"Carnarvon Bay"

Cape Horner


Carnarvon Bay. Steel hull, full-rigged ship, 1932/1795 tons. # 102132.  Built Glasgow, Scotland by A Rogers, 1894; reg. Liverpool. L 265.4ft x B 40.1ft x  D 22.9 ft. Owned by Robert Owen & Co, Chapel Street, Liverpool, cost £15,000. Captain William Griffith, of Penlan Bach Pwllheli.




Carnarvon Bay is here from Glasgow

Daily Ledger Tacoma. Monday June 11th 1906

Had two thrilling accidents on passage over.

One Seaman killed by falling from Upper Topgallant Yard; another narrowly escaped drowning, vessel brought to Tacoma Pig Iron, Brick and Merchandise.

With 500 tons of general cargo for Balfour, Guthrie and Co, the British ship Carnarvon Bay, Captain W Griffith, arrived yesterday from Vancouver, B.C, where she has been discharging a portion of the pig iron, brick and other merchandise which she freighted out from Great Britain. Among other interesting information brought by her officers is the news of a heroic rescue from drowning of Arthur Stewart, a Tacoma sailor, who was one of the crew on the voyage out.

The cargo of the ship was furnished at Liverpool and Glasgow. She set sail from the latter port December 20 for the Sound. For the first two weeks, the weather was misty, but with that exception, the voyage was pleasant until Cape Horn was reached.

Sailor fell to death

When four days out from Glasgow there was a distressing accident. An able bodied seaman, A Campbell, who was working 140 feet in the air on the upper topgallant yard fell to the deck and was terribly mangled. He did not regain consciousness and died within a few hours. He was buried at sea the next morning with fitting ceremonies.

A few days after this occurrence, Arthur Stewart, a Tacoma man was at work aloft when a lurch of the vessel caused him to loose his balance and fall. He had been standing on the topsail yard. In his downward flight he struck the main sheet and tumbled into the sea. The ship was bowling along at nine knots an hour and a high sea was running.

Chief Officer W Thomas, who was standing on deck, threw a lifebelt to Stewart. Within three minutes the starboard boat was launched by Second Officer Ernest Tout and a crew of sailors. They put back to the rescue of the struggling seaman, who was by this time two miles astern. He was picked up a little the worse for wetting and within twenty minutes from the time he fell overboard the ship was again ploughing her way through the Atlantic toward the Horn.

Those who were on board and saw the rescue declare that it was almost miraculous that Stewart was rescued at all, as the waves were running high and the vessel was making nine knots. There are few cases on record where such quick time has been made as that told in the logbook of the Carnarvon Bay.

Two Gales off the Horn.

The passage round the Horn was made in good weather, as the winter weather had not begun. Two gales were encountered, but they were of short duration. From that time until the three master made Cape Flattery there was little out of the ordinary except during the week of the San Francisco earthquake.

The shock occurred April 18th. April 12 the Britisher was in a latitude 5 south. During that day the men of the Carnarvon Bay saw much vivid lightning. It continued with a period of unsettled weather until April 20, two days after the destruction of the Californian metropolis.

May 11th the vessel made the straits. She was picked up off Tatoosh by the tug Wanderer and towed to Victoria, where, she lay for a week or two discharging cargo. She then went to Vancouver where several hundred tons were unloaded. While there one of the apprentice boys, Owen Williams, met with a painful accident when he was working in the tween-decks, when he tripped and fell to the lower hold headlong and suffered a severe jolting. He was a general favourite aboard the vessel and making his first passage.

The tug Lorne towed the ship to Tacoma yesterday. She was met in the stream by the local tug ‘Fearless’, which shifted her into the Balfour dock; where discharging will begin immediately.

Well known in Tacoma.

The vessel is well known in Tacoma, having been here three times. Her first visit was over ten years ago. She was here again four years ago and then in 1904. On all three visits Captain Griffith was her master. He is known to many on the local waterfront folk a large number of whom welcomed him upon his arrival yesterday. First Officer Thomas has also been here on several occasions.

The ship was built in 1894 at the yards of Rodger and Co of Port Glasgow. She is a steel vessel with a net tonnage of 1,705 and is a staunch well-kept ship. She is named after Carnarvon Bay, on which a famous Welsh castle is situated.

