In 1857 Captain Augustus Frederick Kynaston patented a "slip or disengaging hook" (described in an article in the Mechanic's Magazine) to enable ships' boats to be rapidly and safely launched at sea. For many years an acrimonious debate was carried between proponents of this system, a rival system invested by one Charles Clifford (described in Clifford's 1855 book "How to lower ship's boats..."), and those in favour of the traditional Royal Navy equipment. This was only resolved in 1872 - after an accident involving the boats of the Ariadne in which 11 seamen were drowned - when the Admiralty established a committee "to inquire into the supply of lifeboats to the Navy and the best mode of lowering boats and saving life at sea". This committee decided that Clifford's system was unsuitable for the large boats carried by a man-of-war and the severe conditions under which they must work, and that Kynaston's system did have some advantages, but these were not so large as to warrant universal application. The following entries from the Times newspaper refer to Kynaston's invention, and to this debate.
|Extracts from the Times newspaper|
|Ma 13 September 1858||During last week some satisfactory trials were made on board the training brig Nautilus, Lieutenant W.B. Grant, at Plymouth, both under way and at moorings, of Captain Kynaston's method of disengaging boats from their ordinary tackle. This mode was reported on so strongly by Captain Robinson, of the steam reserve at Devonport, that during their late official visit the Lords of the Admiralty ordered the quarter-boats of the Diadem to be supplied with the invention.|
|Sa 2 October 1858||The screw steamship St. Jean d'Acre, 101, chief engineer John Bell, went outside Plymouth Sound on Thursday to try her engines. Her cutter is fitted with Captain Kynaston's patent slip-hooks, which were tried and appeared to answer perfectly, although the process was new to the boat's crew.|
|We 26 January 1859||The screw steamship Doris, 32, went outside Plymouth Sound yesterday to try her engines, after which she returned to Hamoaze to ship a Griffith's fan. When the Doris was in the Channel several trials of Captain Kynaston's lifeboat hooks were made in a heavy sea while the ship was going 11 to 12 knots. The boat is reported to have been disconnected and hoisted in with perfect success. Admiral Kingcombe, Captains Cumberland, Patey, Risk, Moorman, Bacon, and others, witnessed the experiments.|
|Ma 28 February 1859||Captain A.F. Kynaston has been ordered by the Admiralty to fit the screw steam frigate Termagant with his lifeboat hooks.|
|Fr 8 April 1859|
HOUSE OF COMMONS, Thursday, April 7.
Sir G. PECHELL [Sir George Richard Brooke Pechell, Bt. (1789–1860), Liberal, Brighton] called the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to the valuable invention of Captain Kynaston, R.N., for lowering boats from the quarter and stern of ships when going fast through the water, by which means many lives might be saved. The value of the invention had lately been demonstrated on board Her Majesty's ship Euryalus (the vessel in which Prince Alfred was serving), when, a seaman having fallen overboard off Alexandria, the boat was lowered in a strong wind and heavy sea, the ship going eight knots through the water, and the man was saved. He (Sir G. Pechell) wished the right hon. Baronet to obtain a report of the different trials made of Captain Kynaston's disengaging hooks, and, as rewards were given for valuable inventions for the destruction of life by means of explosive materials and large guns - as baronetages, and perhaps peerages, were the rewards of such inventions, it was certainly expedient that some due acknowledgment should be awarded to those who had projected the means of saving life. Captain Kynaston was suffering from wounds sustained in the Crimea, and his case was in every way deserving of consideration.
Sir J. PAKINGTON [ First Lord of the Admiralty] could only repeat what he had said yesterday, - that the experimental trials of the invention were not completed, and that the Admiralty were not yet in possession of any report on the subject. He sympathized most sincerely with Captain Kynaston under his sufferings, which were the results of valuable services rendered to his country, and he also felt grateful to that gallant officer for the endeavours he had made to bring to perfection a most useful invention for the preservation of life. He heartily hoped, for the sake of the gallant officer, that his invention might prove successful, but he was not at present in a position to produce the report for which the hon. and gallant member for Brighton had asked.
|Ma 11 April 1859|
REWARDS FOR SAVING LIFE AT SEA.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir, - In your impression, of the 8th inst. I observe that Sir G. Pechell called the attention of the Admiralty on the previous evening "to the valuable invention of Captain Kynaston for lowering boats from the quarter and stern of ships when going fast through the water, by which means many lives might he saved," and suggested that "some due acknowledgment should be awarded to those who had projected the means of saving life," &c.
Concurring fully in Sir G. Pechell's suggestions, I, as one of the public, ask what has been done for the man who was the first to attempt to solve the difficulty attending "lowering boats at sea," who not only attempted it, but after years of diligent toil and at great expense has succeeded in perfecting a plan which has now stood the test of several years' experience, which was, after repeated several trials, approved and adopted by the Emigration Commissioners in their chartered ships, has since been fitted on board many of Her Majesty's ships, is used in the transport and convict services, by the India Board, and in many steamers belonging to different companies? It has been tried in all kinds of weather, in steamers and sailing vessels, at all rates of speed, and at every disadvantage, without, I believe, having failed in a single instance. Its perfect efficiency has been testified to by nautical men of high standing in their profession both in the Royal and mercantile navies, among whom we find the name of the late lamented Sir William Peel. The great merit of the invention, next to its efficiency, is its extreme simplicity, and this accounts, I think, for its successful application, under all circumstances.
Armstrong, for inventing a weapon for the destruction of human life, has dignity conferred upon him, besides, I believe, a valuable appointment, Charles Clifford, through whose invaluable invention numbers of lives have already been and doubtless many will hereafter be saved, remains unrewarded.
I have no wish to underrate the good that others may have effected, and therefore refrain from any comment on a plan but recently brought out by Captain Kynaston; but I ask again, does not the man who was the first to invent and to perfect a plan for "unlashing, lowering, and disengaging boats readily at sea" deserve well of a maritime country like England?
I have the honour to remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
|Ma 6 June 1859||At the conclusion of the last trial on board the Doris the two systems of boat-lowering invented by Mr. Clifford and Captain Kynaston were displayed, the ship going about six knots. Captain Kynaston's disengaging hooks appear to require four men for the operation, the success of which depends on the simultaneous working of the men. By Clifford's method the whole appeared to be more safely performed by one man, who by slacking off a rope insures the boat being lowered on an even keel.|
|Sa 4 February 1860||His Imperial Russian Majesty's screw steamship Razboynick, Captain Rattkoff, which during the last three months has received extensive repairs in the Devonport Dockyard, sailed from Plymouth Sound on Friday, for the river Amoor. During her stay she was supplied with Heinke's diving apparatus, and her boats were fitted with Capt. Kynaston's patent slip-hooks.|
|Fr 9 March 1860||For the future all vessels employed for the conveyance of troops from port to port in the United Kingdom, or Ireland are to be furnished with boats fitted with Clifford's or Kynaston's lowering apparatus.|
|Fr 22 June 1860||The Bacchante, 51, screw, Capt. M'Kenzie, flag of Sir Thomas Maitland, C.B., Commander-in-Chief on the Pacific station, steamed out of Portsmouth harbour yesterday to Spithead, where she will take in her powder, shell, &c., prior to proceeding to her destination. On the frigate's way out to Spithead competitive trials took place of the Clifford and Kynaston gear for lowering boats while a vessel is under way. The usual honorary salutes were discharged between the Bacchante and the Victory.|
|Ma 21 January 1861||The iron paddle-wheel steam, vessel Triton, Lieut. Burton in command, was on Saturday paid off at Woolwich, the officers and crew receiving a large portion of their prize-money, in addition to their arrears of ordinary pay, - namely, the award of three out of the six slavers captured by the Triton, the whole of which are valued at 26,000 l. The lords of the Admiralty, in a letter to the Commodore-Superintendent of Woolwich Dockyard, on Saturday, expressed their unqualified satisfaction of the state of the ship, on her arrival from the Coast, and desired it might be made known on the assembling of the ship's company before their dispersal. The Triton is the first ship supplied with Clifford's patent boat-lowering gear, which is now becoming general throughout the service, 350 vessels of the Royal Navy having been already fitted with that system, as a certain method of lowering and disengaging the ship's boats without endangering the lives of the crew in cases of hasty emergency.|
|Ma 28 January 1861||With reference to the application received from Mrs. Kynaston requesting contradiction of our statement, given on Monday last, as to Clifford's patent boat-lowering gear being in general use in Her Majesty's ships of war, we are enabled to announce that, from inquiries carefully instituted at Woolwich, it has been ascertained that the number of ships fitted at that dockyard with Clifford's and Kynaston's gear are found to be at the rate of 20 to 1 in favour of the former. Lieut-Commander Robert H. Burton, of Her Majesty's ship Triton, just paid off at Woolwich, asserts in confirmation of the above statement, that during his commission on the west coast of Africa, since the year 1857, he never once fell in with, nor heard of, a vessel on that coast fitted with any patent boat-lowering gear except that of Clifford, which is, there and elsewhere, in general use; and he adds, with a view to benefit the service, that "this method of lowering boats was constantly used by him at all speeds from 6 to 11 knots per hour, that on all occasions it worked admirably, and that he cannot speak too highly in its favour". He further adds, "that he should be neglecting his duty to himself and crew if he ever left England in command of any ship without making application for the fitment of Clifford's boat-lowering gear on board".|
|We 30 January 1861|
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Having read in the Naval Intelligence in The Times of to-day a statement respecting the boat-lowering apparatus of Mr. Clifford and that of the late Captain Kynaston, I beg to give you the result oy my experience of the latter. During the time I commander Her Majesty's ship Exmouth - viz, from April, 1859 to June, 1860 - Kynaston's patent disengaging hooks, fitted to that ship's quarter and stern boats, never failed in fine weather or bad, by day or by night.I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
JAMES J. STOPFORD,
Late Captain of Her Majesty's ship Exmouth.
