The Merchant Shipping Act, 1894.
IN the matter of a formal investigation held at the Town Hall, Westminster, on the 11th and 12th days of April, 1900, before G. G. KENNEDY, Esquire, assisted by Captains DYER, R.N., RICHARDSON, and HUGHES, into the circumstances attending the stranding and total loss of the s.s. "ARIOSTO," on the 24th December, 1899, off Ocracoke Inlet, America, whereby loss of life ensued.
Report of Court.
The Court having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds for the reasons stated in the annex hereto, that the cause of the stranding of the vessel was that the master did not make a safe and proper alteration in the course at midnight on the 23rd/24th December, and neglected to use the lead. The Court finds the master, Mr. Ryde Rupert Baines, in default, and suspends his certificate as master, No. 86,572, for six months from the 12th day of April, 1900.
Dated this 14th day of April, 1900.
GILBERT G. KENNEDY, Judge.
We concur in the above Report.
RICHARD C. DYER,
E. M. HUGHES,
Annex to the Report
This inquiry was held at the Town Hall, Westminster, on the 11th and 12th days of April, 1900. when Mr. Radcliffe appeared for the Board of Trade, and Mr. Nelson for the master of the vessel.
The "Ariosto," official number 95,008, was built at Greenock in 1887 by Russell & Co., of Port Glasgow.
She was of the following dimensions, namely, length 320.3 feet, breadth 40.2 feet, depth of hold 19.45 feet.
She was schooner-rigged, fitted with one set of triple-expansion, direct-acting engines of 250 horse power combined, constructed at Glasgow by James Howden & Co., in the year 1887. She was owned by the Ariosto Steamship Co., Limited, Mr. Kenneth Alexander MacAndrew, of Sussex House, Laurence Pountney Hill, London, being designated managing owner on the 24th July, 1897. She was registered at the port of Glasgow, and the amended tonnage was 2,919.86 tons gross and 2,265.47 tons net.
She was supplied with four compasses, the courses being set by a standard on the charthouse, and she had spare compass cards for each compass. The master stated that he had ascertained the deviation by observation from time to time, but that the compasses had not been adjusted during the six years he had had command of the vessel.
The vessel was in good condition, well found, and fitted with boats and life-saving apparatus according to the statute.
The "Ariosto" left Galveston, Texas, on the 17th December, 1899, bound for Norfolk and Hamburg with a general cargo of about 3,650 tons, her draught of water being 21.8 feet forward and 22.9 feet aft. She was under the command of Mr. Ryde Rupert Baines, who held a certificate of competency No. 86,572, and had a crew of 30 hands all told.
All went well until noon on the 23rd December, when the master stated that he got observations for latitude and longitude, but could not recollect what the position of the vessel was. A course was then set, N. 37° E. true, and was steered up to midnight.
The wind was blowing strong from the S.E., and the weather was misty.
At midnight the log showed 110 miles. To this the master added 12 miles for Gulf Stream current, and then altered the course to North true assuming that from his calculated position this course would carry him well clear of the Diamond Shoals off Cape Hatteras.
The vessel proceeded at full speed, which was about 9 1/4 knots an hour, and at 1.30 a.m. on the 24th a steamer's lights were seen inshore of the "Ariosto," the steamer apparently going to the southward.
After she had passed the master went below into the chart room, leaving orders with the second officer to look out for lights, and to call him at 2.30 a m., or earlier if lights were seen or it came on thick. The master stated he did not say what lights might be seen, but instructed the second officer to consult the chart and the Lights Book himself.
At 2.30 a.m. the master was called by the second officer, who reported that it was clear and that no lights were in sight.
The master did not come on deck, and, calculating that the vessel had run her distance, and was to the eastward of the Hatteras shoals, he told the second officer to continne the same N. true course, and keep a good look out.
At 3.45 a.m. the master, who was still in the chart room and asleep, was awakened by hearing the telegraph ring, and getting up he was met at the door by the second officer, who said, "Come up, there is white water all round the ship; I have rung the engines full speed astern, and put the helm aport."
On reaching the bridge, the master found the vessel in the breakers, bumping heavily, with big seas sweeping her fore and aft on the starboard side.
The engines were going full speed astern, but the vessel did not move. The engineers were called up from below, a heavy sea having burst the engine room skylights and doors. Seas swept away the three boats and other gear on the starboard side of the bridge deck, and the vessel listed over to starboard.
The master, who stated he did not know where the vessel was, but thought she was on the Diamond Shoal, then consulted with the chief officer, and fearing the vessel might go more over, he decided on lowering the remaining boats while they were able to do so. The pinnace was then lowered, and the chief and the second mate and nine men, eleven in all, got in her. She lay under the lee of the vessel for about an hour, and then disappeared in the breakers. Two men reached the shore, the remaining nine were drowned.
Soon after the pinnace got away the lifeboat was lowered with 15 men. She was swamped alongside, and all the men were thrown into the water. Two men were hauled on board the vessel, one man swam ashore, the remaining twelve were lost.
After the vessel stranded rockets were occasionally fired from the bridge, and answering flares were seen on the shore. At daylight the rocket and mortar apparatus arrived, and after many attempts communication was established, when those remaining on board were landed by the breeches buoy, the master being the last to leave—at about 2.30 p.m.
