Maritime inquiry 1939 - 1945
The information below regarding ships in the Nortraship fleet is a direct transcript of the original source "Sjøforklaringer fra andre verdenskrig (1940 - 1945)". The informasjon is collected from maritime inquiries held during and right after the war. The information may differ from the other quality assured information in Krigsseilerregisteret.
The Master of the vessel appeared and presented extracts from the deck and engine-room logbooks which were compared with the entries in the respective logbooks and found to be substantially identical with these.
The master referred to the statements in the extracts and explained further: He left Liverpool and cleared for Gaspe, in order to load timber and had obtained special charts for Gaspe and several for Newfoundland. The vessel called at Sydney N.S. to land a torpedoed British crew, which had been picked up by the "HILD" in the Atlantic. He arrived there on Sunday morning th 15/9 and received orders from the British Ministry of Shipping to proceed to Petite Vallee, !ue, to load.The Master produced letters to this effect from the representative of the Ministry of Shipping, signed J.A.C. The Broker cleared the vessel for Gaspe s.d. and the Master headed for Gaspe after leaving Sydney. He was stopped in the meantime by the Patrol ship and ordered direct to Petite Vallee. The master had never heard of this port and inquired from the Broker J.A. Young who stated that it was situated in the Province of Quebec, but did not know any-thing more about it. He did not receive any indication how he could obtain any more information. When the Master arrived on board he found Petite Vallee on the aforementioned chart and in addition in the "List of Lights" there are two "leading lights" for Petite Vallee.
When the vessel arrived outside Petite Vallee at 4 o'clock on the 17th in the morning it was still dark and leading lights were visible. From 4. o'clock the vessel proceeded at slow speed cruising outside and exhibited the Pilot flag from the time it was daylight enough to see it, and gave several signals on the Steam Whistle in order to call a Pilot, or someone who knew (the port). The master declared that he did not expect that there was a permanent Pilot at Petite Vallee, but he expected that somebody would come out and direct him through the entrance to the port, and then to the loading berth. It was blowing a fresh northeasterly wind which was increasing in force, but it was not so bad that a boat could not come out. The Mster decided to proceed into the port and he expected that an expert would come out and meet him. A course was steered according to the leading lights. The master explained, what he had not entered into the logbook, that on the day after the grounding the outermost of the leading light lanterns were shifted a couple of feet in an easterly direction. The Stevedore explained that the reason was that the lantern stood in the way of the traffic on the pier. The Master assumes that it was possible that the leading lights had been standing in the wrong position, and that this may have been a contributary reason to the grounding of the ship. He had not mentioned this in the logbook because during the gale which was blowing up gradually the vessel would in any case have been forced from the pier on to the ground.
Question 6. 2nd Mate, but the Master was on the bridge, and was in charge. 2nd Mate was on the forecastle head with anchor and sounding lead.
Question 15. No soundings were taken with the lead before the grounding as according to the chart there was 12 fathoms of water right up to the pier-head. The grounding came as a surprise, as there were many people standing on the pier, who gave no signs that there was any-thing wrong. The wind had increased much in force and the Master whose attention was specially drawn towards the head of the vessel had during the latest minutes not observed the leading lights. He noticed that it would be difficult to come along-side the lee side of the pier which was hardly as long as the vessel. He calculated however that he could by droping the port anchor, turn round in the bay to the westward of the Pier, and then proceed up to the Pier against wind and Current. When he came nearer he saw that it was very shallow in the bay. The gale gradually increased to such a force, that it would have been impossible to prevent the vessel from drifting on to the stone reefs. In reply to the question the Master stated that the Pier was so exposed that it was quite impossible to more on the windward side of the Pier.
Question 20. The Port of Petite Vallee is unsuitable for vessels of such size. The grounding could only have been avoided by the steamer remaining waiting outside, but when the vessel once had started to proceed inwards the Master did not expect that there would be such a strong gale, as the one which blew up, and he reckoned with being able to obtrain the assistance of an expert, if he went closer towards the Pier, to Pilot the Ship in.
The master further explained that a representative for the Underwriters arrived at Petite Vallee on the 19/9. On the23/9 a reply was received from New York to the report of the representative and the vessel was condemned by the Underwriters.