4, Norfolk-crescent, W., Jan. 28.
|Th 7 March 1861||A further official trial of the system of instantaneously disconnecting boats from their falls, on being lowered from a ship's davits on any sudden emergency, took place on board the steam tender Lucifer at Portsmouth, on Tuesday, in the presence of Rear-Admiral Superintendent Hon. George Grey; Captains Moorman and Coote, of Her Majesty's ships Cossack and Victory; and several other naval officers. The trials took place outside the harbour, and the boat was lowered three times with the most perfect success, so far as the inventor of the system pretends to go - the instantaneous freeing of the falls from the boat at the moment required by the person in charge of her. To obtain this result, the boat is fitted with an iron shaft running along the boat's kelson and connected with an eccentric under the sternsheets; the latter, worked by a small hand lever, throws the shafting forward or aft as may be required. On this shafting, in a line with the boat's falls, are stout claws or teeth, immediately in front of each of which are stout metal rollers. From the after part of each roller run three-inch square casings, level with the boat's thwarts. The lower block of each fall has its hook prolonged into a stout bar, sufficient to reach the shafting in the bottom of the boat, and terminating in a semicircular link moving upon a stout iron pin. To hoist the boat up to the davits from alongside the bars attached to each block are passed down the casings until the semicircular links touch the bottom, when the lever, thrown forward by the hand of the man in charge of the boat, the claws of the shafting catch the links and jamming each under its roller, it is locked by the eccentric in that position. A pin inserted abaft adds to its security. It will therefore be seen, that to lower the boat, the falls having been cleared in the usual manner, and the crew having taken their seats, the lowering from the ship commences in the common way. The officer in charge of the boat, with his band on the lever, has the power of freeing the boat from its falls at any moment he sees a fit opportunity, and releasing both ends of the boat at the same instant. In this certainty consists the merit of the invention claimed by the inventor, who does not prefer any claim to give the boat headway prior to clearing the ship, as in Clifford's plan. The invention is of a somewhat analogous character to the late Captain Kynaston's, whose disengaging hooks were also of a very similar character to those adapted for a like purpose, in 1833, by Lieut. Waghorn, the projector of the overland route, and which were fitted to the Levant, merchant steamer, and tested in Falmonth Harbour in the following year, in the presence of Capt. King, Superintendent of Packets, with the most perfect success. The system of lowering tried on Tuesday, however, professed to be, and certainly appears so, a more certain and instantaneous method than either Kynaston's or Waghorn's. Webb, the inventor, is a carpenter's mate on board Her Majesty's ship Illustrious, and not the St. Vincent, as we formerly stated.|
|Ma 18 March 1861||The Isis, 44, Capt. F.L. Barnard, fitting at Chatham for Ascension and the coast of Africa, has nearly completed taking on board her stores, and is expected to be ready to leave Chatham harbour for Sheerness in the course of a few days. Directions were received from the Admiralty for the Isis to be fitted with Capt. Kynaston's boat-lowering apparatus, but on Saturday orders arrived from the Admiralty directing that, instead of Kynaston's, Clifford's apparatus was to be supplied to the ship.|
|Ma 24 November 1862||Considerable surprise is expressed by many naval officers at the tenour of a recent order issued from the Controllers department of the navy, directing that in future all new ships of war and in the steam reserves shall have their boats fitted exclusively with the Kynaston disengaging hook. This order effectually excludes the Clifford boat-lowering system from being in future fitted to any boats in Her Majesty's navy. Without any desire to decide upon the merits of rival inventions, we must take the liberty of saying that Mr. Clifford's boat-lowering system has rendered good service in too many instances to be thus disposed of.|
|Sa 6 December 1862||On the 28th [should be: 24th] ult. we drew attention to a regulation just then issued, from the Department of the Controller of the Navy directing that the Kynaston disengaging hooks were to be in future fitted to the stern and quarter boats of all ships brought forward for the first-class steam reserve and for commission, and which order virtually excluded from the service Clifford's boat-lowering apparatus, by which so many lives have been saved at sea both in the Royal and mercantile navies. In consequence, the subject was brought prominently before the lords of the Admiralty, and their Lordships have written to Mr. Clifford, officially to inform him that the captain of any of Her Majesty's ships on applying for his boat-lowering gear is to be supplied with it as heretofore. It is to be hoped that this decision of their Lordships will not be rendered nugatory by contrary orders issued from the office of any subordinate department.|
|Su 15 February 1863||Her Majesty's steam sloop Alecto, Commander Blake, was yesterday inspected in the river by the Commodore-Superintendeat of Woolwich dockyard, preparatory to her departure for service on the south-east coast of America. Sixty second-class lads for the Implacable and Impregnable, at Devonport, took passage on board to go through the usual course of training. The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having rescinded the order recently issued to the effect that the boats of all ships in commission should be fitted exclusively with the late Capt. Kynaston's boat detaching hooks, on a special service request being made by the commander the hooks were removed from the Alecto and four of the boats were fitted with Clifford's lowering gear, three of the Kynaston hooks being retained to undergo an official trial for their Lordships' satisfaction.|
|We 20 March 1872|
HER MAJESTY'S SHIP ARIADNE.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir, I have read Captain Carpenter's despatch with the deepest interest, much intensified by my having lost a near relative - a midshipman - drowned, as I maintain by neglect somewhere.
Not the slightest allusion is made by Captain Carpenter to cork jackets or mattresses.
If the hammocks on deck had contained cork mattresses, as suggested to the Admiralty months since by Admiral Ryder, they would have been thrown to the second boat's crew, and if the first boat's crew had been ordered to put on the few cork lift belts, especially supplied for the purpose, not a single one of those 11 valuable lives would have been lost.
Their Lordships appear to be waiting for some fearful catastrophe before they adopt the proper means of safety. Are they not yet satisfied, or do they require more victims?
Your obedient servant,
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir,- Just 20 years have passed away since the opinion was expressed, in a Parliamentary Report on the loss of the Amazon, that "the means of lowering boats evenly by tackles readily disengaged are desiderata wanting throughout the naval service."
Shortly after, the late Mr. C. Clifford, who had long bestowed the most earnest attention to the subject, perfected an exceedingly simple and efficient method of lowering a ship's boats in a few seconds, irrespective of the weight or size of the boat, or whether laden with its full crew or containing only one man. The lowering could be accomplished, too, and by a lad, just as easily whether the vessel were at anchor in a harbour or under a full press of sail or steam, and in a heavy sea.
This was repeatedly demonstrated, and Mr. Clifford's system, which I believe he generously gave to the world, was thoroughly tested in the most searching way. It was highly approved and partly adopted by the Lords of the Admiralty, by the Emigration Commissioners, by the East India Company, by the surveyors of Lloyd's, most of the principal steamship companies, as well as by many private shipowners.
It always worked admirably, and no doubt has been instrumental in saving many scores of lives. To any one conversant with this important matter, indeed, there never could have been a doubt that Mr. Clifford's invention was a most valuable one, and ought to have superseded at once and for ever the comparatively bungling and lubberly mode of lowering boats up to that time universally in vogue.
In all probability had the "falls" of the Ariadne's boats been upon Clifford's principle, and had her two cutters been - as all ships' boats should be - lifeboats, we should not now have had to lament the national loss of two gallant young officers and nine brave English seamen; because, in all probability the cutter first dispatched might have been instantaneously lowered, and would thus, at least, have had the best chance of picking up the poor fellow who fell from the maintopmast crosstrees, and there would have been no necessity for risking the lives of the crew of a second boat.
While adverting to this most painful subject, one cannot help inquiring why it is in the construction of boats, when they can at a very small additional cost, be made, if not perfect lifeboats, at any rate far more buoyant, and if properly fitted with "beckets" and other appliances much more capable of supporting their crews when capsized than common boats, that the latter continue to be used at all?
On the 17th of March, 1857, in the House of Commons, the late Admiral Walcott asked the First Naval Lord (Admiral Berkeley) "whether the same protection against loss | of life afforded to emigrant ships had been, or would be shortly, provided for the Navy, by supplying men-of-war and transports with Clifford's boat-lowering apparatus, subjected as it had been to the severest tests from Her Majesty's ships under different circumstances of weather and at every rate of speed, and of the complete efficiency of which reports had been forwarded to the Admiralty."
Admiral Berkeley replied:-
This high encomium upon poor Clifford's plans was passed 15 years ago! It would be interesting to know why, in the name of common sense, they have not long since been "universally adopted" both in the Navy and the mercantile marine.Your obedient servant,
United University Club, March 19.
|Th 28 March 1872|
CLIFFORDS BOAT LOWERING APPARATUS.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir, - Since the publication in your columns of my letter on this subject I have been overwhelmed with communications - not a few touchingly eloquent - from bereaved relatives of some who perished in the late disaster connected with Her Majesty's ship Ariadne; while other writers express their cordial thanks to me for having called public attention to this important matter.
I regret to observe, however, that no very hopeful augury is to be drawn from the replies of Mr. Shaw-Lefevre in the House of Commons. We find, in the first place, that because certain officers are said to have objected generally "to the weight and unhandiness of lifeboats," the Admiralty in 1868 decided not to make the supply compulsory, but to issue them only when specially applied for by commanding officers. In the next place we learn that the Ariadne was unprovided with any lifeboat, while Captain Carpenter, in his report, expressly states that besides the two quarterboats which were both, lost "we had no other boat to lower!"
One need hardly comment upon the wisdom evinced in taking a 26-gun frigate of the dimensions of the Ariadne to sea, and with the crew she must have had on board, with only two boats! It is only necessary to imagine her helpless condition when thus deprived, by no uncommon accident, of all means of saving her crew in case of wreck, or even of subsequent communication with the shore.
By the Act 19 Victoria, cap. 119, clause 27, every "passenger" ship is bound, under a penalty of 50l., to carry two boats if she be of less than 200 tons, three boats if over 200 and less than 400, and so on in proportion to tonnage. "One of such boats shall in all cases be a longboat, and one a properly fitted lifeboat," which shall be carried in such a manner as to be most available for immediate service.
Why should the lives of officers and men in Her Majesty's Navy be less regarded than those of the passengers and crews of merchantmen? If Queen's ships are generally short-handed, or if their davits are too weak to bear the weight of the most perfect and efficient lifeboats, it is quite practicable, by very simple means, to make any boat nearly a lifeboat, by greatly increasing her buoyancy and without adding materially to her weight, rendering her more cumbersome, or materially diminishing her capacity. Mr Shaw-Lefevre could scarceFly have made himself acquainted with his topic when he talked of the existence of "considerable difference of opinion among naval officers as to the comparative value of Clifford's apparatus and that known as Kynaston's invention." Clifford's dispenses entirely with the old, dangerous, and clumsy system of "falls," the fertile source of so many fatal accidents, Kynaston retains them, or tackles nearly identical, merely adding, I believe, a couple of "disengaging hooks" of peculiar construction. These, as it happens, would not have been of the smallest use in preventing the accident to the second boat lowered from the Ariadne. That was due entirely to the fouling of the "falls".
Having had a good many years' experience at sea, and witnessed the lowering of boats under every variety of circumstances, I confidently deny the possibility of mishap with Clifford's "fall". Its adoption should, therefore, undoubtedly, be made compulsory. Possibly, by the way, Mr. Shaw-Lefevre can state why and by whose authority the Ariadne, having been fitted in 1860 with Clifford's apparatus (when commanded by Captain Vansittart), was subsequently deprived of it.
Under the existing system it is hardly possible to lower a boat in anything of a "sea," even with the most efficient crew, without more than a chance of some accident. After the lashings have been cast off or cut away (canvas covers, if any, unlaced), the lowering requires the utmost attention of several hands, who must be careful that the tackles move with the most perfect uniformity. Even in case of wreck two or three men must remain on board the ship, and they most make their escape as best they may, either by sliding down the "falls" before the boat reaches the water (though it is their duty to hold on till then), or else by watching an opportunity and taking their chance of jumping into the boat. Under every contingency, the two sets of hands on deck are necessarily separated by the whole distance between the davits; a man has, therefore, to be stationed midway between to superintend and direct the equal paying off of the rope, and thus insure an even descent. When the boat is afloat comes another frequent cause of dire mishap, pretty generally inevitable, if both "falls" be not simultaneously unhooked. This is often no easy feat for the two men who have to perform it, A "kink" occurring in one "fall", the rope fouls in the block, one end of the boat remains suspended while the other descends with a run, and every soul is most likely forcibly ejected into the water.
