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Wreck Report for 'Penshaw', 1885

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Unique ID:15027
Description:Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'Penshaw', 1885
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown


(No. 2731.)


The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876.

IN the matter of the formal Investigation held at the Board Room of the Sunderland Union Offices, John Street, Bishopwearmouth, in the Borough of Sunderland, on the 17th and 18th days of November 1885, before JOHN POTTS and GEORGE CLIFTON PECKET, Esquires, two of Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace, acting in and for the Borough of Sunderland, assisted by Captains WARD and FRENCH, Nautical Assessors, into the circumstances attending the stranding of the British sailing ship "PENSHAW," of Sunderland, near the Abrolhos, Brazil, on the 10th day of July 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 was caused by being navigated too near the Abrolhos Rocks. The Court consider the master, John Smith Airey, was to blame in trusting too confidently to an estimated distance, and not taking measures to verify the same; but taking all the circumstances of the case into consideration, does not deal with his certificate, but caution him as to his future conduct.

Dated this 18th day of November 1885.






We concur in the above report.






Annex to the Report.

The "Penshaw," official number 68,930, is a wooden barque-rigged vessel, built at Southwick in the County of Durham, in the year 1875, of the gross tonnage of 755.49 tons, and registered tonnage of 729.33 tons. Her length is 175 feet 8 tenths, breadth 32 feet 6 tenths, and depth 20 feet. She is owned by John Crown of Southwick, who is also managing owner, and was commanded by John Smith Airey, who holds a certificate of competency as master, No. 22,703, dated 24th of August 1864.

The "Penshaw," left Cardiff on the 3rd of June last with a crew of 17 hands all told, and a cargo of 1,130 tons of coal, bound for Monte Video. She was well supplied with compasses, and had on board a chart of the South Atlantic Ocean, by Imrey, 1884, and a general chart of the Brazil Coast by Laurie, 1883. All went well until the 10th of July; observations for longitude by chronometers were taken at 9 a.m. on that date but were not worked out. At 10 a.m. the tops of the peaks of the Abrolhos Islands were seen bearing south-west at an estimated distance of fifteen miles. The weather at this time was squally, with passing showers of rain, being perfectly clear between the squalls, wind varying from E.N.E. to east-south-east. All plain sail, except the royals, was set; the vessel was kept by the wind on the port tack, and made a south course good, the master directing she should not be allowed to come higher than south-south-east. The vessel was making five to seven knots an hour. The weather continued the same, and at noon the lighthouse on Santa Barbara bore west by south 1/2 south, at an estimated distance of twelve miles. No observation for latitude could be obtained, the sun being obscured by clouds. At about 12.40 p.m. the vessel touched the ground, but passed on; the well was sounded but she was not making any water. At about 1 p.m. she took the ground at the bow and remained fast; the helm was put down and the head sails were hauled down. The vessel came up in the wind and after about five minutes she backed off into deep water. Sail was again set and she was put on the starboard tack, standing to the north-eastward for about three miles, when she was put about and steered for Rio de Janeiro, where she arrived on the 14th of July. After striking the ground the vessel made water at the rate of twelve inches an hour. When fast on the ground the lighthouse bore west 3/4 north, at an estimated distance of 8 to 9 miles. The cargo was discharged at Rio de Janeiro, and the vessel was placed in dry dock, when it was found that the fore foot and five feet of the keel was gone; this was temporarily repaired by the ship's carpenter, and after taking in ballast the vessel was brought to Sunderland.

It appears to the Court that the stranding of this vessel is to be attributed to over confidence on the master's part in estimating the distance from the islands, instead of ascertaining the correct distance by working the sights taken at 9 a.m. He concluded the vessel struck on some rock that is not marked on the chart, but there is no evidence that such was the case. It is true that some coral reefs that were not marked on the Admiralty chart of 1862 have been discovered within the last two years to exist, but the Court is not inclined to allow that others exist, without some better proof than a mere estimated distance.

The Court observed that the ship's log book, which was produced, had been tampered with, several entries that had been made on the day of the casualty have been erased, and others substituted, which tend to throw discredit on the evidence given to the Court.

At the conclusion of the evidence, Mr. de Hamel, for the Board of Trade, desired the opinion of the Court upon the following questions:-

1. What was the cause of the stranding of the "Penshaw," near the Abrolhos, on the 10th July 1885?

Ans. Being navigated too near the rocks.

2. Whether every possible measure was taken to ascertain and verify the assumed position of the vessel on sighting the Abrolhos Rocks at 10 a.m., and again at and after noon of the 10th July?

Ans. No measures were taken to verify the position of the ship on sighting the Abrolhos Rock, or at noon.

3. Whether proper courses were steered after sighting the islands on the 10th July?

Ans. Had the assumed position of the ship been correct, the courses steered would have been proper?

4. Whether, having regard to the charts on board, the master was justified in navigating so close to the Abrolhos Rocks?

Ans. The master was not justified in navigating so near the rocks under any circumstances.

5. What was the position of the vessel at the time she struck? and whether the evidence tends to show that the object upon which she struck is not marked upon the charts by which the vessel was being navigated?

Ans. The Court is of opinion that the vessel struck on the eastern edge of the Parcel des Abrolhos. There is nothing in the evidence produced to the Court to shew that the vessel struck upon an object which is not marked on the chart, beyond the statement of the witnesses, that the vessel was estimated to be further off the island.

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

Ans. The vessel appears to have been navigated with proper care up to the time of first sighting the island but not afterwards.






We concur in the above report.





L 367. 2508. 18O.-11/85. Wt. 408. E. & S.


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