accidents with steamships in Bristol

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accidents with steamships in Bristol
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image above: 2007 MV Balmoral in Cumberland Basin, Bristol Harbour.

(copyright Information Description=MV Balmoral in Cumberland Basin, Bristol Harbour Source=self-made Date=8 Sept 2007 Author= Rodw)

Mv Balmoral was still looking ship shape and Bristol fashion and it was hard to believe that she was indeed 60 years old and had started her life as an Isle of Wight ferry.

Steamships Bristol

Although coal to fuel them pushed up costs, steamers were useful where a short and regular service was needed, such as for the mail or for wealthy passengers. One of the first companies to invest in steamers for the mail service was an Irish stage-coach firm. Later this firm became part of the famous P&O shipping company. These first steamships, which used paddle-wheels, had an advantage over sailing ships because they were not held up when winds were in the wrong direction or if there was no wind at all. They were also very easy to manoeuvre in narrow waters such as canals or rivers.

Britain was a world leader in steamship production.

The early steamers weren’t pure steamships at all, but wooden-hulled hybrids.

There have been several collisions and other accidents with steamships in Bristol.

1850 As the steamship Red Rover waited at the entrance to the Cumberland Lock in the Floating Harbour, it suddenly exploded, sending up a huge cloud of steam. As the steam slowly cleared, a scene of great carnage was revealed to horrified onlookers. The boat carried almost fifty passengers, who were blown skywards, along with fragments of the ship. Now they were in the water, most struggling and screaming, a few ominously still.

Numerous small boats were launched to go to their aid and vehicles were commandeered to transport them to the Infirmary. An inquest was opened the following day at the Commercial Hotel, Hotwells Road.

By the time the proceedings terminated some days later, the dead were listed as William Brewer (41), Charles Keating (26), William Cooper (23), Isaac West, Robert Pavey, Henry Starr (21), Samuel Jefferies (28), Eliza Fulford (28) and her daughters Susan (8) and Mary Ann (6), Thomas Venn (2) and William Nicholas. Several more people were said to be in a hopeless condition.

The last named was the engineer aboard the ill-fated steam ship and witnesses at the inquest stated that, shortly before the explosion, he turned off the safety valve, causing a build-up of steam pressure. However, other witnesses were equally certain that the cause of the explosion was not excess pressure, but a lack of water in the boiler.

The Red Rover was quite an old, slow ship and some felt that it was not fit for use as a passenger ferry. The owner, Mr Anderson, was on board with his wife at the time of the explosion – both survived and Anderson was later to tell the inquest that the boiler had very recently been repaired, although the inquest jury questioned the quality of the repair work. By chance, the ship had been thoroughly inspected by an engineer on behalf of someone who was contemplating buying it and he told the inquest that it seemed in good order.

The inquest jury eventually recorded verdicts of ‘accidental deaths’ on all of the victims, adding that they believed Mr Anderson bore some responsibility for the tragedy. When coroner Mr J.B. Grindon asked if they wanted to return a verdict of manslaughter against Anderson, they unanimously said that they did not.

1898 A fire broke out on board the steamer Xema, which was moored in Bristol Docks, and cabin boy William Hawkins was trapped by the flames. The crew tried to get to him through a porthole and then cut a hole in the deck, but Hawkins had roasted in the furnace-like heat by the time his rescuers reached him. Once the fire was extinguished, the body of another crew member, Daniel Kidney, was found in the steering gear house.

The fire originated in a paraffin storage locker, which was located very close to a steam pipe. At the subsequent inquest, the jury returned two verdicts of ‘accidental death’, recommending that flammable substances should be stored away from steam pipes and commending all those who battled in vain to save sixteen-year-old Hawkins.

1859 The Porto Novo returned from Africa with a cargo of palm oil, bar wood, ebony, coconuts and beeswax. As the ship was being unloaded in Bristol Harbour, labourers James Quick and Robert Muffin accidentally dropped a candle, which ignited some spilled gunpowder in the hold. Both badly burned, they were taken to the General Hospital, while their colleagues set about dealing with the fire resulting from the explosion.

At first it was only a small blaze and the men were confident of extinguishing it. However, as the flames made contact with the highly flammable cargo, the fire burned out of control, defying their efforts to douse it with water. Eventually a message was sent to the fire brigade for assistance. By the time the fire brigade arrived, there was little hope of controlling the conflagration, which was now threatening other ships. Consequently the harbour master gave orders for all surrounding ships to be moved and decided to scuttle the Porto Novo, in the hope of saving some of her cargo.

