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Wreck Report for 'Monarch', 1885

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Unique ID:15016
Description:Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'Monarch', 1885
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown


(No. 2771.)


The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876.

IN the matter of a formal Investigation held at Cardiff, on the 22nd, 23rd, and 30th days of December 1885, before ROBERT OLIVER JONES, Esquire, Stipendiary Magistrate for the Borough of Cardiff, assisted by Captains PARFITT and COMYN, Nautical Assessors, and J. H. HALLETT, Esquire, Engineer Assessor, into the circumstances attending the damage sustained by the steamship "MONARCH," of Newcastle, about 280 miles S.W. by W. of the Lizard, on the 30th day of November 1885.

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 explosion was caused by the use of a naked light, whilst coals were being trimmed in the 'tween decks, where gas had accumulated, the hatches and all other ventilation being at the time closed on account of bad weather.

The Court finds the master, Matthew Thompson, and chief engineer, William Smith, in default, and suspends the certificate of the master for three calendar months, and that of the chief engineer for six calendar months.

Dated this 1st day of January 1886.



R. O. JONES, Judge.

We concur in the above report.







Annex to the Report.

This case was heard at the Mayor's Court, Cardiff, on the 22nd, 23rd, and 30th days of December 1885, when Mr. Waldron appeard for the Board of Trade, and Mr. Ingledew for the owners and master. The chief engineer was present, but was not represented by counsel or solicitor.

Mr. Waldron called and examined twelve witnesses. A very material witness, Stephen Shea, a trimmer, stated to have been injured by the explosion, was said to be lying in hospital at Falmouth, and to have been forbidden to travel.

The further hearing of the case was therefore adjourned, for the attendance of this witness, until the 30th December.

On that day the Inquiry was resumed, and Shea appeared and was examined.

Mr. Waldron submitted certain questions to the Court, and stated that, in the opinion of the Board of Trade, the certificates of the master and chief engineer should be dealt with; and he asked that the owners should be ordered to pay the costs of the investigation. Mr. Ingledew then addressed the Court on behalf of his clients, and called two witnesses in support of his case.

The "Monarch" is an iron screw steamship, built at Middlesboro' in the year 1878, of 2,366 tons gross, and 1,521 tons registered tonnage, and is fitted with engines of 280 horse power. She is registered at the Port of Newcastle-on-Tyne, and is owned by Messrs. John McIntyre, of that port, and others; Mr. McIntyre being the managing owner.

The ship left Cardiff, bound for Madeira, at 10 a.m. on the 27th November last, with a crew of 28 hands all told, under the command of Mr. Matthew Thompson, who holds a certificate of competency as master dated 17 February 1872, and numbered 90,042. The cargo consisted of 2,100 tons of coal, in addition to 861 tons of bunker coal.

The coal, of which her cargo consisted, and which was put into her bunkers, is known as South Wales steam coal, and was raised at the National Company's Colliery in the Little Rhondda, Glamorganshire. The coal was worked from the 4 ft. seam, and is in common with the steam coal raised in the same district, a fiery coal, giving off an explosive gas very freely, but not liable to spontaneous combustion.

The colliery, from which this coal was obtained, is worked with locked safety lamps. The coal was put on board within a few days of its being worked at the pits, and during very rainy weather, so that it would be fully charged with gas.

It was of the utmost importance that a cargo of this description of coal should be well ventilated. The means provided for the purpose in this ship were first adopted about five years ago, when a Board of Trade surveyor at Cardiff, visiting the ship, found that the only ventilation then existing was by means of the bollards in the upper deck. He pointed out that for coal cargos further provision should be made, and thereupon one ventilator was placed amidships on the main deck forward, 21 feet abaft the collision bulkhead, and another placed, also amidships, abaft the first, at a distance of 57 feet 8 in. from the same bulkhead. These opened into the 'tween decks. They were 11 1/2 inches in diameter; the cast iron sockets were strongly rivetted to the deck, and stood 8 inches high above the deck.

Cowls, which were 5 feet 6 in. above the deck, were capable of being fitted on to these sockets. In addition to these ventilators there were the original bollards, eight in number, each about 4 1/2 in. in diameter, and opening into the 'tween decks.

These bollards were secured, while in port and in bad weather, by tops screwed into them.

