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THE TASMANIA WRECK., Issue 10423, 18 September 1897
THE TASMANIA WRECK.
The Court of Nautical Inquiry into the wreok of the s.s. Tasmania at Mahia Peninsula resumed its sittings at Auckland yesterday afternoon.
Mr Tole faid he had been in communication witli Gisbornc, but could not procure additional evidenco in time, even if it had been of value as corroborative evidence. Ho would therefore now close the evidence on behalf of the Marine Department. The evidence of Captain Adams, of the Dingadee, had not yet, however, been formally put into the court, and he asked that it be read and put in. The sworn statement of Captain Adams relative to the position of the wreok was then read and included in the notes of the evidence. Mr Campbell said he would like to recall Mr F. J. Willcocks, late chief officer of the Tasmania, in order to obtain some additional evidence from him.
Mr Willcocks was accordingly called. He deposed, in answer to Mr Campbell, that he had been on the Tasmania since she was launched, and knew all parts of the ship well. He gave evidence as to the position of the social hall, statements in regard to which were made by Bfr Clayton, a witness on Wednesday. There was a sliding door on each side of the social hall. When these doors were shut it was impossible to see from abaft the social hall bulkhead to anywhere forward of it unless one got on top of the deckhouse. There were no swinging doors on the social hall. They weie all sliding doors. In daylight one might see from abaft the bulkhead an occasional glimpse over the bows of the ship as she rose and fell, but at night time it would be impossible to see anything over the bows of the ship, because there were three electric lights glaring right into one's eyes. A porch at the purser's door and the lighthouse on the forecastle head would also obstruct the view. Supposing one wa3 standing at the rail opposite the door, he would be able to see ahead, but the glare of the side lights would make it very difficult to see unless one was well above them. Witness was with Captain M'Gee till five or six minutes before the captain left the ship. He and Captain M'Gee were the two last on board. The captain told witness he had hurt his hand getting his boat out, but the nature of the hurt he could not say, The captain superintended everything till he got. into his boat, and directed operations in every way till he left the ship. Mr Tole said that nothing of this had been asked Captain M'Gee when he was here. Mr Campbell: This is in reference to the most ungracious evidence given by Mr Clayton. Captain M'Gee is not here, and it seems to me most remarkable evidence to be allowed to be produced in court. Witness went on to give evidence as to the captain and himself getting into their boats. The captain told him there wa3 a good place to land near Happy Jack's. Mr Tole objected to this evidence being gone over now.
Mr Campbell contended that he had a right to call it, saying: " Witnesses are called here to defame the captain. I am calling this witness on that account."
Mr Tole : My friend has no right to use such language. We did not call witnesses to defame the captain.
Mr Brabant, S.M.: The captain left of his own accord.
Mr Tole said these questions should have been asked of Captain M'Gee, if it was that the captain, being disabled, was an excuse for the disaster '!
Mr Campbell said he did not say it was an excuse for the disaster. If the captain had been here he would have called him to give evidence.
Witness went on to speak as to the condition and equipment of the boats. He said his own and the captain's boats were in the beat of order. The boats, once every month at Sydney, were rigged with their masts, etc., and were passed by the Government surveyor. They were in the same order at the time of the wreck as when they were last passed at Sydney. By Mr Tole: An ordinary psrson would not be able to dtfiae a light or other object ahead as well as the sailor whose eyes were accustomed to it. There was an electric light near the social hail bulkhead, Bft from the rail. It would be very difficult for a person to see distinctly outside or on coining ovit of the lighted social hall—at least, for a little while after coming oat. The boats were last inspected two mouths before the accideut. The oars hi hi 3 boat were the samo as those in the captain's boat, and he pulled with his all right. There were stretchers in all the lifeboats.
Mr Campbell, in his address, contended that no negligence had been shown. The independent bearings taken by the captain and chief officer jjavc practically the samo position, which was more to the eastward than usual. The captain set his usual course, which would have taken him clear of Table Cape. There wa?, however, an inset afterwards met with to the westward. This had never been experienced by Captain M'Gee before, RDd this was borne out by the captain of the Hinemoa, who had been on the coast for years and had never experienced such a current. As to the survey, he thought it had been within too narrow limits, and it might liave been that had the courses steered been thoroughly searched a rock might have been found. As to the third mate, he had steered the course set, and direotly he had seen land had hauled the v'essol out. Consequently there was no negligence on his part. As'to what a passenger had said as to seeing land near, the look-out and the officer on the bridge could surely be better able to judge than a landsman who had just emerged from a brilliantlv-lighted room
into darkness. The fact of the'enginea having been put full steam ahead after the first shook showed that the land must havo been at a distance, for It was absurd to suppose that Captain M'Gce would order tho vessel full speed ahead with a high land right in front of him. Mr Tolo intimated that his address would occupy some hours, and the Court adjourned till to-day,
THE TASMANIA WRECK., Issue 10423, 18 September 1897
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