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News from 1888: Oceanic I sinks City of Chester

Discussion in 'Oceanic I 1871-1895' started by Mark Baber, Aug 22, 2010.

  1. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator

    MAB Notes: 1. In the days following, the death toll was fixed at 13
    passengers and three crew of the City of Chester. 2. This article accounts
    for a bit over two columns out of the seven columns of material which
    appeared in the Alta the day after the collision. The rest, including
    statements by the two captains, can be read here.

    Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 23 August 1884
    Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

    The City of Chester Run Down By the Oceanic
    Heartrending Scenes That Were Witnessed by the Survivors
    The Captains of Both Vessels Say They Gave the Proper Signals to Avert the
    Threatened Danger

    Since the burning of the steamer San Vicente, in December last, whereby
    twelve persons lost their lives, no event has caused such a profound feeling
    of horror in the community as the fatal collision off Fort Point yesterday
    morning between the Occidental and Oriental steamer Oceanic and the Pacific
    Coast steamship City of Chester. So utterly incomprehensible was the
    disaster, the Chester having left the dock hardly an hour before, that it
    was some time before people could force themselves to believe in the sad
    calamity. Those reported as missing, and whose loss cannot be doubted, are
    the following :

    G. W. ANDERSON of Oakland.
    MRS. MEECH, San Diego.
    MRS. S. E. PRATER, San Diego.
    MRS. C. H. HANEY, Eureka.
    J. C. HAMPTON, Virginia City (of the firm of Gage, Shattuck & Co. of San
    MRS. J. C. HAMPTON, his wife.
    C. T. DAVIS, of Springville.
    MISS JOSIE BREWER, niece of the above, aged five.
    J. GREER of Napa.
    ROBERY FULTON, a waiter.
    ADAM RICHMOND, a water-tender.
    ED. R. CHAMBERS, Chief Steward.

    The City of Chester left Broadway wharf at 9 o'clock yesterday morning, for
    Eureka and other ports, with the following list of passengers and crew:


    The fog was then very thick, but no fear of accident disturbed the minds of
    the passengers, who, as usual, remained on deck while the steamer was
    passing along the front, commenting on the shipping, which loomed up
    indistinct through the fog. Captain Wallace appears to have kept his vessel
    at a low rate of speed, "feeling his way," as he expressed it, to the Heads.
    The whistle was kept going regularly. As the Chester got out into the stream
    the fog seemed to grow denser and denser, and when nearing Fort Point the
    hoarse foghorn of another steamer was bourne to the ears of the listening
    Captain of the City of Chester. Captain Wallace replied with his whistle and
    then the other steamer, which subsequently proved to be the Oceanic,
    whistled twice, this being the signal that she had starboarded. According
    to all accounts, not denied by Captain Wallace, he responded with two
    blasts. A little later the Oceanic again whistled twice and was once more
    answered by two blasts from the Chester.

    Right here the confusion seems to have occurred which resulted in an awful
    tragedy. According to the statements of Captain Metcalfe of the Oceanic and
    Captain Meyer, the pilot, that vessel had starboarded, and stopped soon
    after the first two whistles. The helmsmen of the Chester, Samuel Halton and
    Ben Spenser, both maintain that they received no orders after the first
    whistle of the Oceanic was heard to alter their course. The latter also say
    they could not see very far ahead, while the passengers and crew say that
    they could see all the way from fifty to five hundred yards ahead. Some of
    the passengers go so far as to say that the Oceanic could be plainly seen
    fully five hundred yards off. The statements on this point are very
    conflicting. However it may be, it is certain that the two vessels were
    soon so close that collision was inevitable. Then ensued one of those
    frightful occurrences which try the bravest hearts.

    The two vessels approached each other rapidly to certain destruction for one
    or both and no means of escape possible. The passengers on the Chester
    stood there, with white, set-faces and staring fixed eyes waiting for the
    crash which was to announce their doom. In another moment that crash came.
    The high, sharp bow of the hugh [sic] China liner struck the City of Chester
    about the fore hatch on the port side. She cut into the sides like a knife
    through paper, tearing away the upper works and sending the cabins and
    woodwork flying in all directions. The two vessels did not immediately
    separate. They remained together for quite a time, the nose of the Oceanic
    buried in the hull of the other vessel. Then a scene of wild confusion and
    excitement took place. A panic took possession of all on board the Chester.
    Passengers and crew made a wild rush for the Oceanic. Shrieks and cries for
    help and half-uttered prayers resounded from all sides. With these were
    mingled the horrid sounds of tearing timber and snapping bolts, and above
    all the loud frenzied orders shrieked out by excited officers. The people
    clambered up the bows of the Oceanic like cats and over the sides. Captain
    Wallace, like the undeniably brave sailor that he is, remained by his ship
    to the last. Standing on the deck, he endeavored to stem the tide of
    safety-seeking passengers and crew. A glance at his disabled vessel showed
    him there was no hope. He gave his orders to lower the boats. Second Mate
    Lundine and a few of the men who stood by the vessel, lowered the working
    boat---the only one launched safely from the Chester. The passengers and
    crew of the Chester are a unit in declaring that the Chinese crew of the
    Oceanic showed little energy in saving life. Had they been white sailors,
    instead of coolies, all on the Chester might have been saved.

    In. a few minutes after the collision the Chester went down. She had
    gradually filled with water until the decks burst up, and then with a sudden
    trembling the stern tilted in the air and the steamer plunged head first out
    of sight. As the cold water reached the heated boilers they exploded with
    loud reports and helped to break up the hull. At the time the Chester
    disappeared she was so close to the Oceanic that her fore yard struck the
    bows of the latter. The captain and several of the crew and passengers went
    down on the ill-fated vessel. Captain Wallace had a miraculous escape from
    drowning and was eventually picked up. The scene at this time was
    heartrending. Wreckage of every kind strewed the water, to which
    unfortunates were clinging momentarily expecting death. Numbers managed to
    cling to ropes which had been thrown over from the Oceanic, and were thus
    hauled on board. The lifeboats of the Oceanic, one of which was manned by a
    portion of the crew of the Chester, picked, up many more, and as by this
    time the disaster had been perceived from the shore, boats ot every
    description had arrived on the spot and were rendering all the assistance
    possible. The exact time of the collision was 9:50 and the steamer sank in
    fifty fathoms of water.

