Anchoring mistake blamed for passenger steamer accident


PETALING JAYA: Steamer SS Amherst had sailed from Singapore before it reportedly ran aground on a sandbar in Sungai Pahang on Nov 17, 1901.

This was stated in a report titled “Findings and Order of a Marine Court of Inquiry held at the Marine Court in Singapore on Dec 17, 1901, to investigate the circumstances attending the stranding of the British steamship Amherst”.

Built in Glasgow in 1886, the 108-tonne vessel which belonged to the port of Singapore, had left the island bound for Kelantan the previous day. It was supposed to stop at several ports.

The vessel was carrying general cargo, a crew of 42 and 77 passengers.

Amherst reached Sungai Pahang at about 8am on Nov 17 and discharged her Pahang-bound passengers.

The ship then attempted to cross a sandbar in the river, but immediately ran aground, the report said.

There was, at the time, a north-east wind and a fairly heavy sea, the report also claimed due to heavy rains which accounted for the very strong currents in the river.

At 6pm, the vessel began to move with the rising tide, and further attempts were made to get the vessel to move.

“For some reason, about 8pm, the starboard anchor was dropped, and almost immediately the vessel was found to be making water, and in a very short time was full of water and became a total wreck.

“The coolies of the ship without orders had at the same time, gone off in a boat, taking with them three of the passengers, and all with the exception of two of the coolies are believed to have been drowned,” said the report.

The rest of the passengers were landed safely and the vessel was abandoned the next day.

While attempts were being made to get her off the sandbar, Amherst “sat down (landed on) upon her starboard anchor, by which a hole was knocked in her bottom which caused her to fill (with water)”.

The marine court found the loss of the ship and the loss of life were not caused by the wrongful act or default of anyone, but was of the opinion a mistake was made in letting go the starboard anchor – “but for this the vessel might have got off the sand bar”, it said.

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