Holes were cut in the side of the ship but, as well as being highly flammable, her cargo was also very buoyant and she refused to sink. Fed by the palm oil and beeswax, the fire burned so furiously that the entire city was illuminated. Eventually, the fire waned sufficiently for men to cut off the ship’s masts in the hope that this would sink her.

The fire burned for more than twelve hours before it was finally brought under control and the ship was completely destroyed. Although the cargo was insured, the ship itself was only partially covered, resulting in huge financial losses for its African owners.

1855 Hill’s Bridge (aka Bath Bridge), which spanned the canal between Bath Parade and Totterdown, was a large, cast-iron single arch, built by the Colebrookedale Iron Works in 1805. In 1808, a defect in the stonework on which it rested caused its collapse, resulting in several deaths and injuries and, on 20 March 1855, there was another equally serious accident, when a coke barge, John, hit the ironwork.

The bridge quivered violently for a few moments before collapsing, throwing carts, gigs and pedestrians into the canal. Although several people swam to safety, it was thought that many more had drowned, imprisoned in the mass of tangled ironwork.

There was great difficulty in determining the exact number of casualties and fatalities, since nobody knew precisely how many people were on the bridge at the time of the disaster. As an added complication, it was believed that bodies were washed out to sea by the changing tides.

Missing and presumed dead were carter William Bevan and William Cooksley, who was last seen talking to Gwynne Thomas at one end of the bridge. When the barge struck, Cooksley was plunged into the water, while Thomas miraculously remained safe on the side of the bridge. By 11 April, Cooksley’s body was the only one to have been recovered.

At the inquest on his death, held by coroner Mr J.B. Grindon, fourteen of the fifteen jury men were satisfied with a verdict of ‘accidental death’. The fifteenth held out for a charge of ‘culpable negligence’ against barge captain John Domican, who was arrested immediately after the incident. (Domican had always insisted that a strong tide had accidentally pulled the barge into the bridge support.) The coroner accepted the majority verdict and there is no evidence that Domican was ever charged.

1854 Coroner Mr H.S. Wasbrough held an inquest at Bedminster police station on the death of nineteen-year-old Edwin Doddrell. On 29 August, Edwin and his friend Henry William Keey (or Kesy) hired a boat to row around the harbour, as they had done many times before.

As they rowed towards Hotwells, Henry noticed the steamboat, Lincolnshire, apparently moored in the centre of the harbour, but, as the boys drew nearer lie realised that Lincolnshire was moving very slowly towards them. Henry remarked on this to Edwin, telling him to row harder so that they would miss the steamer. Instead of doing so, Edwin stood up in the boat and turned round to look. Henry shouted at him to sit down and row but Edwin lost one of his oars.

Suddenly, the Lincolnshire collided with the rowing boat, tipping both boys into the water. Henry began to swim for shore, losing sight of Edwin.

The Lincolnshire lowered a boat to look for him and a group of boys in a rowing boat joined in the search, but to no avail. As it began to get dark, Henry climbed into the Lincolnshire’s boat and was taken to the water police, who found Edwin’s body at half-past ten that night.

At the inquest, the Captain of the Lincolnshire, William Rees, stated that he had seen something in front of his steamer and sounded his whistle. The rowing boat then steered straight across his bows and, although he immediately went into reverse, it was too late to avoid a collision.

The inquest jury returned a verdict of ‘accidental death’.

1866 As the steam tug Black Eagle towed a Norwegian barge at Hotwells, her boiler suddenly exploded, showering homes on St Vincent’s Parade with debris. Although the damage to property was extensive, there were no lives lost on shore but the five- man crew of the Black Eagle perished in the disaster.

Some persons in the Hotwell Road saw large pieces of the boiler rise to a height above that of the floor of the Suspension Bridge, and afterwards a portion of the boiler weighing 4 cwt. was found in Mr. G. Stacey’s garden, Prince’s Buildings, at an altitude of nearly 300 feet above the deck of the tug. The windows of houses in St. Vincent’s Parade were smashed by the explosion.

The roof of No. 7 was cut through, and the chimney-stacks were knocked over. This house and No. 8 (Mr. Leonard Bruton’s) suffered most damage. A good deal of injury was also done to the dockmaster’s residence, and the wonder was that nobody in or near these houses was hurt.

There were some remarkable escapes. The body of the captain of the Black Eagle (William
Woodman) was immediately found on the bank of the river. There was a large wound in his head. The mate (James Livings) and the engineer (George Ledger) were discovered killed on the boat. Four others were blown into the water and drowned, the body of one of the crew William Huish being picked up in the river at Sea Mills several days after.