Contrast this bungling, dilatory, and perilous proceeding with Clifford's plan. Here the unlashing, lowering, and disengaging are all effected by one act, accomplished in a moment by one of the crew only, who has, moreover, the most entire control over the descent of the boat, whatever be her weight, and no matter at what rate the ship she is leaving may be moving. The boat cannot but take the water evenly, and the instant the man who has lowered her quits his hold of the "fall" she is simultaneously detached from the vessel. Can anything be devised less complicated or better adapted for the end in view? This simple system was subjected most triumphantly, 15 years ago, to the most trying tests. It has never been known to fail. Eleven years since, 128 men-of-war had been fitted with it, and it might readily enough be proved that poor Clifford, by his ingenuity no less than by his philanthropic exertions, has been instrumental in saving many hundreds of lives.
It seems hardly credible that we should be retrograding in such vital questions as these, or that there should still linger in some quarters a perverse adherence to a practice which has nothing to recommend it. but clumsiness combined with the happiest facility for always endangering and often sacrificing human life, too frequently on the most extensive scale. I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
|Th 28 March 1872|
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir, - Having had a good deal of experience in Clifford's boat-lowering apparatus for the last ten years in a merchant ship, I should like to bear witness to its perfectly safe and quick working in many cases under my notice.
I have during that time almost constantly been engaged in carrying passengers and troops to India, and have frequently had men overboard, both sailors and soldiers, but have never once seen an accident in lowering a boat, or lost the man overboard.
On one occasion, when the ship was sailing on a wind at the rate of 10½ knots, a passenger jumped overboard. We lowered the boat before bringing the ship in the wind, and so quickly was it all done that the man was picked up and the ship on her course again in 23 minutes, although the watch on deck at the time did not number more than 12 men.
The same man jumped overboard again one night while we were carrying studding sails. It was so dark that the boat could not be seen from the ship at 50 yards' distance, but there was not the slightest hitch in lowering the boat with Clifford's apparatus, and the man was saved for the second time.
If all vessels were obliged to carry one boat (at the least) at the davit heads, fitted with Clifford's apparatus, instead of having the boats stowed away inboard on the skids, as is generally the case now, I feel sure that scores of lives would be saved where they are now lost.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
|We 3 April 1872||The Valorous, 12, paddle frigate, Capt Arthur T. Thrupp, will move from the harbour into Plymouth Sound to-morrow, after her two quarter davits have been altered for hoisting the boats fitted with Kynaston's lifehooks. It is stated that all Her Majesty's ships have been supplied with these hooks for some time past, and have them on board for use, subject to the captains' approval.|
|Th 4 April 1872|
LOWERING BOATS AT SEA.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir, - While the public mind is harrowed with one of the saddest of modern stories, and Parliament and the press are asking why such disasters are permitted, and discussing the merits of Clifford's apparatus, surprise has been felt that Clifford's voice has not been heard. But, Sir, poor Clifford's voice is silent. He devoted his life to maturing this apparatus, which has been the admiration of scientific men, and of sailors of every grade in every service, and saw it adopted in most of the great navies of the world, and he sacrificed his life in endeavouring to enforce it in our own. Had he been able to speak you would have been told, in words that could not be controverted, that such a disaster as that of the Ariadne ought never to have happened; and when the Minister has been authorized to state in the House of Commons "that there is a considerable difference of opinion among naval officers as to the comparative value of Clifford's apparatus and that known as Kynaston's invention for lowering boats, and that the majority of naval officers are not in favour of Clifford's apparatus," I must ask you, in the cause of truth and humanity, to afford me a little space in his defence. With your able correspondent, Mr. Busk, I dispute these assertions altogether, and hope to show, that they lack that whole truth and candour in which truth lies. The Minister want on to say that "the present orders of the Admiralty were, that all vessels were to be fitted with Kynaston's apparatus unless special application was made by the commanding officer, in which case Clifford's was to be used." The public would think that such an order was all that Clifford could desire, and so did he; but the Minister added that certain "distinguished officers at the Admiralty were averse to its use", and in this acknowledgment the explanation of the matter will be found. It appears that the whole Navy is paralyzed by the opinions which rule at the Admiralty, for though Clifford's invention was greatly desired by many, an order rarely came, and some of his warmest admirers were obliged to confess they dare not ask for it. You, Sir, may perhaps understand the subtle etiquette which circulates through the service, from the Admiralty to the captain, which obliges him to make such an admission when human life is the subject. It was also reported to Clifford that a brother-in-law of Captain Kynaston was Controller of the Navy when the order for his invention was issued, and that he had expressed a hostile opinion to Clifford's. However this may be, it cannot be denied that Clifford's apparatus has been perseveringly discouraged at the Admiralty. It cannot be also that they are ignorant of its merits. Mr. Busk has truly stated that it was subjected most triumphantly 15 years ago to the most trying tests and never known to fail, and your columns have abounded in reports of them, for you have always given the invention your powerful support. I will ask you only to read two:-
(From The Times, December 11, 1856.)
"In pursuance of an Admiralty order forwarded to Woolwich, embodying a, number of naval officers from the dockyard and transport shipping department there, to constitute a committee for examination into the merits of Mr. C. Clifford's apparatus for lowering ships boats from the davits, various experiments have been made in order to test its utility and importance, and to enable them to report thereon to the Lords of the Admiralty. Repeated trials have been consequently made on board the Commodore's ship Fisgard, moored off Woolwich Dockyard, and also from the decks of vessels under steam at the rate of 12 and 14 knots the hour. The result has in each instance been most satisfactory. To render the trials as complete as the nature and object would admit, impediments and difficulties such as might occur at sea were introduced, yet the average time occupied in disengaging the tackle and lowering the boat never exceeded 14 seconds. The report is now in the hands of the Admiralty. It expresses the unanimous conviction of the committee that no captain of a vessel, whether in the Queen's or the mercantile navy, should be permitted to put to sea without being provided with the means of unlashing and lowering their lifeboats according to Mr. C. Clifford's process."
(From The Times' Naval and Military Intelligence, 25th November, 1856.)
"Her Majesty's steam sloop Bulldog, 6, Commander Gordon, returned from Plymouth to Spithead on Sunday, having severely tested at sea, as ordered, and at all rates of speed, Clifford's new method of lowering ships' boats; on one occasion 15 persons (officers and men) were in the boat besides all the gear. The results were all satisfactory."
Its successes in saving life are no less notorious. Your largest double sheet would not hold the reports with which the press has teemed of lives rescued from wrecks, burning ships, collisions, "men overboard" saved from sharks, and every kind of naval disaster, often in the dead of night, as in the Perseverance, where every life was saved in ten minutes, and by boats from rescuing vessels, before those on the wreck could be lowered by the old plan; and no instance has yet been recorded of failure. In your own admirable leader on the loss of the burning Sarah Sands, you say, "Now, there was a heavy gale blowing at the time, and the flames were playing about the deck, and, strange to say, for once in the case of a conflagration at sea, the boats were lowered in safety; the women and children were securely stowed away, and the boats pulled beyond the reach of danger to await the result. It was remarked that the boats were lowered without the least accident."
I say, therefore, that if "the majority of naval officers are not in favour of Clifford's apparatus," their opinions are opposed to the overwhelming evidence of the most competent authorities, but that, while it is used almost everywhere else, it is practically discouraged at the Admiralty, while the use of Captain Kynaston's invention, which is hardly to be found anywhere but in the Queen's ships, is made compulsory. When it is remembered that Kynaston's plan retains the old system of falls and lashings, requiring the united action of two hands in the boat - one stationed midway to keep the ropes clear, and two in the ship, who must either slide down the falls, make a jump at the descending boat, or be left on the wreck - while with Clifford's the whole operation is performed by one man in the boat with the entire crew in a few seconds, under any circumstances in which a boat can live, and with the ship sailing at her highest speed, the official statement to the House of Commons that "there is a considerable difference of opinion among naval officers as to the comparative value of the two inventions" appears to people out of Her Majesty's Navy to be utterly incomprehensible. I have stated these facts unreservedly to challenge inquiry, and with only one object, and I leave it to those who lead public opinion to deal with them. There are hundreds who can speak to their accuracy better than I can, and I call on them in behalf of one who cannot defend himself to do so. He can obtain no benefit from the use of his invention now, and his family never did and never can. No blame can be justly thrown on any Administration. The hostility has not come from any Government, and it is not fair to call on any Minister to defend it; but the country has a right to the best appointments in every Queen's ship; Clifford never claimed any more, and only said, "Use my apparatus because it is the best." A public trial would at once decide the question, and he exhausted all his powers in, vain to obtain it. To philanthropists who devote themselves to the service of their country and mankind, poor Clifford's is a chilling story. When only an amateur sculler on the Thames he was so impressed by the almost simultaneous loss of above 700 lives in the Birkenhead, Victoria, and Amazon, and the report of the committee on the last, that the means of lowering and disengaging ships' boats was the remedy needed, that he gave himself up to supplying the want. After many rears of toil over every known mechanical means of controlling at will a large descending weight, he invented a block which precisely adapted the amount of resistance required to the weight to be lowered under all circumstances, and with other ingenious appliances matured au apparatus which was considered to possess such mechanical novelty and merit that he was requested to read papers upon it at the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Society of Arts. He obtained medals for it at the Great Exhibitions, received the highest commendations from many of the ablest men in all the services, the lifeboat and marine institutions, and several exalted personages, including the Prince Consort and the Emperor Napoleon, and saw it adopted by all the great naval companies, the emigration and transport services, and most of the Imperial navies. He often risked his life where the oldest sailor would not go to prove it, devoted all his private means, and received your own unvarying support. But all this was not sufficient to obtain its adoption in the British Navy, because "certain distinguished officers at the Admiralty were adverse to its use." Though he had never to complain of the "insolence of office," for in his hottest warfare with the Admiralty he was courteously treated, and many brave hearts in the dockyards helped him by stealth, yet he had to bear all the withering torture of cold resistance,
|Sa 6 April 1872|
HOUSE OF COMMONS, Friday, April 5.
LOWERING BOATS AT SEA.
