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FORREST HALL WRECK., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 68, 20 March 1909
FORREST HALL WRECK.
CAPTAIN'S CERTIFICATE SUSPENDED. •< GROSSLY NEGLIGENT NAVIGATION." The marine inquiry conducted with regard to the circumstances of the wreck of the ship Forrest Hall, which stranded on the West Coast, 25 miles south of Cape Maria Van Diemen, on the 27th ult.. was continued before Mr. C. C. Kettle, S.M., and Captains Adamson and Reed, after we went to press yesterday. Mr. Selwyn Mays conducted the inquiry for the Marine Department, Messrs. J. R. Reed and F. G. Dunlop appearing for the captain (Collins) and M. A. E. Skelton for the first mate (W. Glass) In his cross-examination, Mr. Skelton asked Captain Collins for the position of the ship at noon on the Friday, this being given as latitude 35.08 South and 171.43 West. The witness stated that this had been marked on the chart. What was your position at 4 p.m. the same day?—We had made 16 miles south by west. On the Saturday when the mate called you how- far was land off?— About 16 miles. Land on both port and starboard bows ?—Yes. THE OFFICERS' OPINIONS. Were not your other officers extremely anxious for danger ?—I don't know. Do you not know that the second officer was so apprehensive that he ordered the man at the wheel to shift her a couple of points, and that when he then saw the captain coming back, and being afraid, he told Hudson, "Well, you'd better put her back again?"—No; I don't know that. You saw no rock running out towards the port bow?—No; I did not. Was it not a prudent thing when you came ashore to put the ship back?—l thought I had plenty of room. And when the chief mate betrayed his anxiety, that was the first intimation you had of such a feeling?— That is bo. WHAT THE MATE DID. Did the chief officer not do anything to get the ship back to safety?— Only what he was told. The witness stated in answer to Mr Skelton that it was when she stnick that the chief officer ran to the braces and backed the yard. He did this without an order or authority from the witness. The first officer had done nothing the witness knew of between the two bumps to save the vessel. Was it not a fact that you were giving no orders from the time the vessel first struck until you ordered the boats out? —I was too sick to do anything. CLEANING THE BOATS. Diet you on the Friday afternoon during the second mate's watch tell him to get the boats cleaned out in case you went ashore? —No. I ordered him to clean them out, as they were filthy with coal dust. Did you not say: 'TC want you to get the boats ready in case we get ashore, but we expect to clear tfte North Capa during the night?"— Certainly not. Did you tell him they might be wanted during the night?--Certain]y not. I had happened to lift up the covers and saw they were in a filthy state. THE MASTER'S HEALTH. The witness stated that he was not a shareholder in the company owning the vessel, nor was he in any way connected with its shares. He had had Java fever for eight or ten days, and had been ill all the time after leaving Newcastle. Is it not a fact that on Friday night, or the early hours of Saturday, you were under the influence of liquor?—• Certainly not. Is it not a fact that from the time the ship first struck until she went ashore you were drunk?— Decidedly not. Is it a fact that you -were so drunk ashore at dusk on Saturday that you mistook another man for your brother? —No, I was not. THE MATE'S LOG BOOK. I suggest that you, or somebody by your instructions, took the mate's log book from his cabin?— That is false. | | On the Friday or the Saturday was i it in your cabin? —Not to my knowledge. And was in such a position that it could have been seen by anyone going ' in? —Not to my knowledge. Are you aware of anything being wrong with the grog that morning?— Only that I missed three bottles out of my room before the vessel struck. I You served out some?— One bottle tor all hands. The mate had a drink, and the men got one after the wreck. j ; Mr. Kettle: Is it customary to serve I< out grog in the morning like that?—l J have frequently done so. j AN EXTRAORDINARY STATEMENT. ! j Mr. Mays remarked that- the first mate . ihad had one glass, and although he had , lived in the West Indies he said he had never before been affected by rum as on that occasion, and he and another desired ; to give evidence. i Mr. Kettle: Is it suggested that it , was doctored? (To Witness) Do you I know anything about doctoring it?— Not - to my knowledge. Mr. Kettlo remarked that of course i there seemed to be a certain amount I of feeling between the captain and the mate. He understood that there would j be a further inquiry, and that would be the time to go into the question. In reply to a question on the point, | Mr. Mays said that -the Crown would | have to await the result of the present | inquiry. The two men who might bo able to tell something about the navigation were thus unable to do so. The men took their liquor out of a cask, yet a little given to the mate by the master out of a bottle had had disastrous re- ' suits. Mr. Kettle: That is practically a charge of attempting to poison or doctoring them. People are so fond of sensaI tional matters. I think it very wrong for the Crown to make a charge without i being able to back it up. Mr. Mays said that the men had asked even demanded, to be called on this point. The matter had a bearing on the running of the vessel ashore. Mr. Kettle: T>o you want us to inquini - about this because two men take a quantity of grog and get drunk on it? Mr. Reed: It seems to mc a question of throwing mud to try and make it stick, • Mr. Mays: I am only making the re- ' quest for the men. j THE VESSEL'S VALUE. To Mr. Mays, the witness admitted I that it was to the mate's interest to look after his log. The vessel's value was between £5000 and £8000. He supposed there was more than enough tonnage over the world. Mr. Kettle remarked that an important point would be the state of the weather when the vessel turned to go south. To Mr. Kettle: There had been no attempt to sell the boat. He had gone south from the Cape owing to havine !
