Thursday, 16 June 2016


The Age

January 4, 1907.

In March 1902 the Allan liner Huronian, 6550 tons, bound to St John, New Brunswick, from England, was posted as missing at Lloyd's, being then a month overdue.

Yesterday the first and only news of the Huronian since her disappearance was received through the medium of a bottle, which had been washed up the beach at Castle Rock, Londonderry, on the coast of Ulster. The bottle contained a document, fully authenticated, which disclosed the probably fate of the vessel. At the time the message was thrown into the sea, the writer stated, a terrible gale was raging, and the steamer, which was top heavy, was rapidly sinking.

The Huronian left the Clyde with a crew of 80 on 11 February 1902. The great gale raged in the Channel on 12 and 13 February, and it has always been held that the Huronian went down during its continuance somewhere off the Irish coast. The Allan liners call into Lough Foyle (at Moville or Greencastle) after a run of about 170 miles from Glasgow. Castlerock is near the entrance to Lough Foyle and about 8 miles from Greencastle.

(No. 6423.) 


The Merchant Shipping Act, 1894. 

Report of Court. 

The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons stated in the annex hereto, that the evidence before the Court does not enable it to arrive at any conclusion as to the cause of the vessel not having been heard of since the pilot left her at the Tail of the Bank, off Greenock, on the 11th February last. 

Dated this 25th day of September, 1902. 


Annex to the Report. 

The "Huronian" official number 113,960 was a British steamship, built of steel at Jarrow-on-Tyne, in 1901, by the Palmer's Shipbuilding and Iron Company, Limited. She was classed 100 A1 Lloyd's three deck rule and was of the following dimensions: Length 449.9 ft., breadth 53.8 ft., and depth of hold to tonnage deck at midships 31.8 ft. She was schooner rigged and propelled by one triple expansion direct-acting inverted engine of 750 n.h.p. Her nett registered tonnage, after deducting 2428.6 tons for propelling power and crew space, was 4430.71 tons. She was registered at the port of Glasgow, and was owned by the Allan Line Steamship Company, Limited, of 25, Bothwell Street, Glasgow, of whom Mr. James Alexander Allan, of 25, Bothwell Street, Glasgow, is designated in the transcript of register as the person to whom the management of the vessel was entrusted. 

The vessel had a shelter deck 7 ft. 9 in. above the upper deck, extending all fore and aft; there were three complete steel decks, including the shelter deck, the main deck being 9 ft. below the upper deck. The main frames were carried up to the top of the shelter deck and the heavy scantling required by Lloyd's at the upper deck was distributed over the shelter deck side plating and stringer plate. The sides of the shelter deck were well stiffened by partial bulkheads and a doubling plate 3 ft. wide was fitted alongside the engine and boiler casing, extending 8 ft. beyond at each end, and in addition two strakes of the deck plating and the stringer plate had their butts treble riveted for half length amidships. The vessel was built on the girder frame principle and had a double bottom extending from the collision bulkhead to the eighth frame forward of the after peak bulkhead. 

I do wonder why this important description of scantlings was not included in the Waratah report?? Perhaps it had something to do with Waratah not fulfilling her classification mandate, somewhat larger than contemplated by the rules......

This double bottom was divided into six transverse divisions and in the engine and boiler space it was further sub-divided longitudinally by the centre keelson being made watertight, making in all eight separate tanks. in addition to the double bottom and after peak there were also two deep tanks. The deep tanks were placed immediately forward and abaft of the machinery space and extended to the main deck; the fore and aft and transverse bulkheads were well stiffened to Lloyd's requirements and each had a watertight hatch the cover for which was secured by tumbler bolts and nuts. There were eight watertight bulkheads, six of which extended to the upper deck, while the other two which formed the ends of the deep ballast tanks extended to the main deck. There were seven cargo hatches on the shelter deck, the coamings of which were 22 inches high at the sides and 28 inches high at the centre line; these were 9/20 of an inch thick and extended to the bottom of the half beam and were flanged on the lower edge. There were three fore and aft beams in each of the cargo hatches, the centre one being a bulb plate 12 inches deep, with double angle bars on its upper edge and the side ones were of angle bars 6 inches by 3 inches by 9/20 of an inch. There were also web plates 24 inches deep across each of the large hatches; they were 8/20 of an inch thick and had double angle bars 3 inch by 3 inch by 6/20 inch on the top and bottom edges. Each of the cargo hatches had whitewood covers 3 inches thick and were all fitted with the usual cleats, battens, and tarpaulins.