On the motion for going into Committee of Supply,
Mr. BOUVERIE [Edward Pleydell Bouverie (1818-1889), Liberal, Kilmarnock] rose to call attention to this subject in connexion with the recent accidents to the boats of the Ariadne. He expressed his surprise that having given notice of a motion on the subject affecting one of the great Departments of the State there was no one present on the Treasury Bench to represent that department. The First Lord of the Admiralty, or at all events the Secretary to the Admiralty, ought, he thought, in common courtesy, to be in his place on that occasion. (Hear, hear.) It was in his opinion a new practice, and a bad one, that Ministers should not be in attendance in the House at the time of public business for the purpose of answering questions which might be put to them, either with or without notice. Their absence was an affront to independent members and was discourteous to the House at large. He for one must strongly protest against such conduct, and he hoped it would be the last occasion on which he would have reason to complain of it. (Hear, hear.) As it was, he had no choice but to proceed with his statement in the absence of the two gentlemen who were supposed in that House to represent the Admiralty. He had all the more reason to complain that they were not in their places because the Secretary to the Admiralty had come to him the day before and had asked him to postpone his motion, which he told him he could not do, because he did not know when he might have another opportunity of bringing it forward. The House would remember that a short time ago the Secretary to the Admiralty, in replying to the hon. member for Woodstock as to whether the Ariadne had been provided with lifeboats, stated that previous Boards of Admiralty had decided it should not be compulsory on Her Majesty's ships to carry lifeboats, while in answer to a question put by himself the hon. gentleman said that there was no particular apparatus for lowering boats used on board the Ariadne, but that there was a system of unhooking boats which was preferred by many officers. When, however, he asked the hon. Gentleman whether that system had been adopted on board the Ariadne, he was unable to give him any information on the point. This was not a position in which the Secretary to the Admiralty should stand with respect to the safety of Her Majesty's officers and sailors. (Hear, hear.) He would not again recount the details of the terrible accident which occurred in connexion with the Ariadne, but would merely observe that it illustrated the danger attending the old-fashioned apparatus for lowering boats at sea, and also the danger of having ordinary boats at sea. By means of some of the new-fashioned apparatus a boat could be lowered in a minute if a man fell overboard, but in order to pick up a man with the old-fashioned apparatus the ship must be turned round and the wind would be taken out of her sails, involving a loss of time amounting to some 10 or 15 minutes before a boat could be safely lowered. After the Ariadne's first boat was lowered the ship drifted away and lost sight of the boat, and when the Ariadne got up steam and was within 200 yards of the boat the latter, not being a lifeboat, swamped. In attempting to lower a second boat the accident to which he had before called attention happened, similar to many previous accidents of the same kind, involving the loss of hundreds and thousands of lives at sea. In consequence of the system adopted for lowering the boat one of the falls jammed, one end of the boat fell into the water, and the men were all pitched into the sea. This circumstance disclosed, as he thought, culpable neglect of duty on the part of the Admiralty, and he asked the House to declare that it was the business of the Admiralty to provide, in the event of boats being lowered, all those securities for the preservation of life which were provided in passenger vessels and in the large sea-going steamers of the mercantile marine. (Hear, hear.) When it was known that apparatus could be provided, and that boats could be constructed so as to avoid the risk of throwing all in them into the sea, he thought it discreditable to the Admiralty that they did not insist on the captains of Her Majesty's ships being provided with lifeboats, and with apparatus for safely lowering them. This class of accidents had been the cause of endless disaster in old times, and Parliament, in consequence, enacted with respect to merchant ships, and in reference particularly to passenger vessels, that they should have a due provision of boats, one of which should be a lifeboat, according to the amount of tonnage. These enactments were not disregarded by the shipowners, who made provision far beyond the requirements of the Act of Parliament. The Board of Trade required these ships to be provided with a lifeboat, and the Emigration Commissioners required that the ships should be examined previous to every voyage. He had obtained from an official source the names of two merchant vessels, both smaller than the Ariadne. The first, of 2,875 registered tons, carried no less than ten lifeboats, and the other, of 2,081 tons, carried eight lifeboats. There were most ingenious contrivances, which were worked with success, for lowering the boats, and the result was that many lives had been saved by them. With regard to the different inventions, he thought that the best course to pursue would be for the Admiralty to appoint a select number of skilled officers and engineers to decide upon the fittest apparatus for the rapid lowering of boats at sea, and then to insist on the captains of the Queen's ships being provided with apparatus in accordance with the approved plan. The waste of life had been wanton, and though a landsman at the head of the Admiralty might know nothing about the matter, yet his naval advisers should be held responsible if no steps were taken to prevent this wanton waste of life. He concluded by moving, as an amendment on the motion that the Speaker leave the chair, the following resolution:-
"That it was, and is, the duty of the Commissioners of the Admiralty to provide Her Majesty's ships afloat with efficient apparatus for lowering their boats at sea in safety."
Mr. GRAVES [Samuel Robert Graves (1818-1873), Conservative, Liverpool], in seconding the amendment, said that in the engagement of troop-ships it was made an indispensable condition that they should be supplied with lifeboats and with Clifford's lowering apparatus; but when ships were engaged for the conveyance of seamen no such obligation was considered necessary. It was not satisfactory that, in order to attain to necessary improvements, our deficiencies should have to be exposed by calamities involving great loss of life. He was afraid that the question of lifeboats was left entirely to the captains of vessels, who had a natural pride in their smart appearance, and endeavoured to avoid anything which detracted from it. Lifeboats in the ordinary shape were, not picturesque, and did not look as trim as the boats usually supplied to Her Majesty's ships; indeed, he believed there was an objection on the part of captains to have lifeboats, because they were regarded as "nasty, lumbering things," terms in which they were described to him the other day on board one of our ironclads. Possibly the non-supply of lifeboats was not altogether the fault of the Admiralty, because there was a certain discretion left to the captains of vessels. With regard to the loss of life in connexion with the Ariadne, what occurred to him on reading the account in the papers was that it was extraordinary that the men were allowed to go into the boat without having their life jackets on. The other day, when he asked a question on this point, no certain information could be given; but he hoped that now it would be stated why the men were allowed to get into the boats in such a sea without putting on life jackets or belts, and what were the instructions on this head given to the captains of Her Majesty's ships. He had had some experience of the extent to which the lowering of boats was facilitated by the new apparatus, and he thought the suggestion that a small committee of practical men should he appointed to consider the whole question of providing lifeboats and lowering them was one well worthy the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty. With regard to the Ariadne, if ever there was an occasion on which the families of those who lost their lives in the public service had claims on the sympathy of the nation, this was one. The lives of the men had been unnecessarily sacrificed - he was not prepared to say by whom; but the families of the men had as strong a moral claim on the Consolidated Fund as the families of any men who had suffered in the service of the country on board Her Majesty's ships. He had great pleasure in seconding the amendment.
Mr. BARNETT [Henry Barnett (1815-1896), Conservative, Woodstock] said he had a near relative on board the Ariadne at the time of the accident, and a letter from the ship which he had received suggested one or two points on which a little explanation was desirable. He believed that originally it was intended that the ship should not go beyond Gibraltar, but his correspondent, writing after the accident, believed that the loss of the boats rendered it necessary for the vessel to go to Malta for fresh boats. But within the last few days he read in the Portsmouth intelligence of one of the papers that one of Her Majesty's ships which was fitting out for the Mediterranean was to take out two cutters for the Ariadne. It was desirable that it should be known whether at such a great naval station as Gibraltar the loss of a ship's boats necessitated the sending either to Malta or England before the ship could be supplied with others. It was inexpedient that a vessel of this size should be left without her full complement of boats. He did not know what number she ought to have had; but it appeared, from the narration of the circumstances of the accident, that when two boats had been lowered there were no more that were available at the moment, although it was possible there might have been others stowed away.
Mr. GOSCHEN apologized to the right hon. member for Kilmarnock [Bouverie], and offered him an expression of sincere regret that he had not heard the right hon. Member's speech, the explanation of which was that there had been a Cabinet Council that afternoon, that after the Council meeting he returned to the Admiralty for papers and details relating to this case which were not procurable before, and he had thought it impossible that the matter could come on so early. In the short debate two questions had been raised - the supply of lifeboats and the best apparatus for lowering them. The House might rest assured that the Admiralty had not been indifferent about the supply of lifeboats. In 1868, when the right hon. member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) was in office, most careful consideration was given to the question whether the supply of lifeboats to ships ought to be made compulsory or not. The question was carefully gone into, and there was a difference of opinion among the members of the then Board, and the opinion of those who thought that the supply of special lifeboats should be made compulsory was overruled by those who thought it best that the captains of vessels should ask for them. In 1865 a large supply of lifeboats was ordered to be constructed, so that they were kept on hand provided they were asked for by captains. These officers objected to them, not only because they thought them lumbering things, as the hon. Member for Liverpool [Graves] said, but because they were not so useful for other service as the cutters which were otherwise supplied. He quite admitted that this was a matter for grave consideration, and he would undertake that the matter of compulsory supply should be reconsidered, that the decision of 1868 should be revised, and, if on further investigation it appeared to be necessary, that the Admiralty should take the responsibility of supplying lifeboats. There was every disposition on the part of the Admiralty to supply them, but they had not forced them on captains who preferred cutters. There was a difference between the Navy and the merchant service with regard to the precautions taken on board for saving life; the precautions were very much greater on board men-of-war than they were in the merchant service. With every fresh watch a separate crew was told off to man the lifeboat; this was part of the regular routine of the ship; the matter was so organized that in one or two minutes boats were lowered, and generally a successful attempt was made to save life when men fell overboard. There was a liability to those accidents on board men-of-war; consequently the saving of life was always uppermost in the minds of officers; their organization for the purpose was exceedingly good, and hence such accidents as this which we now deplored were very rare in connexion with Her Majesty's ships. This brought him to the question which the hon. member for Liverpool had alluded to, of the supply of life belts. There was in the official correspondence nothing which showed what was done on this occasion with regard to lifebelts, but he had seen a private letter from a young officer of the Ariadne, which stated that the belts were thrown into the boat while she was being lowered. The men did not stop to put them on, so eager were they to rescue their comrades. With regard to the best apparatus for lowering boats, his right hon. friend the member for Kilmarnock had alluded to several kinds from which a choice ought to be made. As a matter of fact, there was an order of the Admiralty that Kynaston's disengaging hooks were to be supplied to every ship in the Navy which had not got Clifford's apparatus. The rule was that every ship should have Kynaston's hooks unless the captains preferred Clifford's apparatus. Hon. Members might perhaps ask why the Admiralty did not select one of the two systems as the best and apply it to all ships. (Hear.) The fact was there were some vessels to which Clifford's apparatus was more applicable, but it was not successful in the case of the heavy boats belonging to the larger ships. Then, as his hon. friend the Secretary to the Admiralty stated a week ago, there was a strong feeling entertained by many officers that Clifford's apparatus had failed in those ships in which it had been tried, and, indeed, it seemed to have failed in large ships which had higher sides and heavier boats than merchant vessels. So far, however, from it being true that the Admiralty had not taken pains to supply the ships of the Royal Navy with the best boat-lowering apparatus, the fact was that no subject had engrossed more of its attention. It appeared from the records that the question had been examined by successive Boards of Admiralty. They had received reports from naval officers, and after that careful consideration which the hon. member for Liverpool now said the subject required they selected Kynaston's hooks.
