DISASTER AT SEA.
(Glasgow Herald, May 81.)
A terrible disaster at sea, involving the losb of many valuable lives, is reported ibis week from Calcutta. The steamer Ava and the sailing vessel Brenhilda — both Clyde built ships, and one of them belonging to a Greenock owner — came into collision m the Hooghly, when tho Ava sank with' all on board, whilst the Brenhilda was so seriously damaged that she was barely able to reech the port of Calcutta. Who is responsible for thia catastrophe cnanob as yet be determined. Some oho has no doubt blundered ; but it remains for the official inquiry into the cause of the collision. to decide whether the blame rests with the crew of tho sunken vessel or with those who survive and may be made amenable for their actß. The latter were just coming to the end of a long voyage. 'Xhe Brenhilda left Gravesend for Algoa Bay m December last, and having discharged one cargo was on her way to Calcutta with another. On the other hand, the Ava was homeward bound. She formed one of the regular fleet of the British India Steam Navigation Company, and had only started on her voyage from Calcutta to London when the collision occurred. She appears to have had but four pufscugera on board ; ulthough hor crew is said to have been as large as 66 hands — a number whioh may be accounted for by the fact that many of them would bo Lascars, who are usually shipped m the proportion of three to one when English sailors cannot ba obtained. The collision would Beem to have been one cf great violence. No time elapsed even sufficient to get the bo.its out. Within a few moments after the disaster tho Ava went to the bottom. We are not told that any attempt was" made by those on board the Brenhilda to render assistance to the passengers and crew of the Ava ; but it can hardly be doubted that this was done. Even m spite of the damaged condition of the Brenhilda, we may take it for granted that so long as his ship could swim the captain would attend not to his own safety alone, but to the safety of iliobo whoio livea were imperilled m the sunken steamer. When fuller detiils reach us it will inoßt probably be found that the commander of the Greenock vessel, so far from playing the ignoblo part of the captain of the Murillo, has dono everything m his power to rescue thoao who have sunk m the Ava.
It is not a little remarkable that m this collision, as m that whioh occurred iaßt year between the Pommeraaia and tho Moel Elian, the powerful steamer should have gone down, while the much weaker sailing vessel escaped. The Ava was a large iron screw steamer of 2600 tons ; whilst the tonnage of the Brenhilda scarcely reaches half that amount. So m tho Channel disaster of last autumn the little Welsh barque passed on comparatively unscathed, whilst the steamer that sank was one of the most powerful of the Hamburg-American liners. This, however, is a point which may safely bo left to the exports. What is of more concern is one other feature of resemblance between the two collisions. Fortunately the loss of life at the mouth of the Hooghly approached closer to that m the case of the Pommerania th»n te the appalling loss oiused by the other great disasters of last year. 80 far, our record for the present of similar catastrephies at sea compares favorably with that ' of 1878, the
first half of which witnessed (he wreck of the Eurydiee training ship. Whether the wreck annals will compare as favorably m their more gunerul aspect remains to be seen. With 60 mi»- v appalling catastrophies, culminating iv '.!: fh'sast i- to the Thames excursion steamer Princess Alice, the impression remained that the year 1878 had been a peculiarly black one m Bea casualties. This, however, is not so. Apart from the crushing disasters whioh will ever make the year a notable one, the cisuulity returns are m many respects lower that those of the precediag year. An ab -tract, of the returns just issued by tho Board of Trade for the year 1877-8 shows that the number of total wrecks was 956, rvpesenting a tonnage of 269,034 ; whilst m 1876-7 the wrecks were 1155, and the tonnage 291,490. The number of lives lost at sea m 1877-8 was also much li'SS than m the preceding year. Even including 318 lives losh by the foundering of H. M.S. Eurydioe, which ocourred provious to the returns being closed for 1877-8, the total number — which reached 2452 -was some 500 less than that of 1876-7.
But the very lowest of these figures discloses In a most lamentable manner the risks that are run by our seamen. Many of the two or three thousand lives were no doubt lost through causes again Bt wkich no amount of skill or prudence could avail. But how many were due to preventiblo causeß P How many deaths at sea can yet be traced to unseaworthiness of ships, to the shifting of cargoes through inefficient loading, to explosions m coal-laden vessels, to collisions from a want of proper outlook ? All these are to a large extent preventible caußes, and none more so than the last. But now that the question of an improvement m the lights carried by ships if being agitated, it may be hoped that the point will be specially kept m view by the Board of Trade officials, who will enquire into the onuses of the collision between the Brenhilda and the Ava. It would be interesting to know whether this disaster might have been avoided had either or both ships carried the electric or some other equally distinguishing light at their mastheads. Opinion is no doubt divided as to tho employment of the electrio light m service of this kind. Board of Trade and Admiralty officials declare against the light on the ground that it is so brilliant that nothing else could be seen when it wob being approached. Though, they argue, the vessel carrying the light would be able to make out any other description qf vessel m its neighborhood, other vessels would not be able to distinguish it, or indeed, to know whether the light wbb curried by a vessel at all, and that hence the onus m casps of collision would always fall on vessels carrying the electric light. This, however, proceed* on the assumption that the light would not become general. It will be seen that Sir William Thomson, iv his evidence before the Electric Light Committee, expressed the opinion that the light could be well employed as a masthead light to illuminate a long distance right ahead and to distinguish other vessels ; and with this eminent authority m favor of the practice it will require something more than mere official prejudice to stand m the way of its adoption.
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Timaru Herald, Timaru Herald, Volume XXXI, Issue 1531, 18 August 1879
DISASTER AT SEA. Timaru Herald, Volume XXXI, Issue 1531, 18 August 1879
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