Comprehensive description - again not matched to this degree of detail in the Waratah report.... 

There was ample ventilation into all the hold compartments. The ventilators were placed upon the shelter deck and were 24 inches and 18 inches in diameter. with steel coamings 30 inches high securely riveted to the deck ; there were plugs and canvas covers for each when the cowls were unshipped. 

The vessel had two masts with fore and aft sails and carried two 28 ft. lifeboats, two 26 ft. cutters, and two 20 ft. gigs, under davits on skids, 7 ft. 6 inches above the shelter deck, and was supplied with all other life saving appliances required by the statute. 

The bilges were pumped out by the two engine bilge pumps, each with 4 inch suction, by the centrifugal circulating pump with 9 inch suction, by the ballast pump direct with 7 inch suction, also by the ballast pump through the bilge system with 3 1/2 inch suction, and also by the general pump through the bilge system with 3 inch suction. There was also a 6 inch Dowton hand pump connected with the system, placed amidships upon the shelter deck, in a convenient position for being driven by the adjacent steam winch.

Nothing was mentioned of Waratah's pump systems in the report..... 

A diagram was produced by Mr. James Sanderson, chief draughtsman to Messrs. Palmer's Shipbuilding Company, who built the "Huronian," showing her curve of stability as loaded on the voyage in question, by which it appears that the metacentric height was 2.21 ft., and the vessel did not attain her maximum stability till she reached an angle of inclination of 60°, at which point the righting moment was 50,913 foot tons. The righting moment did not disappear until the vessel was inclined to an angle of over 120°.

A metacentric height (GM) of 2.21 ft. was more than adequate for a vessel 450 ft. in length (Waratah: 465 ft.). Note beam, 53.8 ft. enhanced GM (Waratah: 59.45 ft.). Depth from hold to tonnage deck of 31.8 ft. (Waratah: 35 ft.) 

As the rudder stock had got twisted on the previous voyage, the vessel was placed in dry dock in Glasgow, where a new rudder stock was fitted, at a cost of £200, the new stock being 1 1/2 inches larger in diameter than the one it replaced. The vessel was fitted with steam steering gear, and the rudder was well tested and found to work satisfactorily. 

On 4th December, 1901, the "Huronian" had been chartered by Mr. James W. Robertson, Commissioner of Agriculture, acting for and on behalf of the Department of Agriculture of Canada, to load a full and complete cargo of hay at St. John, New Brunswick, for Capetown, Cape Colony, for the sum of about £10,000 freight. In the event of the steamer not having arrived at her loading port by the 1st March, the charterers had the option of cancelling the charter party. 

In order to proceed to St. John the "Huronian" commenced loading a part coal cargo at 10 p.m. on the 6th February. The loading was completed on the evening of the 10th. The total coal on board, including 180 tons that remained on board from previous voyage, was 4160 tons. She had also loaded 198 tons of steel plates and angle irons, and some 80 tons of general cargo. She had also 1298 tons of water ballast in the tanks, the total weight on board being thus about 5733 tons. When the loading was completed her draught of water was 19 ft. 8 inches forward and 20 ft. 10 inches aft, which allowed her a freeboard of 14 ft. 8 1/4 inches, and the vessel would rise about 6 inches in sea water. 

Note sensible draught of 19 ft. 8 in. forward and 20 ft. 10 in. aft with a significant freeboard of 14 ft. 8.25 in. compared to Waratah's limited 8 ft. !

The coal was stowed in the bunkers, under the shelter deck, and in Nos. 2 and 3 holds, while the remaining cargo was stowed in Nos. 1 and 6 holds. Where necessary the coal was secured from shifting by means of shifting boards. 

No mention was made of shifting boards to secure coal on Waratah...

Reports were produced by Mr. Robert McLaren, H.M. Assistant Inspector of Mines, Eastern District of Scotland, and Mr. Andrew Pearson, H.M. Assistant Inspector of Mines, Western District of Scotland, which showed that the cool supplied to the "Huronian" was not liable to spontaneous combustion, and that it did not give off an unusual quantity of gas, but was a safe coal to carry on shipboard. 