|Sa 6 April 1872||Mr. BOUVERIE, interposing, inquired whether that was a lowering apparatus.|
Mr. GOSCHEN replied that it was not, but that the hooks were used to prevent the accidents which might happen to the ordinary lowering apparatus without them. It was proved by experience that these hooks, when applied to the ordinary lowering apparatus, were superior to Clifford's apparatus. He had before him reports of a number of cases in which Clifford's apparatus had failed and it had become necessary to lower a second boat with Kynaston's hooks applied to the ordinary lowering gear. Of course, the House would not expect him to go into a description of the comparative merits of the various plans which had been devised, but he could assure the House that the subject not only had been examined, but was now being examined from day to day. Indeed, during the last two months new inventions had been under trial in order to ascertain whether further improvements could be effected. In his opinion no case of negligence could be made out against the Admiralty in regard to the supply of either the one or the other of these apparatus. They had left an option as to whether lifeboats should be applied, and captains also had the option of supplying themselves with Clifford's apparatus, instead of Kynaston's hooks. As far as this option was concerned, he admitted the Admiralty had taken a course to which objections were raised; but he denied that the Admiralty had been indifferent in this matter, as, in point of fact, every exertion had been made to test the best gear which could possibly be devised. He admitted the immense importance of the question, and he should feel obliged if his hon. friend the member for Liverpool, or any other hon. member who was conversant with shipping matters, would assist them in forming a correct judgment upon it. It was, of course, necessary to be guided by technical and professional advice, and it was impossible for him to express any judgment of his own as to the superiority of one apparatus to another. He agreed it was the duty of the Admiralty, as the right hon. member for Kilmarnock [Bouverie] said, to provide efficient boat-lowering gear for ships; but the amendment implied that that duty had been neglected, which was not the case. If the right hon. gentleman would withdraw the amendment he would undertake that the matter should be further investigated, and that every effort should be made to obtain the opinions of naval officers and other competent judges as to what changes it was desirable to make in the boat-lowering gear supplied to Her Majesty's ships.
Mr. KINNAIRD [Arthur Fitzgerald Kinnaird (1814-1887), Liberal, Perth] said that as no naval officer rose to address the House, he, although a civilian, would venture to make a few remarks. His right hon. friend had admitted that this question, which involved the lives of our seamen, had been under the consideration of the Admiralty since the year 1868, but said that the last two Boards of Admiralty bore no responsibility in the matter.
Mr. GOSCHEN said he had distinctly stated that both the present and the last Boards of Admiralty were responsible.
Mr. KINNAIRD remarked that at last then we had fixed the responsibility somewhere. ("Yes," from Mr. Goschen.) The Admiralty, however, had left it optional for each captain to say whether he would have a lifeboat or not, but was this fair when every merchant vessel was compelled by law to carry a lifeboat? (Hear, hear.) The right hon. gentleman took credit for the Admiralty because the instructions given to the captain of every man-of-war contained a clause that a watch should be told off purposely to go into the lifeboat, which lifeboat, however, was not on board.
Mr. GOSCHEN was afraid that, coming into the House late, he was rather flurried, and that he could not have made himself understood. These crews were told off to man the cutters, which were practically lifeboats, and which continually were the means of saving life.
Mr. KINNAIRD said his impression was that the right hon. gentleman had used the word "lifeboat." (Hear, hear.) After all that had bean said of late about the Admiralty, it was clear we had not yet got to the root of the difficulty. He concurred with what the hon. member for Norfolk said the other day as to the inadvisability of placing a civilian at the head of the Admiralty, for he believed the affairs of the Navy could not be properly administered except by a man who was thoroughly acquainted with the service. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. R.W. DUFF [Robert William Duff (1835-1895), Liberal, Banffshire] believed the Admiralty regulations required that ships should be provided with either Clifford's or Kynaston's apparatus for lowering the lifeboat, but that the Ariadne was supplied with neither one nor the other, and inasmuch as the accident happened from inability to disengage the vessel from the hooks it seemed the fault lay in the neglect of the Admiralty regulations. He asked whether this was so, and suggested that if any doubt existed upon the respective merits of the apparatus a committee should be asked at once to decide upon the point, and when that had been ascertained, the Admiralty should require that apparatus to be used, without exception, which was the best. He thanked the right hon. gentleman, for having brought the matter before the House.
Mr. BENTINCK [George William Pierrepont Bentinck (1803-1886), Conservative, Norfolk West] said it was evident the casualty could be traced in a roundabout way to the constitution of the Board of Admiralty. It was idle to say the naval members of the Board ought to be held responsible, because they had no responsibility. The responsibility rested upon a man who, whatever his qualities, was perfectly incompetent to give an opinion on the subject. (Hear, hear.) The hon. Member for Perth had complained it was left to the option of a captain as to what description of apparatus should be employed.
Mr. KINNAIRD. - And whether there should be a lifeboat or not in the ship.
Mr. BENTINCK said it would be better even in that case to leave the responsibility with practical men having the command of ships than control those men by the orders of those who knew nothing of the matter. Besides, the apparatus which would suffice for a merchant vessel would not do for a man-of-war. Under all the circumstances, the reconstituted Board of Admiralty had better not interfere. (Hear.) Their interference would inevitably lead to a repetition of casualties such as that now under discussion.
Mr. NORWOOD [Charles Morgan Norwood (1825-1891), Liberal, Kingston upon Hull] remarked that no merchant vessel was allowed to leave port without a properly found lifeboat, which was to be used for no other purpose but the saving of life. The Board of Trade Inspector required that lifeboat to be in perfect order, or he would stop the vessel; the seamen were required to be drilled in the management of the boat, and if the shipowner allowed his vessel to go to sea without the lifeboat on board he would be liable to prosecution on a charge of misdemeanour, and incur severe penalties. This was the law as regards merchant vessels, yet the Admiralty had been considering for the last four years whether it was desirable to enforce similar regulations in the Admiralty. (Hear, hear.) It would be a great improvement of the present system if the ships of the Navy were placed under the special care of the Board of Trade, and subject to the same inspection as merchant ships. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE [George John Shaw-Lefevre (1831-1928), First Secretary to the Admiralty, Liberal, Kingston upon Hull] said the late Board of Admiralty had most carefully considered the question of lifeboats, and took the advice of all the most competent naval men they could. The decision they came to, which was virtually the decision of the naval men, was that it was unwise to force lifeboats upon officers who did not wish to have them, but to supply them in all cases where the officers wanted them. The Board of Admiralty had 40 of these lifeboats supplied, and a large number were in store for any who might want them. As regards the apparatus, the balance of opinion as taken from the official reports sent to the Admiralty seemed to be in favour of Kynaston's for men-of-war, but Clifford's for small vessels; therefore the Admiralty came to the conclusion that all vessels should have Kynaston's unless they asked for Clifford's. He was unable the other night to reply distinctly upon the point as to whether the Ariadne was supplied with Kynaston's apparatus, which was valuable as a contrivance for disengaging the boat upon nearing the water, but he could state now that it was not so supplied. Inquiry had been made at Portsmouth as to the cause of the omission, and the officers were unable to say with distinctness whether the vessel had been supplied or not. The omission had occurred in 1868, and must have arisen either from neglect to supply on the part of the officers of the dockyard, or neglect on the part of the officers of the vessel.
Mr. Alderman LUSK [Sir Andrew Lusk (1810-1909), Liberal, Finsbury] said he had seen emigrant ships detained oftentimes in a fair wind for want of a lifeboat, but the merchant vessels had no option, and it would be better if the officers of the Navy were similarly situated.
Mr. MUNTZ [Philip Henry Muntz (1811-1889), Liberal, Birmingham] said it was painful to reflect that the Admiralty had spent large sums of public money to provide lifeboats, only that they should be carefully packed away in Chatham Dockyard. It should not be left to the option of captains as to which apparatus they would take. The Admiralty should decide which was best, and require their decision to be acted on. As regards the composition of the Board, it was monstrous that right hon. gentlemen should be appointed to offices which it was impossible they could undertake with credit to themselves, however talented they might be. The misfortune under consideration occurred before the present First Lord had been translated from his former position, which bore no resemblance whatever to that he at present occupied, but whatever his assiduity and soundness of judgment, it was impossible he could manage the department without some misfortune, more or less the result of his want of naval experience. What would have been the consequence if the Megaera, for instance, had belonged to a private firm? The fault would have been fixed on the shoulders of the right man, and he would have been summarily dismissed. (Hear, hear.) The Admiralty must act in the same way. It must not pass by gross negligence, and say. "Its everybody's fault, and therefore it's nobody's fault.' The fault must be brought home and the offender punished. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. HARDY [John Hardy (1809-1888), Conservative, Warwickshire South] asked whether it was not a fact that the Ariadne was in Portsmouth in February last, and whether, if that were so, there was no one in Portsmouth to say in what state she was when she left. He asked this question because it seemed strange that it should be necessary to telegraph to Malta to ascertain how a ship was fitted which had been in Portsmouth a few weeks before.
Mr. GOSCHEN asked for permission to reply, and said that the Portsmouth officers were asked sometime back whether the Kynaston hooks had been supplied to the Ariadne. Their reply was that under the warrant of 1868 there had been no demand and no supply of Kynaston hooks, and that the Ariadne had not since returned into their hands, having been in the First Reserve. When a ship was put into any other than the First Reserve the whole of her stores were gone through, and she was supplied afresh with every requisite. It was the duty of the captain to say whether or not he had every requisite; but the officers of the dockyard would be responsible only if the Ariadne had been put into their hands. The answer from Portsmouth being inconclusive, the Admiralty sent to Malta, because the hooks might have been put on board before 1868. In reply to the right hon. member for Kilmarnoek (Mr. Bouverie) he said the Admiralty would gladly appoint a departmental committee, and bring in practical men, shipowners and others, from outside to decide upon the question of supply of lifeboats, and the best lowering apparatus. The question was rather one for a departmental committee than a committee of the House of Commons.
Mr. BOUVERIE said that having the assurance of the First Lord that the problem would be submitted to skilled and competent men, he was willing to withdraw his amendment.
Mr. GOSCHEN said the right hon. gentleman had gone a little further than he had intended. He was in favour of placing the entire responsibility of deciding on the question upon the Admiralty, so that the committee would not be independent, and its decision would not be conclusive. It would merely report its opinion, and the Admiralty would decide. (Hear, hear.)
Colonel NORTH [John Sidney North (1804-1894), Conservative, Oxfordshire] asked whether their report would he laid upon the table.
