Inquiry into the shipwreck of 'Geffrard'

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Western Australia

Customs House, Fremantle

July 14th 1875


Referring to my letter of 26th June last and His Excellency's minute this, I have the honor now to release for the information of His Excellency the Governor the proceedings of the Court of Inquiry regarding the wreck of the Geffrard at the Vasse. I received no covering letter with these Depositions.

I have the honor to be Sir, Your obedient servant

Mossley(illegible text) Clifton

Collector of Customs

The Honorable

The Acting Colonial Secretary


Western Australia
To Wit

Proceedings of a Court of inquiry held at the Court House Busselton this 7th day of July 1875 under the procisions of the Local Ordniance 28 Victoria No 2 relating to a casualty that happened to the British Brig 'Geffrard' of Melbourne official number 23262 of 31613100 tons burthen, commanded by J. W. Munday the number of whose Certificate of Competency is 19353 on the evening of the 13th June last, and especially to inquire into the Formal charges made by J. F. Harris Esq Sub-Collector of Customs and J. G. Bussell Esq a Justice of the Peace against the said J. W. Munday the master of the said vessel. Thus.—

1st With neglecting to have a second anchor down, it being the season of the winter gales blowing on this coast.

2nd In not being on board his vessel during threatening weather, and a falling barometer

The Court having appointed Mr. G. A. Forsyth Harbor Master of Fremantle Nautical Assessor proceed in his presence to examine the following witnesses on Oath

George Allen Chief Officer Brig Geffrard

Charles Elg 2nd ditto — ditto —


Having carefully considered the evidence, we consider the Master of the Geffrard has acted to the best of his judgement but it is the opinion of this court that he would have acted more wisely had he employed the strength of both chains in the manner in practice in Fremantle viz paying out 45 fathoms on one anchor and then letting go the second, then paying out to a full scope, and taking all circumstances connected with the case into consideration, and the faulty nature of the chain, we return Mr J.W. Munday his certificate.

Harris(illegible text)
Sub Collector of Customs

J.G. Bussell
Justice of the Peace

I entirely concur in the above finding

Geo. A. Forsyth

Nautical Assessor

J. W. Munday sworn oath

I am Master of the Brig "Geffrard" now lying off Yelverton Beach Station Jetty about ¾ of a mile to the eastward of it and about ¼ mile from the beach. The vessel was about a mile and a half from the jetty when she parted 'nautical miles' The jetty bore(illegible text) from the ship about S.W. by W ½ hi she lay in 4¼ fathoms true soundings on a previous gale. I hove the lead over and found she had not dragged. The vessel had her top-gallant masts housed, the lower topsails and fole top mast stay sail bent I had 90 fathoms of chain on the waters edge when she parted I had a heavy spring of 2 three-fold blocks and a piece of new manilla of 4½ inch. The large chain was an 1¼ inch one I consider it was a first-class chain and when I left the ship I considered her perfectly safe. The anchor weighed about 2 ton. The anchor to the best of my knowledge never moved when it joined the ship about 2½ years ago the chain appeared to me to be new when I found it was going to remain here during the winter months I put all the good chain on the heavy anchor it appeared to be an even one I put the smaller chain on the smaller anchor and I consider it would have been useless to have been riding with a second anchor because the second anchor was too light to be of any effectual use at all. The second chain was rusted and considerably worn I do not consider it was the slightest use having the second anchor down. We discovered a flaw in the weld in the portion of the large chain recovered and there must have a flaw in the chain remaining in the Bay as it parted about 27 fathoms from the anchor. The second chain was quite good enough for any ordinary use it was the working one it is usual for vessels of the Geffrard's class to have only one large chain in such cases our larger anchor being unusually heavy for a vessel of her size I consider I was perfectly justified in putting all the good chain on to one anchor and giving the vessel a long scope I consider the vessel was thoroughly well found in every respect. The whole length of the chain on the first anchor was 105 fathoms and on the second anchor 90 fathoms. The small chain was a 78 inch one and the weight of the anchor about 12 cwt. I consider the large chain was quite sufficient for all purposes and that the second was only a hope. The insurance officers surveyed the ship throughout on leaving Adelaide. She parted the second chain at the 45 fathoms while paying out Both the larger anchor and chain were unusually heavy for a vessel of the Geffrard's size The wind was N by W when she parted and she drifted in a South Easterly direction She parted about 7.30 P.M. on the 13th June It was stormy all the day of the 13th increasing to a heavy gale in the afternoon when the wind shifted from about N.E. to N by W with sudden and violent squalls She was coppered and thoroughly repaired before leaving Adelaide the last trip. The Geffrard draws about 15½ to 16 ft. when loaded I consider I was lying quite far enough out I have been Master of the Geffrard about 2½ years.