    The confusion on the Oceanic among its 1105 passengers was very great. The
    damage to the big liner was, however, comparatively small, being confined to
    the denting of a few bow-plates. The steamers which went out to the scene of
    the disaster were the Hercules, Milien Gri[?]ith, Millie, Annie, all of
    which recovered great quantities of bedding, wreckage and other effects. No.
    3 lifeboat of the Oceanic picked up Edward Chambers, chief steward, of the
    Chester, who died soon after his rescue. The body was taken to Broadway

    This wharf, which on the departure of the steamer had been crowded with
    relatives and friends of the passengers laughingly bidding them good-bye,
    was now crowded with those same friends and relatives, but in a very
    different mood. The women were in tears, and the men full of grief. Each
    boat as it passed the wharf was greeted with agonizing inquiries. To these
    no answer could be given save that the facts would be furnished later on.
    This was but poor consolation to the waiters, and when the Etna arrived at
    the wharf with Captain Wallace and other survivors they were besieged with
    questions. At Goodall & Perkins' office the scene was also very sad. This
    place was also besieged and business brought to a standstill for several
    hours. When Purser Charles Debney, who had been picked up by a boat and
    placed on the Oceanic, came ashore, a list of the missing was made out. At
    first some twenty-five were reported lost. Later this was reduced to
    sixteen, and in the afternoon it was ascertained that ten were missing, all
    of the City of Chester. None were lost from the Oceanic. Mrs. C. H. Haney's
    body was recovered in the afternoon. She was going to Eureka with J. J.
    Loggie, a relative. The deceased was a widow and lived in Eureka, where
    she had a married son and another boy of sixteen living here. Mrs. J: C.
    Hampton was rescued, but died on the Oceanic about an hour after. Her
    husband's body was not recovered. The daughters of Mrs. S. E. Prater heard
    of the death of their mother on being dragged on board the Oceanic. One of
    the sisters was in the water over an hour. The two daughters of Mrs. Prater,
    Mrs. Emily Christman and Miss Prater, were brought ashore late in the
    afternoon and taken to the Russ House, where medical attendance was
    summoned. Both ladies are injured internally, and Miss Prater has some
    severe external bruises on her neck and shoulder. Her condition is so
    precarious that the doctor has enjoined the greatest quietude. The three
    ladies were from San Diego, and were traveling without any male protector.

    There is hardly any doubt that J. Greer is drowned. He had assisted his
    daughter, Miss L. Greer onto the bows of the Oceanic, and she tried to
    persuade him to follow her. The old gentleman, however, went back for some
    things, and before he could get back the Chester sank. One little baby girl,
    whose name is not known, was picked up, and is now on the Oceanic. There
    was an affecting scene on that steamer when Charles Spratt restored the
    little child he had rescued from the wreckage to its agonized mother. The
    happy lady burst into tears, and fell on her knees before him, thanking him
    wildly all the time. Several of the survivors are seriously ill from their
    experiences. Mrs. Davis, the stewardess of the Chester is in a very critical
    condition. Mrs. Carrie Brewer of Martinez is also seriously ill.

    In order that some idea may be formed of the relative size of the two
    vessels it may be well to state that the Oceanic is an iron steamer, 440
    feet long, and of nearly 4000 tons burden. Her commander, John Metcalf, is
    one of the oldest captains on the China line. The steamer left Yokohama on
    the 8th of August, and had made one of the fastest trips on record, her time
    being about fourteen and a half days. She carried about forty white
    passengers and over one thousand Chinese passengers. Her crew consisted of
    seventy-four men, all of whom were Chinese. The officers, all of whom are
    white, are as follows:

    Captain, John Metcalf; first officer, George F. Tilston; second officer,
    James Swan; third officer, George E. Bridgett; fourth officer, L. O. Eckles;
    chief engineer, William Allen; second engineer, A Brolly; third engineer, C.
    Vivian; fourth engineer, C. Smart; fifth engineer, Thomas Mirk; sixth
    engineer, Walter Bridge; purser, Charles S. Arthur; freight clerk, H. P.
    Greene; surgeon, Dresbach Smith; carpenter, R. Weston ; boilermaker, James
    Weaver; oilers--William Hart, W. Mooney and John Grant; storekeeper, H. H.
    Chisholm; steward, J. C. Broughton; stewardess, Marie Boldy; steerage
    steward, A. J. Leslie; butcher, John Tatum; steerage watchman, Frank Teller;
    quartermasters--M. Neill, J. Athies, R. Perry and J. P. Davison.

    The City of Chester was a much smaller vessel than the Oceanic, being
    something over 1100 tons gross. She was a fine, staunch vessel, however, and
    has been employed with singular success in the Coast trade. She was built at
    Chester, Penn., in 1875 for the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, and
    formerly ran to Portland. She subsequently passed into the hands of the
    Pacific Coast Steamship Company, and has been running to Eureka. Her
    dimensions were: length,202 feet; beam, 33.2 feet; depth, 15.9 feet; net
    tonnage, 785.23; gross tonnage, 1106.21 tons. She was valued at $150,000,
    and was insured in San Francisco companies for half that amount. She had
    200 tons of assorted cargo in her hold, valued at $4000; uninsured. An
    attempt will be made to raise the ill-fated steamer.

  2. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator

    Daily Alta California, 28 August 1888
    Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

    What the Masters of the Oceanic and City of Chester Say
    The Tide-Rip Theory Presented by Captain Wallace---Some Interesting Evidence

    The formal and official investigation into the cause or causes of the recent
    disaster whereby the City of Chester was sunk and many lives lost, was begun
    yesterday both by the British Consul and the United States authorities.
    The Federal Officials Hear Testimony From Her Crew

    Yesterday afternoon Government Inspectors Hillman and Talbot began
    their investigation into the loss of the City of Chester. Captain Thomas
    Wallace, Master of the ill-fated vessel, testified at length. The
    statement he made the day following the disaster (which has already been
    published) was read. In reply to questions, Captain Wallace said that the
    Oceanic was fully 500 feet distant when he first sighted her. When the
    collision occurred the Chester was about 300 feet off Fort Point, just
    abreast of the single pile that is all there is left of the old Presidio
    wharf. The Captain testified that after coming into the fog bank the whistle
    was kept going at intervals of less than a minute. Continuing, he said:

    "I heard a whistle to seaward and then two whistles. I answered the two
    whistles with two whistles. She again blew two whistles, which I answered.
    We were going about seven knots, while whistles were blowing under slow
    bells. When I saw the Oceanic I rang bells to reverse the engines, and I
    knew we were backing water by the vibrations of the vessel. It was certainly
    not over two minutes from the time we saw the Oceanic until she struck us.
    It seemed to me like a moment, but it must have been fully two minutes. It
    was not more than five minutes after we were struck before we went down.
    When we first struck she ran into us so far that my best judgment told me to
    get as many passengers on her as possible while the ships were together. I
    had four men clearing away boats during that time. I had put my helm to
    starboard when I first heard the Oceanic's two whistles. It was kept to
    starboard, and the ship went down with it in that position. She minded her
    helm as customary at first, when it was put to starboard, but when she
    struck the tide-rip we were turned in the flood-tide toward Lime Point. The
    flood-tide runs from Fort Point across toward Lime Point very strong, and as
    soon as her bow got into it she paid right on against her helm. After the
    collision I waved my hat to the Captain of the Oceanic and told him to go
    ahead and stay with us. We managed to launch only one boat before the
    steamer went down.

    First Officer Charles McCallum of the Chester testified as to the strong
    flood tide running when the steamer got into the stream. He was below when
    he heard the whistles of another steamer. He went on deck and was forward
    when the Oceanic was sighted. After the collision he attended to lowering
    one of the boats, and after this he threw off his coat and jumped overboard.
    One of the boats of the Oceanic picked him up.

    In response to questions from Captain Wallace, witness testified: "The
    Chester had stopped at the time of the collision. I saw the Oceanic coming
    towards us pretty fast, but did not notice any curl about her bow or any
    'bone in her mouth.' After the collision, when the Chester had sunk so low
    that no more people could pass over the bow, six men went aft to the boats
    with me. I think sixteen persons were drowned."

