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Wreck Report for 'Reindeer', 1885

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Unique ID:15040
Description:Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'Reindeer', 1885
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown


(No. 2597.)


The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876.

IN the matter of the Formal Investigation held at West Hartlepool, on the 4th of July 1885, before H. C. ROTHERY, Esquire, Wreck Commissioner, assisted by Captains CASTLE and HARLAND, as Assessors, into the circumstances attending the stranding and loss of the steamship "REINDEER," of Hartlepool, on the Island of Ushant, on the 6th of June last, whilst on a voyage from Gibraltar to Altona.

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 and loss of the said vessel was due to the wrongful acts and defaults of James Galley, the master, and it accordingly suspends his certificate for three months.

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

Dated this 4th day of July 1885.




Wreck Commissioner.

We concur in the above report.






Annex to the Report.

This case was heard at West Hartlepool on the 4th of July 1885, when Mr. Howard Smith appeared for the Board of Trade, Mr. Tilly for the owners, and Mr. Foster for the master of the "Reindeer." Nine witnesses having been produced by the Board of Trade and examined, Mr. Howard Smith handed in a statement of the questions upon which the Board of Trade desired the opinion of the Court. Mr. Tilly and Mr. Foster then addressed the Court on behalf of their respective parties, and Mr. Howard Smith having replied for the Board of Trade, 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 "Reindeer" was an iron screw steamship, belonging to the Port of Hartlepool, of 1,375 tons gross and 878 tons net register, and was fitted with engines of 120 horse power. She was built at West Hartlepool in the year 1880, and at the time of her loss was the property of Mr. John Hunter, junior, of Hartlepool, and others, Mr. Hunter being the managing owner. She left Varna on the 22nd of May last, with a crew of 20 hands all told, and a cargo of from 1,650 to 1,700 tons of wheat, bound to Gibraltar for orders. On her arrival at that place on the 1st of June following, she received orders to proceed to Altona, and having taken in 40 tons of bunker coal, she sailed again the same day. At 8.30 a.m. of the 4th Cape Villano bore E.S.E., distant about 4 miles, upon which the vessel was put upon a N.E. 1/4 E. course magnetic, and she continued on that course until noon of the 5th, when finding, from observations that had been taken at 9 a.m. and at noon, that she was in latitude 46° 51' north and longitude 6° 50' west, the course was altered 1/4 of a point more to the eastward, to N.E. 1/2 E magnetic; and that course was continued until about 1.10 of the following morning, when the captain, who was on the bridge, suddenly observed a rock right ahead, and at the same moment the look-out man reported it. Orders were at once given to hard-a-starboard the helm and to reverse the engines full speed, but before the orders could be carried out the ship struck and became fast. The captain thereupon directed the lifeboat to be got out, and shortly afterwards, the sea beginning to break over the ship, he ordered some 14 of the hands to get into her and to pull her under the lee of the ship, whilst he himself and the rest of the crew remained on board the ship. At about 4.30 a.m. the Ushant lifeboat came to them, and as the vessel was then full of water some of them got into her, and the remainder proceeded in the ship's own boat to the shore. All hands were saved, but the vessel became a total wreck, and has been lost, together with the whole of her cargo. The place where the vessel struck was on the extreme S.W. end of the island of Ushant, and about a mile to the southward of the lighthouse.

These being the facts of the case, the first question upon which our opinion has been asked is, "What " number of compasses had the vessel on board, and " where were they placed?" We are told that the vessel had three compasses; a pole compass, which was placed at the fore part of the bridge; a compass forward of the midship wheel; and a compass before the after wheel.

The second question which we are asked is, "Did the " master ascertain the deviation of the compasses by " observation from time to time?" and with it I will take the third question, "Whether the errors of the " compasses were correctly ascertained, and the proper " corrections to the courses applied?" We are told that the vessel was swung in February last in Hartlepool Bay by a professional compass adjuster, and that the master was then supplied with proper deviation cards. He has told us, however, that there was only one of the compasses, which he used, and by which he laid his course and steered his ship, and that was the pole compass. This he said he took every opportunity of correcting by taking observations on every available occasion both of the sun and of the stars; and in proof of that statement he produced his deviation book, which was the only thing that he had saved, and in which he had entered the deviation from time to time as they changed their latitude, but only for the pole compass. The book appears to have been well and properly kept, and we have therefore no reason to think that the master did not ascertain the deviation from time to time, and apply the proper corrections to the courses.

