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Loss of Barque Compadre

OFFICIAL INQUIRY,

An inquiry into the loss at the Auckland Islands of the barque Compadre, whose crew (with the exception of one who died on the island) were recently rescued by the schooner Janet Ramsay, was held in the Courthouse yesterday before C. E. Rawson, Esq.. R.M., and Captain N. McDonald (Harbourmaster at the Bluff), as Nautical Assessor. Mr J. Borrie, Collector of Customs conducted the inquiry on behalf of the Marine Department, and Mr W. Y. H. Hall appeared for Captain Jones, master of the barque. The first witness called wrs

David Jones, who deposed that the vessel left Calcutta on the 22nd January for Talcahuano, Chili, with a cargo of gunny bags. The cargo was properly stowed, and the vessel carried 16 men— her full complement. On leaving port a course was shaped due south, and fine weather was experienced till the vessel reached Cape Leeuwin, Western Australia ; then strong steady N. W. and W. winds till near the Auckland Islands. The hatches were firmly battened down before leaving, and were never opened. On tho morning of March 16th, when the vessel was in lat. 50.30 south, long. 145 deg. east, the cargo was discovered to be on fire. Smoke was s«en coming from jthe starboard wing, abreast of the after hatch. The opening from the lazarette to the hold was blocked up by bales of bags. The steward went into it once a week to obtain stores and bread — the latter being kept in tanks. He had to use a light as it was pretty dark there. Witness was in the lazarette several times — the last occasion being about half an hour before the fire broke out, his object being to take an account of the ©ffecta of an apprentice who had run away at Buenos Ay res. It was then that witness noticed the smoke. The seat of the fire appeared to be from 30 feet to 40 feet from the grating dividing the lazarette from the hold, and to be well down in the cargo. Witness gave the alarm, and returned to the with the chief officer and D. Black, a seaman. They took water down, but found the} could not reach the fire. A hole was then cut in the deck as far starboard as possible, and another close t* the combings of the poop. Water was pumped down all day, and at night, the flames being extinguished, the holes were battened down, and the wnter was then taken out of the ship by the main pumps. Next day more water was pumped down, and attempts were made to get the supply of bread from the lazarette, but these were unsuccessful ; the men who went down were nearly suffocated by the smoke. The after hatch was then opened, and all hands were engaged in pouring water into it. The water was taken out again during the night, and on sounding the hold on the 18th found 7 inches of water in it" Before the discovery of the fire he was steering due east, intending to go to the south of the Auckland Islands, and would then be 700 miles to the westward of New Zealand. Immediately the fire was discovered, he shaped a course for New Zealand. At noon on the 18th he would be about 200 miles from the Aucklands. After the 17th there were no flames, but he knew that the fire was burning strongly by the heat of the sides of the vessel. An iron deck-beam in front of the poop was so hot that they could not touch it. On the night of the 18th a storm came on, and they had to shorten sail to lower topsails. The wind was so strong, with the seas mountains high, that he could not keep his course. The wind was N.W., driving the vessel on the Auckland Islands. At 10.30 a terriffic squall struck her. Shortly after the