CLAN RANALD - A FASCINATING ACCOUNT AND 'PORTEND'.
Six months before Waratah departed on her final voyage into history another steamer, the Clan Ranald, was lost off Troubridge Hill, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia. Of 64 souls on board, 40 were lost, including Captain Gladstone. There is an eerie similarity between the Clan Ranald sequence of events and that which brought Waratah to her final moments - if one believes the Harlow account.
The "Clan Ranald," registered at Glasgow, Official Number 111290, was a schooner rigged turret steamer, built of iron in 1900, 2,286 tons register, owned by Messrs. Cayzer, Irvine & Co., of Glasgow, and under the command of A. S. Gladstone, who held a certificate of competency as master, No. 010424, issued by the Board of Trade.
dimensions: 355 x 45.6 x 24.7 ft.
On 15 January 1909 the vessel arrived in Port Adelaide from Mauritius. At Darling’s Mill, the ship took on 39,862 bags of wheat and 28, 451 bags of flour. A large amount of coal (638 tons) was also loaded, with 170 tons on the top decks. On the 31st of that month, despite a 4° list to starboard Clan Ranald left the Semaphore Anchorage, bound for South Africa with a crew of 64 people. The ship's crew consisted of four Manilamen, sixteen Calcuttamen and 34 Lascars.The ship was commanded by Captain A.S. Gladstone.
At 2 pm the ship was south of Troubridge Island when it suddenly shifted onto its starboard side at a 45° angle. The crew rushed onto the deck whilst leaving the engine running. The starboard deck was submerged and this caused the ship's rudder to sit out of the water. At 4.30 pm a rough wind blew the ship towards Troubridge Hill. Due to rough seas, the ship's lifeboats had been smashed and the vessel was driven near the cliffs. In their desperation to escape, the crew attempted to construct wooden rafts from debris. Distress rockets were fired after seeing a nearby ship, the SS Uganda, but strangely they never sent assistance. At 10 pm the Clan Ranald capsized and sank in 20 metres of water about 700 metres from the shore, pitching the crew into the sea. Many were sucked under as the ship sank while others who swam to shore died when they reached the steep cliffs and jagged rocks that were nearly impossible to climb to safety. Others perished after being subjected to the freezing elements all night. Even though the distress rockets were overlooked by the SS Uganda, some of the Troubridge locals saw them. They rushed to the beach and gave assistance to many of the surviving crew. The locals also began searching for other survivors on the beach and were shocked by the terrible loss of life they found along the shoreline. Some bodies that were found were battered beyond recognition. Only 36 of the missing bodies were found, which were buried in Edithburgh Cemetery. The five British officers were buried in the main section and the 31 Lascarcrew were buried in a mass grave at the rear of the cemetery.
The Advertiser (Adelaide) Tuesday 9 February 1909.
MARINE BOARD ENQUIRY.
Frederick Hill Rose, chief officer, called,
said he had communicated with the
captain after leaving Port Adelaide.
The captain asked what time the
pilot had left, and the witness informed him.
The captain gave no orders as to the navigation
of the ship, and made no comment with regard
to the slight list (4 degrees) that the vessel had upon leaving.
After the steamer took the sudden roll at 2 p.m.
the third engineer made no remark as to
what had caused the accident, nor did
any of the others from the engine room. No
mention was made of the opening
of the sea-cock. All that was said by any
one was concerning the weight of the coal
on the fiddley deck (a raised, exposed deck open to the engine room and boiler space) - The chief engineer thought this coal might have had something
to do with the accident.
Survivor, Chief Officer Rose, launched a blistering attack on the competency of his master, Captain Gladstone. He plainly suggested that Captain Gladstone showed no interest in the well-being of his vessel and navigation plans. When Courts of Inquiry were convened one has the impression that it was each man for his own and no regard for the reputation of those lost. This reminds me of the claims made about Captain Ilbery on Waratah's return from her maiden voyage. Chief Officer Rose denied incompetence on his part or those of his immediate officers. He singled out coal on the fiddley deck as the only possible cause for the accident. Who was responsible for coal on this deck The captain. This feels like a portend of the things to come - spar deck coal issue which was about to dog the Waratah investigation.
had 70 tons of coal on the turret deck, 50 on the starboard side and 20 on the port side and about 50 tons on each side of the fiddley deck.
Matters did not look good for Captain Glastone and officers. 50 tons of coal on the starboard side of the turret deck as opposed to 20 tons on the port side - grossly unbalanced. The fiddley deck appears not to have entered the equation and the Clan Ranald lurched into a 45 degree list on the starboard side.