The boat was refloated on the third day after the accident. The owner (Mr. Strong, of Cardiff)
was at a loss to account for the explosion. The tug was but five and the boiler only three years old. It had been tested to nearly twice the normal pressure upon it. Bristol engineers suggested that the explosion was due to a sudden inrush of water into an almost empty red-hot boiler. In this way steam would have been generated to an amount that no safety-valve could take off.

At the coroner’s inquest the Chief Engineer to the Board of Trade (Mr. Galloway) was present, and he favoured the theory that a sudden increase of steam caused the explosion. This, of course, was an accident in no way reflecting on the safety of the port.

The bodies of William Huish, Daniel Woodman, George Ledger and James Livings were recovered and, at the time of Huish’s inquest, the body of the fifth crew member was still missing. (It was also rumoured that a woman and child had been on board at the time of the explosion.) The sole survivor of the disaster was a small black and tan terrier, who swam to the Somerset bank of the Avon.

It was the second boiler explosion on the boat, the previous one near Cardiff in 1859 resulting in the deaths of eight crew members. Thus the boiler was relatively new and, although many theories were advanced, the cause of the explosion was never conclusively determined.

On November 10th, 1851, the Demerara was wrecked in the Avon through careless navigation. She was a new paddle steamer just turned out of the hands of Mr. William Patterson, in whose yard the Great Western had been built. The Demerara was the largest ship, save the Great Britain, that up to that time had left stocks, her registered tonnage being about three thousand. She had been built to the order of the West India Mail Steamship Company, and was launched on September 27th.

On the day of the disaster she left Cumberland Basin in tow of a Glasgow tug to go to the Clyde to be fitted with engines. She was late on the tide, which had begun to ebb. The tug was started at the dangerously high speed of seven or eight miles an hour, in the hope of making up for lost tide.

Mr. Patterson, who was aboard the Demerara, was alarmed, and spoke urgently to the pilot. Speed was then reduced, but not sufficiently, and soon after passing the Round Point the bow of the new boat heavily struck the rocks on the Gloucestershire bank. The strong ebb tide swung the ship across the Avon. The tide left her, and she settled down, rivets starting and the deck twisting.

Here was not only damage to the ship, but a blocking of the port as effectual as any that had occurred during the past century or two. Therefore almost superhuman salvage efforts were made on the next tide, and the ship was eventually removed to the side of the river, in front of Egelstaff’s quarry, so that the navigation was free.

This was done " at night," says Latimer, " amidst the blaze of tar barrels and torches, presenting a remarkable spectacle to thousands of persons who had assembled " to watch the proceedings of the large body of workmen engaged.

It was thought to repair the ship where she lay, but unhappily she was not properly secured, and about an hour later she broke from her moorings, and was again carried across the river, where she lay until the morning tide, and suffered more damage.

Eventually she was refloated, and was taken back to dock. Exaggerated reports of the damage were widespread. The ship, insured for her full cost (48,000), was abandoned by underwriters as a total wreck, value 15,000. She was, however, repaired, sold on July 13th for 5,600, and again in September, 1859, for 200 less. By that time she had become the British Empire, being converted into a sailing ship. In June, 1858, Mr. Patterson was obliged to consult his creditors, and it was then stated that he had lost 5,900 by the Demerara, in addition to heavy losses on other ships he had built. Mr. Patterson had world-wide fame as the builder of such ships as the Great Western, the Great Britain and Severn (for the Oriental Co.), the Royal Charter and the Demerara itself. He also built the first of the naval steamers, the Dasher ; and many gunboats and mortar-boats. He had a share of the orders for gunboats given out hurriedly by the Government for use in the Crimean War. The Earnest, Escort, Hardy, Havoc, and Highlander were built in Mr. Patterson’s and Messrs. Charles Hill & Sons’ yards at that time.

And while some contractors elsewhere turned out rotten boats, those built at Bristol were fully up to specification. Material and labour, However, rose in price, and it was said at the time of his failure that Mr. Patterson had since 1850 lost 21,000 by building gunboats. The total liabilities were 8,498, of which 5,177 were unsecured. The Demerara’s figure-head, " the left-handed giant," as it has been called, from the manner in which it is holding its spear, stands on a bracket outside a corner house in Quay Street, and has been preserved there for many years.