    Chief Engineer Frank Cookson of the Chester testified that Second Assistant
    Comstock was on duty at the time of leaving the wharf. Witness went below
    and remained in the engine-room. He received one bell to slow down and then
    another to back water. The engines backed until those below felt the shock,
    and then they had a bell to stop. The engines were stopped when the vessel
    sank, he ran on deck, leaving a fireman in charge after the shock of the
    collision. He saw the Chester was making water rapidly, and going below he
    called to the men to save themselves. The clock at the time of the collision
    showed it was 9:52 o'clock. He ran from the engineroom to his room and then
    jumped overboard. The weather was clear when the steamer left the wharf, but
    there was a thick fog when the witness jumped overboard. The engines under
    slow bell were making about fifty revolutions. At sea the average go-ahead
    speed was from eighty-five to eighty-seven revolutions, sometimes as high as
    ninety revolutions.

    Second Officer John Lundine was confident that the Chester's engines were
    backing at the time of the collision.

    L. P. Davis, who was a passenger on the Chester, and whose brother and child
    were drowned, testified as to his own experience. He lives in Humboldt
    county, and believes Captain Wallace to be a thorough seaman.

    Albert Holten testified that he was at the wheel, and when the Oceanic
    whistled he got his orders to starboard the helm. It was foggy all the way.
    The Chester was going down the bay at half speed. He did not see any land
    off the port bow. When the Oceanic was sighted she appeared to be two points
    off the port bow, to the north. He received the order "hard to starboard"
    when the sound of the two whistles was heard. It was three or four minutes
    after he got the order to starboard that the Oceanic was reported. No orders
    were given to the pilot-house after the order to starboard.

    Captain Wallace- Did you hear me give the order to pass the passengers up
    over the Oceanic's bow?

    "Yes, sir."

    B. Stennasser testified that he, too, was at the wheel. The weather was
    thick at Fort Point. Heard signal whistles from a ship. At last there were
    two whistles, which the Chester answered. Captain Wallace ordered the helm
    hard to starboard before the Oceanic was seen by the men at the wheel. After
    the collision witness went out on deck to help save life. Lowered one boat,
    which got away just as the Chester sank. Pulled over to the Oceanic, and
    afterwards picked up the dead body of the steward of the Chester. The
    Oceanic was sighted three or four minutes before the collision. Just before
    the order to starboard the Chester was headed west half south. Did not
    notice any curl in the water at the Oceanic's bow.

    The investigation will be resumed at 1 o'clock this afternoon.
    The Master of the Oceanic Makes His Sworn Statement

    The Court which convened yesterday morning to pass upon Captain Metcalf's
    responsibility in the matter of the recent collision, consisted of Charles
    Mason, British Consul, presiding; Captain John Wallace of the British ship
    Antonio, and Captain Ward of the British ship Pegasus.

    John Metcalf, master of the Oceanic, testified:

    ["]On the morning of the 22d, at 7:30 A. M., weather foggy, with more or
    less density, approaching the pilot ground, near the whistling buoy, I
    stopped to sound. Found bottom at twenty fathoms. Then proceeded slowly to
    pick up the whistle, or the pilot boat signal. Heard the whistle on the
    starboard bow, and a moment after a gun from the pilot boat, broad on our
    starboard beam. Turned ship's head westward, steamed slowly until we picked
    up the pilot at 8 A.M. After the pilot, Louis Meyers, was on board we
    steered southeast until we heard the whistling buoy. Distance not less than
    a mile. The pilot ordered the course to be altered to north east by east
    (magnetic). At this time we had some conversation about the weather. The
    pilot said it would most likely be clear when we got in, which was also my
    own opinion from my experience. I also asked the pilot to hug the north
    shore, as being the safest, and he mentioned, to my satisfaction, that there
    would be nothing towing out, it being floodtide.

    ["]About fifteen minutes after passing the whistling buoy, we picked up some
    sand, and soon after crossing the bar we observed a large four-masted
    sailing ship---afterward it proved to be the Lord Wolseley---at least
    one-half mile away. She was at anchor. Our pilot hailed them, asking what
    sort of weather was inside. Could not distinguish the answer, but it sounded
    like "Yes." Proceeded, and at 9:19 o'clock passed Bonita Point. Did not see
    the Point. Saw only the dark loom of the land. All this time the whistle was
    going at short intervals. At the same time the engines were put dead slow.
    The course was changed by the pilot one-half a point more northerly. Soon
    after this I noticed Point Diablo low down. Pointed it out to the pilot,
    who recognized it. Soon after this we heard a whistle from the starboard
    bow. Our whistle replied. At this moment I noticed Lime Point and the
    white signal house showing through the fog. Almost simultaneously I heard
    two tolls of the bell on Fort Point. I was looking over toward Fort Point.
    Then I saw a steamer two and one-half or three points on our starboard bow.
    The pilot immediately ordered our helm hard-a-atarboard and two blasts of
    our whistle. We heard the answer of the other steamer---two blasts.
    Watching carefully, the pilot answered with two blasts more, which were
    again answered by the steamer. At that moment I saw that a collision was
    inevitable if both ships pursued the same course. So I jammed my telegraph
    "Full speed astern!" at 9:27 o'clock. The engineer can tell by the handling
    of the telegraph whether prompt action is required. He responded
    immediately, as I could tell by tho quivering of the ship. I then watched
    the situation closely, knowing it was merely a question as to whether we
    would strike them or they us, and we struck the City of Chester just aft the
    port prow---or, in reality, the Chester struck us, for at that time our
    propeller had nearly brought us to a standstill. I looked over the side and
    found that she had very little way, and the backwater of the propeller
    showed that the engines' reversing had accomplished the purpose. But after
    the vessels struck I said to the pilot: "We must keep on the hold. You go
    forward and give orders to start ahead if necessary." I went back and had
    our life-buoys thrown overboard. I also ordered our boats to be lowered.
    Two of them were alongside the Cheater when she sank and two others were in
    the vicinity. Either one or two more were there soon after. The boat in
    charge of our first officer went down with the sinking steamer, taking the
    third officer, four men and one lady down with her. All were saved, but the
    lady was somewhat badly hurt. The Chester seemed to sink in about six
    minutes, as near as I could guess. A few of our Chinese passengers got
    somewhat panic-stricken after the collision, but soon quieted down when I
    told them "This ship no sink." The engines were not moved from the time of
    the collision until we had to go ahead a little to clear Arch Rock, which
    was then not far off on our port side. The ship drifted with the tide from
    the place she struck until she got off Black Point at 10:15 A. M. The
    collision occurred at 9:30 A. M., just three minutes after the order to go
    astern was given. When I first saw the Chester she had considerable white
    water in under her prow, called by sailors "a bone in the mouth," which
    proved that she was going at full speed. ["]

    In answer to various questions put by the Court Captain Metcalf said:

