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Page 22. MAINE COASTAL NEWS October 2015 HISTORY FROM THE PAST - Bangor Daily Commercial - Early 1900s

13 January 1899 As the Wreck Been Found

Statement That Hull of PORTLAND Has Been Located.

Trustee Leavitt Says No Further Search Will Be Made – Fishermen May Be Waiting for an Award. Has the hull of the steamer PORTLAND

been located? According to the statement of an old sea faring man on a Massachusetts fi shing vessel now in Portland, it has been located for a certainty, and those who know exactly where she lies are old salts who have weathered the New England coast for many winters. IT is strongly believed by one or two frequenters of the water front that these same Cape Cod fi shermen propose to await the offering of a reward before divulging their secret.

It is generally conceded by those interested that the wreck must be in at least 20 fathoms of water off Cape Cod, where the sea is always rought at this season of year. It is thought by some that the hull and upper works are practically intact, but that the water at the present time is too rough for divers to work in. The only way the hull could be recovered would be by grappling it and dragging it into shallow water. Considerable interest exists among the people in general, but particularly among those who had relatives aboard the ill-fated craft as to the outcome of the legal phase of the unfortunate affair. A hearing when the issue is made will probably be held in the U. S. district court in about three months. General Manager Liscomb said

Wednesday evening, when asked if his company had given up the search for the hull, that all matters connected with the PORTLAND were now in the hands of the attorney of the company, Hon. C. F. Libby. Mr. Libby said that the PORTLAND was assigned by the company to Williams Leavitt, who was appointed trustee when the petition for a limitation of the liability of the

company was heard before Judge Webb. If found, the wreck would pass into his hands. Mr. Libby said further that as the legal advisor of the company it would be manifestly improper for him to make any statements. All points involving the liability of the company would, of course, be brought up during the course of the proceedings now pending in the U. S. District Court. “When the proper time comes,” said Mr.

Libby, “no one will be more redy than I to give information to the newspapers.” Capt. William Leavitt, trustee of the

steamer PORTLAND, her freight and passenger money, by appointment of the U. S. District Court, said:

“I am legally in charge of the

PORTLAND. If any portion of the wreck is returned it will pass into my hands.” “I do not propose to make any attempt to locate the wreck, believing such an attempt would be absurd. If found, the wreck couldn’t be raised, and would in any case be of no value.

“I do not believe that any bodies are in the wreck, unless possibly in the engine room. These on the main deck, of course stayed there. They did not go slow to be drowned. Those on the lower deck, of course, went fi rst to the saloon and then to the main deck. When her upper works went they went also.

“If any bodies are by chance on the wreck they must by this time be beyond identifi cation. I do not under the circumstances propose to move in the matter.

“No passengers could have lived below the main deck. The lower cabin would of course, have fi lled before the top washed off. If the wreck was located, all that I can see likely to result would be the possible identifi cation of the vessel.”

This statement by Capt. Leavitt ends the possibility of making any further search for the wreck by those legally in charge. He is

the only person having legal ownership in the PORTLAND at this time.

It is thought that the private fund now being raised will reach $500, and it will be paid when the wreck is located, not when she is raised. Proof of the exact location of the wreck is all that will be exacted of the fi nder.

In regard to the adjustment of the insurance on the hull and cargo of the wrecked steamer it has been slow work. It is diffi cult to fi nd out what freight was taken aboard the steamer the evening preceeding the disaster, as the company’s lists went down with the wreck and some shipperse have been slow in presenting their receipts. The cargo was covered by an insurance of $80,000, and is considered a total loss. Not more than 2 percent of the freight went ashore, and the underwriters have practically given up hope of saving any more.

Albert B. Hall, attorney for the Portland marine underwriters, says that a settlement will be made just as soon as the necessary information is gathered and the amount of the claims is known. It is believed that the $80,000 insurance will more than cover the freight carried on the steamer’s last trip. The underwriters will not be liable for more than the insurance companies will be likely to get out of it for less than $80,000 gave rise to the suggestion that a compromise had been effected. Mr. Hall said that the companies stood ready to pay the cargo insurance as soon as the claims are verifi ed.

14 January 1899 On Maine’s Coast

Experienced Observer Tells of Steamers. Loss of the PORTLAND Doesn’t Doom Sidewheelers.