Captain Thomas visits Tacoma.

Captain Hugh Thomas of the British Barque “Pass of Leny”, was a visitor to Tacoma yesterday. His vessel is loading a cargo of lumber at the Hastings mill, Vancouver BC. Captain Thomas came to Tacoma to see his two nephews who are respectively first officer and apprentice boy on the ship Carnarvon Bay, which arrived at the port yesterday. This is the first time Captain Thomas has been in Tacoma. His ship was here two years ago, but at that time Captain Ball was her master. Captain Thomas is also an old friend of Captain Griffith, the master, of the Carnarvon Bay.


Wreck of the Carnarvon Bay

On the 20th of June, she left Liverpool bound for Sydney, Australia carrying 4000 tons of general cargo, including machinery, rock salt, oil cloth and a 1000 cases of Bulldog Ale Stout. Her compliment of crew was 31, five of them apprentices, she, also carried one passenger.

Captain William Griffith had sailed many times between Liverpool and Sydney, he had also sailed his ship round the Horn and up the West Coast of the Americas and had been Master of the Carnarvon Bay for sixteen years and was a very experienced mariner. Until September the 10th the weather had been good, but it changed the winds increased from the West and it became very stormy. Captain Griffith said, “It was terror. Sea after sea raced after us and broke over our quarterdecks. They were never free from water. About 11.30 am several huge waves broke aboard in succession and our cabin doors were burst in”. The stormy weather continued until they had nearly reached King Island, which is between Tasmania and Australia. They had not seen the sun for days and had sailed further south than usual when King Island appeared. Having realised that he had gone too far south, Capt Griffith decided to sail up north and round Stoke Point. The Carnarvon Bay was sailing at around 8 knots and the wind was moderate. At about six o clock the captain heard the warning “Breakers Ahead”. He changed her course immediately to between 7 – 8 points. Everything seemed fine, but without warning the ship struck a reef with a tremendous noise, and this would prove to be the end for the Carnarvon Bay.


When the Captain saw the condition of his ship, he ordered the crew to launch the lifeboats immediately as it was getting dark even though there was a moon. The Captain had 15 men in his boat and there were 16 in the Mate’s. In the darkness the two boats became separated and the wind was rising from the south west. They had little food on board the boats. Two vessels were sighted but they were unable to attract their attention, but within two days, one of the lifeboats was sighted by the ‘Tarcoola’. “The ship’s boy was made to remove his trousers which was used as a distress signal”. They eventually reached Melbourne and two vessels the ‘Lady Loch’ and the tug ‘Alacrity’ were sent out in search of the other lifeboat. But the end of the second day, they had landed on a sandy beach and had walked inland, eventually arriving at Mr Colliers, farm. The following morning the SS Mauchope came to fetch them from Launcseton.

Apart from The Captain, two other men were from Llyn, 21 year old John Jones, carpenter from Llanbedrog and William Charles Morris Assistant Steward from Pwllheli.

The Carpenter’s story.

Below when the ship struck John Jones of Llanbedrog, carpenter of the ship, when interviewed said he was on the first dog watch on the day the ship struck. He came off duty at 6 o clock and was down on his cabin having tea. He was told later that the Captain had called out for the carpenter to take soundings but when he came on deck the only order he received from the Captain was to lend a hand to get the starboard boat out. He was engaged doing this, when the stewards asked him to take a sounding, he went away to get the rods, when he returned both boats were swung out and the men were nearly all away; he dropped the rods and took his place in the boat. The order had been given whilst I was away.


The man at the wheel (before and after the disaster)

I took the wheel at 4 pm on the Thursday, said John Campbell, A.B. in reply to a question.

Land was then in clear view. It must have been sighted before 2 o clock. We just cleared Stokes Point – the most southern point of King Island – and were sailing in clear water when we struck at just 4 bells – 6 o clock – finished striking.

The Captain said to me ‘Is she paying off?’ I told him ‘no’, and as he saw the case was a bad one, he ordered out the boats.

There was no disorder as alleged in Melbourne and there was no disobeying of orders given by the Captain.


Seaman’s tale of Privations of Captain Griffith’s nerve.