    ["]After crossing the bar the weather was more or less thick, but at times
    we could see quite a distance, fully half a mile. Our speed was from four to
    four and a half miles. We could tell our position correctly after passing
    Point Bonita, Point Diablo and Lime Point, in such a manner as to know that
    we were on the north side of the channel. If both vessels had kept on their
    courses I think the Chester would then have struck us about amidships. If
    the Chester had gone to the starboard in answer to our signal there would
    have been no collision. At the rate of. speed we were going we could have
    stopped before we reached the Chester, after sighting her, had we so
    desired. We were nearly stopped anyhow. I think the Captain of the Chester
    recognized that the starboard helm was the proper course when he answered
    our whistle.["]

    In entering the bay in foggy weather, Captain Metcalf said he
    did not think it proper for such a steamship as the Oceanic to take the
    starboard helm in mid-channel because there ore several dangers which are
    not guarded by signals, the signals all being on the north side. He
    further stated that in heavy weather he has cleared away ten boats in
    sixteen minutes, which includes the unlacing of covers, which is not done m
    an emergency, they being then cut. At the time of the collision the gross
    dead weight of the Oceanic, cargo and all, was probably between 6000 and
    7000 tons. In answer to the question, "What precautions did the Chester take
    to save life?" Captain Metcalf said:

    ["]The discipline could not have been very good, the major portion of the
    crew being on my ship. The captain was the only one who remained at his
    station. It was he who, with two or three of the passengers, as I took them
    to be, cleared away the only boat which was launched from the City of
    Chester. There was a fishing boat which did some work.["]

    A letter from A. K. Bunkill, a passenger on the Oceanic, was read. It was
    highly commendatory of Captain Metcalf.

    When the court convened after the noon recess Chief Officer G. T. Tilston of
    the Oceanic testified substantially as follows:

    ["]Everything went well on the passage up to 4 o'clock on the morning of
    August 22d, when it came on thick fog. The engines were slowed and all the
    customary precautions taken for safe navigation. About 8 o'clock heard the
    pilot boat signal, and shortly after that Pilot Meyer came aboard. Tilston
    then went forward to his station, being ordered by the captain and pilot to
    keep a strict lookout. When the whistling buoy was passed he was ordered to
    look out for the nine-fathom buoy, Mile Rock, and the bell on Fort Point.
    The ship at this time was steaming slowly, with whistle going at intervals
    of one minute. Between 9 and 9:30 o'clock, perhaps 9:15, Tilston heard a
    steamer whistle on the starboard bow, which was duly reported to the bridge.
    About three minutes afterwards he saw a black object about 2 1/2 points on
    the starboard bow issuing from the fog. He immediately reported it to the
    bridge, when the whistle of the Oceanic was given two blasts. The object,
    which proved to be a steamer under way, replied with two blasts. At the same
    instant the Oceanic's whistle was blown two blasts, the pilot gave the order
    to put the helm hard to starboard. Tilston then turned his face away for a
    few seconds thinking that everything was all right as both ships had blown
    two blasts, and on turning around and looking at the steamer again, Tilston
    saw that she was coming towards the Oceanic apparently from the same
    direction. The Oceanic again blew two blasts, which were duly answered by
    the approaching steamer. She appeared to answer the starboard helm, when
    suddenly it seemed as if her helm had been put to port and she was trying to
    cross the Oceanic's bow. Tilston then made up his mind that a collision was
    imminent. The Oceanic's engines were started astern. A few moments
    afterwards the ships collided, the stem of the Oceanic, penetrating the side
    of the City of Chester. There was then a great rush made by the passengers
    on board the City of Chester. Tilston beard the order given, which he
    repeated to some of the crew, to clear away the boats and throw life-buoys
    overboard. He himself attended to assisting to get the passengers and crew
    in over the bow. About four minutes after striking the ship two of the
    Oceanic's boats were alongside the sinking ship, and three others were got
    out as quickly as possible afterwards. About ten minutes after striking the
    steamer was settling down, with some passengers still on deck. She then took
    one violent plunge, her foreyard striking the Oceanic's bow, and the Chester
    disappeared, drawing down with her the Oceanic's No. 8 boat, in charge of
    the second officer and four Chinese sailors. All the remaining boats were
    then busily engaged picking up the struggling people. After all the
    passengers in sight had been picked up the boats returned to the Oceanic,
    and the passengers were taken on board as quickly as possible. Shortly
    afterwards the Oceanic came to anchor inside of Black Point.["]

    In reply to questions put by Captain Metcalf, Officer Tilston testified
    that from appearances, as near as he could judge, the Chester was going at a
    rapid pace. The foam at her bow indicated this. The people that first came
    over the bow of the Oceanic were for the most part the crew of the Chester,
    which was afterwards proved by the fact that there were very few of her crew
    left on board to assist remaining passengers or put the boats out. One boat
    got away from the Chester at the same instant the steamer was sinking.
    Coming in the weather was more or less dense, and at the time of
    sighting the steamer Tilston could see a distance of half a mile. Passed
    a four-masted ship after getting the pilot on board. The fog was much
    thicker then that at the time of collision.

    In reply to Vice-Consul Mason, Tilston said the Chinese crew behaved in a
    splendid and seaman-like manner. There was no trouble in lowering the boats.
    The crew are drilled at the boats every week at sea, and every voyage in
    Hongkong. lt usually takes from fifteen to eighteen minutes to uncover ten
    boats, swing them out and put them in the water fully manned. In an
    emergency the work can be done quicker. The Oceanic carries four boats
    outside ready for use. In reply to Captain Ward, Tilston said that
    passengers were helped over the bows at the time of the accident by hand,
    and every available rope. The crew helped to save life. There were Chinese
    passengers on the Oceanic's deck who had nothing to do with the ship. In
    further answer to the Court, Tilston said that this trip the crew of the
    Oceanic numbered about one hundred and thirty, of whom thirty-five were
    European. After the collision, and up to the time of anchoring, the weather
    rapidly cleared up so that land could be distinguished on each side. Tilston
    thought that the Chester carried six or eight boats, and he knew that she
    only lowered one. He did not notice any of heir boats damaged by the
    collision. The Oceanic struck forward of the forerigging. Everything that
    was possible to be done to avoid the collision was done by the Oceanic. If
    each steamer had complied with the signal of two blasts and starboarded the
    helm, the vessels would have gone well clear of each other.

    Captain Metcalf was recalled and testified that when the order
    was given to starboard the Oceanic's helm he saw that the order was
    obeyed, and the helm was put hard over. The Oceanic is steered by steam.
    It takes five seconds to put the helm hard over. From the upper bridge the
    quartermaster who is steering can be seen distinctly. When the helm was
    starboarded tho ship's head was canting port, but it was soon checked by the
    ship going astern. Going astern the ship's head cants to starboard. At
    the moment of collision the Oceanic was headed northeast halt [sic; "half"?]
    north. Captain Metcalf has been sailing in and out of this harbor as master
    of ocean-going steamers thirteen years last May. During that time he has
    never had an accident. It is the first accident he has had in his twenty
    years' experience as shipmaster.

    The Court will convene again this morning.

