was not running about the beach all Saturday night in a drunken state.
THE CAPTAIN RECALLED.
COXTITAiDICTS THE MATE. The captain was recalled. He swore that the mate never complained to him about the loss of the log. On the shore lie asked the mate where the log was, and he replied that he did not know. 'Witness asked the second and the third officers if they knew where the log was, and eitßer the second mate or the steward said that they had seen it in the mate-'s room the day they struck. It was true that the witness had not signed the log since leaving Newcastle. After bhe ship struck he gave orders for the boats to be got ready for going ashore, and told the steward to provision them. When he was leaving for Parengarenga on Sunday he said to the officer, "You had better etay behind," and the mate replied, "No, 1 am riot going to stay." He did not order the mate to stay. The mate and Ramsey jumped on the back of the conveyance, and went, too, in defiance of the master's expressed wish. Witness left no one in charge. When be returned on Monday one or two told him that there had been great carryings on in his absence. He was told that the rum. had 'been taken from the ship, and that there had 'been much drunkenness. EVIDENCE AGAINST THE MATE. Charles Miller Collins, who •was acting as third officer*said that on two or three occasions he told the chief officer that the captain was ill. On the morning of the wreck he told the mate that the captain was very ill, and that the mate should keep an eye on things , as they were getting near land. When he spoke thusly to the mate the latter was perfectly sober, but later on he was drunk. On the beach on Sunday the mate was very drunk, and was behaving like a madman. He had seen him drunk in Newcastle, but not so bad. When the captain was leaving for Pairengarenga the mate was in a very bad way through drink, and persisted in going with the captain, though asked to stay ami look after things. Witness had intended going with the captain, but
then stayed behind to look after the few things they had; and he sent the cabin boy to look after the captain. When the second mate's boat returned to the ship on' the day of the wreck the mate was lying in theiboat dead drunk. Passmore was aboard, very drunk. On Sunday evening the skipper asked the mate where the log was, and the latter replied that the last he had seen- of it was under his sextant in the boat. On Sunday he saw that the provisions bad been thrown about in all directions. Food had been thrown into the fire. At the captain's hut, when the captain was leaving for Parengarenga on Sunday, Ramsay was "mad" (drunk). The mate was never sober from Sunday morning till they got to PaTengarenga.
Mr. Kettle here interjected that there was no need to enlarge on the allegations of drunkenness. There was no doubt that there had been most disgraceful, drunken scenes on the beach. Mr. Dunlop said that there was a suggestion that there had been an assault on the captain. Mr. Mays: That is so. TOO DRUNK TO LEAVE THE SHIP. Arthur Hughes, steward and cook, saia that at four o'clock on the morning of tihe wreck the frrst officer was drunk, fie was annoying the witness at the galley, cursing and swearing at him. Later in the morning the mate on two occasions assaulted him. Once he complained to the captain, but the latter Was too ill to help him, and told him to do the best he could, and keep out of the way of the mate. Fully a month and a-half s provisions were put in the boats. Witness passed what he took to be the mate's log into the boat in which the mate went ashore. Before leaving he endeavoured to get the second mate and Passmore, A.8., into the boat, but they were dead drunk. He dragged the second officer out of his bunk and pulled him to the rails, and the officer cursed him when he tried to get him over the rails. When he got ashore Ramsey and the mate were drunk, and they continued so till midday next day. Ramsey was destroying stores on the shore. A deputation was going to wait on the master, but did not do so as they heard that he had a fit. The captain vas ill on the voyage, and had not had anything solid for ten days. (Proceeding.) QUESTION OF INSUkANCE. INFORMATION TO HACSTD. A "Star" reporter 'has learned from a good authority that the vessel was partly insured in the United Kingdom. No further knowledge on the point has yet been obtained.
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