The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 27 Jan 1902

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The India's Chief Engineer Gives Evidence.

The investigation into the Marine City disaster was resumed at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The log of the India was produced by Capt. Malone, who stated that it was never intended for the official log, only for a memorandum. G.M. Macdonnell continued the cross-examination. Witness' experience on the lakes was that ten men were drowned who used a life boat to one who didn't. If they had a boat seamen would venture out in it. It was impossible for the deceased sailors to go ashore that day, owing to the rough weather. Did not call for volunteers to undertake to rescue the men. If a boat had been manned, there would have been no crew left in charge of the India. A boat was not wanted, and it was not asked for. If it had been witness would have sent it. Did not see that the Marine City was gradually sinking, and did not receive messages from the men on her. Witness told T.J. Rigney that a tow line would last two seasons or more, if taken care of. The mate had charge of the boat which took the unfortunate men to the Marine City. They attached a rope to the yawl so that the boat could be pulled back to the India. The captain swore that he owned an eighth interest in the vessel and had been sailing for forty-one years. Never had any loss of life in all that time.

Dr. Walkem reminded the court of the loss of the Bavaria. The crew abandoned her and were all lost, while the vessel reached shore. This was a case, he said, where it had been fatal to abandon the boat.

"It's better always, then, to send a ship out without a boat?" remarked G.M. Macdonnell.

"Oh, that's ridiculous," said Mr. Spain.

The Engineer Examined.

Thomas C. Smith, chief engineer of the India, was the second witness. For two seasons and four months, he told the court, he had been with the India. Was engineer during the late disaster. Witness heard no orders to pick up the Marine City. He called his second engineer back from the abandoned vessel. Captain told witness he was going to try to sheer over to the Marine City. Was satisfied that the captain had the better judgement, and had tried to effect a rescue. Would not have volunteered to go in to a yawl boat to take the men off, because the boat would probably have been swamped. When he asked the captain to bring the two men back it was not because he was afraid they would be lost, but because he wanted the men to relieve him at the engines. Didn't think this loss of life could have been avoided under the circumstances.

Cross-examined by Mr. Macdonnell, witness stated that he had not advised the captain to move the Marine City close up to the India. Drifted as close to her as possible, but not near enough to cast a line. He had been on watch at the time the Marine City went down.

To J.L. Whiting witness said the mate had told him he wanted to go to the Marine City, as there was money in the job.

Monday's Proceedings.

The investigation into the Marine City disaster was resumed at the city hall this morning, in an atmosphere that would put that of a barn to shame. The old, antiquated box stoves were loath to perform their functions, and so the commissioners and counsel were obliged to rub their hands and exlaim "How cold it is."

John Lawrence, sailor, who holds a certificate as a first mate, and a son of the Lawrence who was drowned, was the first witness called. When sworn, witness said he was second mate on the steamer India, having shipped in the spring of 1900. Remembered seeing the derelict (Marine City) on the morning of January (sic) 15th. Reported to the captain, who said he saw her "a long time ago." Went alongside of the derelict, about 100 feet away. Captain gave witness orders to get the small boat ready. Told me to get a small line ready to bend on the boat. Captain said to call the watch, which I did. As watch did not at once turn out captain told mate to go up and lower the boat. The mate did so. La Rush (the mate) and Messrs. Connelly, Halpin and Lawrence got into the boat. They were not told to get into the boat, but went of their own account. These men were not on duty at the time. The second engineer went to the captain and asked him: "Is there anything in it?" "Sure," replied the captain, whereupon the engineer got in. Witness wanted to go, but the mate said he'd go because witness had a sore finger. Didn't want to get into the boat because he thought there was something in it, but because he considered it his duty. When the boat was lowered the captain told them to go directly to the Marine City, and not to Sand Beach. The men got the boat alongside. One of the men was going to take the painter up with him when the captain stated: "Never mind the painter, let the boat come back." Witness pulled boat back at the request of the captain. The tow line looked as if it had been broken. It was fixed to the India's post. The Marine City was about 100 feet astern. The captain thought the tow line was too short. A scrub line was attached. This was in very poor condition. The captain wouldn't trust to it in the canal, as he would often shout not to break the snub. The Marine City's line was then bent onto the India's which then started to tow her.

