Tuesday, 27 June 2017

CASE OF THE IONIC.

Unique ID:19562
Description:BOT Wreck Report for 'Ionic', 1909
Creator:Board of Trade
Date:1908
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown
Transcription
(No. 7273.)

"IONIC."

The Merchant Shipping Act, 1894.

IN the matter of a Formal Investigation held at the Caxton Hall, Westminster, on the 1st and 8th days of June, 1909, before ARTHUR HILL HUTTON, Esquire, assisted by Commander WARREN F. CABORNE, C.B., R.N.R., and Captain J. H. WALKER, into the circumstances attending the loss of the British sailing ship "IONIC," of London, which left London on the 29th December, 1908, for East Cowes, was in company with the barge "GLENDEVON," off Beachy Head, on the 10th January last, and since that time has not been heard of.

Report of Court.

The Court having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds for the reason stated in the Annex hereto, that the British sailing ship "Ionic" was probably run down and sunk by another vessel, presumably by the German Hamburg-America Line steamship "Bethania," off or in the neighbourhood of Beachy Head, about 9.40 p.m. on the 10th day of January, 1909, her master and crew being drowned.

Dated this 8th day of June, 1909.

ARTHUR HUTTON,

Judge.

We concur in the above Report.

 
W. F. CABORNE,

J. H. WALKER, 


Assessors. 

 

Annex to the Report.

This Inquiry was held at the Caxton Hall, Caxton Street, Westminster, on the 1st and 8th days of June, 1909.

Mr. Archibald Read, barrister-at-law, conducted the proceedings on behalf of the Solicitor to the Board of Trade (Mr. R. Ellis Cunliffe). Mr. C. Walton, barrister-at-law, appeared for the underwriters, and Mr. Alfred T. Bucknill, barrister-at-law, for the owners of the cargo. Mr. Richard Cox, the owner of the vessel, appeared in person, and was not professionally represented.

The "Ionic," Official Number 98961, was a British sailing vessel, built of wood, at Limehouse, in 1891, by Mr. Horace Shrubsall, and was registered at the Port of London. She had two masts, was spritsail rigged, and was of the following dimensions: Length 82 feet, main breadth to outside of plank 20 feet, and depth in hold from tonnage deck to ceiling at midships 7 feet. Her gross tonnage was 85.53 tons, and her registered tonnage 66.37 tons. 




She carried one boat of the description usual in this class of vessel (a seagoing sailing barge) and provided with the necessary equipment: three life buoys and three life belts; and was owned by Mr. Richard Cox, of Castle-town, Portland, in the County of Dorset, ship broker, who also acted as her manager, under advice received on the 7th of May, 1894. It should be mentioned that the vessel was acquired by Mr. Cox from Mr. Shrubsall, her builder, in 1894; the latter having himself employed her from the time she was built.

The "Ionic" loaded, in London, a cargo, consisting of 85 tons of pig lead and 44 tons weight of teak timber, making a total of 129 tons; her dead weight capacity being about 160 tons. There is no evidence as to her draught on this occasion. Fully laden, she would draw about 6 feet 6 inches, or 6 feet 7 inches, and her freeboard would be about 14 inches.

At 6.45 a.m. of the 29th December, 1908, she left the South West India Dock, bound for Cowes and Exeter, apparently in a seaworthy condition, under the command of Mr. Henry F. Phillips, who held no certificate of competency, manned by a crew of three hands, all told. Thence she proceeded to Gravesend, which she left on the 2nd of January, 1909, in company with the sailing barge "Glendevon," putting into Margate on the 5th of January, and into Dover on the 8th January.

The "Ionic" and the "Glendevon" appear to have kept together after their departure from Gravesend, and both vessels left Dover on the 9th of January, the "Ionic" preceding the "Glendevon" by about an hour.

At 5.45 p.m. of the 10th of January the "Ionic" and the "Glendevon" were off Eastbourne, the latter being abreast of, and about two miles distant from, the pier, with the former a mile astern of her. There was then a moderate breeze from the west, the weather was clear, the sea was smooth, and both vessels were on the starboard tack, carrying all sails; jib, foresail, mainsail, and mizen and were making from four to five knots through the water. Under these circumstances, and about this time, the master of the "Glendevon" (Mr. Charles Moore) lost sight of the lights of the "Ionic," which were then burning brightly; and of the subsequent movements of the latter vessel there is no direct evidence. 

Between 10 and 11 o'clock of the same evening, the "Glendevon" found it necessary to shorten sail on account of an increase in the wind; but there was nothing in the character of the weather calculated to cause disaster to the "Ionic," which was in good trim.

On the 18th of February, 1909, Monsieur Jules Popelier, master of the Belgian fishing smack B 46, "Marie Antoinette," of Blankenberghe, when a short distance to the south-eastward of the "North Hinder" light vessel, picked up a boat, many planks of which were broken about the centre and after end, with the name "Ionic, London," painted on its stern.

There, under ordinary circumstances, all knowledge as to the fate of the vessel might have terminated. But on the 9th of March, 1909, the Marine Court at Hamburg sat to investigate a casualty which had occurred to the German Hamburg-America Line steamship "Bethania," 4,848 tons register, commanded by Captain Meyerdierck. From a translation of the proceedings of that Court, put in by consent of the respective parties, it appears that about 9.40 p.m. of the 10th of January, 1909, the "Bethania," which was on a voyage from Hamburg to New York, and was then in the neighbourhood of Beachy Head, came into collision with an unknown vessel, apparently rigged like a fishing boat, and standing towards the English coast, which vessel was supposed to have sunk with her crew, though every effort was made by the German steamer to find her, with a view to saving life. In that report the weather at the time of the collision is variously described. In one place it is said that it was foggy; the chief officer, who was in charge of the deck of the "Bethania," stated that it was very dark and rainy, but that lights were visible; while Captain Meyerdierck described the night as very dark, and the wind W.S.W. Only one witness, the third officer, appeared to have seen anyone on the deck of the unknown vessel, and he thought that he saw a man fall overboard at the time of the collision. The catastrophe was, by the witnesses before the Hamburg Court, ascribed to the fact that the "feeble" green light of the unknown craft was not seen until too late to avoid collision, and that no stern light was visible to those on board the "Bethania"; but these are matters upon which this Court can express no opinion, there being no evidence before it bearing upon them.