  3. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator

    Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 29 August 1888
    Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

    Further Investigation Held by the Courts of Inquiry
    The British Naval Court to Give Their Verdict To-day---The Pilot
    Commissioners Take Action

    The further investigation into the "bay disaster" was resumed yesterday, and
    the evidence adduced being only corroborative of that given by the captains
    of the two steamers, there was nothing new brought forth.
    The British Consular Court
    The British Consular Court reconvened yesterday morning and called, as the
    first witness, George E. Bridgett, the Second Officer of the Oceanic. His
    testimony that he was on the bridge at the time of taking on the pilot.
    About 8 o'clock A. M., previous to the pilot's arrival, he had proposed to
    Captain Metcalf to stop until they could hear the whistling buoy, for which
    they were searching. When Pilot Meyer boarded the ship he said that the buoy
    would be found immediately, and his statement was verified, as the buoy was
    picked up a few minutes afterward. Continuing, witness said:

    ["]After the pilot's arrival we went ahead at half-speed, headed for Point
    Bonita. We passed the nine-fathom buoy, and upon entering the harbor we met
    a four-masted ship which was being towed out by a tug-boat. Our pilot sung
    out to the Captain of the tug, asking if it was clear inside, and I
    understood the Captain to answer that it was. Some conversation passed
    between the pilot and Captain Metcalf, the former assuring the latter that
    the weather was all right, and would clear off soon. The pilot said, when we
    passed the four-master, that our position was about midchannel. We passed
    within 300 yards of this ship, and could distinctly see the men working on
    board. I could see land on our port bow. Heard whistles at Point Bonita and
    Lime Point. We were just passing Fort Point, where the bell was ringing,
    when we also heard a steamer's whistle on our starboard. We gave two blasts
    of the whistle and the helm was ordered to starboard. I blew the whistles.
    The approaching steamer answered with two whistles, meaning that she would
    take the starboard helm. When these were given, our pilot said to Captain
    Metcalf: "That's all right; they have answered our whistle." We observed
    that the steamer was still coming toward us, and Captain Metcalf said: "What
    are they doing? Blow two whistles again!" I did so. I think it was the pilot
    who said: "I don't believe they have put to starboard."

    ["]Captain Metcalf ordered two more whistles blown and the engines reversed
    to full speed astern. The other vessel still approached at a rapid rate of
    speed, and at 9:30 exactly we struck. Captain Metcalf and I called out and
    signalled to the other steamer's passengers to get aboard of our steamer.
    Already the crew of the other steamer, which proved to be the City of
    Chester, were climbing over our bow. Captain Metcalf cried out, "She is
    sinking (meaning the Chester), clear away the boats as quickly as possible
    and throw over the life-preservers!" I took four Chinese sailors with me
    into the No. 8 boat and pulled for the Chester, intending to go around her
    bow. My attention was attracted to three women hanging to the bow of the
    Oceanic near the water's edge. I pulled underneath and the sailors assisted
    one of the ladies into our boat. We were preparing to take the others when
    the pilot and first officer cried out to me to look out for the boat. I
    looked up and saw the fore-yard of the Chester coming gradually down upon
    us. I ordered the sailors to back the boat out, but as they were still
    trying to save the women, we waited too long and the fore-yard of the
    sinking steamer struck the bow of our little boat and capsized it, throwing
    all of us, including the lady whom we had taken in with us, into the water.
    I do not think she ever came to the surface again, as I believe she was
    struck by the fore-yard. When I arose to the surface the Chester had
    disappeared entirely and nothing was to be seen but wreckage and several
    boats belonging to the Oceanic. I got hold of some of the wreckage and
    climbed upon it.["]

    The officer then gave a detailed statement in regard to the weather and the
    precautions taken on board of the Oceanic to guard against accident, and
    also as to the conduct of the Chinese crew. His statement verified the
    statements made by many of the passengers and by the evidence of the boats
    in the water belonging to the Oceanic, and that there was no lack of
    discipline and prompt obedience to orders on the part of any of the crew.

    John Athias, one of the Oceanic's quartermasters, was at the wheel at the
    time of the accident receiving orders from the pilot. The weather was very
    foggy at the time, he said. The Oceanic was heading northeast-half-north
    when entering the harbor. "When the steamer was sighted I was ordered to put
    the helm hard-a-starboard. The helm was worked by steam. It took just about
    five seconds to answer the order. I have been steering steamers into the bay
    for eight years. The Oceanic answers her helm very quickly."

    The carpenter, Robert Mesten, testified that he was on the bow of the
    Oceanic at the time of the collision, and saw and assisted in all the efforts
    made to rescue the crew and passengers of the City of Chester.

    Chief Engineer William Allen of the Oceanic testified that he had received
    orders from Captain Metcalf not to turn the engines over, in foggy weather,
    more than twenty-five revolutions per minute, which would give a speed of
    not more than five knots per hour.

    The time logbook of the engineers was produced, and showed the time of
    stopping and reversing the engines, the full particulars of which have
    already been published.

    The second engineer, Archibald B. Brolly, testified in corroboration of the
    chief engineer's statement. The Court then took a recess till 1:30 P. M.
    The Afternoon Session
    At the reconvening of the Court in the afternoon Captain Louis Meyer was
    called to the stand, and as his testimony was substantially that given by
    Captain Metcalf, there is nothing new to add to the statement originally
    made by him at the time of the accident, with the exception of the following
    answers given by him to questions pertinent to the inquiry:

    "What is your opinion, Captain, as to what really caused that collision?"

    "If our first signal had been obeyed and if they had gone to starboard,
    everything would have gone all right."

    Captain Metcalf inquired of the pilot if he thought that, after it was seen
    that the Chester was going to port instead of starboard, it was possible for
    the Oceanic to recover herself and clear the Chester by porting also.

    "I am sure not," was the reply.

    Pilot Meyer went on to state that every pilot knows that the safest way into
    San Francisco harbor is to keep to the north shore, as it is free from
    projecting points and has two fog whistles. Another advantage is that the
    tide is not strong there.

    Thomas Mirk, Fifth Engineer, and L. Eckles, Fourth Officer of the Oceanic,
    gave corroborative evidence, when the Court adjourned until to-day at 11 A.
    M., when a decision will be rendered in the case.
    Before the Government Board
    At the meeting of the Board of Government Inspectors yesterday the only
    testimony taken was that of Commander Nicoll Ludlow, who is in charge of the
    lighthouse steamer Madrono, who was called as an expert on the tides of the
    bay, and in support of the theory of Captain Wallace. He testified:

    ["]I have frequently had occasion to pass in and out of the Golden Gate on
    the lighthouse steamer Madrono, City of Chester and other steamers. I have
    noticed that the flood-tide sets very strongly from Fort Point over toward
    Lime Point. It is necessary to set the helm firmly to starboard before going
    into this flood in order to avoid being thrown over toward Lime Point. I had
    an experience, evidently similar to that of the Chester, a few weeks ago.
    I was going out in the Madrono, a full-powered steamer that steers well and
    steams well. We met a freight steamer, I think the Bonita, coming in the
    harbor. Our helm was put hard a-starboard, but just as we were passing we
    were turned so that our bow was pointed right at the passing steamer. We
    backed water and the other steamer went ahead and just managed to escape us.
    I consider that a very dangerous place. My captain was an old navigator, but
    he was hardly prepared for the sudden turning. It was a lesson to me. If it
    had been dead water we could have passed easily, but the strong tide threw
    us out right across the entrance.["]

    Captain Wallace, being recalled, was asked why he had followed the
    south-coast line of the harbor in going out that day. In response he said
    that this was customary, and besides, on that day the weather was
    comparatively clear near shore, while in the middle of the channel there was
    thick fog.

