Portcities Southampton
UK * Bristol * Hartlepool * Liverpool * London * Southampton
You are here: PortCities Southampton > [14765] 'Morven', 1881
* Text only * About this site * Site Map * Feedback
Explore this site
Start Here
About Us
Partners And Collections
Get Interactive!
Image galleries
The Docks
River Itchen
Southampton at war
Flying Boats
Finding Out More
Southampton speaks
Street Directories
Historic Buildings Survey
Registers and Records
Lloyd's Register
Official Sources
Other Records
Finding Out More
Wrecks and Accidents
Why accidents happen
Improving Safety at Sea
Finding Out More
Wreck Reports
Life of a Port
How a port comes to life
At work in a port
Ports at play
Trade - lifeblood of a port
Finding Out More
On the Line
Company growth and development
Shipping lines
Transatlantic travel
Preparing a liner
Finding Out More
Sea People
Life at sea
Jobs at sea
Travelling by sea
Starting a new life by sea
Women and the sea
Finding Out More
Diversity of Ships
The variety of ships
What drives the ship?
Ships of ancient times
Ships in the age of sail
Ships of the steam age
Ships of today

Wreck Report for 'Morven', 1881

PDF file

This resource is available to view as a PDF document.

Click here to view 'Wreck Report for 'Morven', 1881'.

You will need a PDF viewer to view this document. Tell me more...

Unique ID:14765
Description:Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'Morven', 1881
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown


(No. 1166.)


The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876.

IN the matter of the formal Investigation held at Westminster, on the 2nd of December 1881, before H. C. ROTHERY, Esquire, Wreck Commissioner, assisted by Captain ANDERSON and Captain HARLAND as Assessors, into the circumstances attending the stranding of the British steamship "MORVEN," of Glasgow, on Hammond's Knoll, off the coast of Norfolk, on the 3rd November last, whilst on a voyage from Kotka to London.

Report of Court.

The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances of the above - mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons annexed, that the stranding of the said vessel "Morven" was due to the deviation of the bridge compass, by which the vessel was steered, having been greater than the master allowed for in laying his course across the North Sea, and to no allowance having been made for the northerly set of the ebb tide when approaching the English coast. The Court also finds that Alexander Ellis, the master of the " Morven," was to blame for having neglected to take a cast of the lead, with a view to ascertain his position, from the time of taking his departure from Hanstholmen Light until he struck on Hammond's Knoll.

For these wrongful acts and defaults the Court suspends his certificate for three months, but recommends that during the period of such suspension he be allowed a first mate's certificate.

The Court is not asked to make any order as to costs.

Dated the 2nd day of December 1881.



H. C. ROTHERY, Wreck Commissioner.

We concur in the above report.









Annex to the Report.

This case was heard at Westminster on the 2nd of December instant, when Mr. Verney appeared for the Board of Trade, and Mr. Nelson for the owners and master of the "Morven." Seven witnesses having been produced by the Board of Trade and examined, Mr. Verney handed in a statement of the questions upon which the Board of Trade desired the opinion of the Court. Mr. Nelson having then addressed the Court on behalf of the master of the "Morven," and Mr. Verney having been heard in reply, the Court proceeded to give judgment on the questions on which its opinion had been asked. The circumstances of the case are as follow:—

The "Morven" is an iron screw steamship, schooner rigged, belonging to the Port of Glasgow, of 1,364 tons gross and 869 tons net register, and is fitted with engines of 130 horse-power. She was built at Hartlepool in the year 1880, and at the time of the casualty which forms the subject of the present inquiry was the property of Mr. William Guthrie Gardiner, of No. 43, Reufield Street, Glasgow, and a number of other gentlemen, Mr. Gardiner being. I presume. the managing owner. She left Kotka, in the Gulf of Finland, on the 29th of October last, bound to London, having on board a crew of 21 hands all told, besides three distressed seamen, and a cargo of 432 1/2 standards of deals and battens, of which a portion was stowed on deck, and she drew 14 feet forward and about 16 feet 2 aft. At 10.15 a.m. of the 2nd of the following month the vessel was abreast of Hanstholmen, distant about 4 miles, whence she took her departure, steering a S.W. 1/4 W. course by the bridge compass. At noon of the same day the course was altered to S.W. by the bridge compass, the wind at the time blowing a fresh breeze from the S.E., which afterwards increased to a gale. At noon of the following day the course was altered to S.W. by S. by the bridge compass, and that course was continued until about 10 p.m. Previous to this it had become somewhat hazy, and as the evening wore on the weather got thicker. At 10 p.m. the course was altered to S.W. by S. 1/2 S. by the bridge compass, and at 11 p.m., whilst still on that course and going full speed, the vessel took the ground; and although every effort seems to have been made to get her off she became fast, as the tide was ebbing. At 12.40 the tide had risen sufficiently to float her, but unfortunately the rudder was broken, and accordingly the master brought her to an anchor, where she remained until daylight, when, seeing a buoy at the distance of about a mile, he sent the mate to examine it, and on his return to the ship the master then knew that he had struck on Hammond's Knoll. The master then went ashore to obtain assistance, and having engaged a steam-tug to help to steer her, he returned to his vessel, and then continued his course for the Port of London. Owing to the unmanageable condition of the vessel, they had ultimately to engage the services of three more tugs, and on the 8th arrived at the Surrey Dock, Rotherhithe, having on the way been obliged, owing to the thickness of the weather, to come to an anchor in the Swin; and she is now, we are told, undergoing the necessary repairs. It is admitted by Mr. Nelson that the vessel sustained material damage by the stranding; the Court has consequently jurisdiction in the case.

