News from 1890 Britannic I sinks the brigantine Czarowitz

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Mark Baber

The Times, 4 January 1890

The White Star mail steamer Britannic, inward bound from New York, landed at
Liverpool yesterday the pilot and five men belonging to the Cornish
brigantine Czarowitz, which was sunk after a collision with the Britannic on
the previous night. The captain of the Czarowitz was drowned, and the
account of the disaster as given by the survivors shows that they had a
terrible experience. The Czarowitz was a brigantine of about 350 tons dead
weight, and was going to Runcorn from Fowey with china clay. On Thursday
evening about half-past 7 she was in the Crosby Channel, and about to enter
the Mersey, when a steamer appeared and a collision occurred. The steamer,
which turned out to be the Britannic, struck the brigantine on the port
quarter and literally went through her, cutting off about 20ft. of the
Czarowitz's stern. The latter sank like a stone. One of the crew went to the
boat and tried to loose it, and this was the only man to whom the captain
spoke. He just remarked that his ship was done for, and in that instant the
vessel foundered. All the crew were in the water, but rose to the surface.
When the vessel struck ground some portion of her masts were above water,
and to this circumstance all the survivors owe their lives. The captain,
whose name was Peter Pengelly, was not afterwards seen. He was a native of
Looe, in Cornwall, and leaves a widow and five children. Two boats were
promptly launched from the Britannic, and in about 15 minutes the
shipwrecked people were taken out of the rigging. The weather at.the time of
the collision was somewhat foggy. The men were received at the Liverpool
Sailors' Rome. The Czarowitz belonged to W. Polkinghorne, of Liskeard.

The crew of the steamship Friendship, of Rye, were landed at Shields
yesterday by the steamer Tanfield. They state that during a fog off
Flamborouch Head their vessel was run into and sunk by the Tanfield. No
lives were lost.


Mark Baber

The Times, 6 March 1890

(Before MR. JUSTICE BUTT and Trinity Masters)

In this case, which commenced on Monday and was then adjourned over till
to-day, the plaintiffs were the owners of the brigantine Czarowitz and the
crew of that ship suing for their effects. The defendants were the White
Star Royal Mail Steamship Company, the Britannic being one of their
well-known line of Atlantic steamers. The claim was in respect of a
collision which occurred about 7 30 a.m. on January 2 last in the river
Mersey, and the result of which was that the sailing ship immediately
sank,and her master, John Pengelly, was drowned. She was on her way from
Fowey to Runcorn, with a cargo of china clay, and on the morning in question
was beating up the Crosby Channel at the entrance to the river and had got
to the southward of the Crosby lightship. The weather was thick and the tide
flood, with a moderate breeze from south-south-east. She was close-hauled on
the starboard tack and making about 2 1/2 to 3 knots, and was in charge of a
duly licensed pilot. The Britannic is a screw steamer of 3,152 registered
tonnage, with engines 760-horse power nominal, and manned by a crew of 144
hands. Her captain was Henry Davison, who had been for 25 years in the
service of the White Star Company, and who had held his present command
since May last. She was on a voyage from New York to Liverpool with about
2,000 tons of general cargo and 84 passengers. She was in charge of a duly
licensed pilot and was proceeding up the Crosby Channel. Those on board saw
a white light and then another which they made out almost immediately to be
a red light, but although then every effort was made to avert the collision
the steamer struck the Czarowitz, and she sank immediately. The crew, except
the master were saved by the boats of the Britannic.

Mr. Barnes, Q.C., and Mr. G. C. Parver appeared for the plaintiffs; Sir
Walter Phillimore and Mr. Aspinall for the defendants.

MR. JUSTICE BUTT, in giving judgment, said in this case the collision took
place at night in an approach to the river Mersey between the brigantine
Czarowitz and the screw steamer Britannic, of the White Star Line. There is
no doubt that the weather at the time was thick; we are inclined to think
thicker than either party to this suit has thought fit to state in the
preliminary act and pleadings. Each of them appears to us to have been in a
position that would induce them to make the weather out clearer than it
actually was, the interests of each tending in that direction, though for
different reasons. A great number of points have been raised, and numbers
more might possibly be raised which we do not think it necessary to
consider. I have asked the Elder Brethren in the first place what is their
view as to the question of the time at which the ship tacked, whether it was
just immediately before the collision, as was suggested by the defendants'
counsel, or whether it was some time before that happened, as those on board
the ship allege. They advise me the latter, and therefore we cannot fix the
brigantine with any blame as to the time of her tacking or the position in
which she was. Another point is the question of her infringement of the
rules for the prevention of collision at sea by carrying a stern light as
and where she did. I do not think it necessary to decide that, because there
is in this case no counter-claim put forward by the defendants, their
steamer having, in fact, suffered no damage. I do not base my judgment on
that, although I should if necessary have been prepared to hold it an
infringement for which the plaintiffs must suffer. But, taking the
defendants' own case, we have come to a tolerably clear conclusion that the
navigation of the Britannic under the circumstances cannot be justified. If
the night had been no thicker than the witnesses generally would have us
believe, we do not think her navigation could be justified, because we think
she ought, in that case, to have seen the lights of the sailing ship farther
off than she did. It was not prudent to follow up that light at the speed of
about 10 knots, at which the Britannic was going, and the steamer was
considerably closer than she admits when those on board of her first saw and
manoeuvred for the Czarowitz. Thereupon arises the question whether or not
there was a good look out. The captain and pilot were on the bridge, the
first officer on the forecastle, the second on the look-out bridge, and two
able seamen, selected for the purpose, also on the look-out. They all say
they saw the white light as soon as it was visible, but that was not so far
off as they would have us believe, the night being thicker than they say.
Both vessels were regularly sounding their fog-signals. If the look-out men
saw the light of the sailing vessel as soon as they were discernible, then
no blame is attributable to them; but if the night was so thick we think
that the steamer ought not to have been proceeding at that speed in that
channel and in such weather. The speed, however, was a matter for the pilot
alone and, the pilot being the servant of the owners, the latter are not to
blame owing to the steamer being under compulsory pilotage. The suit of the
plaintiffs must be dismissed, but without costs.

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