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Madras is some 656 miles by sea from Calcutta. Arthur left at 0740 on 20th January 1915 and stopped, as directed, at the Hesperus for 7 minutes. From Pilot's Ridge he set course 3’ East of Madras on a course of S. 43½ W. They sighted Madras light at 0500 on Saturday 23rd and picked up the pilot at 0700 and made fast at 0730. There are details about tonnage of coal loaded, how and where stored and tonnage consumed. Running out of fuel at sea would have been ‘silly’ - especially in war. The salvage operation was put in Arthur's report to the Deputy Conservator, Port of Calcutta dated 8th February 1915.
I beg to report on the operations of this vassal in connection with the salving of the S.S. Lotusmere and the subsequent towing of her to Madras and to Calcutta. We left Calcutta at 7-40 A.M. on January 20th and arrived in Madras at 7 A.M. on January 23rd.
The position of things at the Ennore Shoal was not known in Madras except that the Lotusmere appeared to be breaking up. After obtaining a chart of an old survey of the Shoal and taking on board a salvage pump, and without coaling, I proceeded with all dispatch to the wreck and arrived abreast of the Ennore Shoal at 2 P.M. It was blowing fresh from the North-east with a moderately high sea running, with a strong Southerly set of approximately 2 knots an hour. This Southerly set remained constant throughout the whole of the operations. The Shoal was well marked in the shape of a crescent by the heavy breakers on it, with the Lotusmere on the inner edge close inshore, head towards the beach and port bilge on the shoal. Outside in open water the Dredger Madras was moored, head to sea. I anchored close to her and went on board in order to obtain, if possible, some local information. They told me they had been nearly ashore several times in their endeavours at salvage and the closest they had been able to get to the Lotusmere was 1500 feat and that was when the Lotusmere was on the outer end of the Shoal.
The Lotusmere was, when I arrived, in a very much more difficult position to get at. At this time a native fisherman in a katamaran was endeavouring to run lines of soundings close to the wreck but the sea was so high he had to discontinue and I neither heard nor saw anything further of him or of his work. I made some small charts myself which enabled me to avoid the more treacherous parts. The whole locality has changed since the last survey, with a lumpy bottom. At one place 10 feet was found, adjacent to 5 fathoms, and the two leadsmen, one on either side of the vessel, had often a difference of 6 feet in almost simultaneous casts. When I anchored the first night in 28 feet and fixed the position, I found I should have been in 7 fathoms by the chart. [1 fathom = 6 feet.]
The Shoal at this point had extended to the Eastward. Had I had a reliable chart or been able to obtain any useful information, I would have gone inside the Shoal that evening. The Lotusmere requested me to do so, but even if this had been done it would have been dark before I could have got near her and the work would have been dangerous chance work; accordingly, that evening I fixed conspicuous trees, etc. on my sheet and the position of the wreck and made lines for soundings and commenced work inside the following morning. During the night the Lotusmere drove further inshore and further along the Shoal; the work of getting near her was most difficult; the deep water was close along the beach and here a great swell rolled in. The Retriever had to be backed in, broadside on, in a heavy beam sea parallel to the lee shore and that only about three ships' lengths distant. It was only possible to work on the Lotusmere starboard quarter and even here there was shoal water and little manoeuvring space.
We got our hawsers on board of her over her poop and at l0-25 A.M. on Sunday, the 24th January, commenced towing. For an hour we applied our maximum towing power without moving the Lotusmere in the least and during this and the subsequent occasions, while the Lotusmere remained stationary and we towed in the sea-way, this ship was subjected to a particularly vibrating strain. I requested the captain to discharge more coal and at 1-15 P.M. continued towing, but no better results were obtained. These towing manoeuvres, owing to our stern being held fast and the beam seas bearing us always towards the beach with a danger of swinging head on to it, were most difficult and dangerous. At half an hour before dark I discontinued towing, cast off and anchored in open water.