    The investigation will be resumed to-day.
    The Pilot Commissioners
    There was a special meeting of the Board of Pilot Commissioners held
    yesterday afternoon, and the sworn statement of Pilot Meyer was received and
    read. It was a repetition of the sworn evidence given by him in the Naval
    Inquiry Court, and need not be repeated.

    The Commissioners intend pursuing their investigation further after the
    other Courts of inquiry are finished.

  4. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator

    Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 30 August 1888
    Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

    Verdict of the British Naval Court on the Bay Disaster
    The Government Board Hear the Testimony of Tide Experts---A Worthy Object
    for Charitable Impulses

    The Naval Court, convened by Acting Consul Mason under the rules laid down
    by the British Board of Trade, finished its labors yesterday morning, and
    rendered a decision in the case of the collision between the steamship
    Oceanic and the steamer City of Chester. The verdict is as follows:

    At the request of John Metcalf, master of the Oceanic, to her Britannic
    Majesty's Acting Consul at San Francisco, that a Court of Inquiry be held to
    investigate the cause of a collision between the Oceanic and the Chester
    about 9:30 A. M. on the 22d of August, 1888, in the narrows approaching the
    harbor of San Francisco, between Fort Point and Lime Point, whereby sixteen
    lives, more or less, on board the Chester were lost and the latter vessel
    sunk within about seven minutes after the collision occurred, a Naval Court
    was convened by order of Charles Mason, Esq., Vice and Acting Consul for the
    States of California, Oregon and Nevada and for the Territories of
    Washington, Idaho, Utah and Arizona, as President, which was held at San
    Francisco on the 27th and 28th of August, 1888, to investigate the cause of
    said collision. John Ward, master of the British ship Pegasus, and John
    Wallace, master of the British steamer Antonio, were appointed members of
    the corps.

    The Court having carefully investigated the above circumstances attending
    the collision and the loss of life, find as follows : "That the master, John
    Metcalf (certificate No. 33,762), and Louis Meyer, the pilot, appear to have
    navigated the steamship Oceanic in a safe and proper manner, and when the
    casualty was apparently inevitable to have done everything in their power to
    avert the calamity. The chief officer, George Tilston, Second Officer E.
    Bridgett and the other officers and men were each and all at their
    respective stations, proper discipline appearing to have been been
    maintained and all orders attended to, the boats, which were immediately
    manned, being the means of saving many lives. The Court has no ground for
    blaming any of the above officers or crew of the Oceanic, but desire to
    record their praise for the manner in which they performed their duty. The
    Court can only attribute the cause of the collision to the steamship City of
    Chester having been caught in a strong eddy tide off Fort Point, and the
    floodtide taking her on the port bow, causing her to run against the
    starboard helm and across the bows of the steamship Oceanic. The Court makes
    no order as regards costs."

    [Signed] Charles MASON, President

    Master S. S. Antonia

    Master ship Pegasus

    This decision was well received among the shipmasters along the water front.
    Several well-known coasting captains expressed themselves to an ALTA
    reporter as being well acquainted with the bay tides and currents, and said
    they coincided with the decision. They gave their experiences on occasions
    of a somewhat similar nature. This decision leaves the question open why
    Captain Wallace, who has been master of vessels out of this harbor for
    years, took the risk of running out of the slack water into the full swing
    of the flood tide after hearing the Oceanic's whistles. The subject is one
    that has not been touched upon as yet, but will probably be brought out in
    the investigation as it proceeds.
    At the Government Board
    The inquiry before the Board of Local Inspectors was continued yesterday and
    was of very short duration, the only thing done being the taking of the
    evidence of Pilots George A. Holt and J. H. Montfort. The testimony of the
    pilots was taken to elucidate the theory of Captain Wallace that the tide
    took complete charge of his vessel, destroying the effect of the helm, and
    rendered him powerless to avert the collision. Both pilots gave their views
    at length, and as they were exactly similar, a concise account of it is all
    that is necessary for publication. The gist of of [sic] the testimony was that
    vessels outward bound always hugged the south shore until reaching Fort
    Point, and opening Point Bonita in line with the spindles off the fort; then
    it was always found that on the flood tide striking the vessels on the port
    bow, it always carried them from one-half to two-thirds of the way across to
    Lime Point broadside on to the stream before they could be "straightened up"
    to their direct course out of the Gate. After the pilots had given their
    evidence a considerable time was lost awaiting the attendance of Captain
    Meyer, who not appearing, the court adjourned until to-day at 1 P. M.

  5. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator

    Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 31 August 1888
    Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

    The Further Investigation by the Local Board of Inspectors

    Yesterday afternoon the examination into the cause of the collision between
    the steamers Oceanic and City of Chester, was resumed before the Board of
    Local Inspectors. The evidence of James Rankin, first assistant lighthouse
    keeper at Fort Point, and R. Holchester, keeper of the Lime Point light and
    fog signal, was taken, also that of Captain Louis Meyer, the pilot in charge
    of the Oceanic at the time of the disaster. The testimony of the lighthouse
    keepers was unimportant. One got a glimpse of the Oceanic as she passed in,
    and both heard the signals given and answered. Captain Meyer narrated what
    took place under his observation from the time he boarded the Oceanic about
    a mile S.W. of the whistling buoy. He said the Oceanic came in very slowly,
    and the first thing he could see was Fort Point looming up black, and then
    he saw the City of Chester. It was a little while after he heard the
    Chester's whistle that he saw her, not more than two minutes. He did not
    know the course the Oceanic was on when he first saw the Chester; was
    looking at the ship and not at the course. Was going at the rate of 3 1/2
    to 4 knots an hour, and was a quarter of a mile from Lime Point. He said he
    did not see Captain Wallace wave his cap for the Oceanic to steam ahead
    after they struck. Was positive some of the crew of the Chester came over
    his bow. The Chester appeared to be under the influence of a port helm, and
    was going to starboard. He said he knew and that every pilot knew of the
    strong eddy tide at Port Point, and he wanted to ask Captain Wallace if he
    knew of it. The witness was informed that the law did not allow him to put
    questions to the party under investigation. The Oceanic steers at a slow
    rate of speed, and has the reputation of being very sensitive to the helm.
    Said he gave the second two blasts of the whistle out of abundance of
    caution. He thought it was possible that if the Oceanic had stopped and
    backed when he gave the last two blasts the collision would not have taken

  6. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator

    Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 5 September 1888
    Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

    Two More Witnesses Examined by the Local Inspectors

    The Local Board of Inspectors examined two witnesses yesterday in regard to
    the collision between the City of Chester and the Oceanic. They were George
    E. Bridgett, Second Officer of the Oceanic, and Rufus Comstock, Second
    Assistant Engineer of the City of Cheater. The testimony of the former was
    substantially the same as he gave before the British Consul. He described
    the entrance of the ship into the harbor, the looming-up of the Chester, the
    sounding of the signals and the time between the blasts. He thought that the
    collision might have been avoided had the Oceanic reversed her engines when
    the first blasts were given, as she was moving slowly and could be stopped
    in three minutes. The second signal of two blasts of the whistle was given
    and the engines reversed, because it was seen that the Chester was not
    obeying her port helm. He went over the same ground as before in regard to
    the lowering of the boats, one of which he took charge of, and the efforts
    to save life. Assistant Engineer Comstock testified that the maximum
    revolutions of the Chester's engines were eighty-five a minute, and that
    when she was cut down by the Oceanic the engines were making not more than
    thirty revolutions.

