Tuesday, 5 September 2017


"Fifty-two years at sea and 36 years in
command without disaster is a record to be
proud of, and one cannot speak or write of
Captain Ilbery without feeling that he has
every right to be looked upon as a mariner
who has done well in upholding the dignity
of the British flag, and left his mark on the
annals of notable British mariners."



By 1851 iron-hulled screw ships were increasingly common, but RMSP conservatively continued to buy new paddle steamers. The Admiralty supervised those UK merchant ships contracted to carry mail, and insisted that they all have wooden hulls.[1]Therefore, RMSP ordered that Amazon and her four sisters be wooden-hulled paddle steamers.
R & H Green built Amazon at Blackwall Yard, London. Her keel was laid on 1 September 1850 at and she was launched on 28 June 1851. Seaward and Capel of Limehouse built her engines.[2] They were a pair of side-lever steam engines, developing 800 hp[3][clarification needed] at 14 revolutions per minute.[citation needed] No figure for her gross register tonnage is recorded, but it was in the order of 2,900 GRT.

Amazon was the first of the five sister ships to enter service. In December 1851 she reached Southampton to prepare for her maiden voyage. She carried 1,000 tons of coal for her bunkers and loaded several hundred tons of cargo. Her strong room contained 500 bottles of mercury for use in the production of mining explosive in Mexico and £20,000-worth of specie.[3] The mercury was worth over £5,000 and the total value of the cargo was estimated at about £100,000.[citation needed] In common with many ships undertaking trans-oceanic voyages in that era, the ship carried livestock on deck and bales of hay to feed them.[3]
On Friday, 2 January, Amazon, commanded by Captain William Symons, loaded mail, embarked 50 passengers and late that day she sailed for the Caribbean. In the next 24 hours she twice hove to as her engine bearings overheated. She entered the Bay of Biscay and at about 12:40 on Sunday, 4 January, smoke was sighted rising from a hatch ahead of her forward funnel. Captain Symons and his chief officer, Roberts, were quickly on deck and organised crewmen with buckets and a hose to fight the fire. Men started to move hay away from the fire, but after they had moved only two bales all the remainder caught alight.[3]
Symons ordered that the engines be stopped and boats launched. The mail boat was lowered containing 25 people. In a heavy sea and with the ship still under way the boat was swamped and all of its occupants drowned. The fire was now such that the engine room could not be reached and so the engines could not be stopped.[3] Symons turned the ship so that the wind was at her stern. This helped to slow the spread of fire toward her stern, but also maximised her speed and thus the difficulty in launching her boats.[4]
The pinnace was lowered. Before its occupants could unfasten its forward tackle the heavy sea swung it around and tossed its occupants in the water. A second cutter was lowered but swamped by a wave that washed away all but two of its occupants. The starboard lifeboat was successfully launched and 16 people got away in it. The dinghy was successfully launched carrying five people.[5]
Contemporary engraving of the loss of Amazon
The fire spread out of control. The starboard lifeboat rescued the five occupants of the dinghy and tried to approach the ship to rescue more people, but came in danger of being swamped and so abandoned the attempt. Amazon was still under way, rolling in the heavy sea while Symons and his crew still tried to keep her course steady.[5]
By 04:00 the fire brought down the ship's foremast and mainmast. At 05:00 her magazine exploded and her mizzen mast was brought down. Her funnels glowed red-hot[6] and about half an hour later she sank about 110 miles (180 km) west-south-west of the Isles of Scilly.[citation needed]
At 10:30 the brig Marsden, bound from London to North Carolina, rescued the 21 survivors in the starboard lifeboat and landed them at Plymouth.[6] At first these were feared to be the only survivors.[7] However, the Dutch galliot Gertruida rescued seven passengers, 17 crew members and a foreman from Seaward and Capel and landed them at Brest on 5 January.[8] A second Dutch ship, Hellechina, rescued 13 survivors and transferred them to the HM Revenue cutter Royal Charlotte, which landed them at Plymouth on 16 January.[citation needed]
At the beginning of February a section of Amazon's timbers, partly charred by the fire, drifted ashore at Falmouth

Overheating of engine bearings could be another source of fire outbreak on board. Partly charred timbers drifting ashore at Falmouth reminds me of:

Northern Territory Times, 12 November, 1909.