The fourth question which we are asked is, "Whether " proper measures were taken to ascertain and verify " the position of the vessel at noon of the 5th of June " last, and thereafter?" The only observations which the master took on the 5th of June were one at 9 a.m. for longitude, and a second at noon for latitude, and as the observations put the vessel in the same position, as he had obtained by dead reckoning, and showed him that she had not got out of her course, he did not, he said, think it necessary to take any observation in the afternoon. This the assessors think is to be regretted, as it is the duty of a master to take every possible opportunity of ascertaining and verifying his position, more especially as he knew that he would have to pass Ushant during the night; and he has told us that he had always found that the vessel was set more or less out of her course, when nearing that place. At the same time we have no reason to doubt that the observations which he did take at nine and at noon correctly fixed the position of the vessel at that time; but an observation at three in the afternoon for longitude would have shewn him, whether up to that time he had got to the eastward of his course.

The fifth question which we are asked is, "Whether " safe and proper courses were then and thereafter set " and steered, and whether due and proper allowance " was made for tide and currents?" There is some difference between the master and the two officers as to what was the exact course steered, whether it was a quarter of a point more or less to the eastward; seeing however that the vessel went ashore on the S.W. extremity of the Island of Ushant, and within a mile of the lighthouse, and that she had, according to the master's statement, got something like eight miles to the eastward of her course, it is clear that a safe and proper course was not steered, sufficient allowance not having been made for the set of the current to the eastward.

The sixth question which we are asked is, "Whether " the weather was thick during the night of the 5th or " morning of the 6th June; and if so, whether the " master was justified in neglecting to reduce the " speed of the vessel, especially having regard to the fact " that he expected to make Ushant light at midnight, " and had not done so?" The weather is described by the witnesses as having been hazy, with occasional showers of rain, and the assessors tell me that with such a wind as was then blowing, S.W. to S.S.W., accompanied with rain, it is certain that the weather would be thick, and that it would not be possible to see to any distance. Whether it became thicker towards one or not seems to be somewhat doubtful; some of the witnesses saying that it did, and some that it did not. We have the fact, however, that although they struck within about a mile of the lighthouse, they did not see it; but it is said that the fog lay on the land, whilst it was comparatively clear out at sea, which is not impossible or indeed unusual. But at all events it was sufficiently foggy to make it the duty of the master to exercise the greatest care and caution in approaching this very dangerous coast. Not indeed that we are prepared to say that the weather was so thick as to make it incumbent upon him to reduce the speed of the vessel; but there were other precautions which might have been taken, and to which I shall presently have to refer.

The seventh question which we are asked is, "Whether " a good and proper look out was kept?" It seems that there was a man stationed on the topgallant forecastle, and that the master and the chief officer were on the bridge; and there is no reason to think that they were not keeping a good and proper look out.

