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Wreck Report for 'Fernwood', 1885

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Unique ID:14952
Description:Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'Fernwood', 1885
Creator:Board of Trade
Date:1885
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown

Transcription

(No. 2578.)

"FERNWOOD" (S.S,)

The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876.

IN the matter of the formal Investigation held at Westminster, on the 12th and 13th days of June 1885, before H. C. ROTHERY, Esquire, Wreck Commissioner, assisted by Captain CASTLE, Rear-Admiral PICKARD, and W. B. ROBISON, Esquire, Chief Constructor R.N., as Assessors, into the circumstances attending the supposed loss of the steamship "FERNWOOD," of London, with a crew of 26 hands, whilst on a voyage from New York to Bristol, in January last.

Report of Court.

The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances of the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons annexed, that when the said vessel left New York on her last voyage she was in a good and seaworthy condition; that she was not overladen, and had sufficient stability; that her cargo was properly stowed; and that her loss was probably due to her having come in contact with some of the fields of ice, or icebergs, which it appears were at that time floating about in the North Atlantic.

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

Dated this 13th day of June 1885.

 

(Signed)

H. C. ROTHERY,

Wreck Commissioner.

We concur in the above report.

 

(Signed)

JOHN S. CASTLE,

 

 

 

BENJ. S. PICKARD,

Assessors.

 

 

W. B. ROBINSON,

Chief Constructor R.N.,

Annex to the Report.

This case was heard at Westminster, on the 12th and 13th days of June instant, when Mr. Mansel Jones appeared for the Board of Trade, and Mr. Roche for the owners of the "Fernwood." Four witnesses having been produced by the Board of Trade and examined, and the depositions of four other witnesses taken at New York having been put in and read, Mr. Mansel Jones handed in a statement of the questions upon which the Board of Trade desired the opinion of the Court. Six witnesses were then produced by Mr. Roche, and examined, and the depositions of two other witnesses taken at New York, and of two taken at Liverpool and Newcastle respectively, having been put in and read, the Court proceeded to give judgment on the questions upon which its opinion had been asked. The circumstances of the case are as follow:—

The "Fernwood" was an iron screw steamship, belonging to the Port of London, of 1,851 tons gross, and 1,202 tons net register, with an under deck tonnage of 1,780 tons, and with engines of 200 horse power. She was built at Wallsend on the Tyne in the year 1877, and at the time of her loss was the property of Mr. John Davison Milburn, of Newcastle on-Tyne, and others, Mr. Milburn being the managing owner. She left New York between 8 and 9 a.m. of the 22nd of January last, with a crew of 26 hands all told, and a cargo of 2,253 tons of general produce, consisting mainly of grain, oil cake, and flour, bound to Bristol; and at about 11 a.m. of the same day the pilot left her outside the bar at Sandy Hook, from which time she has not been either seen or heard of, and the object of the present inquiry is to ascertain, if possible, what has become of her.

Now the first question upon which our opinion has been asked is, "Whether the materials of which the " vessel was constructed were of good quality?" It seems that the vessel was built under special survey of Lloyd's; and Mr. Moverly, then Lloyd's surveyor at Newcastle, but now at Liverpool, and under whose supervision she was built, has told us that during the construction of the ship he visited her generally three or four times a week, and that he examined all the materials, and saw a great many of the outer plates bent and punched; and that he is satisfied that the materials and workmanship were of the best quality, and fully up to the requirements of Lloyd's. On Mr. Moverly's report she obtained the highest class at Lloyd's, 100 A 1, which she retained down to the time of her loss; and we have therefore no doubt that she was a first class vessel, and built of the best materials.

But Mr. Mansel Jones has asked us to say, although it does not arise directly from the questions which he has put, whether the increased thickness of the plating at the middle would be sufficient to counteract the tendency which the vessel would have to buckle or break amidships, in the event of the coals being nearly exhausted, and of her encountering bad weather. It seems that amidships for one half of her length the plating was on an average 2/16ths thicker than at the bows and stern, and that for that length they were treble riveted, whilst at the bows and stern they were only double riveted; and Mr. Moverly has told us that the plating and frames amidships were fully up to the requirements of Lloyd's for a vessel of her dimensions. He told us also that formerly the plating was not quite so thick amidships, and that in consequence vessels had been known to break in half when subjected to heavy strains; but that in 1870 the thickness of the plates were increased, and that since then amongst the many vessels that he has surveyed, he had never had reason to think that the thickness amidships was not sufficient to compensate for any straining to which in ordinary course the vessel might be subjected; apart, of course, from her getting ashore, or being hung up with cargo in her. He said that the weight of the coals, compared with the permanent weight of the engines and boilers, and of the ballast tanks and girders amidships, made it a matter of comparatively little importance whether the bunkers were full or not. Mr. Moverly also told us that he had special opportunities in the present instance of examining the vessel internally, as we shall presently see, just previous to her departure from this country on her last voyage, and that he observed no signs whatever of straining. No doubt, too, Lloyd's in deciding upon the requisite thickness of the midship plating for vessels of this class, did so after careful inquiry and testing, and there is nothing before us to shew that it was not fully sufficient for all purposes. On the whole the assessors have no reason to think that the plating amidships of this vessel was not quite sufficient for all the strains to which she might in her ordinary working be exposed.