Mr. W. FOWLER [William Fowler (1804-1894), Liberal, Cambridge] was sure we should never see the end of these disasters until a stop was put to the extraordinary practice of placing at the head of technical departments men totally ignorant of the profession they essayed to control. Last year the Minister for War was ably assisted by a military man, but that hon. And gallant gentleman having been appointed to a permanent place at the War Office he had been succeeded by one who had no knowledge of military matters. It would be absurd to appoint any hon. Member, not a lawyer, however clever he might be, to the office of Lord Chancellor, and he thought it was not less absurd to appoint the President of the Board of Trade to the chief office at the Admiralty. He fully recognized the ability of the right hon. gentleman, and he objected, not to the individual, but to the system. It was a monstrous one, unworthy of a great and intelligent nation.
Mr. Alderman LAWRENCE [William Lawrence, (1818-1897), Liberal, City of London] protested against the view propounded by the hon. member who had just sat down. It was contrary to the Constitution, of the country that they should expect that the headships of departments should be conferred exclusively upon practical men. If it were decided that there might be only a sailor at the head of the Admiralty and only a soldier at the head of the Army, the House of Commons would find itself occasionally placed in a position of considerable difficulty. They did not find that an engineer was placed at the head of the direction of a railway company, nor were the general body of the directors expected to be conversant with gradients and familiar with the making of a railway. They took the opinion of professional men upon such points, and applied it according to their own judgment. Such was, he contended, the principle which had prevailed, and should continue to prevail, in the selection of the heads of Government departments.The amendment was then withdrawn.
|Ma 8 April 1872||A debate in the House of Commons on Friday evening was directed to a certain matter of naval administration which may be far more easily explained than defended. The late accident to the boats of the Ariadne is still fresh in the public mind, and, as the loss of life on that occasion might unquestionably have been prevented by the employment of known approved precautions, the Admiralty authorities were naturally taken to task for the result. It will only be necessary for us to recount those particular circumstances of the catastrophe which bear on the case before us. When the boats of the Ariadne were required, and the order was given for lowering them, one was successfully launched, but only after so much delay that, in the meantime, the ship had drifted away from the man whom it was intended to save. As the sea was running very heavily at the time, the boat, which was only an ordinary ship's cutter, was swamped, and a second boat was ordered to be lowered. Here, however, "one of the falls jammed," by which accident all the men in her were pitched into the sea. At three several points, therefore, the arrangements for saving life on board the Ariadne were defective. Had the lowering apparatus been effective, the ship would not have drifted away; had that cutter been a lifeboat, she would not have been swamped; and had a certain other apparatus been in use, the second boat might have been launched without the hitch which proved fatal. We may now add that all these risks are perfectly well-known, and might easily have been neutralized. A system known as "CLIFFORD'S lowering apparatus" would have enabled the seamen of the Ariadne to launch her first boat without loss of time; a second apparatus, known as "KYNASTON 'S hooks," would have been equally useful in securing the even descent of the boat into the sea; and if the ship had carried lifeboats as well as cutters, and employed one of them on the occasion, the swamping would never have occurred. So Mr. BOUVERIE moved a Resolution to the effect that it was the duty of the Admiralty to provide HER MAJESTY'S ships with the necessary apparatus, and Mr. GRAVES, in seconding the motion, brought in the question of lifeboats also.|
The explanations given by Mr. GOSCHEN and Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE on the part of the authorities revealed a state of things highly characteristic of the naval profession. It appeared, indeed, that whereas the Admiralty had been alive to the expediency of these precautions, ships' captains, for the most part, would have none of them. Lifeboats have actually been built by the score for the use of the Navy, and any officer who chooses may have one on demand. Orders, too, have been given that every vessel should be fitted either with CLIFFORD'S or KYNASTON 'S apparatus; so that on the latter point the injunctions of the authorities were positive, while, on. the former, a discretion was left to the captain in command. Yet though the Ariadne was a training ship, and should, therefore, have been a model of equipment and efficiency in all respects, she not only carried no lifeboat, but was not fitted with either "CLIFFORD'S lowering apparatus" or "KYNASTON 'S hooks." The consequence has been a most deplorable loss of life, and the explanations, though by no means satisfactory, are certainly intelligible. The question of the lowering apparatus was answered by an account greatly resembling certain evidence given on the loss of the Megaera. It seems that the Ariadne was in Portsmouth harbour in 1868, at which time, under the warrant then in force, it would have been the duty of the dockyard officers to supply her with "KYNASTON 'S hooks" on demand, but that under that warrant there had been no demand, and therefore no supply. Again, however, it appeared that the ship was in Portsmouth as recently as February last, and how was it that the oversight had not then been rectified? To this question the authorities of the Yard replied that on the latter occasion the vessel did not come under their hands, having been "in the First Reserve" - a classification which took her out of their cognizance. The captain might have made any requisition he pleased, but, in default of such demand, the Dockyard Officers, in respect to a vessel in the First Reserve, had neither duty nor responsibility.
The plain truth of all this is, that none of these precautions are popular in the service. The risks against which they are provided rarely make much impression on a seaman's mind, and the encumbrances which they entail are infinitely distasteful. No sailors ever expect an accident, any more than a stout young labourer ever expects to be ill. A lifeboat, in the eyes of a naval officer, is, as Mr. GRAVES observed, a "nasty lumbering thing"; and Mr. GOSCHEN did not pretend to deny the prevalence of that view, He only added that another objection was entertained. A lifeboat takes the place of a cutter, and, while a cutter is useful on many occasions, a lifeboat is wanted for one purpose only. No doubt; and as a cutter is constantly useful, while nobody ever thinks of wanting a lifeboat, the preference of a captain is easily explained. Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE completed the tale by observing that the present rule originated, in fact, with the naval members of the Board. Perhaps the civilians might have made the use of lifeboats compulsory, but the Sea Lords saw and shared the feelings of the profession, and the matter was left optional accordingly. Mr. GOSCHEN made a lame attempt to justify the existing practice by remarking that the means of saving life are unusually ample on board a man-of-war. "With every fresh watch," said he, "a separate crew is told off to man the lifeboat; this is part of the regular routine of the ship." Exactly so; and as all this conduces to smartness and discipline, the "routine" is, no doubt, regularly observed. But what if there is no lifeboat for the watch to lower or for the crew to man? And what if the cutter cannot be lowered without a fatal loss of time, and a second boat cannot be lowered at all? In this case there was no lifeboat, and Mr. GOSCHEN had to explain that "cutlers were practically lifeboats." But cutters are not lifeboats, as was proved by sad experience on this occasion; and if there had been a lifeboat on board the Ariadne, there was no proper and efficient apparatus by which to lower it, and a most melancholy disaster was the natural result.In our opinion, the fault lies in the rule which leaves any discretion in such a matter to the captain of a ship. If lifeboats are not desirable, it is irrational to insist on their use in merchant vessels; if they are, the matter should not be left optional in the Royal Navy. The "lowering apparatus", according to Mr. GOSCHEN, is not an optional matter, and the Ariadne ought to have been fitted according to either CLIFFORD'S or KYNASTON 'S system, and we trust no punishment will be thought too severe for the officer by whose carelessness or perverseness in violating a General Order this shameful waste of life has been occasioned. But, as regards lifeboats, and, indeed, all other novelties directed towards the saving rather than the destruction of lives, they will never be turned to proper account except under compulsion. The spirit in which such precautions are depreciated is not confined to the Royal Navy, nor is it, indeed, peculiar to officers alone. It is shared by every sailor of every service, and it is more or leas exemplified in all such accidents as that under consideration. Whatever the boat, whether cutter or lifeboat, it is commonly found wanting in something or other at the moment of emergency, for the emergency is never contemplated as a practical risk, while the arrangements required for use at a moment's notice involve trouble and inconvenience, which are regarded as so much labour thrown away. That is the true history of the case as regards the lifeboat; and we venture to say that so long as they are only supplied to HER MAJESTY'S ships on the requisition of their commanders, the number now in store at Chatham will not be materially diminished. Mr. GOSCHEN failed to see the real point of the question before him, which concerned not so much the decision between "CLIFFORD'S apparatus" and "KYNASTON 'S hooks" as the necessity for the invariable adoption of one or other of such safeguards, with the resource of lifeboats besides. From the example of the Ariadne it is proved that a vessel which ought to have been a model of completeness may be defective in all the best appliances for saving life, and that risk, we are convinced, would be best averted in future, not by the investigations of a new Committee, but by the prompt and stern exercise of official authority.
|Sa 24 August 1872|
SAVING LIFE AT SEA.
The Committee appointed by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to inquire into "the question of the supply of lifeboats to the Navy, the best lowering apparatus adapted to the special services which men-of-war have to perform, and generally into the best means of saving life at sea, always bearing in mind the special character of Her Majesty's ships," have given their earnest consideration to the subject, and beg to report as follows, - observing that they have been given to understand that their attention was to be limited to the saving of the lives of men accidentally immersed. The Committee have taken, as the first point for their consideration, the best boat-lowering and disengaging apparatus. They find that the attention of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty has been for a long time directed by many persons interested in nautical matters to the most simple and certain means of attaining this end, and that increased importance was attached to disengaging gear for boats after the destruction of the Royal Mail steamer Amazon by fire in 1852, when a great many lives were sacrificed in the attempts made to lower her boats while the ship was going at a high speed. The Committee have had access to and have examined all the records existing at the Admiralty since the commencement of 1852 which bear on the questions referred to them, and they find that such, proposals and inventions as appeared to possess any merit have been subjected by the Admiralty to experimental trials. The ordinary service fitting for hoisting and lowering boats carried outside Her Majesty's ships is a simple tackle, with a thimble attached to the lower block, and a hook in the slings. About the year 1856, in consequence of many favourable reports of an apparatus invented by Mr. Clifford, which had been tried in merchant ships, the Admiralty adopted it to a limited extents They sanctioned its being supplied and fitted to the quarter-boats of Her Majesty's ships upon the special request of commanding officers; subsequently the applications became so numerous that in l857 the Admiralty issued a circular to the dockyards, directing that when any captain applied for Clifford's apparatus it was to be fitted to all quarter and stern boats without further authority. Another method, the invention of Captain Kynaston, R.N., was also about the same time tried in certain of Her Majesty's ships with much success. In 1862, consequent on continued favourable reports of its working, especially in a notable instance reported by Admiral Sir Baldwin Walker, a general order was issued to the dockyards that the quarter and stern boats of all new ships and others preparing for commission were to be fitted with Kynaston's hooks, but that Clifford's might, if preferred, be supplied also on application. It does not appear, however, that it was intended to make the use of either plan compulsory.