I took in a load of timber on Saturday and saw it stowed & then went on shore about 6 p.m. to see Mr. Yelverton on business. I seldom leave my ship I now consider that the chain was not so good as it looked & previous to the accident I considered the chain sufficient to hold a larger ship I was told that there was now a heavier sea running where the Geffrard lay than either at ?oe?ville(illegible text) or the Lighthouse. I consider Geographe Bay perfectly safe in the winter months but ships must be extremely well found in ground tackle. I consider the anchorage to be thorough good holding ground. I left no special instructions with the Chief Officer on leaving the ship he knew what my wishes were and acted the same as is I had been there I do not know whether the heavy chain was tested Had the second anchor been on the bottom with 40 fathoms out I consider it would have parted just the same the ship sheered a great deal as much as 4 or 5 points. A very strong current runs in the Bay during blowing weather When I left the ship the Barometer was at 29.90 it falls to 29.60 before any bad weather be apprehended there was no indication of bad weather when I left the ship.

Sd J W Munday

Taken and sworn before us

7 July 1875

Sd. J S Harris
" J G Bussell

George Allen sworn oath

I am chief mate of the 'Geffrard' Sunday 13th 1875 5 a.m. Calm with a heavy swell from the North 6 a.m.; breeze sprung up from the N.E & reeled round north & commenced to freshen put riding tackle on the chain 10 a.m. blew a perfect gale with rain squalls Barometer 29.80 and falling. Noon ditto weather heavy sea running ship taking seas over all. Weather continued same until 7 P.M. when it fell calm with heavy rain for about 20 minutes when the wind came suddenly with hurricane violence at 7.30 Chain parted immediately at 90 starboard Bower paid out to about 45 fathoms when it parted ship canted to the north West Hoisted the F.T. Mast staysail & set main lower top sail Ship stuck aft first on account of drawing 2 feet more than forward kept the topsail set; 8.30 sounded the *ell(illegible text) and found 9 inches ship lying on the port bilge not striking heavily 9 P.M. very heavy squall with rain and fell calm. Barometer 29.40 She continued t move toward shore till about 11 P.M There were 90 fathoms of chain out side the hawse the riding tackle was composed of two 3 fold blocks and 4 ½ inch manilla rope. We had the second anchor ready to let go the ship was in shore 4 fathoms The first chain was an 1¼ inch one and nearly new when I joined the ship 2½ years ago I consider the chain quite sufficient to hold the ship during the winter gales on this coast had it been good. I found on the piece of chain recovered an opening in the weld in one of the links sufficiently large to admit the blade of a small pen knife I saw no other defect I do not consider the weather was bad enough for a second anchor to be down thinking the first chain fit to hold the ship It is a matter of opinion as to a second anchor being down, it would have helped had there been 2 anchors down & 90 fathoms on each in each case there would have been danger in fouling and also difficulty in recovering. My idea in letting go the second anchor was if the ship struck to keep her head to sea so as to be easily got off if required I am positive that had not the large chain been defective we should have ridden out the gale. We rode out as heavy a gale a week previous. The larger anchor weighed about 20 or 25 cwt since the first enquiry I find the small chain is an inch one I consider there was no chance of holding the vessel after the first chain parted I consider the ship was not sufficiently well found in Chains to ensure her riding safely during the winter months. I consider this port is perfectly safe in the winter months provided a ship is well found in ground tackle. The second anchor was let go within 5 minutes after the first chain parted. The second chain parted as soon as the strain came on it. Had the second anchor (illegible text) down with 45 fathoms on it I do not think it would have parted as soon as it did There is a buoy on the second anchor. We drifted about a cable's length from the time of parting the second chain to the time of striking. The ship was quite far enough out. There were about 280 loads of timber on board when she came ashore. The wind was about north when the chain parted.

Sd. George Allen
Mate Geffrard

Taken and sworn before us

7 July 1875

Sd. J S Harris
" J G Bussell

Charles Elg sworn saith

I am second mate of the Geffrard I am a (illegible text) by birth I have been 20 years at sea I was on board when the Geffrard came on shore at 7.30 p.m. on 13 June the mate and I were standing forward when the chain parted the mate never left the deck when the mate said the chain had parted I would not believe it The reason the second anchor was not down was we considered the chain of the first was good Had the second anchor been down I do not think it would of helped the ship anything. One of the chains is generally smaller than the other in most ships I believe that ships ride with one anchor better than with two I have seen ships lay with 2 anchors and both parted and another with a single anchor ride safely. We had not time enough to heave in on the first chain I let the second anchor go. At the time the chain parted the ship took a (illegible text) and a sea struck her on the starboard bow which I consider was the cause of the chain parting When we found the chain had parted we at once let go the second anchor I can't say how long after the first chain parted that the second went I can't exactly say the time she struck after the second chain parted; we were busy. Made sail on the ship after the second chain parted She continued drifting till about 11 PM when she struck I do not think the second anchor would have been of any use having so much of the first chain out We did not expect bad weather as the glass was high the weather looked fine The second chain is a ⅞ inch one was pretty well worn The second chain would not have held her The ship surged on the second chain while they were paying it out & it snapped We could have paid out to 90 fathoms had it held The men were prepared before the chain I was washed from the Bows to the main hatch

Sd Charles Elg

Taken and sworn
Before us

7 July 1875

Sd J S Harris
J G Bussell

(illegible text) Clifton (illegible text).