A cablegram has just been received
from Cape Town to the effect that a
quantity of charred and broken deck
planking, hatches, and other debris,
has been washed ashore near Port

Monday, 4 September 2017




The Northwestern Advocate, 17 July, 1908.

Oscar Padfield, manager for Holyman 
and Sons, at Devonport, deposed that 
the Orion left Devonport with cargo as 
described by Mr. Hall. Estimated the 
weight at 134 tons. One passenger 
was aboard for Stanley.

To Mr. Law: Thought the Orion
had 25 tons of coal in her bunkers.

Witness had been managing at
Devonport for four and a half years.
Had you always had instructions to
urge captains of any of the vessels
not to take more cargo than they
thought fit? — Most decidedly.

And loading at Devonport was always 
entirely at the discretion of the
captain?— Yes.

You have always adhered to these
instructions? — Always.

Captain Lloyd's reputation as a master was
first-class. No cargo was carried from
Devonport beyond what was loaded
Captain McGilvray, harbor master
and secretary of the Mersey Board,
officially inspected the manifest before
the Orion left Devonport. The Orion
was then full in the fore hatch, and
13 bags oats were placed in the
smoking room on the main deck.
The Plimsoll mark was six inches
clear. The vessel was in first-class
sea-going trim when she left Devon-
port on May 5. Captain Lloyd had
a splendid reputation.

Mr. Law: You have seen the wreck-
age. Where do you think the boat
went down? Do you think it was
near Flinders Island? — I don't think
so. If the ship were disabled in mid-
strait the captain would, naturally
make for the Tasmanian coast, and
get rid of his deck load. He had done
such a thing before.

Mr. Chambers : Can you give us any
idea how the whaleboat picked up got
ashore?— I think it was washed off
the deck. Did not think the boat
was launched, as it was not knocked
about, and it would be impossible to
launch a small boat like that in bad
weather without knocking her about
at both ends. Believed the alley door
was washed off also.

Captain Anthon: Had the Orion
sufficient sail to bring her to port
without engines?— Yes; he under-
stood the after hatch was full when
she left Devonport.

Captain Noake said he had put
1,586 bags below on board the Orion,
and asked witness:. 'Don't you think,
if the rudder or propellor were broken
on a rock at Telegraph Bay, Hum-
mock Islands, it would be impossible
to get back to Tasmania? Witness:
I could got back under such 
circumstances. From near the 
Hummocks to Flinders was about 
130 miles . The Orion would take a 
week without sail to drift from near 
where last seen, north of Robbin's 
Island, to Flinders. She would sail 
four or five knots. The prevailing 
wind at the time was generally N.W. 
or more from northward than, from 
the Tasmanian coast. There was not 
sufficient wreckage, to justify the opinion
that the Orion was wrecked off

Mr. Law. You have not seen it all.
We could show you a lot more.


Charles Emmett, postmaster at Latrobe, 
deposed he was the only passenger on 
board the Orion on May 5 from Devonport 
to Stanley. The vessels holds were full.

Mr. Hall; You are sure both holds
were full?— Yes, and some bags on
deck were taken out at Stanley.
Cargo was taken on at Burnie,- and
put on deck. In his opinion the vessel 
had too much on for the rough

Mr. Law: You don't pose as a
nautical expert?— No.

Argument took place on the ad-
visibility of conversations alleged to
have taken place between officers of
the ship. Mr. Chambers decided to
admit such in reference, to the last
voyage of the Orion.
The witness Emmett deposed that
Captain Lloyd had told him more
cargo was to be put on deck at Duck
River, which would trim the vessel.


Lindsay Kerslake, barman at the
Commercial Hotel. Ulverstone, 
deposed that Captain Lloyd told him
on May 5 that the nest trip would
be his last; and the next trip proved
the fatal one. Captain Lloyd referred
to the Orion as ' a "submarine," and
also stated that the Orion was "a
terrible ship to dive," and that she
would "dive once too often." Captain 
Lloyd did not say anything about the 
loading on May 5, but had done so 
previously. Mr. Law objected to the 
admission of what had been said 
regarding other trips, and the objection 
was upheld.