The eighth question which we are asked is, "Whether " the total neglect of the lead was justifiable?" The master told us that he laid his course at noon, so that, if it had been made good, it would have taken him from 14 to 16 miles to the westward of Ushant; but that he had allowed a quarter of a point for the set of the current to the eastward, so that he expected to pass it at the distance of from 6 to 8 miles. Now no doubt that would have been a safe and proper distance at which to pass it; but the master ought to have known, and no doubt did know, that nothing is more uncertain than the currents in the neighbourhood of Ushant, and nothing more difficult to rely on. At page 7 of the sailing directions for the west coasts of France, Spain and Portugal, we find it stated that "on entering the " English channel, much caution is requisite in rounding " Ushant;" it then goes on to say, "that island is sur- " rounded by dangers in all directions; there are " numerous rocks; the channels are intricate; the tides " rapid; fogs and thick weather not uncommon, and, " as might be expected, wrecks are frequent." "No " vessel," it adds, "should approach within 5 miles, " or, if the weather be thick, come into less than " 70 fathoms of water until the parallel of the island " be passed." And then at the bottom of the same page we have the following caution. "In approach- " ing Ushant during thick weather, it is absolutely " necessary to keep the lead going." Now the master has told us that he expected that at midnight they would be about 10 miles from Ushant and that they would then see the light; and that not seeing it then, he continued is course at full speed with topsails and fore sail set, and with the wind dead aft, making about 9 knots an hour, until 10 minutes after 1, when they struck. The fact, however, that he did not see Ushant Light was no justification for his supposing that he had got to the westward of his course; all that it shewed him was, either that the weather was thicker than he imagined it to be; or that there was a thick fog on the island which obscured the light; or that he had got out of his course; and under these circumstances it was his bounden duty to have taken a cast of the lead, which would at once have shewn him the danger into which he was running. At page 10 of the same book of sailing directions we have a description of the bank called the Haut Fond D'Ouessant, in the vicinity of which the ship must have passed to strike where she did. It there says,-"At about 3 1/2 miles W S.W. from " the S.W. point of Ushant is the northern end of a " bank, about 11 miles long, north and south, and half " a mile broad, on which are 25 to 32 fathoms water " over a bottom of broken shells. Around it on all " sides are 50 to 60 fathoms, and between it and Ushant " 50 to 26 fathoms." So that for a considerable time before the ship struck they must have had less than 50 fathoms of water, which would have shewn him at once that he had got to the eastward of his course, and was nearing the coast. On the whole we have no hesitation in saying that the neglect of the lead in this case was quite unjustifiable.

The ninth question which we are asked is, "Whether " the vessel was navigated with proper and seamanlike " care?" Except in not making sufficient allowance for the set of the current to the east, and in not taking a cast of the lead, the vessel appears to have been carefully navigated.

The tenth question which we are asked is, "What " was the number of seamen for each watch, and " whether under the circumstances the watch was " sufficient to keep a good look out, and to heave the " lead, and do other things necessary for the safe " navigation of the vessel?" We are told that she had two mates, a boatswain, and five able seamen, giving an officer and three hands to each watch, exclusive of course of the master. There would, therefore, be one man for the wheel, one for the look out, and an off hand. It is said that an officer and two of the hands would be required to take a cast of the deep sea lead; so that with an officer and three hands in a watch it could be done by taking the look out man from his post. If, indeed, the captain was on deck at the time, there would, perhaps, be no objection to this, seeing that whilst the look out man was off his post the master would be keeping a look out from the bridge. We are not therefore prepared to say, looking at the size of this vessel, that she had an insufficient crew. Looking too at the facts of the present case, it would have been quite easy at midnight, when they were changing watches, and when the master found that Ushant Light was not to be seen, to have then taken a cast of the lead. The number of the crew therefore could not have been any justification to the master for not having taken a cast of the lead.

The eleventh question which are asked is, "What " was the cause of the stranding of the vessel?" The stranding of the vessel was no doubt due to the master having laid his course to pass too close to Ushant, having regard to the set of the current to the eastward; and to his not having taken a cast of the lead when he found that Ushant Light was not in sight.

Under these circumstances the Board of Trade have stated that in their opinion "the certificate of the " master should be dealt with." We are told that this master has been in the service of his present owners for a considerable time, first as second mate, and afterwards in command of this vessel since October 1883; and that during all that time he has conducted himself to their satisfaction. The way in which he seems to have kept his deviation book shews him to be on the whole a careful man, and the fact that he was on the bridge continuously from 8 p.m. that night until she struck is in his favour. Looking, however, at the way in which he continued to run at full speed for more than an hour after he had expected to sight Ushant Light, without knowing his position, and without taking the trouble to ascertain it by a cast of the lead, makes it absolutely necessary that we should deal with his certificate, but we shall only suspend it for three months.




Wreck Commissioner.

We concur.






L 367. 2374. 180.-7/85. Wt. 408. E. & S.


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