By Warden Haggart - There were 466 tons
of coal in the permanent bunkers in addition
to 170 tons of coal carried on the deck.
By Mr. Skipper - All the deck officers
were agreed that to let go the anchor at the
time it was dropped was the best thing to
be done in the circumstances. He would
not have dreamt of trying to counteract the
vessel's list by filling the ballast tanks with
water. Whilst they were filling the list
would have been accentuated, and after
they had been filled the list would have
been the same.
By the President - If the ballast tanks
had to be filled he would have preferred to
have them filled alongside the wharf. He
had known ballast tanks to be filled at sea
When the ship was loaded? - Yes.
Warden Ericker - Considering the weather
and the position of the ship, would it
have been dangerous to fill the ballast
tanks in the circumstances? - I think there
would have been no risk.
Fair weather confirmed. Filling ballast tanks at sea would initially have created a free water scenario with centre of gravity shifting even further to the starboard side. All was lost!
By Warden Berry - If the tanks had been
left partly filled it would have been dangerous.
He had never considered that the
accident to the ship was caused by an influx
of water. A tremendous amount of water
would be required to give the ship such a
list as she took at 2 p.m., and this would
have had to be run on to the Starboard
side of the vessel to cause her to roll suddenly
to that side.
Theodore Wilson, third officer, recalled,
said he was not in communication with the
captain directly or indirectly from the time
the steamer left the Port Adelaide river
till she rolled at 2 pm on the Sunday that
she foundered. No order was given to him
to fill the ballast tanks, nor did he hear
an order given to do so. He never heard
the chief officer or anyone else express an
opinion with regard to the accident. Every-
one was at a loss to account for it.
Again, the allegation is clear that Captain Gladstone did not play an active role in the management of his vessel. Clearly avoidance of the thorny issue of filling ballast tanks at sea and the ensuing consequences.
Explanation by the Uganda.
The President read the reply of Captain
J. Kilpatrick, the master of the steamer
Uganda, for a request from the board for
information as to why he had not gone to
the Clan Ranald's assistance. Captain Kilpatrick
said at about 8 p.m. on January 31, when Troubridge
Light was about six miles away, the chief
officer reported having picked up the light.
He went on the bridge to examine the light,
and found that its flashes did not conform
with the character of Troubridge Light.
Before he came to this conclusion the ship's
course had been altered, but on finding out
the mistake the course was again altered,
and at 8.15 p.m. the Troubridge Light flashes
were observed. This account is reminiscent of the confusion that surrounded Captain Bruce's claims. In this case we have light from Troubridge lighthouse instead of bush fires. Kilpatrick acknowledged his error, adjusted course but then suggested that the flashes of light must have originated from the lighthouse or a vessel signalling 'to the land'. Anything but a vessel in distress!
The weather at the time was clear, the
moon was shining brightly, and the land
was fairly visible. As he saw nothing
afloat between the Uganda and the shore,
he felt convinced that some small coasting,
vessel had been signalling to the land. He
had tried to communicate with those who
showed the light by means of a Morse
lamp, but there was no response to his
signals. He saw no distress signals, and
only observed a flashing light. He never
dreamed that anything was amiss.
Damning position to be in. The survivors from the Clan Ranald were adamant that they received no signals from the Uganda, despite clear conditions with good visibility. It seems that not all vessels on the high seas were able or willing to help other vessels in distress.
Captain Kilpatrick's report was put in as
William Shaw (carpenter),recalled, said
from the time the steamer left Port Adelaide
until the accident he had no direct
communication with the master. He took
his orders from the chief officer. He heard
no one give a due as to the cause of the
accident when they were assembled on deck
after the steamer had rolled.
There was a distinct tendency on the part of survivors to distance themselves from their late captain.
The President said he had before him
reports from Captain Weir and the diver,
which in view of several technical questions
to be asked the next - witness he would
The following extracts are a fascinating glimpse into the world of wreck investigation.
Captain Weirs Report..
Steamer Governor Musgrave, Wednesday,
February 3.- Engaged C. Olsen as diver;
got dress and gear on board, also buoy,
chain, and sinker to mark wreck of steamer
Clan Ranald, and at 10 pm. left port.
Thursday, got in supposed neighbourhood
of wreck, lowered starboard anchor and
eight fathoms of chain, and steamed dead
slow in zigzag from about eight to 14 fathoms.