The first witness to appear was Olav Ingard Olsen, 2nd Mate of the s.s. "Hild" ... and declared that he had kept the scrap log and that he had also signed the extracts, which he declared to be in complete agreement with what had occurred in connection with the grounding. The witness further declared:
He had never heard about Petite Vallee, but had looked up the chart for the position. When the vessel arrived about 4 o'clock in the morning of the 17th outside Petite Vallee the witness saw the leading lights. The vessel was lying outside until 6 o'clock waiting for a Pilot, there was a drizzle and a strong wind, probably Force 5. The seas were not hight but were increasing gradually. The witness and others on board could see the approaches and the Pier and the fairway appeared to be clear. At a distance to the right of the Pier the seas were breaking, but there appeared to be an opening of about 30 m. in width between the pier and the breakers and it was the intention to enter here. As far as the Witness remembers the vessel was proceeding at slow speed. The course was shaped direct for the Pier with the leading lights in line. The approach was according to estimation about 1/2 nautical mile in length. Asked why they did not steer up against wind and current the witness replied that the distance which had to be covered was not long and that the vessel had to be brought alongside the quay a little to starboard of the leading lights' line. He also pointed out that he was on the forecastle head and does not know what orders were given to the man at the wheel after he left the bridge. A little before the vessel came abreast of the Pier, the course was shaped to starboard or the vessel may have drifted off. The witness left the bridge immediately after the approach to the port was started and received the information that the vessel would be brought in the bay on therigh-west of the pier to an anchor and yhe was told to stand by the anchor and the sounding lead. When the ship was abreast of the quay it was set down towards starboard by some groundswell and struck the ground amidships on the starboard side. About the same time the witness could see that the water was shallow in the bay. The engines were immediately put at full speed but without any result. The vessel was then lying about 15 . from the Pier, but it was useless to try to ghrow a line in order to get the mooring wire shore. The Master tried to get some people out in a boat to take a wire ashore, but they did not understand him. They all spoke French. The ship was taken by the gale and the seas further up on the stone reef. Manoeuvres were made to try to keep the stern part of the ship from the reef, but the gale increased in force so much that the entire vessel from forward to midships and abaft midships came on to the reef.
Question 20. The Witness declared that the cause of the grounding was that it was wrongly assumed on board that there was sufficient depth of water in the bay alongside the Pier as we did not have a sufficiently good chart of the port.
In reply to a question witness stated that he had seen on the day after the grounding accident that the outermost of the leading lights was shifted at right angles from the leading line in an easterly direction about 3 feet, in such a manner that the outside of the house was sticking out a foot outside the quay.
The witness stated that the wind during the approach was blowing from the port quarter.
In reply to a question the Witness said that the crew were able to save most of their effects and clothes, but that everything got wet from the seas which were washing over the deck and over the lifeboat and that they had to wade ashore from the lifeboats.
The 2nd Witness apppeared, Eivind Bjønnum ... ABle Seaman on board the s.s. "Hild" ... and declared:
The Witness took the wheel at 5.20 o'clock in the morning of the day of the grounding. The vessel was cruising outside of Petite Vallee after 6 o'clock (the Witness cannot state the exact time) the course was shaped towards Petite Vallee, the Witness could not see the Pier or the lights because the wheel house was surrounded by cement blocks so that he had only an opening about 4 m. in front of him, which was about 2 1/2 feet high and 1 1/2 feet wide. He steered according to the Captain's directions according to the compass. Orders were continually given for small alterations of the course when the vessel was approaching the shore, but the witness does not remember the courses or the times, with the exception of the moment of the grounding, when the course was SW by S 1/2 S or 210 degreees. It was just before a continual alteration from port a little, starboard a little and steady, so there was no set course.
There was drizzle with strong wind and agitated sea and the Witness had to pay careful attention to enable him to keep the courses ordered. The Witness did not see the Pier during the approach but said that the reason may be that he watched the compass the whole time.
Witness N. 3 appeared, Arthur Larsen ... 2nd Engineer of the s.s. "Hild" ... and declared that he was on watch from 2 till 8 on the day of the grounding. The witness had kept the engineroom scrap log and confirms that the extract from same entirely agreed with same. From 6.20 until the moment of grounding, which was clearly noticed ty the Witness, the vessel was proceeding at slow speed. The Witness referred further to the extract from the log book.