« PreviousContinue »
OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR OF UNITED STATES LIFE-SAVING STATIONS,
No. 16 Broadway, New York, March 20, 1875. Sir: In obedience to your instructions of the 9th instant, (S. I. K.,) (lirecting me to proceed to Cape Cod and investigate the circumstances connected with the wreck of the Italian bark Giovanni, on the 4th instant, and to transmit to the Department, in writing, the result of my investigation, I have the honor to submit the following report :
I reached Provincetown, Mass., on the afternoon of the 12th instant, and proceeded at once to Lite-saving Station No. 6, “Peaked Hill Bar," three miles distant, accompanied by Superintendent Sparrow. I examined, under oath, Keeper Atkins and the six surfmen belonging to the station. On the following day I visited Station No. 7, and examined Keeper Worthen and his crew. The depositions of the keepers and two of the surfmen, the former verified under oath by all the surfmen of each station, are herewith transmitted.
I met several of the citizens of Provincetown on the evening of the 12th, and was informed that po blame attached to the men belonging to the two stations. It was geverally agreed that they were promptly at hand whien the vessel struck, and had used every exertion within their power to rescue the crew of the Giovanni. I did not, therefore, consider it necessary to obtain the sworn testimony of citizens, but contined my inquiry to the particulars of the disaster by an examination of the keepers and surfmen, by personal observation of the locality, and by practical tests of the mortar apparatus, regarding the efficiency of which I had heard doubt freely expressed. Iu questioning the men belonging to the stations separately, I was unable to discover any serious discrepancies in their testimony, and accordingly reduced to writing ouly the depositions of the keepers and two surfmen, which were afterward read respectively to all the surfmen and substantiated by them. There is no material difference in the depositions, except as to points of time and distance, which, muder the circumstances, could not be expected to be accurately voted by the men.
From tbe evidence herewith subwitted and the verbal statements of several eye. witnesses, the circumstances attending the disaster appear to have been substantially as follows:
During the night of the 3d of March, and continuing through the 4th and morning of the 5th, Cape Cod was swept by a violent northeast gale, accompanied by a thick snow-storm, which, on the morning of the 4th, broke up into violent squalls, the intervals between which were infrequent and of short duration, until the atternoon. Many of the oldest inhabitants of the cape, nearly all of whom are or have been sea-faring men, declare this to have been the severest yale that has occurred there for twenty. five years.
The severity of the storm during the night of the 3d and morning of the 4th was such that the keepers of the stations had caused the patrols to be doubled, in view of the dangers which would surround a solitary person exposed to such weather. The patrols of Nos. 6 and 7, before meeting, traverso a distance of about two and a half miles each. The distance along the beach between the two stations, roughly surveyed by Superintendent Sparrow, is four miles and 1,300 yards. One of the patrols belonging to No.7 becoming exhausted from exposure to the fury of the storm, Keeper Worth: u hinself was compelled to take his place at 4 a. m. on the 4th. About 1 p. m. the blinding snow-storm that bad prevailed during the morning and the previous night began to inoderate, and soon exposed the ill fated Giovanni to the view of the two patrols, Paine and Ricb, who were then about one mile north and west from Station No. 7. She was about half a mile outside of the outer bar, under a close-reefed main topsail, with the fore-topsail blowing in ribbons from the yard and bolt ropes. The sea was tremendous, breaking in seven fathoms, as it appeared to the men of the stations, who are familiar with ibe soundings off the cape. The bark was on the starboard tack, or beading to the westward; and at the moment she was discovered by the patrols, Paive and Rich, her foresail was seen to fall, and she swung off before the wind, heading for the beach, as if her master had at the saine instant discovered the land, and, as a last and desperate resort, bad determined to beach her. Doubtless the unfortunato commander saw the patrol, and believing help was at band, steered more trustfully toward certain destruction. She soon came upon the outer bar, over half a mile from the shore, where the breakers were of such extraordinary height that as she surged over their crests ber stern was uplifted bigh in the air, while her bow was submerged, the vessel appearing to the patrol about to "pitch-pole," or tumble over head first. Apparently crossing the outer line of breakers withont damage, the bark now came upon the second or middle bar, as it is termed by the surfmen. For a moment she was enveloped in the breakers and spray, and on again appearing to the view her rudder was seen to be broken, and swinging useless across the stern-post. Thus disabled and unmanageable, she broached to, and went pounding along the outer edge of the inner bar until she brought up on shoalor ground, about a mile and a half to the northward and westward of the place where she first struck. When she came over the second line of breakers she was plainly visible to the keeper of Station No. 7, who was on
