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Wreck Report for 'Acadia', 1881

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Unique ID:14690
Description:Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'Acadia', 1881
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown


(No. 1134.)


The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876.

IN the matter of a formal investigation held at St. George's Hall, Liverpool, on the 26th and 27th days of October 1881, before THOS. STAMFORD RAFFLES, Esq., Stipendiary Magistrate, assisted by Captains HIGHT and WARD, Nautical Assessors, into the circumstances attending the stranding of the British sailing ship "ACADIA," of Liverpool, on Ducie Island, South Pacific, on the 5th June 1881.

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 said ship was stranded owing either to some inaccuracy in the calculation of the ship's position at noon on the day above mentioned, or owing to the influence of some unknown current, but that the master, though he may have erred somewhat in judgment, was not guilty of any wrongful act or default.

Dated this 27th day of October 1881.



T. S. RAFFLES, Judge.

We concur in the above report.









Annex to the Report.

The "Acadia" was a ship built of wood at Clifton, Nova Scotia, in 1872, of 1211.63 tons registered, and she was owned by Mr. George Burk Crow, of Rock Ferry, Cheshire, who was managing owner, and several others. She sailed from Cardiff with a cargo of coals for Callao on the 27th July 1880, and after discharging her cargo at Chimbote, sailed in ballast to San Francisco. At that port Mr. Stephen George, who was then first mate, was appointed to the command, her previous master leaving her there in order to go home and take command of a larger ship for the same owners. She left San Francisco on the 29th April last, with a crew of 21 hands all told, and a cargo of 1,788 tons of wheat, mean drawing 21 feet 10 inches draught, and bound to Queenstown or Falmouth for orders. Up to the 5th June they had moderate weather, and all went well. At noon on that day they got a good observation, which placed the ship in latitude 23.51 S. and longitude 125 W. The master then estimated his distance from Ducie Island to be from 52 to 53 miles. He set a course S.E. 1/2 S., nothing to leeward, which would be S.E. by S. S. true. The wind was N.E. by N., hauling round to N. all the time, and they made from 5 to 6 knots per hour. The master was aware of the position of Ducie Island, and had studied his chart (Imray's South Pacific, 1876) and the accompanying book of sailing directions, and he calculated that on the course he took he should pass from 15 to 20 miles E. of the island. At 6 p.m. the first mate took charge, and soon after, when darkness came on, an A.B. named Osborn was placed on the look-out, but no particular directions were given to him as to keeping any special look-out for land, the master giving as his reason that he had no expectation of being sufficiently near the island to see it at all, and certainly not before 8 p.m.—at the rate at which his vessel was going—at which hour the watch would be changed. The night was fine, with a bright moon, about one day past the first quarter. By 7 p.m. the wind had become more northerly, and about 7.30 p.m. orders were given to square the yards. While this was being done the mate thought he saw a white line on the water across the ship's bows, and for a moment he thought it was white or phosphorescent water, common enough in those seas, but he almost immediately came to the conclusion that it was land, and he at once ordered the helm hard-a-starboard, and it was about half way down when the ship struck. At the same time he called to the master, who was in the chart room, and who, as he came out, heard a low rumbling noise, which was caused by the ship cutting through the coral reef, which the master, on going forward, saw plainly enough all along. On asking the look-out man why he did not report it, he said he did not see it, and that even when he did see something two or three ship's lengths off, he thought it was a cloud. The master ordered the sails to be clewed up and the boats to be got out. Two were got out, and an anchor was carried out astern, with a thick manilla hawser, of which 90 fathoms were let out, in order to try to haul the ship off. On sounding they got 5 1/2 fathoms under the stern, and from 3 to 3 1/2 fathoms from the main rigging forward; they then threw over some cargo to lighten the vessel forward, and in from three to four hours the ship floated, and up to that time she had made no extra water. They were unable to carry the anchor further astern, as the water deepened so rapidly, and so the master determined to make sail, setting everything but royals; but as they were passing a spring from forward the anchor came home, and she went broadside on to the rocks. This was about midnight. Soon after she began to strike heavily, and to leak badly, and both pumps were set to work, but they could not keep the water under, and at 2 a.m. on the 6th there were 8 feet of water in the ship. About 6 p.m. they left the vessel, which was then breaking up, and took to the boats, going away in three, but shortly slipping one, and in those two boats they made for Pitcairn Island, distant nearly 300 miles from Ducie Island, and reached it on the 13th. They were hospitably received there, and the master, mate, and some others came home in the "Edward O'Brien," an American ship which touched there, leaving some of the crew still on the island.

On the close of the evidence Mr. Paxton, for the Board of Trade, asked the following questions:—

1. What was the cause of the stranding of the vessel?

2. Whether the ship's position at noon on the 5th June was correctly estimated?

3. Whether a safe and proper course was set and steered after noon on the 5th June, and whether due and proper allowance was made for tide, currents, and leeway?

4. Whether the master was justified in setting a course which would take the vessel so near Ducie Island (which was not expected to be seen owing 'to its lying so low)?

5. Whether a good and proper look-out was kept, and whether the master and mate were justified in neglecting to warn the look-out man to look out for land?

6. Generally, whether the vessel was navigated with proper and seamanlike care?

7. Were all proper measures taken to get the vessel off after she struck?

8. Was the loss of the vessel caused by any wrongful act or default on the part of the master in regard to any of the above matters?

And stated that in the opinion of the Board of Trade the master's certificate should be dealt with; after which Mr. Kennedy, the learned counsel for the master, addressed the Court, and Mr. Paxton replied.

In reply to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd questions, the position of the vessel would seem to have been correctly ascertained at noon on the 5th June by observation, and the dead reckoning pretty nearly agreed with it. Assuming the correctness of the position at noon, the master's course was a correct one, and should have taken him 15 miles east of Ducie Island. Either there must have been some inaccuracy in their calculation of the ship's position at noon, or some unknown current (and the currents in the neighbourhood of these islands are stated to be irregular) must have affected the vessel to account for her stranding on Ducie Island.

As to the 4th question, the event has proved that it certainly would have been more prudent had the master of this vessel given Ducie Island a wider berth. There was plenty of sea room to the eastward, and no object to be gained in passing it, as he intended to do, within 15 to 20 miles, especially as it was after dark when he would have passed it.

As to the 5th question, the look-out man was properly placed, and from the evidence appeared to have kept his post. The Court thought that it would have been a prudent precaution had the master given to the mate, when he came on duty at 6 p.m., some warning that the vessel was approaching Ducie Island—a low and dangerous spot of land; and though he had every reason to believe that his calculation as to his position at noon was correct, there was the possibility of an error, and a word or two of special instruction as to look-out to the mate would have been an additional and desirable precaution.

As to the 6th and 7th questions, the Court was of opinion that this vessel was generally navigated with proper and seamanlike care, and all available means were used to get her off after she stranded.

As to the 8th and last question, the Court acquitted the master of any wrongful act or default; but they thought he erred somewhat in judgment, a already pointed out. The Court did not therefore deal with the master's certificate.



T. S. RAFFLES, Judge.

We concur in this report.









L 367. 904. 150.—11/81. Wt. 203. E. & S.


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