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Wreck Report for 'Cordova', 1888

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Unique ID:15386
Description:Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'Cordova', 1888
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown


(No. 3673.)


The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876.

IN the matter of a formal Investigation held at St. George's Hall, Liverpool, on the 4th and 5th days of December 1888, before THOS. STAMFORD RAFFLES, Esq., Stipendiary Magistrate, assisted by Captains FRENCH and DAVIES, Nautical Assessors, into the circumstances attending the stranding of the British barque "CORDOVA," of Liverpool, on or about the 26th day of July last, at the northern side of the entrance to Straits of Le Maire.

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 said ship was stranded owing to the inexcusable conduct of the master in attempting to go through the Straits of Le Maire on a dark winter's night in unsettled weather.

Dated this 5th day of December 1888.



T. S. RAFFLES, Judge.

We concur in the above report.






Annex to the Report.

This was an Inquiry into the circumstances attending the stranding of the British barque "Cordova" on the 26th day of July last, at or near the northern side of the entrance to the Straits of Le Maire. Mr. Paxton appeared for the Board of Trade, and Mr. Hawkins, solicitor, represented the master of the "Cordova."

The "Cordova" was an iron barque built at Stockton-on-Tees in 1862, of 52.104 tons, registered at Liverpool, the property of Mr. Samuel Parry, of Liverpool, who is managing owner, and several others. She left Cardiff for Coquimbo on the 4th of May last with a cargo of 783 tons of coals, drawing 16 ft. 1 in. forward and 16 ft. 2 in. aft, with a crew of 12 hands all told. Nothing happened on the voyage till the 26th July. Upon that day they made land between 10 and 11 a.m. The land they made was, according to the evidence of the master, Cape St. Vincente on Terra del Fuego, and he judged himself to be 10 or 12 miles off. The master said that subsequently he made out Cape San Diego. He said he got cross bearings, and he marked on the chart the alleged position that he got. About 3.30 p.m. he made up his mind to go through the Straits of Le Maire, there being then a favourable breeze from the N. All sail was set except royals, and they were going 6 1/2 to 7 knots. He had been steering E.N.E., but at 3.30 p.m. he went S.S.W. His mate, he stated, agreed with him as to taking the passage. About 7.20 p.m. he saw the land on the starboard bow, which he took to be land on Stettin Island, upon which he altered his course to S.W. 1/2 S. Very soon afterwards he saw land on the starboard quarter, upon which he put the helm a-starboard, trimmed the yards, and tried to sail out on the port tack. Her head came up to about N.N.E., and remained in that position. The ship drifted bodily through the tide ripple, and she struck on the rocks about 8.45 p.m. The master then found that he was embayed in Thetis Bay, at the north entrance of the straits. The ship filled in five minutes. They speedily launched the gig, into which they all got, and stood out to sea till morning, when they all got ashore. Being short of provisions-though they saved what they could-the mate and boatswain, and five men left on the 5th of August in the pinnace, and went to the lighthouse in St. John's Harbour, Staten Island. The master and the remaining four men left on 15th in the gig, and were picked up by a passing vessel and taken to Coquimbo, where they landed on the 5th September, and were subsequently taken to Buenos Ayres.

At the close of the evidence Mr. Paxton put in the following questions:-

1. Were proper measures taken at or about 3.30 p.m. of 26th July last to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel?

2. Was the master justified in attempting to run through the Straits of Le Maire, having regard to the state of the tide and weather?

3. Was a safe and proper course then set and thereafter steered, and was due and proper allowance made for tide and currents?

4. When the land was sighted at or shortly after 7 p.m., was a safe and proper alteration made in the course?

5. Was the master justified in mistaking Cape San Diego for the land on Staten Island?

6. After the master found the vessel embayed did he use all proper measures to get her out?

7. Was a good and proper look-out kept?

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

9. Was the master in default in regard to any of the above matters?

And stated that in the opinion of the Board of Trade the master's certificate should be dealt with.

Mr. Hawkins then addressed the Court for the master.

The Court gave judgment as follows:-

1. The evidence on this point was contradictory and very unsatisfactory, for, according to the master's evidence, cross bearings between two points were taken; but the mate in his evidence said, that in consequence of the state of the weather and the distance from the land it was impossible to define the points. The mate also stated that astronomical observations were taken on that day at noon, which gave 54° 26" S. and 65° 29" W., which placed the ship in a very different position to that given by the master from his cross bearings.

2. The master certainly was not justified in attempting to run through the Straits of Le Maire on a dark night in mid-winter, especially as the weather was squally and unsettled, and the flood-tide was in its strength.

3. It is impossible that a safe and proper course could have been set and steered from the position in which the ship was at 3.30 p.m., or she never would have stranded in Thetis Bay.

4. When the land was sighted at 7 p.m. the course was altered at random without taking the ordinary precautions to ascertain what land it was or what course would clear it.

5. Nothing could justify the master in mistaking Cape San Diego for the land in Stetin Island, and the Court is astonished that the master should have taken a point on the island for the main land.

6. After the vessel was embayed, as the wind was N.W., there should have been, with proper management, no difficulty in getting her out to sea.

7. The only evidence on this point was that of the carpenter, and he stated that there was a good look-out kept.

8. The cause of the stranding was the inexcusable conduct of the master in attempting to pass through a channel where there are heavy and dangerous overfalls on a dark winter night.

9. The Court considered the master in default, and suspended his certificate for 3 calendar months.



T. S. RAFFLES, Judge.

We concur in this report.






Liverpool, 5th December 1888.

54010-183. 180.-12/88. Wt. 23. E. & S.


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