In the words of Mr. Ebsworth:

'Waratah showed a fondness for putting her nose into oncoming swells.'
'In the whole of his experience he had never seen any ship do that before'.
In other words, 'diving'.

Witness said Captain Lloyd was
sober at the time. He was a sober


Fred. B. Ring deposed that he had
for two years been a fireman on the
Orion. He left her because he wanted 
a change. She was a fairly good
sea boat. At Devonport all the oats
had been put in the after hold, and
oats and potatoes in the fore hold.
The holds were practically full after
loading at Devonport.

Mr. Law: Could any more cargo be
placed below? — No more cargo could
be stowed unless room was made for
it. There were about 20 bales of
sacks on deck.


Jabez Smithies, manager for Holyman 
and Sons, at Burnie, said 253 bags 
chaff were loaded on the after deck 
at Burnie. The cargo was well
stowed. Captain Lloyd directing
operations; he was in his usual
health (not drunk). Witness saw 
no cargo on the main deck. Remarked 
to the Captain that the boat appeared 
to be well down by the stern. The reply
was that the Stanley and Smithton
cargo would trim the boat. Captain
Lloyd also said he had space under
the hatches for a quantity of the

Mr. Law: Did you in any way urge
the captain to take more cargo?—
No; it would have been contrary to
his instruction's to do so. Captain
Lloyd had at times shut out cargo,
but not on the trip in question.

To Mr. Hall: He did not know
there was any cargo in the smoke
room. He did not go on board.

Mr. Hall:- Then you don't know
how the vessel was loaded?;— 
There was no cargo on the open deck.


Edward J. Norris, branch manager
for Holyman and Sons' at Stanley, said
the Orion on the voyage in question
discharged 10 tons cargo at Stanley
and took three tons cheese and 
embarked four passengers, and 
sailed for Duck River about 1.30 on 
the Monday afternoon. The crew all 
told was supposed to be 13, but he 
could not swear that the full complement 
were on board. The Orion was in good 
trim and perfectly upright when she left
Stanley, and the Plimsoll mark was
5 or 6 inches above water. 

The broader facts disputed this...

About 54 cases cheese were taken 
aboard at Stanley and a few sundries. 
Part of the cheese was carried in the 
hold. No complaint was made to him 
about the cheese being loaded on deck.
To Mr. Law: The captain and wharfinger 
had charge of the loading. The master 
was responsible for the loading.
His instructions were to leave questions 
of loading and entering of bar harbors 
entirely in the hands of masters of the 
company's ships.

Mr. Hall questioned Mr. Law's action 
in asking witness whether , the
vessel was properly loaded, whereat
Mr Law retorted that Emmett's
"expert opinion" had been taken.

Mr. Chambers: I think not Emmett
merely gave his opinion that the vessel 
was too low down by the head. 

Mr. Law: Oh very well then.

Overloading was murky waters whatever the draught and plimsoll markings were alleged to be!!

To Mr. Chambers:, The four passengers 
from Stanley were Mrs. Watt and three 
children. Part of the cheese was stowed 
on the poop deck. Witness did not see the captain on the
last trip.


William J. Titley, harbormaster at
Stanley, deposed that the Orion was in
excellent trim when she left Stanley.
The whole of the cargo was under deck
except a few packages.

Mr. Hall: Why, we have been told
there were 250 bags chaff on deck.
Mr. Titley: If it had been there I
must have seen it. 


He had paid rather more than usual 
attention to the Orion on May 6. His 
duty was to see boats were not 
overloaded when leaving port.

Mr. Law: What class of boat would
you say the Orion was?— As good as
they could make her in material and
workmanship. He was perfectly 
satisfied the ship's three boats were 
alright. The Plimsoll mark was showing 
over 4 inches above water. He would say
she was capable of taking a consider-
able quantity of cargo after leaving

Does this sound familiar to anyone??

Mr. Law: Would you think it safe
for the 'Orion to take 377 bags potatoes
at Duck River? — She could have taken
with safety a considerable quantity,
especially if distributed as stated, part
being down the hold. The vessel would
have smooth water as far as the Hum-
mocks. He would have kept close to
the Hummocks if navigating the Orion 
in order to get the benefit of the
smooth water. If she got disabled 
afterwards it would be good seamanship
to make for the eastward.