These being the circumstances of the case, the first question upon which our opinion has been asked is, " Whether, when the "Morven" left Kotka, her compasses were in good and proper order, and whether proper measures were thereafter taken to ascertain the deviation?" It seems that the vessel had had her compasses adjusted at Hull immediately previous to her leaving this country on her outward voyage, and that the master had been supplied with the deviation cards which were then prepared. She had gone from Hull to Cronstadt. and tuence to Kotka, and it was on her return voyage trom that place that the casu??ity occurred. The master has told us that on the voyage out he observed that the deviation cards did not in all cases state accurately the amount of the deviations of the bridge and pole compasses; but to what extent they were wrong he could not tell us. He seems not to have taken any steps at Kotka to have the compasses re-adjusted; but he says that he looked at the compasses on the way home with a view of ascertaining the amount of the deviation.

The second question upon which our opinion has been asked is, "Whether there was any difference between the deviations of the pole compass and bridge compass, and if so, whether due allowance was made for such difference?" According to the deviation cards with which the master was turnished, and which have been produced, it would seem that on a S.W. course both the bridge and the pole compasses had a quarter of a point of easterly deviation. He told us however that on passing Hanstholmen, and when she was laid on a S.W. 1/4 W. course by the bridge compass, whilst the pole compass shewed a quarter of a point of easterly deviation, the bridge compass shewed half a point or a quarter of a point more than the pole compass, and more than was shewn by the deviation card. Whether indeed due allowance was made for such difference will be better considered when I come to the next question.

The third question which we are asked is, "Whether due and proper courses were set and steered after passing the Hanstholmen Light, allowance being made for tides and currents, and whether proper means were taken for ascertaining the position of the "Morven" from the time she left the Hanstholmen Light to the time she grounded?" It is admitted that if we were to allow a deviation of only half a point on the bridge compass, it would have been quite impossible for the vessel on the courses given to have come anywhere near to Hammonds Knoll. According to Mr. Nelson, to have struck upon that sand she must have made some 50 miles of lee-way, which he said it was impossible to attribute to any tide or current; and accordingly both the master and Mr. Nelson were forced to the conclusion that the casualty must have been due to the deviation of the bridge compass having been greater than the master supposed it to have been. But, if so, it is strange that the master, who was on deck from 8 p.m. until the vessel struck, did not observe the great difference that there must have been between the bridge and pole compasses, the latter we are told being accurate. The master indeed told us that he occasionally looked at the pole compass, and that on those occasions he only observed a difference between them of 1/4 of a point, which he had observed off Hantsholmen; on the other hand the 2nd mate told us that during his watch, which commenced at 8 p.m. that evening, he observed a difference of half a point between the two compasses. Be this however as it may, the question is whether proper means were taken to ascertain the position of the "Morven" from the time she left Hantsholmen until she grounded. Mr. Nelson asked, "What other means could he have taken, for he got no observation at noon of the third, and there were no lights to guide him." But it seems to have been forgotten that there was one means, which he neglected to take, namely, a cast of the lead. Whether that would or would not have shewn him his true position, we shall presently inquire.

The fourth question which we are asked is, "Whether the 'Morven' was navigated at a proper rate of speed after 8 p.m. on the 3rd of November 1881?" It seems that after 8 p.m. it became hazy, more so, probably, than the master is disposed to allow, for one of the seamen, a man named Stroud, who was on the look-out from 10 p.m., told us that after that hour it became very hazy, and that he had to look under the haze to see any object on the water. At the same time, Stroud admit s that he saw and reported the lights of a steamer at a distance of from half to three-quarters of a mile, and if so, assuming the vessel to have been on her proper course and well away from the land, there would seem to have been no reason why the speed should have been reduced. That it was very hazy is also proved by the fact that, to have struck on Hammond's Knoll, the " Morven" must have passed within a short distance of the Leman and Owers Light, but that light, although a first-class light, was not seen. At the same time, the assessors are of opinion that assuming always that the vessel was on her proper course, clear out at sea, that there was no necessity to have reduced the speed.

