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Wreck Report for 'Peer of the Realm', 1885

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Unique ID:15026
Description:Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'Peer of the Realm', 1885
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown


(No. 2493.)


The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876.

IN the matter of a formal Investigation held at Cardiff, on the 12th and 13th days of March 1885, before REES JONES and JOHN WILLIAMS VACHELL, Esquires, two of Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the Borough of Cardiff, assisted by Captain VAUX and Captain HYDE, into the circumstances attending the stranding of the steamship "PEER OF THE REALM," of Newcastle, on Lundy Island, on the 11th February 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 stranding of the ship was due to the foggy state of the weather, and, to a considerable extent, the insufficient use of the lead. The Court finds the master, Mr. Edwin Knowles, in default, but does not consider his culpability in this respect is sufficiently grave to justify its dealing with his certificate.

No order is made as to costs.

Dated this 13th day of March 1885.






We concur in the above report.



C. VAUX, R.N.R.,



Annex to the Report.

The "Peer of the Realm," official number 70,251, was an iron screw steamship of 1813 gross and 1182 registered tonnage, built at Pallion, in the county of Durham, in the year 1876.

She was fitted with one compound surface-condensing engine of 170 horse-power. She was registered at Newcastle, was classed A 1 at Lloyd's, and was the property of Messrs. Newton and others. Her compasses were three in number-a standard compass on the upper bridge, a second compass on the lower bridge in a wheelhouse, and a compass on the poop aft.

The ship it seems was swung at Cardiff in November 1884, and there was at that time easterly deviation of half a point on the course steered on this last voyage. The master informed us that he had verified the compasses by amplitudes and the pole star, but not by azimuth, on a previous voyage, and found them correct. Nevertheless, he attributes to an error in the compasses the casualty into which we are inquiring, and it was by his advocate suggested that iron materials used in the extensive repairs which, it appears, had been done to the ship at Liverpool shortly before the commencement of this voyage, had had some influence upon the compasses.

The ship left Cardiff, bound for Bombay, with a cargo of 2,530 tons of coal, at 3.30 p.m. on the 11th February last.

Her crew consisted of 24 hands all told, and she was under the command of Mr. Edwin Knowles, who held a certificate of competency as a master.

The ship was abreast of the lighthouse on Nash Point at 6 p.m., and distant about 4 miles. The tide began to ebb at this point, and was, the master states, running about 1 1/2 miles an hour. For the set of the tide he allowed two miles to the north-west from Nash Point to Bull Point on the Devonshire coast, a distance of 27 miles. From the Nash a course of W. by N. by compass was set and continued until 8.20 p.m., when wishing to haul the ship more to the south, the course was altered to W. At 8.25 p.m. the ship was stopped for five minutes on account of heated bearings, and shortly after was again stopped for the same cause for 15 or 20 minutes. At 8.40 p.m. a thick fog came on, the ship at the time being supposed by the master to be five or six miles to the eastward of Bull Point.

At 8.45 the engines, which had been going full speed, were put dead slow. At 9.20 p.m. the course was altered to W. by S. (W. by S. 1/2 S. magnetic) for 20 minutes. It was then again altered half a point to the southward, at the same time the master states he made the light on Bull Point. He was not sure as to the light, the fog being so thick, but the chief officer agreed in the opinion, and they both still think that it really was that light that they saw. The opinion was confirmed by the patent log, which was set off the Nash, and at this point showed the distance run to be 26 miles, the actual distance being 27 miles.

About 9.30 p.m. the flood tide commenced to make, acting on the vessel's port bow. At 10.5 p.m. the ship was stopped for six or seven minutes, and a cast of the lead was taken, giving a depth of 21 fathoms. This, the master says, revealed no danger to him, because that depth of water corresponded with his estimated position. He therefore proceeded on his course, the engine going dead slow. At 11 the fog was very dense, but the master had not much doubt as to his position. He knew that there was a signal station at Bull Point, where a fog blast is sounded in foggy weather, and that there was also another station on Lundy Island, where in foggy weather rockets are fired every ten minutes. He heard no signal whatever, and after seeing the light, which he supposed to be that on Bull Point, he saw no other. At 11.35 p.m. he was on the upper bridge with the chief officer, when the latter observed a dark object on the starboard bow. The engines were stopped, and then reversed full speed astern, but in a moment the ship took the ground and remained fast. The pumps were sounded, and the ship was found to be filling fast. She was boarded in 7 or 8 minutes after she struck by two Bristol pilots, who informed the master that his ship was ashore on Lundy Island. The crew got into the boats, and at 20 minutes to three a.m. on the 12th February, left the wreck. The water was then over the 'tween decks forward.