Observed three boats, and quantities, of wreckage
thrown up on beach. 9.30 - Anchored close
under Troubridge Hill, abreast of the easternmost
boat, and went ashore in dinghy with line
to tow it off but found it too badly damaged
to be worth removing.
Walked to the top of Troubridge Hill
and lit a fire to attract the attention of any
settlers, then had a look at the next boat,
about half a mile distant, which was also so
badly broken up as not to be worth removing.
On returning to the boat met Mr. Diprose,
who lives in the nearest house, and
saw the smoke, and he kindly consented to
come on board and direct me to the spot
where the wreck was sunk, which he said
he knew exactly, having seen streams of oil
rising from her (streams of oil were the all-important clue to the location of a recent wreck).
On reaching this place a mounted trooper was observed on the top of a bluff abreast, and he beckoned to us
various directions in which to steam,
his position seeming to agree with
Mr. Diprose's, but up to 12.30 we had no
success. Wind strong, south-south-east,
and sea rising fast. At 2 p.m. landed Mr.
Diprose in large boat, landing being rather
difficult, and while ashore met Mr. Allen,
receiver of wrecks, from Edithburgh also
Mr. Stephens, of same place, who said he
had heard that the wreck had been seen
by a fisherman at a spot about a mile south-
east of where we had been searching, and
gave me some marks by which to locate
her. Went off, hove up, and proceeded to
spot indicated, and at 4.45 succeeded in
hooking the wreck with the anchor. Paid
out 35 fathoms of chain, and hung on to
the wreck all night. Strong south-east
winds and heavy sea, and vessel shipping
water over bows. Friday, February 5 - Wind
still strong and sea too rough to think of
sending diver down. Placed 6 ft. buoy with
staff and diamond painted green about 30
fathoms south-west of wreck, which is in 10
fathoms of water, near position indicated by
Mr. Rose. As I could do nothing further
in present state of weather, went to Edithburgh,
via Sultana Passage, and wired progress to
Marine Board. At 2 p.m. got reply, directing me
to wait on spot, and take advantage of first
opportunity to send diver down. Left Edithburgh
at once, and at 3.30 p.m. anchored close to wreck. Wind
still strong south-cast, and sea rough.
Saturday, Light south-south-
east winds and much less sea. At 6 am.
weighed anchor, and dropped it again just
ahead of wreck, so that with strong ebb
tide and light south-south-east wind, the
steamer lay fairly over the wreck. Sent
diver down at 7, and he carried on his
inspection with short breaks till noon.
Position of the Wreck.
The wreck is lying with her head about
south-south-east, in 10 fathoms, at LW.S.,
and the least water over her is 14 ft. along
the ridge of her port bilge keel. To the west-
ward, her port side deepens at an angle of
about 30 deg. from the horizontal, and to
the eastward her bottom runs down at an
angle of about 60 deg. from the horizontal.
Her aftermast has been broken off, and the
butt of the broken part floats about 2 ft.
out of water at slack water, but disappears
during the strength of flood and ebb. It
is still attached to the hull by the top-
mast rigging, and I made fast a line to it to
hold this steamer in position on the flood
tide. I left this spar floating, as it helps
to mark the position of the wreck, and
may be useful to vessels engaged in
Half a Mile From Shore.
The wreck is just inside the position
marked by Mr. Rose, and as near as
possible half a mile from the shore, but the
chart of the gulfs showing this locality is
on such small scale that it can only
be fixed to about the nearest cable.
Report of the Diver.
S.S. Governor Musgrave. Port Adelaide,
Report of C. Olsen. Diver:-This morning,
at 7 o'clock, the weather being fine and
sea fairly smooth, I went down and examined
the wreck of the steamer Clan Ranald,
sunk off Troubridge Hill. I found the vessel
to be lying on her starboard side,
and with the top of her turret deck also
resting on the bottom, that is to say, partly
bottom up, the flat of her port side being
about 30 deg. past the horizontal. The
highest part of the ship is her port bilge
keel, and the starboard bilge keel is about
9 ft. off the bottom. The starboard
top sides - and top of the turret
have sunk some distance into the sand.
I carefully inspected the starboard bilge
the whole length of the ship, but could see
no sign of any damage whatever. Examined
the rudder, and found that it is
hard aport. It was impossible to reach
the bunker manhole on the starboard side,
but I carefully examined those on the port
or upper side and found them securely
fastened down. Could not get into the
engine room, as all that part of the ship is
blocked up with bags of wheat and the
wreckage of the bridge and cabins. The
funnel is bent about 6 ft. above the
boiler casing, the upper part lying level
on the bottom. Nos. 1. 2, and 5 hatches
are off and the holds partly emptied of
wheat, but numbers 3 and 4 hatches still
have the tarpaulins securely battened down.