The following morning we were fast to the Lotusmere again at 9-30. Before towing operations this day, I made a more extensive survey and from the result of this saw the impossibility of towing her off till she was thoroughly well lightened. Up to this time the Lotusmere had had kedge anchors out astern. But although I couldn't tow her off, she nevertheless, as she lightened and lifted on the swell, drove further onshore. She had the heavy swell, wind, sea and set all against her, bearing her on to the beach. It was apparent that as I could not pull her off if the ship was to be saved, she had to be kept in the one position and then lightened. After talking the matter over with the Captain and Lloyd's representative on the Lotusmere, I backed into the position (of which I attach a small sketch) [see above] and laid out an anchor astern of her and further made a chain mooring, weighing 7 tons, on which a wire was bent and the end of which was passed to the Lotusmere. After this was done, towing was resumed at high water. Again our maximum power was applied, without effect, and at 5 p.m. I cast off and stood out to sea.
The following morning I returned to Madras. On my arrival a conference was held between the Heads of the Port Trust, Messrs Wilson & Co., and myself. I was not satisfied that what had been laid out astern of the Lotusmere would hold and recommended the laying out of more gear. The Port Trust thereupon supplied me with a 3½ ton anchor and the following day, January 27th, I again proceeded to the Lotusmere and on reaching her found she had dragged half a ship's length further inshore and was now lying with her head practically in the breakers. With considerable difficulty we manoeuvred into position and laid the 3½ ton anchor out, 500 feet, a point on her starboard quarter, and on to this shackled 30 fathoms of inch and five-eighths chain cable and our 6 inch salvage steel wire hawser and passed the end to the Lotusmere. During these operations a small portion of our bulwark plating got stove in. This anchor held and the lightening of the ship became effective.
The Lotusmere was in a predicament as her fresh water was almost exhausted and she had besides her crew 250 coolies working on board. As no water could be sent from Madras, I went close to and pumped 6000 gallons into her. That night I returned to Madras and towed a Port Trust Lighter back for them.
This evening your telegram instructing me to return to Calcutta came to hand. The worst of the work had by this time been done and as we had got the Lotusmere properly secured, and as her night and day discharge was going on with better results than expected, and as I had also by this time acquired a considerable knowledge of the waters round the shoal, I was prepared to definitely state I could save the ship when she was lightened, if her position was maintained. I telephoned Mr. Crusha, the head of Messrs Wilson & Co., accordingly and we both telegraphed to you. Had the Lotusmere been left by us then, she, in all probability, would have become a total loss, for there was nothing in Madras to deal with her and had she floated and swung broadside on to the beach, she would have broken herself up at once.
We returned to the Lotusmere on the evening of January the 28th. At 6-30 that night I had a hawser fast astern of her and by heaving on this and on her after gear she floated off, it being high water, the night tide being a foot higher than the day tide. Everything was buoyed and slipped and we towed her stern first up along the beach and out to deep water. This night work was only possible owing to a knowledge of the locality having been gained previously by running lines of soundings on different tree transits etc. The Lotusmere was anchored in 12 fathoms and we stood by her during the night. The following morning we towed her to Madras, arriving there at 11-20 A.M., January the 29th.
Most of the salvage gear that had been left on the Ennore Shoal was recovered by the Port Trust, one of my crew being sent to their vessel to point out the positions of the buoys, etc. and on the Sunday I went out in the ship to see if the work was being carried out in the proper place, returning to Madras the same day.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, February the 2nd, the Lotusmere completed her discharge of cargo and we took her in tow for Calcutta, leaving Madras Harbour at 4-30 that afternoon. We arrived at the Sandheads on Saturday evening, February the 6th, at 8-30 and at Calcutta the following evening at 5-30, all well. The ship, Officers, Engineers and crew have worked splendidly.
Copies of telegrams to Calcutta and copies of letters to Lloyd's Agents at Madras are attached for your information.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
[signed] A. D. Linklater, Commander.