patrol near the Highland Light, about a mile away. Comprehending the situation at once, be hastened to the light-house and vainly endeavored to procure horses to baul the boat-carriage and apparatus up the coast. Then hurrying to his station, he pereived the bark drifting to the northward and westward, and concluded that she would ftentually come ou sbore nearer to No. 6 than to his own station. Accordingly he assembled his crew and proceeded np the coast to the assistance of No. 6. From that station, in the mean time, the bark had already been descried by the patrols, and also by Keeper Atkins, who made signal for the return of his patrols from the eastward and Test ward, and prepared his mortar apparatns for transportation in the hand-cart. His Long experience with wrecks in that vicinity suggested at once the impossibility of using a boat in such a sea, and the beach, which was thickly strewn with bam cakes of ice, togetber with the deep snow-drifts that covered the rugged sand-bills, made its transportation without horses utterly impracticable. The surfDet speedily assembleil, and the loaded hand-cart was soon being dragged by eager bands toward the approaching wreck. At first they made fair progress along the beach below the ice, but the rising tide drove them to the first range of sand-bills
, which present to the sea steep faces or bluff's whose heights vary from fifteen to thirty feet. The route of the hand-cart was now impeded by the soft, yielding nature of the coarse sand and frequent snow-drifts. Within half a mile of the point tearest the wreck, they were met by a portion of the crew of station No. 7, and with their assistance finally arrived abreast of the bark, which appeared to be hard and Sast about six hundred yards distant. The seas were making a clean breach over her, acid, driving onward with resistless fury, finally broke up in a tremendons surf upon the beach. At this time two persons were discovered in the breakers, clinging to a plank. They were drifting rapidly to the westward in the strong current, which invaTably runs in that direction during easterly gales. Their course was followed along & beach by the surfmen, with lines ready to assist them. Occasionally they appeared is becoming directly in, bat the under-tow. would sweep them seaward again. After drifting nearly a mile, one of them was swept from the plank and disappeared. The other, who proved to be the steward of the bark, finally came within reach of a surftuan, who, with a line around his body, rushed into the surf and brought, the xhanted man safely on the beach. He was immediately conveyed to station No. 6, and properly cared for. Knowing their utter helplessness to render the hapless crew of the bark any present aid, the life-saving men for a moment stood appalled at the awful scene. But the keepers were soon in consultation, and determining that the chances were in favor of the bark driving closer in on the rising tide, and conting within reach of the mortar apparatus, one man was left upon the beach and the mainder proceeded to station No. 7 for the life-car. With the life-car, hawsers, shotlises, shovels, axes, sand-anchors, crotch, &c., on the boat-carriage, the two crews #arted again for the wreck about 5.30 p. m. Their route lay behind the outer ridge of the sand-bills, the beach being impassable, as the sea was breaking in many places let against the bluff's
. Frequent snow-drifts four or five feet deep opposed their progress in the hollows between the hills, and a passage for the carriage had to be forced shoveling away or beating down the snow. The darkness of the night was such that the two lanterns they carried but dimly lighted their path. About midway they site met by a party of ten or twelve persons from Truro on foot, and bound to the neck. These willingly lent their assistance, and at 10 o'clock the carriage was abreast the bark. This toilsome journey, over a distance of about two and a half miles, terapied four hours and a half. From the foregoing it will be seen that the crews of the stations had zealously kept the regnired watchfulness, and were indefatigable in their efforts to get the necessary apparatns npon the ground.
The darkness of the night and the continued violence of the gale prevented any further efforts at that time to save the crew of the bark. Fires were lighted, around which
surfmen gathered shivering in their wet clothing, while they burned signal-lights betrotrage i be shipwrecked people. By the glare of the burning signals the wreck and be occasionally faintly discerned rolling helplessly in the breakers. About midsight, portions of the wreck and cargo began to come ashore, and gave token to the vatrhers that the vessel was breaking up. Daybreak was anxiously awaited, and sben at last it came the bark's foremast alone was standing, and in its top were gathand the survivors. The wreck bad now beaten in to within perhaps 400 yards of the store and lay rolling heavily. The distance between the wreck and the beach was panionly estimated by the life-saving men and by the bystanders. No estimate was be than 300 yards, while the greater number judged her at 400 and npward. That de mast bave been at least 400 yards off is evident from the fact that the unfortunate pople in the foretop of the bark were so indistinctly seen from the shore that opinu varied as to their number, some placing them at five and others at seven or eight. The tide was vearly full. The mortar apparatns was placed in position directly oppome the wreek, and as near the water as possible, and the first shot fired. Its aim was directly at the wreck and right in the wind's eye, (northeast.) The shot fell short.