She still remains in the same position, and the cargo is now being taken out of her.

Mr. John Morgan, principal signalman in charge of the signal station at Lundy, was called as a witness, and told us that the night of the 11th February was the thickest and darkest he had ever known. It is the practice at the station, where rockets have been in use since 1878, to fire a rocket in foggy weather every 10 minutes. The rocket (fitted at the top with a chamber containing a charge of cotton powder which explodes and makes a report) is intended to have an upward flight of 600 feet in ordinary weather, but in a fresh breeze (or No. 5, according to Beaufort's scale) such as prevailed on the night of the 11th, a rocket would not attain that height.

The sound, Mr. Morgan says, varies very much, according to the wind and currents of air. Rockets were fired that night every ten minutes according to the regulations. The ship stranded on the east side of the Island at the foot of a perpendicular cliff of great height. The signal station is on the westernmost point. The distance between the station and the ship, Mr. Morgan informed us, is about 2 miles, high land intervening. He thought it impossible for the rockets to have been seen, and it seems from the evidence equally improbable that they could have been heard. The light on the island, which should be visible to vessels coming from the eastward for a distance of 25 to 30 miles, would not in Mr. Morgan's opinion have been visible on that night for two yards.

The case under consideration would seem to show that some improvement in the method of signalling at Lundy Island is necessary for the safety in foggy weather of the large and ever increasing number of vessels passing to the southward.

The place where the vessel stranded is 8 miles from her assumed position at that time.

The following questions were submitted to the Court on behalf of the Board of Trade, and it was intimated, that in the opinion of the Board of Trade the master's certificate should be dealt with.

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

2. What number of compasses had she on board, where were they placed, when and by whom were they last adjusted, did the master know their errors, and were the proper corrections to the courses applied?

3. Whether safe and proper courses were set and steered after passing Nash Point, and whether due and proper allowance was made for tide, currents, and for the alteration in the vessel's position owing to the stopping of the engines?

4. Whether proper means were taken to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel at 9.20 p.m., and whether the master was justified in assuming that she was abreast of Bull Point Light?

5. Whether a safe and proper course was set and steered thereafter?

6. Whether due and proper allowance was made for tide and currents? Whether she was sufficiently manned?

7. Whether the lead was used with sufficient frequency, especially having regard to the thick state of the weather, and if not, whether the manning of the ship had anything to do with this neglect?

8. Whether a good and proper look-out was kept?

9. Whether the vessel was navigated with proper and seamanlike care?

10. Whether the fog signal rockets at Lundy Island were discharged every 10 minutes during the time the weather was thick with fog?

And finally,

Whether the master and officers are, or either of them is, in default?

The following answers were given by the Court to the foregoing questions:-

1. The cause of the stranding of the vessel was the foggy state of the weather, and, to a considerable extent, the insufficient use of the lead.

2. There were three compasses, one (the standard) on the upper bridge about 14 feet above the main deck, by which the courses were set and steered, one compass in the wheel-house on the lower bridge, and the 3rd aft on the poop. They were adjusted on November 8, 1884, by T. J. Williams, of Cardiff, in Penarth Roads.

The master had a deviation card supplied to him, from which he applied the deviation to his courses.

3. Safe and proper courses were set and steered after passing Nash Point. Allowance was made for tides, but in the opinion of the Court that allowance was insufficient. No allowance appears to have been made for any alteration in the ship's position during the time the engines were stopped.

4. No means were taken to verify the ship's position at 9.20 p.m. beyond examining the patent log which indicated 26 miles from the Nash Light.

According to the evidence a light was seen at that time, but it was so indistinct that the master was scarcely justified in concluding that it was the Bull Point Light without endeavouring to verify his position by sounding.

5. The course set at that time would have been correct had the vessel been in her assumed position.

6. The answer to the 3rd question applies to the first part of this question. There is no evidence to show that she was insufficiently manned.

7. Having regard to the foggy state of the weather the lead was not sufficiently used.

It does not appear that the manning of the ship had anything to do with the insufficient use of the lead.

8. A good and proper look-out was kept.

9. With the exception of the insufficient use of the lead she appears to have been navigated with proper and seamanlike care.

10. From the evidence of Mr. John Morgan, the signalman of Lundy Island, who attended before the Court, the rockets were discharged every ten minutes during the time the weather was thick with fog.

11. We are of opinion that the master would have exercised a wiser discretion had he used the lead more frequently, and to that extent we are bound to find him in default, but we do not consider his culpability in this respect is sufficiently grave to justify our dealing with his certificate.

No order is made as to costs.








C. VAUX, R.N.R.,



L 367. 2268. 170.-3/85. Wt. 36. E. & S.


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