In a cosy room of the Institute of Victoria’s Missions to seamen clad in a rough jersey and pants, all he could save from the wreck in the desperate moments of Thursday night, William Charles Morris (of Pwllheli) one of the starboard watch of the Carnarvon Bay told his story: ‘It was about five past six o clock as near as I can remember in the dog watch. We had passed a reef off King Island when we struck a rock. I know nothing about navigation of the boat but there was supposed to be 30 fathoms of water under us and the rock must have been an un-chartered one. Our first knowledge that we had struck was a fearful bang forward and a deuce of a crash amidships. The sea was terribly rough and had drenched us all. Indeed the other watch was below at the same time changing its clothes and having some tea.

There was a scare of course amongst us because the boat seemed lifted up and likely to smash at any moment, when the Captain gave orders to man the boats. The discipline was splendid. My word, the Captain is a grand chap; his nerve was wonderful. He put us all in our place and gave his orders quickly, thought of us first, and through it all smoked a cigar as cool as an iceberg.

All through the business the captain was a brick, and took his share of the discomfort with a cheerfulness that kept us fit in the most desperate moments of the next two days. Everyman on the ship got away. It was a ticklish business launching the boats owing to the ship heeling over, first on one side and then the other. We had with us the captain – who was the last to leave the ship – and Mr Smalley the second mate. The seven apprentices were divided between the two boats.


The Captain’s story.

Captain Griffith was a personal friend of Captain Davies, one of the assistant harbour masters in Melbourne, and on landing he was accommodated at Captain Davies’s residence and given a change of clothing. Over a cup of tea he related his story.

‘We commenced our voyage from Liverpool on 20th June 1910 in light contrary winds and fair weather. We worked down as far as Cape Finistere in these winds, and then picked up a northerly wind veering to the north east which carried us comfortably on to about 15N. Then came light SW monsoons and very little trouble until crossing the equator when the weather began to tune up. However it gave us little trouble until 1st September – seas broke in the cabin doors. On that day we met a hard westerly gale, which simply blew us over. It was terror; sea after sea raced after us and broke over our quarter. Our decks were never free from water and we were hard put to it. About 11.30am several huge waves broke aboard in succession and our cabin doors were burst in.

The cabins were in an instant a swirling mass of sea water, furniture and clothes, our officers apparel being washed out of their chests. Everything was carried overboard and lost.

The gale continued all the way when running down the eastings. We did not have a minute’s peace from then on. Several of our sails were blown away; we had a really trying time. Never since I took charge of the ship 15 or 16 years ago have I met such boisterous conditions. We had them right from 36S until we struck the rocks, and it was my heaviest passage of  the eastings.

The crew of the boats

The Captains Boat.

Capt W Griffith (master)

JG Smalley (Second Mate)

LF Coe (Third Mate)

E Pilmer (Sail Maker)

Edward Dean (Seaman)

Otto W Hank (Seaman)

William Charles Morris (Seaman) Pwllheli.

John  E Terry (Seaman)

A Lourin (Seaman)

C Gilligan (Seaman)

Alan E Jones (Apprentice)

Charles Wilson (Apprentice)

Robert Filkin (Apprentice)

Edward Williams (Apprentice)

Willie Hambly (Deck Boy)


The Mate’s boat.

Charles Newman (Chief Mate), Tranmere.

William Jones (Boatswain), Bryn Menai.

John Jones (Carpenter), Llanbedrog.

L Stengel (Cook), Germany.

John Campbell (Seaman), Liverpool.

Fredrick King (Seaman), Liverpool.

William Brown (Seaman), Walthamstow.

Owen Jones (Seaman), Rock Villa, Amlwch.

Edward Jones (Seaman), Chwilog.

Charles Sinclair (Seaman), Liverpool.

David W. Hardy (passenger), Manchester.

Philip A. Labely (apprentice), Jersey.

Humphrey C Cook (Apprentice), Berkamstead.

Errol Monk (Apprentice), Adeilade.



Captain William Griffith was also the brother in law of Captain Griffith Jones, Langdale, Pwllheli, who was Master of the Langdale and later the Grenada.

Thanks to Mr B Hughes for the three crew photographs.

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