Mr. Law: It would be very difficult
to heave-to if the rudder and propeller 
were injured?— Most difficult. Witness 
considered four or five miles an
hour would not be an excessive drifting 
rate to the east for the Orion if

Mr. Law : Assuming that a consider-
able quantity of wreckage was found
within a narrow compass, and that
rockets were seen in the vicinity of
Goose Island, would it be a fair 
assumption that the vessel was lost in
the vicinity ? — I would say the theory
was well founded. Judging by the 
appearance the boat exhibited, an 
attempt, in his opinion, had been made
to launch it.

Mr. Hall: If the Orion was drifting
4 or 5 miles an hour could not sail be
set to reach Dovonport or Burnie? —
Captain Titley did not think so; there
would be but little chance of getting
assistance at either place, or of getting

Mr. Hall: What about Tamar Heads?
Witness further considered the wind
was W.N.W. on the night of May 8.
The current would be from the east.
Mr. Hall: Then how do you account
for the fast drifting?
After being questioned a while as to
how his theory was built up, Mr. Law
intervened on Titley's behalf.

Mr. Chambers: We desire to have a
thorough examination.

Mr. Hall : What chance of assistance
would there be at Flinders Island?--
Not much.

Mr. Law: If you were disabled 20
miles off the Hummocks what would
you do? — If the weather kept steady
he would try and make some N.W.
Coast port.

Mr. Chambers: You tell us that an
examination of a boat from the shore
such as you made is unsatisfactory,
and yet you contend you made a 
satisfactory examination from the shore.
You appear mixed in your arguments.
Witness: My hearing is a little bad.

Mr. Chambers: You said from what
you saw of the steamer that it would
be safe to take cargo aboard at Duck
River in addition to the 10 tons of
chaff on deck. — I would have no 
hesitation in going aboard that night from
Duck River.

Mr. Law: That is the best test. It
is the one approved of by Mr. Emmett.


George Henry Walters, laborer, at
Stanley, was engaged in loading the
Orion on her last trip to Stanley. 
Witness loaded three tons of cheese, two
bags of potatoes, and a crate of poultry. 
The cheese was loaded under the
captain's bridge. A remark was passed 
among the laborers that the Orion
was a 'bit low aft.'

But yet the magical plimsoll line was not submerged...

Mr. , Law- There was no suggestion
that she was overloaded or unproperly 
loaded? — No. He had a brother-
in-law aboard who perished.

Patrick Kirwan, laborer, at Stanley, 
deposed to hearing remarks passed 
when the Orion was last at Stanley
that the vessel had enough in her
without going to 'The Duck.', He,
himself, had made the remark also.
Sometimes the vessels were observed
to be rather low. The Orion did not
appear to be too low — 'just ordinary.'

George Mears, now seaman on the
steamer Warrentinna, deposed to being
engaged loading, the Orion at the time
in question. The cheese was loaded
on deck. It was not put below, he
believed, because the holds were full.
The Orion was well laden when she
left Stanley, though not overloaded.
She was a good sea boat for her size
when not 'overdone.' A brother of
witness perished in the disaster.

Charles W. Lynch, commission
agent at Smithton, was aboard the
Orion on her last trip from Stanley to
Duck River. At the latter port 377
bags potatoes were taken aboard. Down
the forehold 70 bags were stowed, while
36 bags were placed on the upper deck,
the rest being on the main deck. Very
few staves were shipped, not more
than 100 at the outside. He heard
of no opinion expressed at the time
adverse to the vessel's loading. 
Captain Lloyd was assisting to load. All
the potatoes were put on during day-
light at Duck River. The Orion fin-
ally sailed about 6 o'clock. She did
not appear overloaded when he saw her
going out, and she was evenly trimmed. 
The weather conditions were
favorable while he was aboard. Potatoes 
were stacked on the main deck
as high as the upper deck.

Silas Hodgman deposed he was a
clerk in Holyman and Sons' office,
Launceston. On May 5 he was agent
for the company at Smithton, and was
present at the loading of the Orion. A
few staves and 377 bags potatoes were
taken aboard. About 20 or 25 bags
were put down the forehold. There
was not room for more below. Some
were stacked on tho poop deck and the
rest on top of the forehatch, main

To Mr. Law: He had never used any
pressure on Captain Lloyd to put more
cargo on. He admitted he could give
no reliable estimate as to how many
bags were put down the forehold. On
deck the potatoes were stacked as high
as the rail. The Plimsoll was two or
three inches clear when the vessel left
Duck River.