We consider as Landsmen that Capt Munday should have had a second chain down at the this time of year — We consider a second Court of Enquiry before a Nautical Assessor is advisable. We have no Nautical Assessor here

J G Harris

Colonial Secretary

We may (illegible text) to hold a formal inquiry I think the H?? ?? would be a good person? to ?? ?? ?? ?? ??

?? 19/6/75

Collector of Customs

Please ?? with the Harbor Master and ??...

Memo the Harbor Master will proceed to the Vasse on Monday next by mail coach

L Worsley Clifton


2 July 75

The Honorable (illegible text)

Western Australia

Custom House Fremantle

26th June 1875

No 4/781


I have the honor to enclose here with the minutes of the Preliminary inquiry regarding the stranding of the 'Geffrard' at the Vasse, for the information of His Excellency The Governor.

On the receipts of these papers I observed that Mr Harris did not state in his report any intention of preparing formal charges under the 1st section of 28 Victoria (illegible text), I therefore thought it advisable to ask the question by wire, and I append his reply.

The Court having decided to prefer specific charges I would request to be informed if His Excellency will authorise a Nautical Assessor being sent to the Vasse to hear the case, as it appears that there is no person there who can act in that capacity; and in the event of His Excellency doing so, I would respectfully suggest that some person of nautical skill be nominated for I feel sure the Court will "appoint" any person named.

I have the honor to be


Your obedient servant

(illegible text)

(illegible text)

(illegible text)

26th June 1875

Collector of Customs

(illegible text) Inquiry to Stranding of Ship Geffrard

(illegible text) 57389.

Western Australia

Customs Vasse

22 June 1875


Herewith I have the honor to forward as requested Minutes of Enquiry related to the loss of the Brig 'Geffrard' on the coast near Quindalup Jetty on the night of the 16th instant. The question as to the second anchor being down at the time appears as a matter of dispute with nautical men at the Vasse, some considering it advisable, and others quite contrary, it is a fact that the first and second mates had ample mooring did they consider it best to drop the second anchor. On speaking to Capt. Davis the owner, he acknowledged it was a matter of opinion, although he thought the second anchor ought to have been down.

A defective link in the heavy chain in the weld is visible which would admit the

Collector of Customs


blade of a penknife and it is the opinion of Mr Bussell and myself that the chain parted through a defective link; and as the mate states the chain appears to be comprised of several pieces purchase at different times I have come to the conclusion that a bad link was the cause of the disaster.

I shall be glad to receive your instructions without delay or by telegram as the officers and crew will be speedily discharged.

I have kept a copy of the enclosed minutes of enquiry.

I have the honor to be Sir your Obedient Servant

J Harris

Sub Collector of Customs

Minutes of preliminary
Inquiry taken before J. S. Harris Esq Sub Collector of Customs Port Vasse, & J. G. Bussel Esq J.P. relating to the stranding of the Brig "Geffrard" off Quindalup Beach Station; on Monday this 21 day of June 1875.

J. W. Munday saith I am Master of the Brig "Geffrard" now lying aground off (illegible text)ston's (illegible text) about ¾ of a mile to the Eastward (illegible text) & about ½ mile from the beach. The vessel was at anchor before the casualty about 1½ mile from the jetty which (illegible text) S by W. (illegible text) the ship was in 4 fathoms water. The topgallant yard & mast were down. There was about 270 loads of timber on board. The chain parted about 7.30 pm on the B ? The afternoon of the day the ship came ashore was very stormy In the afternoon the wind was N.E. with heavy squalls. The ship was 23 years old that been recently slipped an newly coppered at Port Adelaide (illegible text) more than fomare? kept the topsaid set 8.30 ? the pumps were primed 4 inches n the well?. There were 90 fathoms of chain both? a riding tackle on. I do not think it would have been advisable to have had 2 anchors down as she had the largest down at fre??. The firtst chain was about a s much to ? . The chain must have parted in a defective place twice the casualty here notice another flaw in the chain at the wide. The chain has recently with the ship 1 1/2 years ago. I chose the anchor w? 15 ? The same chain held the ship in a gale at Champion Bay.  ? went short 4 fathoms where she parted I consider the casualty arose from the evidence of the ? ?. I never left the deck from 1.30 till 11 p.m The ship passed over a bank of rocks and now lays in sand and rocks. The second chain is a 7/8 inch one and the anchor about 13 cwt. The second anchor was let go within 5 minutes after the first chain parted.

sworn 18/5 G.Harris Geo ?ollen Mate "Geffrard"

By oath: I am second mate of the "Geffrard" I was on board when the ship came ashore The chain parted about 7.30 pm I was on deck with the mate winching ? the ship and ? I ? It was at the climax of the storm when the chain parted The ship took a shu? and the sea struck her on the bow when she parted The mate and myself then ran and let go the second anchor the starboard one. It took about 10 minutes to pay out the

          J.G. Bussell