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Tho fine British barque Itata met with swift and torriblo destruction this morning. Day- light disclosed tho vessel snugly moored alongside a coaling wharf, all aboard bolng asloop, and an hour afterwards the ship had boon consumod by fire, and was i>«-»-*-od a moro charred derolict on a sandy Island In tho tipper part of tho harbour.

Tho disaster happened with surprising sud donness. About 4.45 a.m. a watchman notlcod a thin cloud ot Bmoko Issuing from tho main hatchway, which was open. Ho immediately rang tho ship's boll vigorously. Captain Balfour, who has command, and tho crew tnmbled out of their bunks, and on reaching the open deck saw at onco that tho vessel was on flro. A jot of llamo shot up from tho hold below, and thou disappeared for a few seconds; then the jet became a torch, and tho big hold began to burn with increasing fierceness. There was plenty of fuel aboard for tho fire. Tho vessel had just received 300 tons of coal for stiffening purposes bofore discharging tho balance of her inward cargo, Borao 300 tons of saltpetre. Tho salt- petre was storod In the main hatch. Once alight It burns with groat rapidity. Knowing tho nature of tho cargo, Captain Balfour was unablo to diroct water on to tho outbreak, as thlB would only havo added greater fury to the burning mass and oausod an explosion. In tcn.miauloB waves of flro and Bmoko were roll- ing out of tho VCBSOI with Buch fury that

nothing could save bor.

Tho crow had beon making strenuous efforts to smother tho flro, but as this waB found im- possible they directed their attention to cast- ing off tho barquo from tfio wharf In order to provont the ships alongside from catching alight or tho wharf being destroyed. Captain McCorquodalo, a member of the> pilot staff, who had to movo the Itata beforo 5 o'clock to another borth, reached tho VOBSOI in a launch just aa those casting off operations were in progroBB. Tho crow had become excited and woro rushing frantically about tho deck, seem- ingly endeavouring to obey a dozen orders at onco. Tho pilot's launch was immediately utilised in getting tho barquo clear ot tho wharf, and Captain Balfour then wlshod to drop tho anchor. Captain McCorquodalo, knowing that if tho vessel sank tho fairway would bo blocked and shipping seriously in- convenienced, took charge at the captain's re- quest in order to beach the vessel out of the track of shipping. Ho himself went to tho whcol, and with tho assistance of tugs ho managed with difficulty to got tho vessel clear of tho other ships lying at tho anrnorago in tho fairway, and then headed for a sandy patch called Walsh Island.


All this time there were exciting scenes on board. Tho crow wero gathered on tho poop, as amidships tho vessel was now a roaring furnace, and clouds of heavy groy smoko from tho molten saltpetre shot up to a great hoight. As tho vessel slowly drifted with tho tide and wind up tho harbour she presented a magnificent spectacle. The flamoB reaching the coal in tho toro hatch became redoublod In fury, and the heat was now in- tense. So tho crow hurrjedly dropped over tho stern Into tugs or Into the water, where they wero quickly picked up. Captain McCor- quodalo. however, stayed on at tho wheel, de- spite shouts to "como on"," until lila face began to scorch. Then, aftor finally steering th-î vessel straight for the sand, ho and Cap- tain Balfour beat a hasty retreat into the tug Victoria. Tho men had left the vessel

nono too quickly.

Ne sooner was the ship deserted than there was an outburst from tho after hold, accom- panied by a tremendous crackling and hissing of flames, which roso at times to over 50ft. As the vessel neared tho shallow water tho tugs Bungaree and Victoria, which had boon pus-hlng tho burning vessel at tho stern, got away from tho flory furnace with as little delay as possible. Other craft in the vicinity, which had beon ondeavouring to render assist- ance, quickly followed their example

A uniquo spectacle was. witnessed as tho doomed vessel grounded. Several small ox plosions made a big outburst of flro and smoke, but suddenly a tórrido explosion was heard, the report reverberating throughout the wholo district, and Immense flames shot up to tho mastheads with great clouds of pun- gent smoke. The sides of the vessel woro rent, and iron and woodwork woro hurled hundrods~bf feet into the air. The foremast, which had been wobbling, fell with a deafen- ing crnsh over the side, carrying yards and everything with it. Tho mainmast, also loosened by tho explosion, followed tha other mast a few Boconds later. As it came down it took the mizzen topmast with it, and both disappeared in tho water with a mighty splash. Debris from the vessel waB floating about everywhere. Groat jagged pieces ot wood had boon torn out of the ship by the forco of the explosion, and they wero still

smoking in the water.

I When tho two masts went overboard the barquo became a complete wreck. The firs had consumed the wholo of the interior of tho vessel. Throe hundred tons of coal were still roaring away, however, and for some consider- able was impossible to got near the hull owing to tho intenso heat and flying pleee3 of coal. A portion of the tnlzzen mast alono remained standing, but so fierce was the burning furnace of coal In the after hold that it bocamo red hot, and disappeared


There Is now nothing left but the mere hull, which in places Is red hot. It presents an extraordinary picture. The Iron has beon bent and twisted as if It wero tin, and it is very doubtful if it will ever bo of any use.