German steamer, Kron Prinz, on Wednesday, April 1st, 1874

But the next to be recorded was one which again seriously damaged the reputation of Bristol in that respect for a long time. This was the wreck of the German steamer, Kron Prinz, on Wednesday, April 1st, 1874, and occurring as it did soon after a large sum had been spent on works of river improvement, sanctioned by the Corporation’s Act of 1865, the mishap was particularly annoying to the Docks Committee and their officers. There was a natural disposition to attribute it to a want of caution on the part of those in charge of the ship, which, it was said, should have had a second tug.

The Kron Prinz was from Sulina, with 7,000 quarters of barley for Messrs. R. & H. Adams, and came up the river at high water. When near the Horseshoe Point she struck the right bank, and could not be moved. She lay a few hundred yards below Sea Mills Station, and, fortunately, in a position that did not block the river. But it was not until Tuesday morning, April 21st, three weeks after going aground, that the vessel could be refloated. About half her cargo was immediately washed out by the action of the tide, and afterwards, to lighten the ship, many men were engaged in removing the rest of the grain, which had become mixed with mud as the result of successive tides going over the hull.

The river bank was strewn with barley for a considerable distance. At midnight on the 20th April a large gang of men from Messrs. Charles Hill and Sons’ shipbuilding yard, Wapping, under the direction of Mr. W. Patterson, the firm’s acting manager, left Cumberland Basin to make a final effort to refloat the ship. Great preparations had been made on board. The hatches were caulked down, the masts and funnel removed, and huge hawsers had been fixed, reaching high up over the railway into Shirehampton Park. Several tugs were at hand, and in all about 120 shipwrights, riggers and labourers were engaged. After several hours’ laborious work, and with the help of the tide, the ship was righted, and slid down into the bed of the river.

There had been daily crowds of people to see the wreck, but when she was floated many thousands of spectators visited the river banks. Numbers looked on from the Suspension Bridge, and one of these, in a communication to the Times and Mirror, said he saw the Demerara across the river, but the sight was not so dreary as that of the dismantled Kron Prinz, because, although the Demerara broke her back, she remained almost upright, and therefore suggested hope, " but for the floating and denuded hulk, side uppermost, and shorn of all its accessories that suggested life, upon which I looked down from the Suspension Bridge, there was no hope." The damage was estimated at £34,000.

(scource Bristol Records Office. Bristol Journal, Bristol Mercury, The Times, Western Mail, A Grim Almanac of Bristol by Nicola Sly The History Press)

Bristol Channel Shipping Accidents

“Reach Out and Read” now reaches military families 090407
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Image by familymwr
PHOTO CAPTION: USAF Capt./Dr. Minh-Thu Le interacts with her patient, eight-month-old Alexander, as he performs the common newborn ritual of “mouthing the book.” Parents, USAF 1st Lt. Alice L. Shepard and her husband, Steven, happily look on at Travis AFB in California. (Photo by James Spellman, Jr., Travis AFB Public Affairs)

"Reach Out and Read" now reaches military families 090407

By Rob McIlvaine
FMWRC Public Affairs

Through Reach Out and Read’s Military Initiative, doctors and nurses at 20 military hospitals, including one in Germany, will soon receive training on how to promote early literacy for children, and free books to be handed out to parents with young children – ages six months through five years – when visiting well-baby or well-child clinics.

USAF 1st Lt. Alice L. Shepard, a nurse in the Clinical Nurse Pediatric Subspecialty at Travis Air Force Base in California, and mother of an eight-month-old child couldn’t be happier.

“This is great. I love to read and hope to instill a love of reading. Even before he was born we read to him and some of the first things I bought when making his nursery were books.”

According to Barbara Christine, Program Manager for Library Programs at the Army Family and MWR Command (FMWRC), the "Reach Out and Read" program is a pilot project on pediatric early literacy among children of members of the armed forces.

State coalition groups will visit these hospitals to instruct doctors on how to counsel parents about the benefits of reading to their children. The books provided in the Reach Out and Read program were selected by the Library Program at FMWRC, and Congress provided initial funding to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) to start the pilot.

“Literacy is promoted by incorporating reading aloud, advice to parents, and books into the well-child visits at military hospitals and health clinics. The contract for the project was awarded to SRI (Strategic Resources, Inc.) by the Pentagon’s Contracting Center for Excellence (CCE),” said Christine.

SRI is the lead contractor who subcontracted the project to Reach Out and Read (ROR), a national, nonprofit organization that promotes early literacy by making books a routine part of pediatric care.

In 1989, ROR was founded at Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center) through collaboration between pediatricians, family physicians, nurses, and early childhood educators.