The second question which we are asked is, "Whether the boiler seats were properly constructed, " and whether the boilers were properly secured?" A drawing has been laid before us, shewing the way in which the boilers were seated and secured; and the assessors say that apparently nothing could be better.

The third question which we are asked is, "What " deck structures and opening were there in the vessel, " and were they a source of danger to her as laden?" It seems that there was a monkey forecastle forward, then a range of buildings amidships consisting of a chart-room about 12 or 13 feet long with the midship wheel above it, the engine-room casing, and the engineers' quarters, with an alley-way on each side; and abaft was the saloon, with a hood covering the after wheel. There were also five hatchways, two large and three small ones, with iron coamings about 21 inches high. She had also 9 ventilators, with cowls standing some 7 to 8 feet above the deck, shipped into strong iron coamings 2 feet high, and fitted with wooden plugs or iron caps, and tarpaulins to be put on in case of bad weather. It is true that the ends of the alley-ways were without doors; there were, however, we were told, shutters which could be put up in case of need; what openings there were from thence into the engine-room compartment the plans do not shew, and no doubt if any of them had been left open, it might have endangered the safety of the vessel; but apart from this, we can see nothing, either in the deck erections or in the deck openings, which would have been a source of danger to the vessel laden as she was.

The fourth question which we are asked is, "Whether, " when the vessel left New York, she was in a good " and seaworthy condition?" It seems that she was thoroughly overhauled in September 1883 at an expense of about 3,000l., and that after survey she was continued in her class. in December 1884 also, just previous to her departure from this country on her last voyage, she was surveyed by Mr. Moverly, under circumstances which gave him the opportunity of making a thorough examination of her. He told us that, there being some doubt as to her internal capacity, her hold was clean swept, and he and other surveyors went down and measured her inside; that he then carefully examined her, and that he found her to be in a thoroughly good condition, as appears from the certificate which he then gave, and of which a copy has been brought in. In addition to this we have the evidence of Mr. Jenkins, the inspector of the Bureau of Inspection of the Board of Underwriters of New York, who surveyed her before her departure; of Mr. Hogan, who stowed her; of Mr. McCaldin, who fitted her for the reception of her cargo; and of Mr. Thomas, the pilot, who took her to sea; who all say that she was at the time of leaving in good trim and condition, and in every respect fit for the voyage on which she was bound. We have therefore no hesitation in saying that, so far as we can form an opinion, the vessel was in a thoroughly good and seaworthy condition when she left New York.

The fifth question which we are asked is, "Whether " all the regulations of Vining's Bureau of Inspection, " as approved by the Board of Trade, and subject to " the regulations contained in the second Schedule of " the Official Notice, dated 31st of December 1880, " were complied with?" Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Hogan, and Mr. McCaldin told us that they were, and there is no evidence to the contrary.

The sixth question which we are asked is, "Whether " she was overladen?" We are told that she had a cargo of 2,253 tons of general merchandise. What quantity of coal she had seems to be a little uncertain, but we are told that it may be taken at about 247 tons, making a total of 2,500 tons dead weight, which would be about 35 per cent over and above her gross tonnage; apparently, not too large a quantity. As to her freeboard it appears from the Official Notice, which the captain left with the consul at New York, that she drew, on leaving, 21 feet 2 forward and 21 feet 3 aft, and that her freeboard was 5 feet 11. That would be quite in accordance with the evidence of Mr. Mavor, the assistant manager at Messrs. Armstrong and Mitchell's Shipbuilding Works, on the Tyne, who told us that her total depth at side amidships was 27 feet 2, so that a draft of 21 feet 2 or 3 would give her a freeboard of about 5 feet 11. We were told, however, that at the time when the vessel left New York the river was full of ice, which would make the water very brackish, so that on getting to sea she would rise about 2 1/2 inches. It was said also that there were a quantity of ashes on board, which the regulations of the port forbade their throwing into the river, but which would be thrown overboard as soon as they got to sea. There was also a good deal of ice about the rigging and on the deck, which would melt as soon as they were clear of the river. Owing to these two circumstances we were told that she would rise an additional half-au-inch, making a total of 3 inches, so that her freeboard on getting to sea would be about 6 feet 2 inches, or very nearly 3 inches for every foot depth of hold. Now Mr. Mavor has told us that her moulded depth was 25 feet 11, the camber 10 inches, and the mean sheer 3 feet 3 1/2 inches; that, by the Board of Trade rules, her freeboard for summer would be 5 feet, and for winter about 5 feet 6; and that by Lloyd's Rules for a winter voyage across the North Atlantic it would be about 5 feet 9. it would seem, however, that by the rules last issued by the Board of Trade the freeboard for a summer voyage would be about 4 feet 11, for a winter voyage about 5 feet 4, and for a North Atlantic voyage in the winter about 5 feet 9; this would be without any allowance for deck erections or for excess or deficiency of sheer or camber, which we are told would not be necessary owing to her having a high monkey forecastle forward and a hood aft. Be this, however, as it may, the assessors have no doubt that with 6 feet 2 inches on leaving, the vessel had sufficient freeboard even for a voyage across the North Atlantic in the winter, and that she was consequently not overladen.