been delayed .by adverse winds In the north. THE INSURANCE-. Richard Henry Spence, acting-Collector of Customs at Auckland, produced the answer to a cable sent to the managin" owners of the Forrest Hall. The reply stated that the insurance was £8500 on the hull and £ 1000 on the freight. The consignor of the cargo had replied' stating that there was no information. The consignee had replied that the insurance on the cargo was £1750, and £1150 on advances. (The freight of the cargo was £2685.) THE MISSING LOG. Hughes, the steward, who collected the captain's papers on the morning of the wreck, stated that he hod then scon a book which he took to be the chief oftlcer's log, and passed it into the boat. He never saw it again. To Mr. Reed: The account and wages book was of the same colour, and he had not investigated which book it waa, This concluded the evidence. ADDRESSES BY COUNSEL. In his address, Mr. Reed said he did not know whether he was called on to deal with the question of whether the captain had deliberately run his vessel ashore. If he had done so, he had effected it in the most stupid way. Could anyone imagine a man with such intentions, having a row with his officer, and otherwise acting foolishly like that. Mr. Mays, interposing, stated that it had not been suggested that any such thing had taken place. What he would suggest he would say later. Mr. Reed remarked that the Crown, having allowed that there was no such suggestion, he would point out that the master himself had admitted from the first having committed an error of judgment. Being a subject to epileptic fits ho was consequently suffering from attacks of nervousness. He would ask the Court to take into consideration these facts, there being no evidence of negligence. Mr. Mays said that this was the first case heard of by seafaring men of a boat going ashore in fine weather, daylight, and on a weather coast. This could not be too much emphasised. The master had not given a satisfactory epxlanation as to why he had taken a southerly course instead of going round the north. Tho master had merely said: "I didn't take any soundings." Any man of experience would have taken soundings miles before the point where the Forrest Hall got into the danger zone. Ho seemed to have neglected every precaution which a, master should have taken. "It has lent colour," continued Mr. Mays, "to the statement of the man in the street that there was something " Mr. Reed: What has Mr. Mays got to do with it? Mr. Mays: I told you before I had not suggested anything. I have told you now what I have to say. Mr. Kettle: What do you suggest? Mr. Mays: He neglected every precaution. You limit it to negligence?—l have my own opinion; but I have kept within the evidence. Mr. Reed: You don't come out to the open. These are covered suggestions. THE JUDGMENT. After retiring for about a quarter of an hour, Mr. Kettle delivered the judgment of the Court. •'The decision," said Mr. Kettle, "is unanimous. We find it difficult to understand why the master put the vessel on the starboard tack when she was heading south by west on the port tack, and he had made up his mind to go through Cook Strait or to the extreme south of New Zealand. We are further of the opinion that the evidence does not justify us in finding that the wreck was due to the deliberate or intentional action of the master. The evidence does amply justify, and we have found that it was due to his grossly negligent navigation, namely, in standing in towards the land much longer than he was justified in doing. In addition to that he took no soundings or any precautions to find out the depth of water, and this should also have been -one. We further find that the chief officer was in no way to blame. On the contrary, we are of the opinion that if the captain had accepted his suggestion in all probability the vessel would never have grounded. We I are also of the opinion that the ship was seaworthy and properly equipped in ao-1 cordance with the law." "We order," continued Mr. Kettle, "that the captain's certificate be suspended for two years, and that he pay the costs of this investigation." | Mr. Kettle stated that the return of the chief officer's certificate was a matter for the Customs, aB he understood that a further inquiry would be held as to his I conduct. Mr. Reed pointed out that it would bo | an extreme hardship for the captain, suffering from illness and with a wife and family, to lose two years' work and asked that a mate's certificate be issued I on the authority of the Court. Mr. Kettle replied that the master could make application to the Marine Department, and it could be referred to the J Court for recommendation. The ques-1 tion was whether a man subject to epileptic fits should be in charge of any vessel. — .
FORREST HALL WRECK., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 68, 20 March 1909
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