Moreton Bay Courier.
SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 1847.
THE LATE DISASTROUS SHIPWRECK.
To judge by the event, is an error all abuse,
and all commit ; for in every instance courage, if crowned with success, is heroism ; if clouded by defeat, temerity. When Nelson fought his battle in the Sound, it was the result alone that decided whether he was to kiss a hand at a Court, or a rod at a Court-martial.—Colton.
THERE can be no doubt that corporate bodies more readily incur responsibility than individuals ; and we are forcibly con- vinced of the justness of this observation by reflecting on the melancholy circum-
stances attendant on the loss of the Sove-
reign steamer. A most ungracious task has been imposed upon us ; nevertheless, unpalatable though it may be, we feel bound to enquire into every particular connected with this sad event.
We shall^^^^and dispassionately, and wíth
a view to elicit the truth respecting the rumour generally current, that this ill- fated vessel was not sufficiently seaworthy for a voyage of upwards of 400 miles of sea navigation.
In the first place, it may be asked what was the condition of the vessel, and engines, and were they adapted for ocean navigation ? What was the nature of the cargo, and how was it stowed? To all these questions we fear the replies must be unsatisfactory.
From the opinions which have been elicited from the most competent persons who have examined the wreck, and from those who were previously acquainted with her condition, it is apparent that the timbers of the vessel were originally very defective as regards the planking and the fastenings, and greatly weakened subsequently by the number of treenail and bolt holes from repeated repairs ; while the inner planking was perfectly rotten. This will account for the facility with which the hull broke up, even before taking the ground. If we are correctly informed, the engines were the same as those which were on board the King William IVth—a vessel built entirely for river navigation : collectively of 35 horse- power, they never were calculated to en- counter for any length of time the bois- terous navigation between this place and Sydney, with no port of refuge between Moreton Bay and Port Stephens. That they were not properly fitted is proved by the fact that the plummer boxes, in which the engine shafts revolve, were the first to give way. There was no wind at the time to cause any additional strain, un- fortunately so, as it turned out ; for had there been a breeze, the safety of the vessel might have been ensured by making
use of the sails.
The cargo consisted mostly of wool, of which forty bales were stowed on deck ; besides a large quantity of billet-wood and coals. When the vessel was first struck by the sea three or four persons were either killed or disabled by the wool bales and the billets ; two others had their limbs broken, and Mr. Dennis was se- verely injured in the head. The public can judge whether a vessel in such a state was fit to go to sea, or whether the pas-
sengers and crew had even a reasonable chance of escape. Neither the agent nor the master can be blamed for sending the vessel to sea with so much lumber on deck. The Company have several steam- ers and several masters, and have had at least four different agents ; but the prac- tice in all cases has been the same. It is only a short time since the Tamar was nearly lost by shipping a heavy sea which washed the deck load of coals into the engine room, and completely blocked the machinery. Moreover, complaints have frequently been made by the passengers of the mode in which the cargo has been stowed in the cabin and on deck, as it deprived them of that accommodation which they reasonably expected, and which they liberally paid for.
It is to be hoped that the Company will take immediate measures to prevent a re- currence to such practices, by which they have ultimately sustained a heavy pecu- niary loss. And since the Imperial Le- gislature has directed its attention to the state of all river and sea-going steamers plying in and from the United Kingdom —adopting such measures as are best cal- culated to ensure their efficiency, and avoid the sacrifice of life in case of wreck,
by providing those means (such as life- boats on the paddle-boxes,) through which our fellow-creatures may be rescued from the perils of the sea—let us hope that the Legislative Council will, in the ensuing session, follow so good an example.
With regard to the southern entrance into Moreton Bay, it may be observed that this place remained undiscovered un- til about the year 1826. Notwithstanding the previous examination by Flinders, Oxley, and others, some person unfortu- nately found what was asserted to be a shorter route to Sydney by forcing a ves- sel out to sea through the surf and shoals of the Amity Point passage. Although the safety and superiority of the northern entrance had been established by Lieut. Flinders in 1797 ; and subsequently by the Hon. Capt. Rous in the Rainbow, by Sir James Stirling in the Success, and by Captain Freeman of the merchant schooner William, who came in, at night, about three years ago, and frequently since that time without difficulty, it was abandoned on the recommendation of less competent persons, and the pilot was sta- tioned permanently at Amity Point, where, in bad weather, it is impossible to get out to board vessels in the offing, when his services are required.
The recent survey of the north entrance by Captain Wickham, who kindly volun- teered his services for the purpose when the subject was mooted by the Moreton Bay District Association, has recently re- established its superiority ; and it is to be hoped when Lieut. Moriarty, the Harbour Master, sends the buoys which have been ordered by the Government to mark the channel, the result of Capt. Wickham's labours will be made public. The Har- bour of Moreton Bay will then rank as one of the best in New Holland, and the security to life and property in vessels will be amply provided for.
We cannot conclude without noticing the gallant and energetic conduct of Capt. Cape, who in the hour of unexpected dan- ger manifested that promptitude and cool- ness which, situated as he was, did him infinite credit. The crew likewise did not, as it has too often happened on similar occasions, become panic-struck and bewildered; but imitating the noble example set them by their commander, left no means untried that could by any possi- bility have ensured the safety of the pas- sengers and vessel.
The following letters have been handed to us for publication :—
TO CAPTAIN CAPE.
SIR,—We the undersigned passengers by the steamer Sovereign, survivors of the wreck of that vessel, beg to express our unqualified approval of the manner in which you discharged your duty under the distressing circumstances in which you were placed by the destruction of the vessel under your command ; and to record our belief that you did everything that man could do to save the lives of all on board, as well as to provide for the safety of the vessel : and also to record our admiration at the presence of mind and courage exhibited by you on this trying occasion.
RICHARD STUBBS, Cabin Passenger.
JOHN McCALLUM, Fireman.
JOHN SCARD, Coal Trimmer.
JOHN NEILL, Fore Cabin Passender. JOHN CLEMENTS, Seaman.
JAMES McGOVERN. Ship's Boy.
JOHN McQUADE, F. Cabin Passenger.
TO MR. W. C. CLEMENTS, MR. W. T. C.
RICHARDS, AND WILLIAM ROLLINGS.
SIRS,—We the survivors of the wreck of the steamer Sovereign, beg to express our warmest feelings of gratitude for your arduous and noble exertions for the preservation of our lives on that melancholy occasion ; and also to record our firm belief that had you not opportunely rendered us assistance, the lives of at least six of our number
would have been sacrificed in the heavy surf which was beating on Moreton Island, and in which we were helplessly submerged.
HENRY CAPE, late Master of the
RICHARD STUBBS, Cabin Passenger.
JOHN M'CALLUM, Fireman.
JOHN SCARD, Fireman. JOHN NEILL, Fore Cabin Passenger.
JOHN CLEMENTS, Seaman. JAMES McGOVERN, Boy.
JOHN McQUADE, Fore Cabin Passenger.