The cargo was stowed as follows: In the after hold and 'tween decks there were placed about 1,143 tons of cargo coal; in the forehold, 595 tons of cargo coal; and in the fore part of No. 2 hold, which was divided by a temporary wooden bulkhead, there was 372 tons also of cargo coal. Both this part of No. 2 hold and the forehold were full, and the hatches put on. The after part of No. 2 hold was filled with coal for consumption, and in the 'tween decks above that space, and extending some distance forward of it, there was also coal for consumption-in all amounting to 510 tons. That portion of coal in the forward 'tween decks was trimmed up close to the deck, and right across the ship at the after end against the iron bulkhead for a distance of about 15 feet fore and aft. The coal then sloped downwards and forwards, and was piled up amidships, leaving an empty space at the fore end of the 'tween decks capable of holding about 100 tons.

The 'tween decks on each side of this piled up coal were exposed, and three trimming hatches on each side were open and free to the lower hold. Two other trimming hatches abaft these were covered by the coal trimmed up as above described. In the after bulkhead of the 'tween decks there were two doorways, each 5 feet 1 in. by 2 feet 6 in., the tops of which were about 2 feet 6 in. below the under surface of the main deck. Both main and lower decks were of iron, the main deck being sheathed with wood. Abaft this bulkhead there was a cross bunker extending from side to side of the vessel, measuring 5 feet 9 in. fore and aft, and having at its after end an iron bulkhead which separated it from the upper part of the stokehold, in which there was a door 22 in. by 24 in., and on the after side of it a ladder leading down to the stokehold. In the floor of this cross bulkhead there were two pocket hatches just abaft the doorways, which led into the 'tween decks. Abaft this cross bunker on each side of the boiler-room there were side bunkers. The whole of these bunkers was filled with 351 tons of coal when the vessel left Cardiff.

The fore 'tween decks extended over the forehold and No. 2 hold 108 feet 2 in. without any division from the collision bulkhead to the after bulkhead above mentioned.

The ship's dimensions were: Length, 306 feet; breadth, 35 feet 7 1/2 inches; depth of hold, 24 feet 5 in. The engines and boilers were amidships, and covered by a deckhouse above the main deck 70 feet long and 7 feet 3 in. high. There was also a poop of 40 feet in length, and a topgallant forecastle about 45 feet long and 7 feet 8 in. high. Through this topgallant forecastle there was a small ventilator reaching into the 'tween decks forward of the collision bulkhead ventilating the fore peak but not connected with the hold. The collision bulkhead extended up to the main deck.

The ship drew on leaving Cardiff 22 feet forward and 22 feet 6 in. aft, with a freeboard of 4 feet 3 inches.

The weather on leaving was cloudy with a strong breeze from W.S.W., and the forward and after hatches in all the main deck hatchways were open, but none of the cowls of the ventilators were shipped, and the sockets were covered up.

The ventilators in the bollards were also screwed down.

About 6 p.m. the vessel was abreast of Lundy Island. The wind increased to a full gale, and she began to ship great quantities of water, and the hatches were all then battered down. During the night they had occasion to ease engines to half speed. On the 28th the weather moderated, and the engines were again put on full speed, but the vessel continued to ship heavy water fore and aft. On the 29th and 30th it was blowing a strong gale from the S.W., the vessel shipping great quantities of water, by which the deck was flooded fore and aft. At 6 p.m. on the 29th the engines were again eased. The speed of the ship had been 6 knots. The weather continued thus until the vessel was about 280 miles S.W. of the Lizard.

At midnight on the 29th the chief engineer and one of the trimmers, named Stephen Shea, went into the cross bunker, which by this time was nearly clear of coal. The chief engineer carried a naked hand lamp, which was afterwards hung under the beams about 9 inches from the doorway on the port side of the bulkhead leading into the 'tween decks.

The trimmer then proceeded, according to the instructions of the chief engineer, to trim the coals from the 'tween decks into the cross bunker, and he continued to do this until 3.30 a.m. on the 30th, when he had occasion to leave to attend to other duty. He returned to the bunker again, about 4.30 a.m., and with shovel in hand was about to re-commence trimming the coal in the same place when an explosion took place, which threw him backward and burnt his arms and face severely. He was able to give the alarm, and to escape down the ladder into the engine-room.

It appears to the Court that there must have been a considerable accumulation of gas in the fore 'tween decks during the time the hatches and deck ventilation were closed, and so long as the coal remained piled up on each side of the after bulkhead, that gas would be confined to the 'tween decks. So soon, however, as an opening was made in that mass of coal, by the trimming it through the port doorway, where a naked light was burning, the gas found an outlet, and coming in contact with the light an explosion ensued.