squall went over she was continually filling the decks, and he ordered the upper fore-topsail to be set, to keep her clear of the sea. It continued to blow that night a very strong gale, with terrific squalls, and the decks were continually full of water. At daybreak on the morning of the 19th, again began to pump water down the hold, the men being lashed to the pumps. At 7 o'clock sighted the Auckland Islands. Soon after a sea broke over the forepart of the ship, carrying away the foresail and foretopmast stayBail, smashing the forehatch, carrying away the deckhouse and doing other damage, everything moveable being washed away. The vessel went over on her beam ends as the squalls struck her, and the seas constantly broke over her. He had to keep the wind abeam to clear the N. W. Cape of the Auckland Islands. At 10 a.m. she was abreast of 1 the Cape, and the yards were squared a little to keep her off the land. Found there was eight feet "of water in the hold, and tried to get into the north harbour, but finding this was impossible, the vessel, which was rapidly sinking, was run for the shore, steering round a high cliff. When near they started to pour oil on the water, about two gallons being used. As they got near it they discovered a ledge of rocks running out from the cliff, and witness ordered all hands to the jibboom as the last hope of saving their lives. As the vessel struck they all jumped to the rocks, and as the last man dropped off, the vessel rose on a sea and came dotrn with a great crash, went to pieces, and disappeared in a few minutes. They had then been three days and nights without sleep and food, with the exception of a little rice. They started to climb a mountain, and on getting up some distance saw a flagstaff, and returned. Peter Nelson said he would not go any further, as he was tired, and wanted to Bleep. He lay down there, and they did not see him again. Owing to the dense bush they could not see each other five yards apart, and next day when they went to search for Nelson they could not discover the place where they had left him, nor did they see any traoes of him. The cargo of the vessel was properly stowed, and she had 85 tons of ballast. When witness went to look after the apprentice's effects in the lazarette he had a lighted candle with him. He did not know if the vessel was insured. His effects were not insured. The vessel was 23 years old, was of iron, and classed Al, and would be worth about L4OOO. It was his first voyage in her as captain. The freight on the cargo amounted to L 2295, and it was payable on delivery. To Mr Hall : Jute goods were regarded as risky cargo as oil was usea in working them up, making them liable to combustion. Before the fire was discovered the bales in the tier next the grating of the lazarette were chafing, and canvas was put in to remedy this. No one could get from the lazarette to where the fire was. He did not think the fire damaged the hull very much ; be believed the /essel would have reached New Zealand easily enough but for the storm. — Reexamined : The Rimac, with a similar cargo to that of the Ccmpadre, and for the same people, sailed from Calcutta two years ago, and was never heard of again. He thought a cargo of jute bags more dangerous than jute unmanufactured. — To Captain McDonald : When the vessel was struck by a sea just before she went ashore the water Id the forecastle was up to the men's armpits. On the evening of 16th March, the date when the fire was discovered, he consulted his chart and shaped a course for the Snares, but was driven out of it by the storm.