There is a considerable quantity of coal
scattered over the bottom immediately to
the eastward of the ship, i.e. the
side towards which her bottom is now
turned, as if she had spilled the coal some
time before she finally sank (confirming the coal on deck).
There are several long furrows in the bottom immediately
to the eastward of the ship, as if her starboard
bilge keel had bumped several times before
she finally settled down.
Abreast of the engine-room on the port
bilge are two large hoses and one smaller,
with streams of air bubbles issuing from
all three. No air or gas could be found
escaping from any other part of the ship
except these hoses. There was rather a
strong current and some considerable swell,
making it difficult to get about. Her
bronze propeller was in good order, and
had evidently touched nothing.
Goosebumps account. It is revealing that numbers 1. 2 and 5 hatches were not secured compared with hatches 3 and 4 - all of which suggests mismanagement of the steamer. Bubbles issuing from 3 of the hoses is a subject unto itself.
Thomas Fordyce, second engineer, re-
called, said from the time the vessel left
Port Adelaide to the time of the accident
he had no communication with the master.
The witness never spoke to him at 2 pm,
when the captain was placed in the boat.
The third engineer when he came up from
the engine-room made no suggestion as to
the cause of the accident, neither did the
Again, no communication with the captain. Was he drunk, ill or were the survivors attempting to survive the Inquiry as well at the expense of his reputation?
By Warden Vasey - The colored crew
were not permitted to touch the valves.
The engineers alone manipulated the valves
to fill the ballast tanks.
By Warden Berry - The various valves of
the ballast tanks were separate and distinct,
and were always treated so. There
was a double "shut-off" to each ballast
tank - a master (or boss) valve and a separate valve.
One would not be justified in
concluding that the ballast injection valve
was open because bubbles had been observed
issuing from it when the diver went down,
but that it was shut and leaking. If it had
been open the tank would have been filled
with water long since. There might have
been compressed air in the tank, which escaped
through the inlet. To do this it would have to pass
through three valves. Confusing account. The diver reported seeing bubbles issuing from hoses, not the valves. The ballast tank would not necessarily have filled - trapped air above the valve.
By Warden Neill - When the steamer
sank there was a probability of more air
being in the engine-room than in any other
part of her.
Suggesting that some form of general flooding took place, outside of the engine room. Steam escaping could have also accounted for the air.
Cargo properly Loaded.
Captain W. H. Langford, master stevedore,
said he superintended the loading of
the vessel. He repeated the details of the
work, which have already been published,
He saw the hatches secured after the loading
was finished. The cargo was safely and
efficiently stowed. The witness was informed
by the chief officer of the small fire which
had occurred on top of the coil in
one of the bunkers. He had no doubt as
to the steamer's stability. Interesting to note how casually fires were regarded. A similar situation might have preceded the Waratah's departure from Durban. The presence of fire does to some degree substantiate why the diver saw bubbles issuing from 3 hoses (in use when the steamer went down).
By Warden Vasey - Shifting boards were
not used in vessels of the Clan Ranald
Presumably because the wheat was in bags and the design of the turret deck prevented shifting. 'Like twenty-six other Clan Line steamers, she was a turret decked vessel built for the carriage of bulk cargoes. Instead of her sides being straight from the waterline to the bulwarks, they curved inwards about midway up, giving her a ledge or shoulder about three metres below the bulwarks where the breadth was about six metres less than the hull where the inward curve began on both sides. The rounded hull and large hatchways allowed the ship to be easily filled. Above the turret deck the hull structure ran fore and aft and was called the harbour deck.'
By Warden Fricker - Twenty-five tons of
cargo would probably have righted the four
degrees list to starboard.
Probably. But by all account Captain Gladstone did not play an active role in seeing to the stability of his vessel.
By Warden Haggart - He did not think
there was any possibility of the cargo
shifting in ordinary circumstances.
Reasonable assumption, again referring back to the turret deck design.
By the President - Apart from striking
the Marion Reef he had a theory that
water had got into the vessel, but how or
when he could not venture an opinion. The diver ruled out striking an object and it was a tricky business addressing the unproven issue of how so much water gained access to the starboard side causing a list of 45 degrees.