The "Ariosto" ultimately became a total wreck. The master remained on the spot until February 27, and during that time the whole of the cotton was got out.
In this inquiry the master was the only witness who could throw any light on the navigation of the vessel, the chief and second officers having been drowned; and as he could not recollect the position of the vessel at noon on the 23rd December, although he asserted he had got good and reliable observations on that day, the Court, in order to obtain a correct estimate of her position, referred to the log, which had been saved and was produced during the course of the inquiry. In it an entry had evidently been made of the latitude and longitude by observation on the 23rd December, but it had become partially obliterated, and was altogether illegible. The obliteration, it was suggested, was due to the book having been in the water, but, if so, it is strange that the water had not a similar effect on the previous days' records.
The entry on the 23rd having then become obliterated, the Court made calculations from the previous day's positions, the records of which bore no signs of obliteration up to the 20th December inclusive, and these put the vessel in a position at noon on the 23rd December, from which the courses given by the master to clear the Diamond Shoals would have landed the vessel near or about where she stranded, some fifteen miles to the southward and westward of Cape Hatteras, and near Ocracoke Inlet.
In making these calculations the Court made some use of the scrap log which was also produced during the course of the inquiry, and was in good condition.
Both hand and deep sea leads were in the vessel, and had the master made use of either they would have shown him that he was in dangerous proximity to the land.
Only the master, the chief engineer, and the managing owner gave evidence at the inquiry.
There were no insurances on the vessel, and her estimated value was £20,000.
The members of the crew drowned were as follows:—
J. W. Scott
F. W. Woolcott
The saved were:—
R. R. Baines
These were the facts of the case, and on the conclusion of the evidence the Board of Trade put to the Court the following questions:—
1. Was the vessel supplied with the boats and lifesaving appliances required by the statute?
2. What number of compasses had the vessel, were they in good order and sufficient for the safe navigation of the vessel?
3. Did the master ascertain the deviation of his compasses by observation from time to time, were the errors correctly ascertained, and the proper corrections to the courses applied?
4. Was the position of the vessel correctly ascertained at noon on the 23rd December, was a safe and proper course then set and thereafter steered, and was due and proper allowance made for tide and currents?
5. Were proper measures taken to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel at midnight on the 23rd/24th December, was a safe and proper alteration then made in the course, and was due and proper allowance made for tide and currents?
6. Was the lead used, and, if not, should it have been used?
7. Was a good and proper look-out kept, and was the vessel navigated with proper and seamanlike care?
8. What was the cause of the stranding of the vessel?
9. What were the circumstances in which so many of the crew were drowned?
10. Was the loss of the vessel and loss of life caused by the wrongful act or default of the master?
Mr. Nelson having addressed the Court on behalf of the master, and Mr. Radcliffe on behalf of the Board of Trade, judgment was given as follows:—
1. The vessel was supplied with the boats and lifesaving appliances required by the statute.
2. The vessel had four compasses, namely, a standard compass on the charthouse, a steering compass also on the charthouse, a compass in the fore wheelhouse, and another in the after wheelhouse.
They appear to have been in good order and sufficient for the safe navigation of the vessel; but, according to the master's evidence, they had not been adjusted during the six years he had been in command of the vessel, nor had they been landed for repairs of any sort; and the Court considers they should have been examined periodically by a competent person.
3. The master did ascertain the deviation of his compasses by observation from time to time, the errors were correctly ascertained, and the proper corrections to the courses applied.
4. The master stated that the position of the vessel was obtained by observation at noon on the 23rd December, but he could not recollect what the position was. A record of it had evidently been entered in the log book, which was stated to have been picked up out of the water, and was produced in Court, but the entry had become obliterated. Having regard to the courses steered from noon, and to the place where the vessel stranded, the Court is of opinion that the position was not correctly ascertained at noon on the 23rd December.
A safe and proper course appears to have been then set and thereafter steered up to midnight on the 23rd/24th December, and due and proper allowance for tide and currents appears to have been made up to that time.
5. No measures were taken to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel at midnight on the 23rd/24th December. A safe and proper alteration was not then made in the course, nor was due and proper allowance made for tide and currents.
6. The lead was not used, and the Court is of opinion that on approaching the Diamond Shoal off Cape Hatteras it should have been used.
7. The Court is not prepared to say that a good and proper look-out was kept.
The vessel was not navigated with proper and seamanlike care.
8. The cause of the stranding of the vessel was that the master did not make a safe and proper alteration in the course at midnight on the 23rd/24th December, and neglected to use the lead.
9. On the vessel stranding, the three boats on the starboard side were washed away. The pinnace was then lowered with the chief officer and ten men. She made for the shore, but was swamped in the surf, and nine men were drowned, including the chief officer, the two other men reaching the shore.
The lifeboat was then launched with fifteen men, but she was stove alongside, and all were thrown into the water. Two men were hauled back into the vessel, one swam ashore, and the remaining twelve were drowned. The others were subsequently landed by breeches buoy.
10. The loss of the vessel and consequent loss of life was caused by the default of the master, and the Court suspends his certificate for six months.
GILBERT G. KENNEDY, Judge.
RICHARD C. DYER,
E. M. HUGHES,
(Issued in London by the Board of Trade on the 8th day of May, 1900.)
5671—180—4/1900 Wt 92 D & S—1