The day previous to the explosion the master had instructed the 2nd officer to ship the ventilator cowls as soon as the weather moderated, and he had also expressed to the first engineer his fear that there was danger of explosion in the bunkers; but no warning was given by the master or chief engineer to anyone of the danger of going into the bunkers with a naked light. There was a safety lamp on board the ship, which was used for the tunnel abaft the engines.

Mr. Gilchrist, deputy superintendent, Mercantile Marine at Penarth, stated that whilst the vessel lay at Penarth he handed to the master of the "Monarch" a copy of the Board of Trade official caution in regard to explosions of coal gas on board ship. This was disputed by the master, but he admitted having received a similar notice before leaving Liverpool a short time before. As soon as the explosion occurred, the vessel was wore round and put before the wind and sea, and steered for Falmouth. The damage done by the explosion at first appeared to be-the fore part of the main deck much started, the hatches all blown off, and the forecastle badly wrecked. On arrival at Falmouth, it was found that the collision bulkhead was completely torn from the sides and driven forward. There were also 40 to 50 upper deck beams, and 8 or 10 lower deck beams, and some beams in the topgallant forecastle broken. The water ballast tank under the boiler was started, and the cargo booms were broken, and the gangway fore and aft bridge was carried away. Mr. Bissett, Board of Trade surveyor at Falmouth, who when he boarded her found the damage above described, explained to the Court that the explosion went right forward, expending itself at the collision bulkhead.

The only injury sustained by any of the crew was that done to Stephen Shea, the trimmer.

The ship is now lying at Falmouth undergoing repairs.

The following are the questions submitted to the Court:-

1. Whether, having regard to the nature of the cargo on board the "Monarch," her holes were properly and sufficiently ventilated, i.e., so as to insure a system of surface ventilation which would be effective in all circumstances of the weather after she left Cardiff on the 27th November last?

2. If not, whether, having regard to the fact that the master had received a caution, he was justified in proceeding to sea with the holds of the vessel insufficiently ventilated?

3. Whether the owner was justified in neglecting to provide proper and sufficient ventilation?

4. Whether the bollards were opened or closed at the time and previous to the casualty?

5. Whether every possible effort was made to ventilate the holds between the 27th and the 30th November, and whether, having regard to the fact that the ventilators were closed between those dates, the master was justified in neglecting to warn the crew of the danger likely to arise taking a naked light into the hold?

6. Whether on the 30th November the master and chief engineer were or either of them was justified in permitting Shea to enter the bunkers with a naked light?

7. What was the cause of the explosion?

And finally,

Whether the master and chief engineer are or either of them is in default?

The following answers are given to the foregoing questions:-

1. The vessel was sufficiently ventilated as long as the ventilators were shipped and acting, but as soon as they had to be unshipped and the holds closed there was no ventilation at all.

2. He was justified in proceeding to sea from Cardiff, but the ventilators ought to have been shipped.

3. The owners had provided proper and sufficient ventilation.

4. The bollards were closed after they passed Lundy and before the casualty.

5. No attempt was made to ventilate the holds. The master was not justified in neglecting to caution the crew against the use of naked lights.

6. The chief engineer was not justified when everything was battered down in taking a naked light into the 'tween decks, nor in permitting Shea to enter them while the naked light was there.

7. The taking of a naked light into the between decks where explosive gas had accumulated.

Finally. Both master and chief engineer were in default, the master in neglecting reasonable precautions, when the necessity arose for battering down and a consequent accumulation of gas was inevitable, to prevent naked lights being used, and the chief engineer, for himself using and permitting a trimmer to continue to use a naked light exposed to inflammable gas.

The certificate of the master is suspended for three calendar months, and that of the chief engineer for six calendar months.

No order is made as to costs.



R. O. JONES, Judge.






I concur in the above, except in the answer to Question 3. I am of opinion that, although the "Monarch" may have been provided with ventilators of the ordinary kind, and fitted in the usual way, they did not afford sufficient and proper ventilation under the circumstances. I am further of opinion that, in deep laden vessels which in an ordinary strong gale have (like the "Monarch") their decks constantly flooded with heavy water, often to the height of 3 feet, such ventilators, fitted as the "Monarch's" were, would if shipped be soon washed away.




L 367. 2549. 180.-1/86. Wt. 408. E. & S.


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