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T H E Wellington Independent Tuesday, August 6, 1861. THE OTAGO GOLD FIELDS. THE STEAMER "VICTORY."

The further news which we have been impatiently awaiting to arrive from Otago, reached U3 yesterday. It is highly satisfactory. The most prominent success, that of a party of twelve men getting 4£ lbs. of gold in half a day, will no doubt determine many of those whose prudence led them to wait confirmatory accounts; but at the same time we trust that they will bear in mind that to obtain a paying share of the. spoil certain appliances are necessary, particulars of which are indicated in the extracts from Southern papers in another column, as otherwise they will only swell the number of those whose luck is on the wrong side.

The winter, which is this year very late, has enabled the diggers to be more successful than the yotherwise would be at this season. The cold of the past week, added to the wet which the accounts mention, will keep back anything like a rush for the present. Only the hardy — if they are wise — will go just yet. But as every mail from Otago will be looked forward to by the population of all the other provinces with avidity, we may be sure that from each there will be a large exodus thither, gradually increasing towards the Spring. The present circumstances of the Northern Island— the cessation of country improvements from the uncertainty in regard to native matters, the imposition of militia duties, and the dullness of every department of trade — will tend to create a desire to visit Otago where otherwise no such desire would have been felt. For a time the Northern Island will feel the effects severely, but we have the strongest faith that ultimately the gold field will prove to be permanently beneficial to the whole colony. This Island cannot feel it more severely than Adelaide did the discoveries in Victoria : yet, like Adelaide, it will in the end, receive a largely increased population and prosperity. "It is, however, (to cruote from the Lyttelton Times of last Saturday) too soon to speak with confidence of the character and prospects of the gold-fields of New Zealand. The real question is, as to their extent. If many other gullies exist of the same richness as Tuapeka, we are speaking within limits when we say that no surface diggings in Australia have yet been found of equal value. If this proves to be the ease it will npfc be long before a large number of the diggers from Australia will find their way down. There is no great inducement to keep them where they arc ; there is less for them to change their occupation, as the labour market, is overstocked; while the temptations of a new and rich field within easy distance would be insurmountable. Once liere, a considerablo per centage would be sure to remain as settlers."

The same opportunity from Ofcago brings us the report of the investigation into the conduct of George Hand, the chief mate of the steamer Victory, on a complaint preferred by the Captain that he (the chief mate) being in charge of the vessel, by reason of drunkenness and breach of duty, deserted his, charge, which thereby tended to her immediate loss. The investigation commenced on the 10th July, on board the steamer in Wicldiffe Bay (between Otago Heads and Cape Saunders) and occupied two clays. The evidence -would' occupy several columns. Its gist may be gathered from tho following delivery of the Resident Magistrate Mr. J.H. Harris, before •whom with Mr. Logic (Receiver of Customs) and Captain Thompson (Harbour Master) the case was heard. The. Court has carefully considered and weighed the evidence in this case, and they find that notwithstanding what has been urged by your Counsel they come to the painful coij elusion that they cannot acquit you of the charges under which you lie. They find that you were in a state of intoxication at the time the ship struck ; they also find that you were at Ur.it time absent from your post of duty, and that thereby yon were guilty of tbe commission of an act which tended immediately to the destruction of the vessel. In delivering this judgment they arc, however of opinion that great doubt uxists, even had you been sober at the time you took charge of the vessel from the third mate — rnnis'y, about seven minutes before she struck — whether, from her position at that lime ske could have been saved ; but be this as it may, your conduct it) deserting your charge at such a critical time does not, through the existence of such a. doubt, admit ol any palliation. There are, however, some facts in evidence which induce the Court to" deal more leniently with you than they might otherwise have done. They have power under (lie Act lo sentence you to six months imprisonment with hard labor, or in lieu thereof to adjudge that a penalty not exceeding £100 be inflicted. They are of opinion that the requirements of the case are not to bo met by tbe mere infliction of a pecuniary penalty, they therefore feel compelled to nward imprisonment to a mitigated extent. | The reasons which alone induce them to modify to any extent the full term of imprisonment prescribed for such a serious offence, are found iv the facts brought out in evidence, which prove that reprehensible practices were allowed and that unwarrantable carelessness and laxity of discipline prevailed on board the Victory.

The captain does not appear to the Court to have acted with that degree of care dnd'pre caution which the responsibility of his position anil the magnitude of the interests committed to his charge demanded — hot only important public interests, and private interests of a commercial and pecuniary character were in his hands, but tlic lives also of many persons. Considering the state of the weather, which wa* boisterous and hazy, the influence of known currents, (lie unsellable condition of the compasses and tbe setting- in of night, bis duty was to have remained on deck and in charge of the vessel until all possible danger from a too close proximity to land, was passed. In any case we are of opinion that before he left the deck be ought to have satisfied himself that a "lookout" was appointed, a necessary act of precaution which appears to have been altogether omitted. lam a' so expressing the opinion ' of the Court when I say that the conduct of the chief engineer on tho night i:i question seoms to have beern in character with that geneial lixity of discipline and carelessness to which;l have before allude . For his own admission i be left the eugine-rcom, theie being at tho time | no competent officer in charge of that department. It may be true that he bad sent a messenger for the second or third engineer to relievo him, and that he saw his messenger returning before ho left tbe engines ; but there is nothing in evidence to show whether or not any officer actually relieved him, or was in charge ofjfthe engiues at (he time, tbe vessel struck Whatever ;the custom may be in such cases the Court is clearly of opinion that the chief engineer acted with culpable negligence in relinquishing charge of the engines until he was actually relieved by some other responsible and competent officer. There is another point brought out in evidence on which I feel bound t) comment. I allude to Ihe arrangements which existed on board the Victory, by which her officers and crew could obtain from the company's providore spirits and other intoxicating liquors without the knowledge of the captain, and limited in quantity only by tbe discretion of the providore, who.«e manifost interest it was to dispose of as great a quantity as possible. Such a system a« regards officers and crew, cm only be viewed as affording a premium upon intemperance and consequent breach of discipline. The only wonder is that, under such a system, accidents such as that which has happened in the case of the Victory have not before occurred. If the company wish well to tbe trade of New Zealand, «r to their own interests, they will act wisely at once to abolish such a pernicious system — one under which no captain ought to be held responsible for the acts of his officers and crew. In making those observations on the conduct of others, it must be undcistood that I do not thereby iv any way exonerate you. Whatever blame may attach to them, your duty was clear; and it is equally clear that you wilfully neglected it, and are therefore justly called upon to suffer for. tli ut neglect.

SENTENCE

The sentence of the Court is, that you be imprisoned and kept to bard labour for three calendar months.

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Permanent link to this item

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Bibliographic details

THE Wellington Independent Tuesday, August 6, 1861. THE OTAGO GOLD FIELDS. THE STEAMER "VICTORY.", Wellington Independent, Volume XVI, Issue 1606, 6 August 1861

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THE Wellington Independent Tuesday, August 6, 1861. THE OTAGO GOLD FIELDS. THE STEAMER "VICTORY." Wellington Independent, Volume XVI, Issue 1606, 6 August 1861

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