The gale bad slightly abated, but still offered very great resistance, as was indicated by the bowing of the line upward far above the trajectory of the ball. A second shot was tired, carrying out, according to the statement of Keeper Atkins, 275 yards of live, and a third with no better success. During the firing the foremast was swaying frightfully to and fro, and the unfortunate mariners, no longer able to maintain their grasp, were flung, one by one, from the foretop into the sea; and just after the third shot the last man disappeared. The foremast remained standing until about 10 a. m., when it fell, and the remainder of the vessel broke up. The mortar used on the occasion belonged to Station No.6. It was manufactured in 1873, at the West Point Fouudry, at Cold Spring, N. Y., and is exactly similar in weight and caliber to those in use at all the stations, except an improvement in the bed-piece, which gives additional strength to that part. The firing was superintended by Keeper Atkins, who is familiar with the use of the apparatus, from frequent practice and an experience of many years in the service of the Massachusetts Humane Society.
Ou the 12th and 13th instant I carefully inspected the mortar apparatus at stations 6 and 7. I found the apparatus at both stations in excellent condition, and bad seve eral shots fired in my presence, with as good effect as mortars used for this purpose usually give.
The powder used at the stations is “Dupont's best sporting HI F.” The charge is four ounces of powder, which is the capacity of the chamber. More than that quantity has not been found to materially increase the distance; the combustion of the powder in the chanıber driving the outside grains, without their ignition, as was shown by firing over clean snow.
lo view of the fact that the loss of life at this disaster has been somewhat extensively and erroneously attributed to the failure of the mortar apparatus to accomplish what might be expected of it, I deem it proper, in this connection, to give a brief description of the apparatus, and to refer to what has been heretofore accomplished with it by ex. periment and in actual service.
The mortar is of the ordinary form with a caliber of 54 inches, and chambered for a charge of 4 ounces of powder, weighing with the bed about 300 pounds. The iron balls are solid and weigh 21 pounds each. They are cast with a score 2 inches long by of an inch wide, the central depth of which is 1 inch. Across the center of the score an iron-bar is inserted flush with the surface of the ball, to which in service a line is attached. Each station is furnished with two shot-lines, one of Manila and the other of Italian hemp. The first is about three-eighths and the latter seven-sixteenths of an inch in diameter. The weights are, respectively, ten and twelve yards to the pound. The character of these lines was determined after a long series of experiments, as also by actual service in this country, and particularly in England, where this method of assisting the shipwrecked originated. The use of the mortar for the purpose of tbrowing a line was tirst suggested in 1791, and in 1809 six persons were rescued from a wreck by means of Captain Manby's mortar apparatus, that furnished the model upon which our own, with some improvement, is constructed.
The essential requirements of an efficient apparatus have been found to be as follows:
1st. Portability, wbich was very early acknowledged to be the very essence of the service, as it was apparent that the whole apparatus must be light enough to be readily transported along the coast by a few persons.
2d. A piece of ordnance answering the first requirement that will at the same time project a shot the greatest distance without such impetus as to impair the safety of the line.
3d. A line whose size will encounter the least resistance in its passage throngh the air, light enough to avoid too great an augmentation of the weight to be carried by the ball, and withal of sufficient strength to withstand the jerk of the initial velocity of the shot, and bear the heavy strain of dragging the hanling lines of the apparatus by the shipwrecked people across strong currents and through heavy breakers.
For use at shipwreck, in addition to the mortar, balls, and shot-lines, there must be hauling-lipes, a bawser, life-car, and various implements transported.
It will thus be seen that the first requirement (portability) governs the others and limits the size and range of the mortar. Our mortars conform to the foregoing, and their most effective range in heavy weather is from 250 to 275 yards, while under very favorable circumstances they have carried the line 400 yards. The ball alone has been thrown 1,000 yards. No better, if as good, results have been obtained in any other country. The latest account within my reach of experiments that have been made in England, where for sixty years these mortars have been used, furnishes the following table : Mean of extreme range obtained with shot 30 pounds weight, attached to line of equal size
of Russian and Manila hemp, with a brass 54-inch mortar, at an elevation of 33°, charge 10 ounces of powder. Mean of 20 rounds.
Yards. Fine weather and light winds, Russian
248 Fine weather and light winds, Manila
Yards. Moderate weather, fresh breeze, Russian
2:37 Moderate weather, fresh breeze, Manila ..
279 Eleration 2--, strong gale and heavy squalls, Russian
211 Elevation 2, strong gale and heavy squalls, Manila
213 It will be observed that 10 ounces of powder was used in the above experiments. Equally as good, and even better results bave been obtained with our mortars of the same caliber, charged with only four ounces.
Respectfully referring you to my report dated September 1, 1873, of experiments with the Boxer rocket-apparatus. used extensively in England, it will be seen that the greatest rauge obtained with thein under the most favorable circumstances, was HN pards. Their flight either against or across a strong breeze of wind is very uncertain, much more so than that of the 24-pound ball. A recent invention in Germany for projectivg lines for life-saving purposes was some time since brought to my notice. But
, while this apparatus appeared ingenious and somewhat more portable than our onn. tbe range of the shot is no greater. From all the information I could obtain, as to the state of the sea, it seems scarcely possible that any boat whatever could bave Peached the wreck. But it is to be regretted that the surf-boat was not at hand, that an attempt might have been made. The impracticability of transporting it from either station, without the aid of at least two borses, was apparent to me, after surveying the grwund eight days after the disaster. In this connection it is suggested that a few of the stations may be supplied with one or two horses during the winter months, or anthority given by law to impress teams for hauling the boat-carriages, when the zalety of buman life is involved, as is the case in England.