The Marine Court of Hamburg, having considered the disappearance of the "Ionic," which had been officially posted at Lloyds' as a total loss, the finding of her boat and other wreckage, the position in which the collision occurred, and that in which the "Ionic" might have been at the time, arrived at the following decision:

"On the evening of 10th January, 1909, off Beachy Head, a collision took place between the steamship 'Bethania' and an unknown sailing vessel, presumably the spritsail barque" (? barge) "'Ionic,' of London, whereby the latter vessel was sunk and her crew drowned. The casualty is due to the green light of the sailing vessel only having been sighted on board the 'Bethania,' in spite of due precaution, immediately before the collision. Whether this green light was burning badly, or was obscured, could not be ascertained with certainty. No fault is to be found with the navigation of the 'Bethania,' nor with the attempts at rescue, made after the occurrence."

This Court, in view of the evidence before it, is of the same opinion as the Marine Court of Hamburg as to the probability of the vessel with which the "Bethania" collided having been the "Ionic"; but in the absence of evidence has no cognizance of the other matters dealt with in the judgment of that tribunal.

At the conclusion of the evidence, Mr. Read, on behalf of the Board of Trade, submitted the following questions for the opinion of the Court:

(1) What was the cost of the vessel to her owner? What insurances were effected upon and in connection with her?

(2) When the vessel left London on or about the 29th of December last.

(a) Was she in good and seaworthy condition as regards hull and equipments?

(b) Was her cargo properly stowed and secured from shifting?

(c) Had she the required freeboard, and was she in good trim for a voyage to Cowes and Exeter?

(3) What is the cause of the vessel not having been heard of since she was lost sight of by the master of the barge "Glendevon," at or about 5.45 p.m. on the 10th of January last?

Mr. Bucknill and Mr. Read then addressed the Court, and the Court gave judgment as above, and returned the following answers to the questions of the Board of Trade:

(1) The cost of the vessel to her owner, in 1894, was £941 17s. 4d., and she was completely overhauled, in 1908, at a charge of £247 15s. 2d. Only one insurance, amounting to £500, was effected upon and in connection with her.

(2) When the vessel left London on or about the 29th of December last.

(a) She was in good and seaworthy condition as regards hull and equipments;

(b) Her cargo was properly stowed and secured from shifting;

(c) She had the required freeboard, and was in good trim for a voyage to Cowes and Exeter.

(3) There is no direct evidence as to the actual cause of the vessel not having been heard of since she was lost sight of by the master of the barge "Glendevon," at or about 5.45 p.m. of the 10th of January last. But, according to the decision of the Marine Court of Hamburg, under date of the 9th of March, 1909, a collision took place about 9.40 p.m. of the 10th of January last, off Beachy Head, between the German Hamburg-America Line steamship "Bethania" and an unkown sailing vessel, presumed by that Court to be the spritsail barge "Ionic," of London, whereby the latter vessel was sunk, and her crew drowned; and that decision being consistent with the facts now proved, this Court is of opinion that the "Ionic" was run down and sunk by another vessel, presumably the "Bethania," somewhere off Beachy Head, about the time above mentioned, her master and crew being drowned.

ARTHUR HUTTON,

Judge.

We concur.

W. F. CABORNE

Assessors.

J. H. WALKER  

LIST OF THOSE LOST IN THE "IONIC."

Name.

Rating.

Nationality.

Henry F. Phillips

Master

British.

William Alexander

Mate

British.

William Ernest Usher

Boy

British.

(Issued in London by the Board of Trade on the 29th day of June, 1909.) 


This is a fascinating case study. One could easily come to the conclusion that the Inquiry was a whitewash, resembling the white cliffs of Dover, Beachy Head. Bizarre that the crew of the Bethania claimed that the weather was not clear (foggy; rainy; dark), sharply contrasting with the crew of the Glendevon stating that weather was fine. Furthermore, the crew of the latter stated that the lights of the Ionic were burning brightly - subsequently disappearing, roughly one mile astern shortly before 6 pm. The crew of the Bethania, on the other hand, claimed that the green light of the 'Ionic' was faint, a 'substantial' reason for running into and destroying the vessel at about 9.40 pm that night.

As if to make matters worse, neither the crew of the Bethania (despite claims to the contrary) nor the crew of the Glendevon did very much to investigate or attempt rescue of life. It certainly does not say much for the inquiring mind of the Board of Trade Inquiry. Now if there had been 1500 lost, as in the case of the high profile Titanic, would this have been allowed / tolerated? The Ionic was reported to be perfectly seaworthy and yet the Inquiry did not have the draught measurements before her final departure from port, assuming that almost fully loaded, she was within maximum draught limitations. 

Ridiculous!!

Once the bright lights of both Ionic and Waratah had disappeared, these observable facts coincided with both vessels vanishing without a trace.

There is a gap in time frame between 5.45 pm and 9.40 pm which did not seem to bother the Court much as did the loss of life. 

This case does not say much for the credibility of the Board of Trade, circa 1909!!



Beachy Head

1 comment:

Mole said...

Divine pic of Beachy Head! ty