The Committee considered it very important to ascertain the general opinion entertained of the merits and disadvantages of the above-mentioned plans, founded on personal experience, and they have examined various officers of the Royal Navy and of the mercantile marine, and have received replies from others to questions addressed to them, which, together with the evidence, are contained in the Appendix. The evidence is remarkable for establishing the fact that comparatively few accidents involving loss of life have occurred in Her Majesty's Navy to boats lowered at sea. Previous to the case of the Ariadne in 1872, the last one appears to have been, in 1835, to His Majesty's ship Melville, off the Cape of Good Hope, in bad weather, when both cutters were lowered successfully by common tackles for the rescue of an officer and man overboard. One of the boats, containing several officers and men, was unfortunately swamped by a heavy sea before she regained the ship, and all in her were drowned; but the other boat, with her crew, was safely hoisted up again. The Committee have fully considered the three plans above referred to, the evidence respecting which is based on experience and practice at sea, and they find as follows:-
1st. With reference to Clifford's plan. - Many failures, due to the apparatus, have occurred in lowering boats so fitted, and the Committee are therefore unable to recommend its adoption in Her Majesty's Navy. The non-success of this system, as recorded on numerous occasions, is principally due to the necessity of suspending boats, often weighing upwards of two tons, at a height of 30 feet, by single rope pendants, the friction on which, when passing over rollers fixed in skeleton blocks, is the principal means of controlling the lowering. These pendants have frequently failed to render through the blocks, owing to the rope becoming swollen by exposure to wet or frost, proving the 'system to be unsuited to the variations of climate to which ships of war are subject. This alone would be a fatal objection, even if it were not undesirable to suspend heavy boats by single pendants. The Committee, in thus reporting, are aware that the system has been applied and used with much success in boats of a lighter description than those in ordinary use in Her Majesty's service, and particularly where they are not carried at a great height above water.
2d. As to Kynaston's disengaging hooks. - Though there are some instances recorded in which they have not acted satisfactorily, still they so nearly meet the conditions required that the Committee feel justified in recommending their further supply to Her Majesty's ships. At the same time, they are unable to recommend their use being made compulsory on officers who are unwilling to adopt them. The difficulty which exists in judging the precise moment to let go the whip by which the hooks are released - an act which should be so timed as to be done when the boat is close to the water, and before the sea has taken the strain off either of the falls, and the fact that the hooks do not invariably at once cant and release the boat, unless they bear a portion of her weight, are the objections which chiefly present themselves in the use of this apparatus.
3d. As to the ordinary service plan. - The evidence does not record the loss of a single life to Her Majesty's service attributable to this fitting, although the witnesses examined must have referred to an experience of many hundred instances of its use at sea. It possesses the advantage of simplicity, and enjoys the entire confidence of many experienced officers, whose judgment is supported by the large success which has attended its use, - a fact confirmed by the evidence: the Committee are, therefore, of opinion that this is the most satisfactory mode extant of lowering boats at sea. The objections to this fitting are that each fall has to be separately unhooked by hand, but, with a properly adjusted boat rope, experience has shown that this defect is in great measure overcome, and it has even been found possible in practice to lower boats so fitted, in smooth water, while the vessel retained considerable speed. The Committee entertained grave doubts, whether, however admirable the lowering and disengaging apparatus may be, it is wise, on the occasion of a man falling overboard to man and lower a boat in any considerable sea while the ship is rapidly advancing through the water. The probability that any failure of the apparatus would be followed by a serious disaster induces the Committee to record their opinion that authority to do so should rest with the discretion of the officer commanding.
Numerous plans, in addition to those previously submitted to the Admiralty, have been specially brought before the Committee by their inventors, some of which display great ingenuity, and are illustrated by models and drawings which bear witness to the pains and care taken by the designers in their endeavours to perfect an apparatus which should meet all requirements. The Committee cannot recommend any of the inventions for lowering boats at sea by mechanical means which have been brought before them, but they suggest that attention be directed to improvement in the blocks, the sheaves in the davits, the falls, and the position of the cleats or bollard, which must vary in every ship. The following plans for disengaging appear to possess sufficient merit to be worthy of further consideration - viz., those of Staff-Commander James Kiddle, Mr. Edward J. Hill, and Mr. Mark H. Robinson; but the Committee are quite unable to recommend the adoption of any plan which has not been subject to the crucial test of trial on actual service at sea in a squadron. All the naval officers examined by the Committee are strongly of opinion that lifeboats should not be supplied to the exclusion of any boats now on the establishment. They consider the boats now applied to Her Majesty's Navy are perfectly safe and efficient in any state of weather and sea in which it can be deemed right to lower a boat with a view to save life. But they see no objection to a small lifeboat being supplied, in addition, to the present establishment, as it, no doubt, would be useful on many occasions, especially for landing in surf or entering a bar harbour. In these views the Committee entirely concur. The lifeboats hitherto supplied to Her Majesty's Navy do not possess the necessary qualities, and the Committee recommend that, if possible, a boat be constructed capable of being pulled against wind and sea, sufficiently light for the crew to handle when ashore, and possessing a reserve of buoyancy when swamped. It has been, suggested to the Committee that increased buoyancy may be given to a boat when swamped by the application of cork where convenient. This simple arrangement would have the advantages of being easily kept in repair, of being always in its place at sea or in harbour, and of occupying no considerable space in the boat. The Committee, therefore, consider this plan is worthy of trial.
The evidence touching life-buoys shows that, although those supplied to Her Majesty's ships are the best generally known, there is great room for improvement in them; and the Committee are of opinion that attention should be directed to the two following points: -
Some plans of life-buoys have been brought before the Committee. None of them are, however, entirely satisfactory, some being too cumbersome, while others do not meet the required conditions. The Committee consider the service cork life-belts efficient and well adapted for all general purposes. A proposal has been made to substitute cork for hair mattresses, with the object of making them available for saving life. The adoption of this plan must depend in the first instance on their proving to be satisfactory beds for use on board ship, a point which cannot be settled until additional trials have been made of them in all climates. It would be under very exceptional circumstances that cork mattresses would be required to save life in Her Majesty's service. The measures at present adopted in Her Majesty's Navy for saving the lives of men who fall overboard, are as follow:-
Life-buoys of two descriptions ready to let go instantaneously; men constantly stationed by them night and day; quarter boats always ready to lower; life-belts at hand; boats' crews mustered in every watch, and kept in readiness to man them; and signal-men properly stationed to keep sight of the man in the water and direct the boats.
On this subject the Committee can suggest no improvement. These arrangements are the result of long practical experience, and have been attended with a large measure of success.
Finally, from the evidence of all naval officers examined by them, as well as from their own experience, the Committee feel justified in saying that how best to save a man overboard at sea is a subject which constantly engages the most anxious consideration of every officer in Her Majesty's Navy.
|Sa 14 September 1872||We published lately the Report of a Committee appointed by the Admiralty "to inquire into the supply of lifeboats to the Navy and the best mode of lowering boats and saving life at sea.'' It will be remembered that a great sensation was produced by the catastrophe which occurred early in the year in the Bay of Biscay on board HER MAJESTY'S ship Ariadne, when a boat lowered to save life was swamped and her crew were drowned. Mr. BOUVERIE, Mr. GRAVES, and others called attention to the matter in the House of Commons, and it was alleged that the loss was due to the want of Lifeboats in the Royal Navy, and to the objection of the Service and the Admiralty to use the several inventions of individuals for the lowering of boats at sea. In particular, we were told in the House of Commons, and by letters in our columns, that an apparatus invented by Mr. CLIFFORD, and much used in the merchant service, though sanctioned by the Admiralty, had not found favour in the Navy, and that an invention by Captain KYNASTON, R.N., was deserving of far more extensive employment than had ever been vouchsafed to it. The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY stated in the House of Commons that both these inventions were patronized by the Admiralty to the extent of having issued orders empowering any Captain, on application at the Dockyards, to obtain them for the use of his ship, but that the use of them was not made compulsory. A Committee was, indeed, soon afterwards appointed, consisting of Vice-Admiral WELLESLEY, Captain SHERARD OSBORN, Captain WILLES, Captain his Royal Highness the Duke of EDINBURGH, Captain TRYON, Sir JAMES ANDERSON, and Mr. CLIFFORD WIGRAM, to inquire into the matter, and it has now made its Report.|
The ordinary Service-fitting on board HER MAJESTY'S ships for hoisting and lowering boats consists of a simple tackle carried outside the ship, with a thimble attached to the lower block and a hook in the slings. It is worked by the crew remaining in the ship, and is, upon the whole, very fairly efficient, but it is admitted that the blocks and other separate portions of the apparatus are capable of improvement. It is objected, moreover, that, the two falls acting independently of one another, one end of a boat may descend much faster than the other; that the necessity of separately unhooking by hand each fall after the water is reached is a serious defect, which may lead to disaster; and that a simple machine by which the boat's crew could lower themselves and disengage the boat when they found themselves close to the water would obviate the risk of being swamped before the ship's side was left. It will be remembered that in 1852, when the Royal Mail steamer Amazon was destroyed by fire, many lives were lost in the attempts made to lower boats while the ship was going at a high speed, and that public attention was directed to the importance of disengaging gear, to avoid or decrease the risk of so lowering boats. The inventions of Mr. CLIFFORD and Captain KYNASTON were designed to meet the want. But, after taking the evidence of 47 witnesses, including Captains of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and the Allan Line of Steamships, and the captain of the Great Eastern, as to the practical experience of the last twenty years, the Committee are unanimously of opinion that the ordinary Service plan is the most satisfactory mode extant of lowering boats at sea. "The evidence", they say, "does not record the loss of a single life to HER MAJESTY'S service attributable to this fitting, although the witnesses examined must have referred to an experience of many hundred instances of its use at sea. It possesses the advantages of simplicity, and enjoys the entire confidence of many experienced officers."
At the same time the Committee admit that if a plan could be found free from objection for disengaging boats without unhooking the falls by hand, it would be worthy of adoption. The evidence as to CLIFFORD'S plan was very uniform in its tenour - namely, that for boats of a lighter description than those in ordinary use in the Royal Navy, and when carried on ships of a lower freeboard than is usual in the service, the plan is successful in fine weather; but in wet or frosty weather it is said to work ill, showing that it is unsuited to the variations of climate to which ships of war are subject. Captain HAMILTON, now of HER MAJESTY'S ship Achilles, was very much taken with the invention, and tried it for 15 months on board the Hydra in 1858-9. It answered admirably for some of the boats in warm weather on the coast of Africa, but during a severe winter in the British Channel "it did not answer, frequently jamming." It took, he says, from half an hour to three-quarters of an hour reeving the pendant and preparing the boat for lowering in wet weather. I think every one in the ship, except myself, was against it; but, having commenced it, I carried it on as long as I could. We then had it in the West Indies, and there it answered admirably; but on going to Newfoundland and on the Labrador coast it would not answer at all, on account of the pendant swelling from wet and damp". The Committee report that many failures due to the apparatus have occurred in lowering boats so fitted, and they are therefore unable to recommend its adoption in the Navy. As to KYNASTON'S disengaging hooks, though some instances are recorded in which they have not acted satisfactorily, yet they so nearly meet the conditions required that the Committee feel justified in recommending their further supply to HER MAJESTY'S ships; but their use should still be optional with Captains. The Committee are unable to recommend any of the inventions for lowering boats at sea by mechanical means which were brought before them, but recommend for further experiment and consideration the disengaging plans of Staff Commander KIDDLE, Mr. HILL, and Mr. ROBINSON.