In view of the difficulty experienced on the above occasion in transporting the appafatus, and to provide for similar emergencies in that quarter, I recommend the establishment of a relief boat-house midway between stations 6 and 7. The house need be only large enough to contain a boat and a life-car, with perhaps a hawser and a few minor articles.
In case of any disaster within balf a mile on either side of the relief-house, tbe men belonging to the stations could at once assemble, there and find the heaviest portions of the apparatus already at hand, and perhaps but a comparatively short distance
On the 14th, I personally examined the scene of the disaster. The spot where the mortar was placed was easily identified and pointed ont. The shoals in the direction of and neighborhood of the line of firing (at right angles with the line of the beach) arte esamined in a boat, 400 yards out, and no vestige of the wreck was found, so that the exact spot where she broke up could not be accurately defined. Two hundred and i wenty-six ineasured yards westerly from the line of firing, and 440 feet from lowKater mark on the beach, I found a portion of the wreck, apparently all that remains in the water of the ill-fated Giovanni.
It is evident that during the whole time the vessel was beyond the reach of any lite-saving apparatus yet invented. If she bad been provided with any one of the
anons lite-rafts, it is more than possible that all bands might bave reached the shore in safety. Her boats were soon destroyed by the buge seas that were seen to sweep Soportion of Cape Cod is so dangerous as tbat lying between the Highland Light and the Race. Its outlying sboals extend seaward in some places nearly a mile from the beach, and upon them numerous melancholy disasters have occurred. A light-ship and toy born on Stellwageu’s Bauk would be an important aid to navigation, and largely divest the sboals off' the bend of the cape of their terrors. I am, very respectfully,
J. H. MERRYMAN, Hon. B. H. BRISTOW,
Captain United States Rerenue Marine and Inspector. Secretary of the Treasury, Washington, D. C.
from the wreck.
Abstracts of returns of wrecks and casualties to vessels which hare occurred
on and near the coasts and on the rivers of the United States, and to Amer. ican vessels at sea, and on the coasts of foreign countries, during the fiscal year eniling June 30, 1875.
The following statistics relating to disasters to shipping during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1875, are compiled from returns collected and transmitted by officers of the customs in compliance with the provisions of the act of Congress approved June 20, 1874, and withi instructious issued from the Department. In order to secure uniformity in the returns, the several collectors of customs were supplied with blank forms containing a list of questions, the answers to which would afford the requisite data, with instructions to distribute the same to their subordinate otlicers and to the managing owners, agents, and masters of vessels suffering disaster in their respective districts. Charts showing the coasts of the United States were also furnished officers of the customs, who were required to note upon them by certain symbols the exact localities of all disasters, reports of which they had transmitted to the Department. These charts were returned with the disasters noted at the end of each quarter. By their aid the locali. ties of disasters bave been fixed upon the wreck-charts which follow the tables. Where several casualties occurred at or near the same point during the year, and it has consequently been impracticable to insert the symbol of each disaster in the exact locality of its occurrence, the symbols have been grouped and lines extended from the groups to the localities. In cases of collision, oue symbol is used to denote a disaster, although two or more vessels were involved.
The returns above named, which give the name of each vessel and various other particulars not included in the tables, are carefully filed in the Department so as to be readily referred to for such particulars.
In the preparation of the tables it has been found advisable, in order to facilitate reference, to make the following general divisions :
1. Disasters occurring on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, embracing
1. All casualties outside of, but in proximity to, the coast line.
2. All casualties occurring in the bays and harbors adjacent to the coasts named.
3. All casualties occurring in or near the mouths of rivers emptying into the ocean or gulf.
II. Disasters occurring upon the Pacific coast of the United States, including those occurring in adjacent waters, as in the tirst division.
III. Disasters occurring ou the Great Lakes, embracing
1. All casualties occurring on Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, St. Clair, Erie, or Ontario, reported by officers of the customs, whether in waters under the jurisdiction of the United States or of Great Britain.
2. All casualties occurring in the rivers, straits, &c., connecting the several lakes named.
3. All casualties occurring in the barbors of any of said lakes, or in or near the mouths of rivers emptying into them within the United States. One disaster which occurred on Lake Champlain is included in this division.
IV. Disasters occurring in rivers within the United States, embracing all rivers except those referred to in the foregoing division.
V. Disasters occurring to American shipping at sea or in foreign waters.