The seventh question which we are asked is, "Whether, as laden, the vessel had sufficient stability?" We were told that no calculations of her stability had been made previous to her loss, but that since then it has been carefully calculated by Mr. Mavor, who told us that in the condition in which she was when she last left New York he had ascertained that the height of the centre of gravity above the top of the keel would be about 14.4, and of the metacentre about 15.5, giving her a metacentric height of 1.1 foot. He also told us that he had estimated that the righting moment would increase until she had attained an inclination of 40°, and that even after that it did not diminish very rapidly, so that even at 90° she had still some righting moment remaining. No doubt she had not a very large metacentric height; the proper average metacentric height for laden merchant vessels being, according to Mr. White, from about 1 foot 6 to about 3 feet; still we are not prepared to say that 1.1 foot was not sufficient for her. Apart, however, from this scientific evidence we have the evidence of two of her officers, Captain Dinsdale and Captain Golder, the former of whom commanded her for about a year after she was launched, and the latter for about 3 years, from November 1881 to October 1884. Captain Dinsdale told us that on her first voyage she had a full cargo of coke, and that he brought home a cargo of deals with a heavy deck load, and that he had also carried full cargoes of grain and provisions in her. Captain Golder told us that during the three years that he had commanded her he had been to almost all parts of the world in her, carrying nearly all kinds of cargoes, and that he had loaded her with full cargoes of coke and of barley. They both said that she was an excellent sea boat, that she had never shewn any signs of tenderness, and had never shifted her cargo. With this evidence before us, coupled as it is with the scientific evidence of Mr. Mavor, we can have no doubt that the vessel had, laden as she was on her last voyage, sufficient stability.

The eighth question which we are asked is, "What " was the cost of the vessel to her owners?" Mr. Milburn told us that she cost them 29,400l., and with extras 30,000l.

The ninth question is, "What was the value of the " vessel when she last left New York? " Mr. Milburn told us that he valued her at from 22,000l. to 23,000l., which would be about 12l. a ton on the gross tonnage; and we are not prepared to say that that was an excessive value to set upon her, seeing that she seems to have been a good vessel, and was well kept up.

The tenth question which we are asked is, "What " were the insurances effected, and how were they " apportioned." Mr. Milburn told us that the ship and machinery were insured at Lloyd's in two policies, one for 8,100l., and another for 2,700.; in the Mutual Clubs for 6,800l.; by the owners for 4,100.; and by Mr. Milburn himself for 300l.; making a total of 22,000l., of which the owners took 4,400l. The freight also was, we are told, insured for 2,200l. to 2,400l., the total amount at risk; but there was no insurance on outfit or expenses.