It is agreeable, amid the clouds of abuse and distrust which have encircled the Admiralty of late, to find that here at any rate they have been unfairly reflected on. Compared with the Merchant service, which under the rule of the Mercantile Marine Acts and the Board of Trade is subjected to restrictions as to the carrying of Lifeboats from which HER MAJESTY'S ships are exempt, the evidence published by the Admiralty Committee shows that the Royal Navy is well supplied with appliances for saving life. The problem of saving life in bad weather is not a simple one, for it may well be imagined that under certain circumstances it would be wrong to lower a boat and expose twelve men to almost certain death for the bare chance of saving one. A Lifeboat will live in weather in which a cutter would be swamped, but a Lifeboat is less easy to handle, and far more difficult to hoist up again into the ship, than a cutter. The problem is also modified by the use of steam. In a sailing vessel the only chance of approaching a man overboard might be in a rowing boat, but with the command of steam the difficulty is removed. If a perfect life-buoy were thrown at once to the man in the water, it might be better to approach him in the ship than in a boat. It appears that there is a strong disinclination in the Navy to substitute Lifeboats for the cutters which are now carried. A perfect Lifeboat is too heavy and unwieldy for common use, and cannot be pulled its own length to windward. An imperfect Lifeboat might often be of service, especially for landing through a surf; but, unless it could be added to the existing number of boats, most officers would rather be without it. Captain CHAMBERLAYNE, Superintendent of Chatham Dockyard, appears to express the current opinion when he says:- "One reason for my doubting the advantage of a Lifeboat is that, when a ship is in discipline, and a boat only lowered when it ought to be lowered, an ordinary boat will swim with perfect success. I think an ordinary boat would swim in a sea in which it would be impossible to rehoist a Lifeboat; and I fear that it is quite possible more lives would be lost than saved if the Fleet were fitted with Lifeboats, because every officer, from the highest to the lowest, might feel that, having such a boat, it would be a duty to risk more lives than now, and thus more would probably be lost than now." This may seem to a landsman a little over-conservative, but it must be remembered that the Captain is not always on deck, that the officer of the watch is often a young man, and that the instinct of a sailor is to disregard danger and risk all to save a shipmate's life; and, at any rate, the view taken appears to be endorsed by the entire Admiralty Committee.It is chiefly in the system of life-buoys that the Royal Navy shows to advantage over the Mercantile Marine. The witnesses connected with that service were unanimous in stating that they knew of no life-buoys supplied with lights, for use at night, employed in merchant ships. The measures now adopted in the Royal Navy for saving the lives of men who fall overboard are superior to anything to be found in the sister service. Life-buoys of two descriptions are kept always ready to let go instantaneously; men are stationed by them day and night; quarter boats are always ready to lower; life-belts are at hand; boats' crews are mustered in every watch, and kept in readiness to man the boats; and signal-men are properly stationed to keep sight of the man in the water, and direct the boats when lowered. But, though the life-buoys supplied to the Royal Navy are the best generally known, there is room, as the Committee admit, for great improvement in them. They should be capable of supporting an exhausted man without any effort on his part; and the light on a night life-buoy should be placed where the sparks or flame do not fall on the man clinging to it, and it ought to burn not less than 20 minutes - that is, half as long again as it does at present. Attention should be directed to supply these deficiencies, but it is satisfactory to reflect how large a measure of success in saving life has attended the existing arrangements, which are the result of long experience. No one can say there has ever been any hesitation to incur danger for rescuing life on board HER MAJESTY'S ships, and the evidence recently taken records the experience of a number of officers as to the result of the efforts made. Risk has been run repeatedly, but the catastrophe on board the Ariadne in the spring of this year has had no parallel since the occurrence of a similar disaster to His MAJESTY'S ship Melville off the Cape of Good Hope in the year 1835.
|We 16 April 1873|
LIFE SAVING AT SEA.
An exhibition of lifeboats, rafts, and other contrivances for saving life at sea was commenced yesterday at the London Tavern, and will be continued throughout the week: The Exhibition, arose oat of the Northfleet disaster, and was organized by the Northfleet Relief Fund Committee, presided over by the Lord Mayor. His Lordship opened the exhibition, and in a short address pointed out its objects, and trusted that it would result in the authorities being able to recommend some plan to shipowners for the better preservation of life at sea. During the afternoon the large room in which the exhibition was held was crowded, and the utmost interest was taken in the various objects exhibited.
As a matter of coarse, lifeboats were placed in the most prominent position in the catalogue, and there were no fewer than 28 models under this head. Some were old friends, such as the self-righting one of the National Life Boat Institution and the equally well-known .lifeboats invented by Mr. John White, of Cowes. The latter are now much used in the Royal Navy, and the means employed for launching are simple and effective. The boats are carried on a bridge, the platform of which is elevated at will from either end, and the boat shot into the sea, Hursts life rafts consist of a double pontoon, and, like the lifeboat of the Institution, is self-righting. It can be carried outside on the bulwarks, and a very simple contrivance disengages it and allows it to fall into the sea on its keel; but it seemed to be a settled opinion that White's bridge was the better mean's for launching, and a model was exhibited of the troopship Orontes, showing the rafts as carried by that ship on the bridges. Models of the Rev. Mr. Berthon's collapsing lifeboat attracted some attention, and it will be recollected that 15 years ago they were much thought of. Their main features are lightness and compactness, but in the latter quality they do not show much gain over the bulwark life raft exhibited by Mr. Hurst. The several other lifeboats exhibited presented some novel features, notably one invented by Mr. Kongl, with revolving ends, which form the main buoyancy of the boat. It would, however, take up too much of our space to give a detailed account of all the ingenious methods shown for making a. trustworthy lifeboat.
From lifeboats we pass on to life rafts, for, although Mr. Hurst calls his invention, a raft, it is more strictly a boat. The first of these rafts is one invented by Mr. H. Christie, of the Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company. It is rectangular in form, and consists of a wood framing, the spaces between which are filled with air-tight tin cases. The upper and lower surface of the raft exactly correspond, and are so arranged that a series of hatches can be raised on hinges to form a water-tight bulwark around the centre space of the raft. Some of the air-tight zinc cases would be made available for water and provisions, and as the floating powers of the raft would be considerably more than required to sustain the weight of the 100 people who could get on it, a very large supply of necessaries could be stowed away in the lockers ready for emergencies. It is Mr. Christie's idea that this raft should be kept on the bridge of a ship upon a launching apparatus similar to that employed by Sir. John White in the Orontes. If kept on deck It might he launched in, the same manner through the bulwarks, or, in case of a ship suddenly foundering, it would float off of its own accord. A feature in this raft is that it could not well be "bottom uppermost," inasmuch, as we said before, both surfaces are exactly alike. There is not the smallest doubt that a ship could carry such rafts without the least infringement on her deck or bridge room, and the invention should be brought prominently before the Board of Trade. A raft on a similar principle was exhibited by Mr. Roper, but in detail did not seem to have been so carefully thought out. Another raft, exhibited by Mr. Welch, is intended to encircle the skylight of a ship and form seats in ordinary weather. To be launched it would require to be lifted bodily over the side of a ship, unless, indeed, it were allowed to remain until the ship foundered, when it would float off. There were other rafts of the pontoon form, but none that showed so much readiness for use and at the same time to little cumbersomeness as those of Mr. Christie and Mr. Roper.
Intimately connected with lifeboats and rafts is the "boat-lowering apparatus", and of this the exhibition afforded a very great variety. None of the plans shown seemed more to recommend itself than the one exhibited by Messrs. Hill and Clark, as it appears to meet every possible accident that might happen to a boat while lowering, and, at the same time, is self-disengaging. Another plan, devised by Sir. W.A.H. Thorold, is also self-disengaging; but the lowering requires the falling of the davits. The well-known plan invented by Mr. Clifford found various rivals, and all more or less attracted attention; but generally the lowering gear seemed a little more perfect than the disengaging tackle. This remark, however, does not apply to the "grab link" exhibited by Mr. Kilner, or to the better known plan of Captain Kynaston. It is of such vital importance that a good lowering apparatus should be adopted in the mercantile navy that this branch of the exhibition should demand the special attention of all interested in marine affairs.
There were numerous devices for making signals of distress, and, of the number, none seemed better to commend Itself than the simple one of Admiral Sir H.W. Hall The life light exhibited by Mr. Vandenberg can also be commended for its simplicity, and will no doubt be well considered by the proper authorities. Numerous rocket arrangements for making signals of distress were shown, and none promised to be more effective than the one shown by Mr. Pain.
Several distinct plans for indicating the steering of vessels meeting were exhibited, and among these the most noticeable were one introduced by Sir E. Blackwood and one by Mr. Nickolls These two are similar in principle, but Sir P. Blackwood's is the more simple. Which is the better of the two could only be determined by practice, but there is no doubt that such signals would be of immense importance to ships navigating crowded channels.
Rogers' apparatus for throwing a line to or from a ship was exhibited, and its utility is now so generally acknowledged that any commendation we might give it would be superfluous.
Among the miscellaneous articles exhibited, none was of more practical value than, that of Mr. Kilner's riding gear. It consists of the ordinary bitts of a ship with the addition of buffers to meet any strain or jerk a sea may cause a ship to put upon her cable. The advantages of such riding gear are so patent that we imagine when once a shipowner has seen it he will lose no time in adopting it.
|Sa 4 December 1875||The Assistance, 2, iron screw troopship, which was commissioned on Wednesday for particular service by Capt. Francis M.L. Prattent, was floated out of No. 11 Dock, at Portsmouth, on Thursday, having bean painted and completed for sea. She carries a large complement of boats - viz., two troop boats, 38ft. 2in. long; two life whale boats, 35ft. 2in.; one gig, 30ft.; one cutter, with lug foresail and mizen, 30ft.; one cutter gig, 20ft.; a dingey, 14ft.; a steam pinnace, 30ft.; and a couple of Berthon's collapsible boats, each 32ft. long. Six of the boats are fitted with Messrs. Hill and Clark's self-detaching hooks, and two with Kynaston's lowering gear; and the cutter is supplied with a windlass and tubes for laying out an anchor. This is somewhat of an innovation. Having received all her weights on hoard, the Assistance made a six hours' trial of her machinery yesterday. The mean pressure in the high pressure cylinder was 29.458, and in the low pressure cylinder 8.05. The horse-power developed was 1,394.87 being upwards of 94 horses in excess of the contract standard, though less than the power exerted when on the mile. As the draught was considerably greater than on the official trial it was impossible to even approximately ascertain the speed attained during the run from the number of revolutions, but it was found by the log that a rate of more than 11½ knots was obtained, with a mean of 8.45 revolutions per minute. When on the mile the Assistance reached a mean speed of nearly 12 knots, with a mean of 80.86 revolutions. The capstan engine, which was defective at the previous trial, worked admirably, and the whole trial was satisfactory.|