Adequately ventilated.

The "Huronian" left Glasgow at noon on the 11th of February, 1902, and was taken down the river in charge of Mr. Edward Inch Gemmell, who stated that before he left the ship at the Tail of the Bank at Greenock, the hatches were battened down, and the vessel appeared to be in a good and seaworthy condition in every respect.

No mention was made of Waratah's hatches being battened down when she departed Durban. 

At 4 p.m. on the 11th of February, the "Huronian," under the command of Mr. John Brodie, who held a certificate of competency, No. 99517, with a crew of 56 hands, all told, and one passenger, a horse shipper, left the Tail of the Bank and proceeded to sea, bound to St. John, New Brunswick, and has not since been heard of. 

A track chart and abstract log of the s.s. "Kastalia," of Glasgow, was produced. This vessel left Glasgow on 16th February, 1902, and arrived at St. John on 1st March, having experienced moderate weather during the passage. 

Some time after the "Huronian" was overdue, two naval vessels, H.M.S. "Thames" and H.M.S. "Bellona," were dispatched in search of her. These vessels searched exhaustively the region, between latitude 55° N. and 64° N. and between longitude 10° W. and 25° W.; lying between the British Isles and Iceland. They sighted and communicated with many vessels, but no trace was found of the "Huronian." The following reports by the captains of these vessels were produced:

"H.M.S. 'Thames,' at Greenock, 27th April, 1902. 


I beg to report, for the information of their Lordships, that I arrived here this morning at 6 a.m., after an absence of 14 days. 

2. In obedience to orders contained in A. L. M. 4960 of 9th inst., I left Greenock at 6 a.m. on the 13th idem., and followed the route prescribed. 

4. During the cruise a most careful search was maintained. Look-outs were posted in properly-constructed crow's nests, and extra hands were stationed on deck. At night time the search lights were used continuously and rockets were fired every half hour. The dynamo broke down on the 22nd, and from that time the rockets were fired every quarter of an hour. The look-outs had orders to report all floating objects, such as wreckage, buoys, casks, and bottles. On the 21st a barrel was picked up and on the 22nd a spar buoy. The barrel was marked 'Scott—Hull,' and had contained salt meat. It was quite fresh, and had probably just been thrown over by a barque which was observed soon after running before the wind. The head of the barrel has been preserved. The buoy is tapered at both ends with a 23 ft. staff and chain slings at lower end. It is marked 'Wood's patent, H. 490.' Several sails were sighted, and on the 16th I communicated with the s.s. 'Hughenden,' outward from the Tyne. She had no information to give us. I have caused the position of ships met in the search area to be indicated on the track chart which accompanies my letter. It will be seen that the northern and southern parts of the area are considerably traversed. Craft from the west of Scotland, France, and Norway cross the more central portion. It is inconceivable that the 'Huronian' could have drifted into these parts without notice, or remained there all this time without being reported. 

5. The weather was boisterous during the greater part of the cruise, with easterly winds and a constant swell. 

I have, &c., 


HENRY L. FLEET, Captain. 

The Secretary, Admiralty."

"H.M.S. 'Bellona,' at Trangisvaag, 5th May, 1902. 


I have the honour to report that, in accordance with my sailing orders, M. 5306, of 17th April, 1902, I sailed from Portsmouth at 3.30 p.m., on Monday, 21st ult., arriving at Greenock on the evening of 23rd ultimo. Greenock was left at 4.40 a.m. on the 25th, and, following the track laid down on the chart accompanying the letter referred to above, I arrived at this port at 6.20 a.m. on the 2nd instant. 

2. Uniformly fine clear weather was experienced during the search, and I feel confident that, had the missing steamer been within the limit laid down, we should have seen her. 

3. During the short dark hours signals, with either rockets or Very's lights, were used every 15 minutes, and the search light played at a high angle every two hours. 

4. A good many vessels, trawlers and whalers, were crossing the northern part of our track, going to and from Iceland. 

5. The collier 'Hazlemere' was not in when we arrived, but reached here on the 2nd May at 11 p.m., and is now being discharged. As soon as I am complete I shall send her off to Reykjavik to empty there. 

I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient servant, 


H. GRANT DALTON, Commander. 

The Admiral Superintendent of Naval Reserves, Admiralty, S.W."

Extensive searches were not exclusive to the missing Waratah. 