  7. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator

    MAB note: After falling a few days behind, news of the inquiries into the
    Oceanic-City of Chester collision resumes.

    Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 7 September 1888
    Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

    Experts Examined as to the Cause of the Chester Disaster

    There was a meeting of the Board of Pilot Commissioners yesterday afternoon,
    at which a number of experts testified as to what they would have done had
    they been in command of the steamer Oceanic the morning she entered the
    harbor and collided with the City of Chester. Captain M. C. Erskine, of the
    steamer St. Paul, said he would not have brought the Oceanic in with a thick
    fog and flood tide. Had seen a flood tide turn a ship half round. Would not
    bring in a ship unless he could see more than 200 yards, unless he was short
    of coal or provisions.

    Captain John H. Freeman, Marine Inspector, said if he was in command of a
    steamer 438 feet long, like the Oceanic, he would stay outside if there was

    Captain Ferdinand Westall, of the United States Coast Survey, testified in
    regard to the currents, and said he would not bring in a steamer in foggy

    Captain E. N. Freeman, port agent of the pilots, said he would not bring in
    a steamer like the Oceanic unless he could see more than 200 yards. If the
    tide struck the City of Chester on the port side he did not think Captain
    Wallace could manage her. Thought it would take the Oceanic five minutes to
    stop and back after she sighted the City of Chester.

    Pilot Stephen Castle would bring in the Oceanic if he could see half a mile.
    Commander Nicoll Ludlow of the United States navy said it was customary to
    take the south channel in going to sea. He did not consider it prudent to
    bring in a steamer like the Oceanic in foggy weather.

    Pilot J. W. Ott said he would not bring in such a steamer if he could see
    only 250 yards. He would cast anchor.

  8. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator

    Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 12 September 1888
    Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

    They Conclude Their Investigation of the Recent Disaster

    A number of witnesses were examined yesterday by the Board of Pilot
    Commissioners to fix the responsibility for the collision between the
    Oceanic and the City of Chester. K. Holzhunter, the keeper of the Lime Point
    fog signal, testified that he did not see the steamers or hear the crash
    when they came together. He heard the signals given with the steam whistles.
    Could see four or five hundred yards, and thought he saw the shadow of a
    steamer passing in. Captain William Trask, a pilot, being examined, said he
    would come in from outside the bar if he could see three hundred yards from
    his ship. He would come as far as the ten fathom buoy, and when he arrived
    at that point, if he was able to see half a mile, and observed a four-masted
    schooner weighing anchor and getting ready to go in with a tug, he would
    proceed with his steamer. He thought the tide ran at the rate of three and a
    half to four knots an hour at half tide. The Oceanic can be stopped going
    through the water in two minutes, when going at half speed. Knows it because
    he stopped her in that time when he took her out a few nights ago. He tried
    the experiment after he got outside the Heads. Had a small boat alongside
    that showed when the ship had lost her headway. Could stop her going over
    the ground in three minutes going with a half-tide. Captain Baker, of the
    four-masted vessel North Woolsey, which was lying at anchor when the Oceanic
    came in, said he could see a good half mile. He thought it perfectly safe to
    come in that morning, and did not consider his pilot exceeded his duty in
    bringing his vessel in. Pilot Meyers cross-examined the witnesses in regard
    to the effect of the tide on the vessels, and then the investigation was
    declared closed. The result will not be made known before the first of next

  9. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator

    Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 20 September 1888
    Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

    A resolution as follows was unanimously adopted yesterday at a meeting of
    the Pilot Commissioners:

    Resolved, that Pilot Louis Meyer be and he is hereby exonerated from all
    blame in the matter of the collision between the steamships Oceanic and City
    of Chester at the entrance to the harbor on August 22, 1888.



  10. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator

    Daily Alta California, 10 October 1888
    Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

    The United States Local Inspectors File Their Report
    The Certificate and License of Captain Wallace Revoked, and Pilot Meyer

    The report of E. S. Talbot and James Hillman, United States Local Inspectors
    of Steam Vessels, on the collision which took place on August 22d last
    between the steamers Oceanic and City of Chester, when thirteen passengers
    and three of the crew of the last-named steamer were drowned, was submitted
    to Supervising Inspector H. S. Lubbock yesterday. The report is
    substantially as follows:

    We have to report that on the morning of August 22d last, about 10 o'clock,
    the P. S. S. Co 's steamer City of Chester, and the O. and O. S. S. Co.'s
    steamship Oceanic, collided during a fog in the entrance to San Francisco
    harbor. The Oceanic struck the City of Chester on the port bow, about midway
    between stem and pilot-house, cutting nearly half way through her and
    causing her to sink within a few minutes after the collision. A number of
    passengers and crew of the City of Chester escaped on to the deck of the
    Oceanic while the two steamers were together. A number also were saved by
    means of one of the life-boats, assisted by men in boats from the Oceanic,
    but thirteen passengers and three of the crew of the City of Chester were
    drowned in this disaster.

    The City of Chester was in command of Captain Thomas Wallace, and on her way
    from San Francisco to Eureka, Cal.; the Oceanic, J. Metcalf commanding, was
    entering the port on her voyage from Hongkong with Captain Louis Meyer,
    State Pilot, in charge. The City of Chester was an iron vessel, 1106 tons
    gross, built in 1875, and was valued at about -----, and sank in fifty
    fathoms of water near the scene of the collision.

    We have carefully investigated this casualty, and from the testimony taken
    in the case find as follows: A thick fog prevailed at the time with a
    current of about four or five knots in the entrance of the bay. Captain
    Metcalfe and Pilot Meyer testify that the Oceanic was under slow bell,
    steaming through the water at a speed of about four knots and her steam
    whistle sounding at intervals as the law requires; and that when they first
    made out the City of Chester the latter was about half a mile distant off
    the starboard bow of the Oceanic. A signal of two blasts from the steam
    whistle was then sounded from the Oceanic and her helm put to starboard, and
    this signal was answered by the Chester with a like signal of two blasts. An
    interval variously estimated at two minutes elapsed, in which the pilot and
    master of the Oceanic observed that the City of Chester for a few moments
    did not seem to change her position, and then behaved as though she was
    acting under the influence of her port helm---contrary to the purpose of the
    steam signals that had been exchanged between the two vessels. This
    procedure of the City of Chester was remarked between Captain Metcalfe and
    Pilot Meyer, and the signal of two blasts was repeated from the Oceanic and
    was again answered by the City of Chester, and by the testimony of these
    officers the distance between the two steamers at that time was about
    one-quarter of a mile. Immediately after this, seeing that a collision had
    become unavoidable, Captain Metcalfe and Pilot Meyer at the same instant
    ordered the engines of the Oceanic stopped and reversed full speed astern,
    which was done, but too late to avert the disaster.