Francis Bales, chief officer of the Corapadre, deposed that he saw the cargo taken on board at Calcutta ; it was properly stowed and dunnaged, It was possible for a person to get from the lazarette to the after-bold, but only by squeezing. The seat of the fire was about 30 feet forward from the lazarette, and when witness first saw it there was a flame about a foot high. A person could work his way so far forward, and he had done so about eight days before #he fire was discovered, his object being to see if the bales were chafing against the beams, which would have damaged the bags. He had no light with him. Witness corroborated the captain's evidence as to what was done after the discovery of the fire. The flames were put out, but the fire still smouldered, and there was a great deal of smoke. The captain then shaped a course for the Bluff. Very heavy weather then set in. When the well was sounded it was found that there waa eight feet of water in the bold. The pumps were manned, but the men were continually swept away from them by the heavy seas which broke over all. Wheii she was found to be sinking under their feet it was decided to beachher. The bush on the island was very dense, and in places they had to crawl through it on their hands and knees in single file. Nelson, who was the last man in the file] told the man in front of him that he would lie down and have a sleep. He had f lenty tf clothe* and some matohes, and tb«

\ man to whom he spoke told him to light a fire when he woke up, and they would know where to look for him. No fire was lit, and the search party which went out next day could find no trace of him. It was snowing, blowing, and raining hard all that night, and witness could only suppose that Nelson died from exposure. In his opinion the fire on board had been caused by friction arising from the working of the vessel. To Mr Hall : If the fire had broken out on the top of the cargo the water poured down would have extinguished it. When witness made his way into the fore-hold eight days before the fire, he had no light, and it took him twenty minutes to reach the place where the fire afterwards broke out. The vessel was undoubtedly lost through the storm. The Captain did all that a man could do to extinguish the fire, which did not interfere with the vessel's sailing qualities. To Capt. McDonald : If the- vessel could have been kept in the course taken after the discovery of the fire it would have taken her from 15 to 20 miles clear of the Auckland Islands. Every attention was given to t,he trimming of the sails and other details. F. Woods, A.8., deposed that on the morniDg of the 16th March he was at the wheel and saw the captain go into the lazarette with a naked candle. Half an hour after the captain raised the alarm, and when Black, who went down with the captain into the lazarette returned, witness noticed that he had a candlestick, and inquired where the candle was. The captain then said — "For God's sake say nothing about it ; I dropped it between the bales." At this stage Mr Rawson remarked that he thought the witness was too much under the influence of liquor to be reliable. Mr Hall said that in justice to the captain he must cross-examine the witness, and the latter, whose behaviour called for frequent remonstrance during the course of the proceedings, denied that he had ever attempted to levy black mail on the captain either on board the Janet Ramsay or here. When the captain spoke about dropping the candle, Black and witness were present. There were no bales in the lazarette. He had never asked the captain for more than the money that was owing to him. He did not know that there was any grog in the lazarette. It did not come under his nose ; if it had it would have been made short work of. F. Cox, second mate, corroborated the evidence of the master and first officer, and expressed the opinion that, apart from the fire, the vessel could not have lived through the storm encountered off the Auckland Islands.— To Mr Hall: The captain told him when on board the Janet Ramsay that Woods wanted to be bribed. H. A. English, carpenter, detailed the steps taken to extinguish the fire. There were some bales in the lazarette. He had | never heard the yarn about the candle till that day. Several days before the fire he noticed that the witer served out waa a little warmer than before. Hugh Roberts, cook and steward, deposed that he always went to the lazarette for stores in daylight and did not need a light, the things he wanted being close to the hatch. The bales in the lazarette were close together, and a candle coulJ not have fallen between them. He heard the yarn about the candle two or three days after they landed at the Aucklands ; it was talked about between Woods and Black.— To Mr Hall : There was a box belonging to an apprentice in the lazarette, and the Captain could not take an inventory of its contents without a light. Captain Jones, recalled, emphatically denied having ever said a word to Woods or Black about the candle. He did not drop it, but when the saw the smoke he set the candle on one of the bread tanks, and gave the alarm. Woods spoke to him on the Janet Ramsay on three different occasions in reference to this matter, and witness told the second mate that he had done so. Woods said—" If you pay me and Black we will clear out when we get to New Zealand," and witness at first scarcely realised what he meant. Dugald Black, A.8., described what took place after the alarm was given. The fire, he thought, started down about the third tier of bales, at a place about 35 feet forward of the lazarette. It was witness's third experience in the way of disaster at sea, and he was not excited at the time. He did not speak to anyone on coming out of the lazarette after the alarm was given. This concluded the evidence, and the Court f hen (6.20 p.m.) adjourned till 9 p.m. On resuming his Worship proceeded to read the report of the Court to the Marine Department. This set forth the movements of the Compadre from the time of loading at Calcutta till the wreck of the vessel. In conclusion it stated, in effect, that the Court was of opinion that the loss of the ship appeared to have been caused primarily by the necessity that arose for altering her course in order to reach a port after the discovery wa3 made that the cargo was on fire ; that the gale encountered had the effect of bearing the vessel down upon the Auckland Islands, and that in her waterlogged and sinking condition and it being evident that she could not weather the land, the Compadre was run ashore to save the lives of j her crew. The Court was also of opinion that the master and officers of the ship did all that was possible to save the vessel, and that they were not to blame for her loss.

Mr Borrie asked the direction of the Court as to payment of the costs of the in* quiry, and his Worship ordered these to be paid by the Government. The Court then rose.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ST18910710.2.20

Bibliographic details

Loss of Barque Compadre, Southland Times, Issue 11784, 10 July 1891

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2,645

Loss of Barque Compadre Southland Times, Issue 11784, 10 July 1891

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