The fifth question upon which our opinion is asked is, " Whether the lead was used, or ought to have been used, before the 'Morven' grounded?" A reference to the chart will shew that, for hours before she grounded, a cast of the lead would have shewn the master his true position. There is a well known bank, called the Black Bank, running across the North Sea, from the Texel to about the Lynn Deep, which is well defined, and where a, cast of the lead would have shewn, not by the depth, but by the nature of the bottom, where he was. According to his own chart, if the master had been where he supposed himself to have been, the soundings would have given him grey sand, whereas, if he had taken a sounding where he really was, it would have given him brown sand, and have shewn him that he was approaching the dangerous sands, on one of which he ultimately grounded. It is clear also that, on the course which he took, he must have crossed some three or four of these sands, and if he had used the lead with sufficient frequency, it is most probable that he would have struck soundings on one or other of those banks. We think that there is no justification whatever for the lead not having been used and that it should have been used for some hours before the vessel took the ground.

The next question that we are asked is, "What was the cause of the stranding of the 'Morven,' and whether she was navigated with proper and seamanlike care One of the chief causes which led to the stranding of the "Morven" was, no doubt, the deviation of the bridge compass. by which the vessel appears to have been navigated. being greater than the captain supposed, so that instead of there being only half a point of deviation on that compass, there was probably, as the master now thinks, considerably more. There were also other causes operating to set him to leeward of his course, and for which the master seems to have made no allowance whatever. The master told us that for some hours before he struck the ground he had had the ebb tide, which he supposed would have been setting him to the east; but if he had looked at any book of Sailing Directions he would have seen that it would have set him in exactly the opposite direction, and to leeward. Thus we find at page 143 of Part III. of the North Sea Pilot, it is said, that " At two hours' ebb the " tide runs S.S.W. half a knot; it then slackens and " veers round by west and N.W. to N.N.E., in which " direction it runs during the remainder of the ebb, its " greatest velocity being two knots." One other fart seems also not to have been noticed by the master, and which would tend to set him more to leeward. In the Admiralty Tide Tables, page 114, it is said. "In the " North Sea a strong N.N.W. gale and a low barometer " raise the surface two or three feet higher, and cause " the tide to flow all along the coast from Pen??land " Firth to London half an hour longer than the times " and heights predicted in the tables. Easterly, S.E., and S.W. winds produce opposite effects." Now we are told that from about noon of the 2nd there had been a strong S.E. wind blowing, increasing ultimately to a gale, so that the ebb tide would have had increased force, and that also would have tended to set the vessel still further to leeward. In our opinion the easterly deviation of the bridge compass, which it may fairly be presumed was much greater than the master suppesed, added to the increased force of the ebb tide, caused by the strong south-easterly gale, were no doubt the determining causes of the stranding of this vessel.

The seventh question which we are asked is, "Whether the master of the 'Morven' is in default?" and it is added, that "the Board of Trade are of opinion that the certificate of the master should be dealt with." I am told by the assessors that the master having taken his departure from Hantsholmen, and not having since get any observation, it was an act of sheer madness on his part to have run some 340 or 3.50 miles without taking a cast of the lead. They tell me that, not having had any observation, and, therefore, not knowing his true position, he ought, as soon as he judged that he had arrived, on the Black Bank, to have kept the lead continually going until he had found out where he was, more especially as the distance which he had run would, if he had got to leeward of his course, either by an error of his compasses, or by the set of the tides. land him amidst these dangerous sands. They think that the master's conduct in this respect is utterly unjustifiable. It appears that he had been in the habit of going from the Baltic to Leith, but that this was his first voyage from the Baltic to London as master. This ought to have induced him to exercise greater caution in approaching those sands. The assessors think that they would not be doing their duty unless they suspended this master's certificate; but seeing that his conduct after the vessel got aground was, as Mr. Verney said, worthy of all praise, and that he has given his evidence in a very proper manner, we think that a suspension for three months will meet the justice of the case. T?? Court, however, at the request of Mr. Nelson, recommended that during the suspension of his master's certificate he should be allowed a first mate's certi??

The Court was not asked to make any order as ??



H. C. ROTHERY, Wreck Commissioner.

We concur.









L 367. 936. 150.—12/81. Wt. 203. E. & S.


Advanced Search
Southampton City Council New Opportunities Fund Lloyd's Register London Metropolitan Archives National Maritime Museum World Ship Society  
Legal & Copyright * Partner sites: Bristol * Hartlepool * Liverpool * London * Southampton * Text only * About this site * Feedback