During the day the hull was a furnaco of flame. \Vator appeared to havo no effect upon the intenso heat. It is impossible to approach the sides closely. '"From the maBthead of a tug, however, it was soon that tho coal lu the hull had settled down into one groat moi- ton mass. Every now and then tho rivets holding plates together dropped out, and as tho wator comos Into contact with the red hot coals thero is a groat hissing noise and clouds of steam. Steam Is also rising from tho Bides of the hull all along tho watorlina and tho water In places Is boiling as it touches the Iron. It was at first thought that tho hull itself would be salved. But this is impossible, as it is fast falling to pieces owing to all tho rlvots flying otit. Tho ves- sel presents a scono of frightful disorder. Iron masts and yards aro tossed In piles and run- ning through a mass of debris is a tangle of hont pipes, stays, and steel rope, curiously coloured in parts by tho flames. Every par- tiólo of woodwork has disappeared, and one only knows it was burnt by tho ploeos of charcoal which como floating down tho har- bour with tho tide. Tho bare hull prbvod of grout Interost to a largo number of captains and shipping mon throughout the day, tugs filled with spectators constantly hovered about tho gaunt and bare hull. Sovoral cap- tains stated that in all their exporlonco at sea thoy had novor witnessed such a com-

pleto disaster to a vcssol.


The scono'of tho disaster was allvo with boats. Threo guns from Signal Hill lookout station spread the intelligence that a ship was* on Oro, and assistance seemed to spring up from every point. Tugboats and rowing boats rushed towards the burning vcssol. A numbor had on board members of tho Uro brl gado, but thoro was nothing for them to do. Sovornl boats got in tho way whllo tho ves- sel was being towed into midstream, and besides the dangor they ran considerably hampered tho operations of the tuga, which woro doing splendid service But for the as- sistance rendered by tho Victoria and Bun- garee, tho Itata would now be blocking one of tho principal channels of tbo harbour. Botli theso tugs renched tho scono as tho ship was casting off from tho wharf. Thoy towod I ho vessel for n short distance, but as this work became oxtremely dangerous owing to falling sparks and suffocating smoko tho tugs got nt the stern of tho big vessel, and by re- peatedly striking her sent the barquo towards shallow wator. This work wns rendered easier owing to tho wind and tido being In

their favour.


Tho causo of tho outbreak is at present un- known. Many explanations aro offered by seafaring men who aro well acquainted with tho Inflammable naturo of saltpotro under cor tnln conditions. Some of tbo seamen stato that tho covering waa off tho main hatch dur- ing tho night; othors say that It was put on. If off, a llghtod match carelessly thrown down by some ono would bo sufficient to start tho saltpotro ablazo. Tho barquo berthed alongside No. 8 crauo at the dyko at 11 o'clock yesterday morning, and recoived some 360 tons Wallsend coal, and it is statod that in the oartier portion of last night coal trim- mers woro nt work in tho foro and aftor holds levolllng tho coal. Whllo this work is pro- ceeding nt night an ordinary candió Is usually placed In somo convenient spot in tho hold. When tho men loft, hovvevor, nothing was no- tlcod amiss below, and everything remained as usual until this morning.

Captain Balfour, on being questioned, stated

that he had not the faintest idea of the causo of the lire. -He can only doploro the sudden- ness of the outburst and the completeness or

the ruin.


Wild stories woro circulated during the morning that some of tho crow had boen over- come by tno suffocating smoko, and had perish- ed In the flames. Tho crow were, thoreforo, mustered ashore as Boon as posslblo, and au hands have hoon accounted for. Both Captain Balfour, who Is much concerned at tho loss of lils line vessel, and most of the crew have lout everything. When the Uro broko out thev rushed on dook vory lightly dressed, and in tho commotion and excitement which followod, they had no timo to secure any of their pos- sessions. Captain Balfour, whoso only thought was to cope with the fire, was In his pyjama suit, and whon ho hurriedly left tho barque the tug's lockers had to bo searched for an odd suit beforo ho could venture ashore. Be- fore the Uro got too llerco he made a dive for his cabin, and although driven back several times by dense smoko, he at last succeeded in getting some, of the ship's papers. Several sailors managed to throw their belongings on to tho wharf beforo tho Itata left, but others havo had to rely on tho generosity of thoos ashoro for a completo suit of clothes. Most of the men have found accommodation at the sailor's home. The individual-battling wkh tho fire is revealed by burns ana bruises which some of the men have sustained, but happily there was no sorlous injury. .


Captain McCorquodalo, who has been com- plimented on his prompt action in getting the doomed vessel clear-of the shipping channel, states that ho stopped on the Itata at five minutes to 6. The utmost excitement pre- vailed aboard. When the barque had cast off from the wharf ho took charge, as ho knew the channels and tho depth of the harbour. He called to the captains of tho Victoria and Bungaroo, and both tugs lent great assist- ance in driving the vessel townrds the near- est sand-bank. The heat on the poop, he states, was terrible, and the cracking of timber and roar of the flames made it im- possible to hear one another speak. More- over, the clouds of smoko hld out everything at times, and once or twice they thought It would bo wiso to leave her before any lives wero lost. "Wo, however, hung on to hor until a short diBtance from the island, when we wore forced to leave. I saw the foremast tottering, and beard the Bides of the vessel opening out BB the fastenings gave way, as wo all mado a dash over the side." Captain McCorquodalo constdors that tho ex- plosions must have been caused by some of the bolts In tho bottom plates giving way, and the water reaching the salt-petre a se- ries of explosions followed, and the vessel went to pieces.

The Itata waa built as far back as-1883 by MeBsrs. R. and J. Evans and Co., of Liver- pool. She was a steel vessel, of 960 tons, and was very stoutly built, being Al at Lloyds. Tho barque was symmetrically shaped, and it is stated that she was the strongest vessel lying in tho harbour. In her time sho was a noted salier, and did somo fast passages, sho is well-known hore, hav- ing vlsttod the port on several occasions. It is understood that the vossol Is insured.

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