“Nurtured by the passionate and inspired efforts of many educators, doctors, volunteers, parents, corporations, foundations and politicians, ROR has grown significantly from merely providing books in pediatric waiting rooms,” said ROR Co-founder Robert Needlman, MD.

This growth includes the training of doctors and nurses at Military Treatment Facilities on the ROR model where they learn how to select an age-appropriate book for each child to take home from every checkup, starting with board books for babies followed by more complex picture books for preschoolers.

USAF Capt. Minh-Thu Le, a medical doctor at Travis AFB, not only went through the training during her civilian residency, she also was trained by a pediatrician through the ROR office.

“Our trainer, who lives in the area, shared many experiences of the program from the “real world.” This was a great time for discussion with those of us who were familiar with the program from other civilian clinics where we previously worked. Because ROR already researched the age-appropriateness of each book, our training was more about what interaction with a book is developmentally appropriate for each age group,” Le said.

Along with the free book for every child, military healthcare providers will also provide advice and tips to the parents about reading aloud with their children. Each child who participates in ROR will start kindergarten with a home library of up to seven books, and support of parents who understand the importance of reading.

“Also important would be the chance to have the doctor sign and date the book. That way, we could look back and remember the different mile stones of our son’s development and who was there to share in those times,” Shepard said.

Military bases participating in Reach Out and Read will also create literacy-rich waiting rooms, complete with child-size furniture and bookcases, where ROR-trained volunteers will model reading with the children while their families wait for appointments.

“The Reach Out and Read model is a proven success,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI).

Reed, a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, last year authored and introduced the Prescribe a Book Act, which created a federal pediatric early literacy grant initiative based on the ROR program.

“Reading aloud to a young child every day is a wonderful way to stimulate language,” said Perri Klass, MD, Medical Director of Reach Out and Read.

“It helps children love books and reading because they associate books with the parent’s voice and with the pleasures of listening. That’s the advice military doctors and nurses will be giving to the parents of their young patients at every checkup – important advice for all parents to help their children learn language and enjoy books.”

Reading aloud can help children feel secure and loved, and help families cope with stressful times, especially military families who face separation and deployment, said Klass.

“I also encourage parents to try and not dictate how a child interacts with a book. Not every child will sit still for you to be able to read a book cover to cover. A six-month old will be more interested in mouthing the book, which is appropriate. A 12-month old may flip each page quickly before you can even tell them what is on the page. Let the child dictate how you read to them,” Le said.

This is also a good time to foster a life-long relationship with doctors and hospitals.

“Kids love books and usually hate going to the doctor’s office. Hopefully, this program will enable them to associate coming here as a fun outing, as well as having the book remind them and their parents the importance of getting their well visits done,” Le said.

In addition to Reach Out and Read’s wide selection of “doctor-recommended” children’s books, children served by Reach Out and Read in the Military will also receive books designed specifically to calm anxieties about deployment and military service, such as “While You Were Away,” by Eileen Spinelli.

“I am scheduled to deploy next year. I read Spinelli’s book and found it very touching and brought tears to my eyes because it was so accurate. As a mother of a very young child, I worry that he will not remember who I am when I return. I think this book could give him a sense of what I am doing over there,” Shepard said.

Reach Out and Read in the Military will be serving more than 90,000 children, ages six months through five years, worldwide.

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My 35th Birthday Wish
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Hi, All.

My 35th birthday is coming up very soon and I just have one tiny request: please go to my Smugmug gallery of prints for sale and buy a print. 🙂 I’ve collected a bunch of photos taken with my iPhone, some oldie but goodie photos of Millennium Park in Chicago, and some photos from Santa Cruz and made them available for purchase in many different sizes.

So if you enjoyed reading my blog, or if I helped you on Twitter or Facebook with some tech issues, or if you’ve been wanting to get some new art for your home, office, or as a gift, I humbly submit my photos and photo art for perusal. And please feel free to RT this if you think your friends/followers would like to purchase something as well.

If you see a photo in my Smugmug or Flickr galleries that isn’t in the for sale gallery, let me know and I can make it available. I also plan to add more photos over the next few days, so if you want to subscribe to the gallery in an RSS reader, please do so!

I figure this is better than asking people to tip me or buy something from my Amazon wishlist because this way you get something that you want, while helping me out. 🙂 I’ll be RTing this for a few days to help drum up interest, so apologies in advance for any semblance of spam. I’ll try not to go overboard. If other people RT this for me, then that’s less RTing I’ll do, so please help a geek girl out!


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