Witness testified that he could see the four men on board part of the time. To commissioner Adams he stated that he had reported to the captain that the snub line was not in good condition. Didn't think the tow line was good enough to tow the vessel. In his opinion there was no reason why the India should not have entered the harbor. About four miles off Goderich, the India threw her anchor. There was no sea at that time, but the wind was beginning to blow. At this time witness heard the chief engineer ask the captain if he would take the second engineer and firemen off the Marine City; if he could send a boat for the purpose. The captain answered that it would be impossible, as the boat would be smashed. Smith then said to draw up the derelict and let the men jump off. The captain replied that the men would be all right till morning, so they were left there. The barge broke away between 8 and 9 p.m. It was only ordinary weather then. The barge drifted about a quarter of a mile astern, and let go her anchor.

Witness got signals from the mate on the Marine City that there was six or eight feet of water in its hold. Reported this to the captain, who said: "I know it, I know it. I can see her going down." Said also, "They're all right. She can't sink farther than deck two. If she sinks, the men can take to the rigging." Witness replied that men could not live very well in rigging on such a day, and asked him to drop directly ahead so as to throw a line to the Marine City. Captain walked away without replying. This was about 10 a.m. on the 14th. An effort was made in the afternoon to reach the Marine City. Witness proposed to sheer along side the vessel, and so took the wheel. Heard Captain give engineer a whistle to go ahead, but didn't give witness a whistle for port, aft, or anything else. Believed that if the engines had been worked longer, the India would have reached the Marine City. Didn't know why the captain stopped the engines. The derelict was in sight when the captain and witness went down in the hold to stop a leak; when they came up she was gone.

Witness said he would have taken chances and hoved alongside the Marine City to get the men off. When they reached Goderich next morning the life-saving crew told witness that if the captain had blown a whistle he would have sent a tug to bring in the barge.

Chairman Spain - "Could you see the range lights?"

Witness - "Yes, sir, I pointed them out to the captain. He said he could see them, but wouldn't trust himself to go in. In my opinion there was nothing to stop us going into the harbor."

Witness Cross-Examined.

Mr. Lawrence was cross-examined by G.M. Macdonnell, and went over practically the same story.

"Had you a watchman on that trip at all?" asked the counsel.

"None at all," witness replied.

"Why not?"

"To save expenses I suppose."

Witness swore that captain had said on the afternoon of the 13th, that the glass was going down and that there would be some dirty weather. Captain said to witness: "Wouldn't like to see anything happen to those fellows, but would like to see them get a scorching."

"Was there any trouble between captain and mate?" asked Mr. Adams.

"Not that I know of," was the reply. "I think the captain meant the remark more for the fireman and engineer. I don't think the captain meant that he would like to see the men lose their lives. I was always on good terms with the captain; he always used me right."

Dr. Walkem then conducted a brief examination of the witness, which revealed little that was not elicited before. The witness knew his business well, and at times parried cleverly with the legal examiner.

"When I was in the pilot house," said Mr. Lawrence, "I did not shift the wheel, because I did not get any directions. I never asked the captain why he did not give me the signals."

"After arranging matters with the captain, you went up to the wheel house, the engines were started and you did nothing?" enquired Dr. Walkem.

"I did nothing," was the reply, "except wait for orders. It is a wheelman's duty to await orders from the captain."

To G.M. Macdonnell, witness said he reported to the captain that the tow line was snapping. The tow line could have been lengthened to relieve the strain. There were no signal halyards on the Marine City, whereas there were on the India. Therefore a distress flag on the India could have been better seen. Positive a whistle could have been heard in Goderich.

To J.L. Whiting, K.C., witness repeated his story.

To T.J. Rigney, Mr. Lawrence said both davits were in position on the Marine City.

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27 Jan 1902
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 27 Jan 1902