    On the other hand, Captain Wallace, who was piloting the steamer City of
    Chester out of the port, testifies that as he proceeded down the bay and
    entered the fog the steam-whistle of his steamer was kept sounding at proper
    intervals, as required by law, and her engines were slowed to a speed of
    about seven knots. When he was nearing Fort Point he distinguished the fog
    signals of the incoming steamer, and shortly afterward heard her signal of
    two blasts off the port bow; he answered that signal with two blasts and
    ordered the helm put hard to starboard; the City of Chester, however, minded
    her helm only for a very short time, as she ran into the strong current
    which at flood tide sweeps from the locality of Fort Point across toward
    Lime Point, and her head was thereby carried off to starboard. To this time
    the Oceanic had not yet been seen. A few moments later, however, Captain
    Wallace saw the steamer in the fog off his port side, and seeing that he
    could not then clear the Oceanic by steaming ahead, he stopped and backed
    full speed, in hope of avoiding a collision, but the steamers were too close
    and collided as above stated. It is noticeable that these vessels were
    approaching one another in the fog at a combined speed of about eleven or
    twelve miles per hour.

    We hold that Captain Louis Meyer, pilot, and Captain J. Metcalfe, commander
    of the Oceanic, and Captain Thomas Wallace of the City of Chester, are to
    blame for the collision between those steamers on August 22d last. Captains
    Meyer and Metcalfe, for not at once sounding a signal of danger the moment
    they had cause to doubt the intention of the City of Chester, at the time
    they became aware she was acting in a manner contrary to the understanding
    and purpose of the first exchange of signals, and if necessary, stopping and
    backing the Oceanic. Had they done as above, we believe the collision would
    not have occurred, and Captain Wallace, for not obeying Rule 21 of the
    Steering and Sailing Rules (Section 4233, United States Revised Statutes),
    by stopping and backing his steamer, when he found he was approaching
    another steamer, coming unseen toward him in the fog, involving risk of
    collision; and, also, for failing to sound a signal of danger, and acting
    accordingly when he found his steamer was in the strong cross current
    referred to, and did not mind her helm. The pilot and the master of the
    Oceanic are not in this matter within the jurisdiction of the United States

    Captain Wallace was acting under authority of his certificate as master and
    pilot of steam vessels granted by the inspectors, and for reason of
    negligence on his part, as above stated, we have this day revoked his
    license as such master and pilot.

    Captain Wallace has thirty days in which to appeal to the Supervising
    Inspector for a hearing.

  11. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator

    Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 27 October 1888
    Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

    Captain Wallace Cleared
    Henry S. Lubbock, United States Supervising Inspector of Steam Vessels,
    yesterday sent the following letter to Captain Wallace:

    San Francisco, October 25, 1888
    Captain Thomas Wallace, Master and Pilot Steam Vessels, San Francisco,
    Cal.---Sir: In the matter of your appeal of the 11th instant from the
    decision of the Local Inspectors of Steam Vessels, San Francisco, October 6,
    1888, revoking your license as master and pilot of steam vessels for reasons
    given in connection with their investigation of the collision between the
    steamers City of Chester and Oceanic, August 22d last, I find as follows:

    In their investigation of the case, the Local Inspectors did not follow the
    "rules of practice for the government of Supervising and Local Inspectors of
    Steam Vessels in trials of licensed steam vessels," which require that "the
    inspectors shall furnish the accused with a copy of the charges, setting
    forth specifically the character of the charges and the section of the
    statutes or rules of the board that had been violated."

    The local inspectors did not furnish you with a copy of the charges, but
    proceeded with their investigation of the cause of the collision between the
    Oceanic and City of Chester, and after its conclusion gave you an official
    statement in writing of so much of their findings as related to yourself,
    and therein revoked your license.

    On a careful examination of all the papers submitted in this case. I fail to
    find that any charges were made by the Board of Local Inspectors, or any
    party, against you. This omission to charge you with a specified violation
    of the statutes or rules, and thereby give you an opportunity of pleading to
    the charge, debars the above Board of Inspectors from revoking or suspending
    your license. The investigation, without charges having been preferred,
    would be a preliminary examination into the cause of the collision and
    ascertain if sufficient evidence existed to warrant the trial and conviction
    of any licensed officer.

    After a careful review of the case I have concluded that the censure and
    revocation of your license by the Local Inspectors at San Francisco is not
    within the strict lines of justice.

    I do not wish to disturb the decisions of the different Local Boards in this
    Supervising District, but in this instance I feel it to be my duty to
    declare the action of the Local Inspectors at this port, in revoking your
    license as master and pilot of steam vessels, null and void. Very

    H. S. LUBBOCK,
    Supervising Inspector, First District.

  12. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator

    Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 28 November 1888
    Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

    The Revocation of His License Affirmed
    Text of the Decision

    Supervising Inspector Lubbock has received from the Treasury Department the
    report of the Supervising Inspector-General of Steam Vessels in regard to
    the case of Captain Thomas Wallace of the City of Chester. The action taken
    by the local Board of Inspectors here in revoking the license of Captain
    Wallace was set aside by Supervising Inspector Lubbock on the ground that no
    written charges had been served on Captain Wallace, and no written notice
    served on him as to when the examination would take place. After reciting
    the facts and circumstances of the collision, and after reciting the fact
    that Captain Wallace voluntarily attended all the meetings of the Board of
    Inquiry and examined the witnesses, and gave a written statement that he had
    no more witnesses to produce, the report concludes as follows:

    His voluntary appearance under the circumstances presented to me operates as
    a waiver of service of notice, etc. If he had not appeared then the Board
    would have been without jurisdiction and a condition precedent to their
    examination, namely, the service of a notice, would clearly have rendered
    their proceedings void, or if the accused had appeared and objected that
    this part of the statute had not been complied with, then the action of the
    Board would have been irregular and void, and I do not think he should now
    be held, under the facts presented to me, to object that notice was not
    served. It is too late. He has waived that point by his voluntary
    appearance. There is no merit in the objection as now made, because he has
    had as complete an opportunity to defend himself against the accusation as
    if the notice had been served.

    It follows that the decision of the local Board of Inspectors stands in full
    force and effect. The result, of course, is the continued revocation of the
    Captain's license, and in case he should assume to act as captain he will be
    liable to prosecution for the recovery of the penalties prescribed by the

    [Signed] C. S. Cauy, Solicitor

    To the Secretary of the Treasury.

  13. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator

    Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 4 January 1889
    Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,


    Captain Wallace went out in charge of the steamer Los Angeles yesterday,
    having had his certificate returned to him by the Local Inspectors of Steam
    Vessels. It will be remembered that Captain Wallace was in command of the
    City of Chester when she was sunk in collision with the steamer Oceanic. His
    license was revoked, but as masters' licenses for steam vessels are issued
    only for one year, Captain Wallace might have taken out another license when
    his year was up. In view of this fact and because of his past good record
    the Inspectors decided, after thorough consideration, to return Captain
    Wallace his license. It is understood that Captain Wallace will eventually
    be put in command of the Pomona, which is now on the Eureka route, and
    Captain Hannah, who is at present in charge of her, will be transferred to
    the Los Angeles.