The last question which we are asked is, "What, in " the opinion of the Court from the evidence before " them, is the cause of this vessel not having been " heard of since the pilot left her off Sandy Hook on " or about the 22nd of January last?" There being no evidence as to what has become of the vessel, since she left Sandy Hook, and not one of the crew having since turned up, it is of course a mere matter of conjecture what has become of her. Two affidavits were, however, brought in by Mr. Roche with a view to shew that in all probability she collided with some of the large fields of ice, or icebergs, which were floating about in the North Atlantic, even at that early period of the year. The fist of these affidavits is that of Captain Redford, the master of the steamship "City of Montreal," belonging to the Inman Line, who tells us that he left Liverpool for New York on the 6th of January last, and that on the 26th of the same month, when in about latitude 46° 30' north, and longitude 47° 45' west, they passed large ice fields on the port hand, but that they were not sufficiently near to tell whether it was heavy ice or not. Then there is an affidavit by Captain Jenkins, the master of the steamship "Ripon City," who told us that they left New York "on the 1st of February last, and proceeded " safely on their voyage up to the 7th day of' the same " mouth, when being then in latitude 45° 30' north and " longitude 48° west, the vessel encountered a very " thick field of ice of very large pieces, averaging in " thickness from 2 feet to 8 feet, which were driven " with great force by the current which was setting to " the S.W. This field of ice," he said, "continued to " come on for 4 days, viz:—from the 7th of February " to the 11th of February last, and during that time " struck the ship with great force, putting them in " great danger. The bows of the vessel sustained " serious damage on both the port and starboard sides, " many of the plates being indented, and a number of " them being broken in, so that the fore compartment " filled with water; and had it not been for the water- " tight bulkhead, the 'Ripon City' would have filled " with water and foundered; that, had any of the " pieces struck the vessel in any place abaft the bulk- " head and broken any of the plates, the vessel would " have filled with water, and the ship must have " foundered, and all hands have been lost; and that " they were in danger of this during the whole 4 days " the ice continued to come on with the current." He also stated that "it was necessary to jettison the cargo " contained in the forehold to raise the part of the " 'Ripon City,' which was damaged, out of water, and " that this enabled them to have the damage tempo- " rarily repaired; and that after getting clear of the " ice, which they did on the 11th February, he had to " put back to Halifax, where she was repaired, and then " proceeded again on her voyage. Judging," he says, "from his experience on that voyage and of the ice " encountered, he should say that any steamship or " vessel encountering that or similar fields of ice " ran very great risk of being lost with all hands, " and that this would be particularly so, if struck " amidships, or in any part abaft the water-tight " bulkhead; and thus any of the plates became thereby " broken, for then the vessel would immediately fill " with water and founder." Lastly, there was a witness produced, a Captain Rowe, the master of the steamship "Plainmeller," who told us that he left Philadelphia on the 8th of February last, and that on the passage home they were imbedded in a very heavy field of ice, with large icebergs about; that they remained so imbedded in the ice from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., for a period of 12 hours, and that they afterwards passed some large icebergs. He stated that several of their plates had been dented by the pressure of the ice, and that a vessel coming across it in the night would have stood a good chance of being lost. With this evidence before us it is clear that there were large fields of ice in the North Atlantic lying across the track which the "Fernwood" would probably have taken on her way to this country, and seeing that she was a good substantially built vessel, and well kept up, that she was not overladen, that the cargo was properly stowed with shifting boards from deck to keelson, the probability seems to be that she may have come into collision with some of these fields of ice or icebergs and foundered.

Before concluding this report, I think that, in justice to Mr. Milburn, I ought to refer to some remarks which fell from the Court in the case of the "Mangerton," of which Mr. Milburn was the managing owner. That case was heard before this Court in the month of July 1883, and in the course of Mr. Milburn's examination on that occasion he told us that the "Mangerton," which had originally cost them from 28,000l. to 29,000l., had at first been insured by them for 30,000l., but that when she was lost, which was some 4 or 5 years afterwards, she was insured for 32,000l. He told us that they were not in the habit of making any allowance for depreciation, and he justified that practice on the ground that their shareholders always looked, in the event of a vessel being lost, to being recouped the whole amount of their principal. Accordingly, in giving judgment, the Court made some very strong observations on the practice, which seems to have been adopted by Mr. Milburn, of insuring their vessels for more than the original cost price, and without making any allowance for depreciation, however long the vessel might have been running. Mr. Milburn, however, told us that since the case of the "Mangerton" was tried they had fully considered the subject, and that they now insured their vessels only for what they believed to be their fair values at the time, making a proper allowance for depreciation; and that it was on this ground that they had reduced the insurance on the "Fernwood" from 30,000l., which had been the original cost price, to 22,000l.; and of that amount, he said, that the owners had themselves taken 4,400l. The Court is glad to hear that Mr. Milburn has thus altered his practice, and that he now proceeds upon a more just and proper principle in estimating his vessels for insurance at their real value, and not at the original cost price without any allowance for depreciation. It is all the more satisfactory as the strictures which the Court felt itself bound to make on Mr. Milburn's practice gave occasion for some of the most violent and scurrilous attacks upon the Court in the so-called organs of the shipping interests. The fact, however, that Mr. Milburn has since altered his practice in this respect would seem to shew that the remarks which fell from the Court in the case of the "Mangerton" were not altogether uncalled for.

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

 

(Signed)

H. C. ROTHERY,

Wreck Commissioner.

We concur.

 

(Signed)

JOHN S. CASTLE,

 

 

 

BENJ. S. PICKARD,

Assessors.

 

 

W. B. ROBINSON,

Chief Constructor R.N.,

L 367. 2355. 180.—6/85. Wt. 408. E. & S.

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