At the conclusion of the evidence, Mr. McGrigor, on behalf of the Board of Trade, submitted the following questions, to which the Court gave the answers appended: 

(1) What repairs were effected to the "Huronian" at Glasgow, between the 4th and 10th February last? Was sufficient time given for executing such repairs properly, and were they properly effected? As the rudder stock had got twisted on the previous voyage a new stock was fitted to the rudder 12 inches in diameter, the original rudder stock having been 10 1/2 inches in diameter, which was equal to Lloyd's requirements. Sufficient time was given for executing such repairs properly, and they were properly effected. 

(2) Was the "Huronian" in good and seaworthy condition as regards hull and equipments when she left Glasgow on the 11th February last? ”The "Huronian" was in good and seaworthy condition as regards hull and equipments when she left Glasgow on the 11th February last. 

(3) Were the pumps sufficient and in good order? ”The pumps were sufficient and in good order." 

(4) Was the coal shipped liable to generate gas to any unusual extent after shipment? Were the holds properly and sufficiently ventilated? ”The coal shipped was not liable to generate gas to any unusual extent after shipment. The holds were properly and sufficiently ventilated."

No mention was made of ventilation on Waratah.... 

(5) Was the cargo and bunker coal properly stowed, trimmed, and secured from shifting? ”The cargo and bunker coal was properly stowed, trimmed, and secured from shifting." 

(6) As laden, had the vessel sufficient stability? ”As laden, the vessel had sufficient stability." 

(7) Was the vessel properly and sufficiently manned? ”The vessel was properly and sufficiently manned." 

(8) On leaving Glasgow were the hatchways and all other deck openings properly covered and secured? ”On leaving Glasgow the hatchways and other deck openings were properly covered and secured."

No mention made of this when Waratah departed Durban... 

(9) What is the cause of the vessel not having been heard of since the pilot left her at the Tail of the Bank off Greenock on the 11th February last? ”The evidence before the Court does not enable it to find a cause, or even to suggest a probable cause, for the vessel not having been heard of since the pilot left her at the Tail of the Bank off Greenock upon 11th February last. It would be difficult to conceive of a vessel sailing in a more seaworthy condition. She was practically new, and had just been surveyed in dock before leaving (so similar). The cargo was well placed and secured from shifting, and there was expert evidence, with which the Court agrees, to the effect that with the cargo so placed it would be impossible for the vessel to turn over. As the vessel was not much more than half laden, and had ample freeboard, and was constructed with eight watertight bulkheads, even if one of the compartments had been pierced, she would still have had a large reserve of buoyancy. Had the vessel taken fire, there is almost a certainty of her having been seen in this condition, considering the voyage she was on. Even had her machinery broken down, allowing her to be drifted with wind and current to the north-east, the probabilities are great that she would have been sighted. Captain H. L. Fleet, of H.M.S. "Thames," one of the two naval vessels sent in search, after looking out for her, upon the above supposition, says in his report: "It is inconceivable that the 'Huronian' could have drifted into these parts without notice, or remained there all this time without having been reported." The track of the s.s. "Kastalia" making practically the same passage and at the same time as the "Huronian" indicates, from the distance covered daily, that no unusual stormy weather was then prevailing in the Atlantic.

De javu... 

(10) What was the cost of the vessel to her owners? What was her value when she last left Glasgow? What insurances were effected upon the vessel and freight? ”The cost of the "Huronian" was £110,000, and the owners valued her at that sum when she last left Glasgow. An insurance of £90,000 had been effected upon the vessel, but there was no insurance upon the freight. 


We concur. 



A. WOOD,   

(Issued in London by the Board of Trade on the 24th day of October, 1902.) 

12739 ”180” 10/1902 Wt 67 D & S1

This is an interesting case study of a ship which disappeared without a trace 7 years prior to the Waratah disaster. 80 perished, which is a significant number. Newspaper reports referred to the Huronian as top heavy, which was not the case - similar alarmist reaction to the loss of the Waratah. I have scoured the internet for more information on the Huronian (not even sure if the image quoted as the Huronian, below, is the ship in question). 

It just goes to show that unless there were 'important' passengers on board, a mystery such as this was of no interest - whatsoever - and vanished like the ship itself into obscurity.

Huronian ?  Not even this can be confirmed.....

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