Milton Furphy deposed he was now
representing Holyman and Sons at
Duck River. He assisted to load 370
odd bags potatoes on May 6, also a
few staves on to the Orion. Some of
the potatoes were put down the hold.

To Mr. Law : Did not hear any remarks 
about overloading.

To Mr. Chambers:- Did not notice the
Plimsoll mark and could not say whether 
the vessel had any list when she
went away.

Frederick Burgess, master of the
ketch Active, considered the deck
cargo on the Orion at Smithton badly
loaded, as it was not secured by
lashing. With a heavy sea it might
shift and endanger the vessel
especially if she got on her beam ends.
His vessel was alongside the Orion at
Duck River, and transferred 77 bags
potatoes to her. The Orion had a
good quantity of stuff on deck stacked 
on the fore hatch pretty well up
to the height of the upper deck.
There were potatoes stacked under
the bridge, and four bag's high on the
top deck aft. The Orion when she
left Duck River was drawing from
seven to eight feet forward. He
could not tell what depth she drew
aft, as all the figures were under the
water. She looked very low by the
stern. Considered the Orion struck
trouble in the thoroughfare between
Albatross Island and King Island, 30
to 40 miles from Duck River,
Mr. Hall: Assuming an accident
happened where you state, what
would the captain probably do?— Run
before the wind for Flinders Island,
Perhaps the N.W. Coast of Tasmania
might be reached. -Captain Lloyd had
not nearly enough sail to make

Mr Hall: What about Burnie, Devonport, 
or Tamar Heads? — That
would rest with the captain's judgment 
as to what he thought best for
the ship. Considered the vessel, if
disabled, would drift barely two miles
an hour, and about three to three
and a half miles with sail set. Even
at the latter speed she could not be
steered if the rudder were gone.

Mr. Law : Supposing a two mile current 
were running easterly it would add that 
much to the speed you gave?
— Yes. On account of the wash when
the vessel was in Duck River, he
could not say whether the Plimsoll
was under water but he would, say it
was "more in than out." The Orion
was a good sea boat. She had come
from a good builder, and Lloyd was
an excellent seaman. Any competent
skipper would get rid of his big cargo
at once, if he thought his ship was
in danger during a storm. For some
days after the disaster he thought the
Orion was sheltering, but when a
message arrived on Monday that she
was not found about the Hummocks
he gave her up. for lost: It would not
be bad seamanship for a captain to
make for Flinders in order to keep
his vessel afloat. Would expect the
Orion to drift in that direction. It
was not unusual for boats to carry
deck cargo. His fault with the loading 
was that it was unlashed. 

From bad to worse.

The net tonnage of the ketch Active was
22 tons. She could safely carry, from
35 to 37 tons. That would allow for
120 bags potatoes on deck and 320
bags below, but he would pick his
weather when loaded so heavily.

To Mr Law: A steamer could carry
more than a sailing vessel on deck,
as there was more ballast on a
Mr. Law : Supposing a rocket was
seen from near Goose Island, Flinders
Group, 24 hours after the Orion had
left, would it not be reasonable to
assume that the rocket came from the
Orion while in distress?
Witness doubted the statement, but
if there was proof of the rocket being
seen he would accept it.

A lot of trouble during this era in identifying and responding to rockets....

Mr Law: We have the proof.

Witness: If sail were used on the
Orion she may have made good progress 

Mr. Chambers: Do you say the
Orion carried too much on deck?
Witness considered she was badly
loaded and 'overdone' for the
weather. The barometer registered
29.60 when the Orion went out, and
the weather was very bad to the

To Mr. Law: He had lost a son on
the Orion. His son was fireman. The
weather crew worse the day after the
Orion left.

Albert E. Grey, laborer, at Smith-
ton, assisted to load the Orion at
Duck River. He loaded about 100
bags on the after deck.

To Mr, Law : Had heard no remarks
at the time about the vessel being
overloaded. Potatoes were stacked on
top of the hatchway at the head of
the winch. About 100 staves were
Fix this text

Was the Orion detained and prevented from leaving port ??