Structural Changes Proposed With Advantages of Present Type.

A writer of evident experience in steamboat building writer to the Scientifi c American a letter which, as it deals with the use of side wheel passenger boats on our coasts, will be of considerable interest in Bangor. The letter, also, is of some value as confi rmation from an authoritative source of the opinion of Gen. Supt. Calvin Austin, of the Boston & Bangor line, recently printed in these columns.




The letter to the Scientifi c American, dated January 2, and signed E. F. C., follows: The loss of the steamer PORTLAND still interests and excites the people of these eastern states. It also brings up the question of the best type of vessel for the short coast routes. The PORTLAND may be taken as a typical ship. She was heavily built, diagonally fastened with iron, and was greater than usual. This feature, together with the fact that she had a vertical beam engine and paddlewheels, made her a very easy sea boat. The guards, which are usually dangerous in river boats when they go outside, were in this case sponsoned out and tightly planked, so that they were not a serious disadvantage to her. They tapered out very quickly forward, so that for a long distance they presented no obstructions to the bow in entering a wave. The houses on the main deck went all the way forward, so that when the gangways were closed the whole vessel was closed to the upper deck. This type, with slight modifi cations, has been used on the eastern coast for 50 years. The fundamental reasons are found in the following facts: These are the easiest sea boats that ever fl oated. They resist both rolling and pitching in a remarkable way. This is partly due to the position of the machinery and partly to the paddlewheels. The latter greatly steady a vessel, stopping a regular roll even more effectually than a

bilge keel. In the second place, carrying the freight on the main deck makes the easy in a heavy sea, while it also makes loading and unloading rapid and inexpensive. Boats of this class have been exceedingly

safe. The loss of one by foundering is almost unheard of. The last case that the writer calls to mind was that of the Governor. She went down off Cape Hatteras in 1862 or 1863. The gale on that occasion was of phenomenal severity. Such boats make far better weather in a heavy sea than any propeller. Having just returned from Boston, and having had food facilities for judging of the storm and the wreck, the following facts may prove of interest forming a conclusion in regard to boats of this class. It will, of course, be born in mind that they are river boats only in appearance.

The storm itself appears to have been more severe than any which has visited the coast since the fi rst settlers landed. One example of the power of the sea was shown at one place when the keel of a wrecked coal barge was left 50 feet above high water mark and 200 feet inland. Destruction of property along shore was almost beyond account and quite beyond imagination. How it Happened.

What happened to the PORTLAND seems to me to have been this; Finding that he could not run away from the gale, i. e., keep ahead of it, the captain put her nose straight into the wind and worked off shore. The boat made as easy weather of it as possible under low steam, barely keeping steerage way. She probably crawled off in this way till well to windward of the cape. Then she got the weight of the sea, and her upper works began to be smashed by the waves. Then commenced the fi ght for life. As the light houses which form the water would go down on the main deck, breaking the freight loose and probably knocking out the sides of the main house or main deck sides. In a word, the sea battered the vessel to piece above the main deck and sent such volumes of water below that the pumps could not handle it. In this way, with upper works broken in or washed away, but still “head on,” she probably went down, having been gradually drifting to leeward for some hours.

This hypothesis is confi rmed by the condition of the wreckage, of the bodies found, and of the freight. The whole cape seems to be covered with the debris of the steamer. But there is nothing except the light, upper works and the freight. Structural Changes.

The lesson seems to be directed against the very light superstructure which is usually placed above very sturdy hulls. The seagoing qualities cannot be much improved. I mean the behavior in seaway. As freight boats or passenger steamers, they are satisfactory. But to surmount a diagonally fastened wooden hull, or one of iron, with two stories of bandboxes, with only inch siding to keep out the sea, is not quite consistent. The upper works of many of these vessels are also structurally weak. They are not properly supported and tied to the hull itself.

The remedy is simple: Carry the hull to the upper deck, make the upper or saloon deck a structural portion of the hull; build the sponsons and guards inside a part of the framing of the hull Had the “PORTLAND’s” hull been thus carried up she might have lost her pilot house and offi cers’ rooms, and even the saloon and staterooms, but she would have come into port with her cargo and probably all her passengers.

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