17 APRIL 1852, Page 12


Glasgow, 15th April 1852. Sin—Allow me to call your attention to a lesson of some importance taught by the experience of the Birkenhead. The paddle-box boats were it ap- pears, unserviceable ; and this appears to be the unvarying story whenever any wreck occurs. The only case in which the paddle-box boats, so far as I am aware, proved serviceable, was that of the West India mail-steamer Solway, lost on the coast of Portugal. She was a wooden steamer, and the weather was fair. In the case of the Avenger war-steamer, lost in the Mediterranean, the weather paddle-boat was unapproachable, from the sea making a clear breach through and over the paddle-box ; while the lee paddle-boat, with, if I remember rightly, some fifty hands, was crushed and en- tangled in the rigging of the funnel, which fell over it. On that occasion, the only survivors, I think, were saved by means of a small quarter-boat. In the Birkenhead a similar result was obtained. One paddle-box boat got entangled among the rigging of a mast or funnel, which fell ; and the other was swamped. It appears very clear, that if there had been a few quarter-boats hung on davits, all on board the Birkenhead might have been rescued. Quarter- boats can readily be kept from drying and cracking in a hot climate, by putting water inside them; paddle-boats, lying with their bottoms upward, will not retain water, and are soon injured by-the sun. Quarter-boats are easily launched by means of davits, if there be care taken to lower both ends of the boat equally. Paddle-boats are very difficult to lower; and the opera- tion, from its difficulty, is so seldom performed, that when an emergency ar- rives the boat is leaky if launched, or the joints and apparatus for launching are rusted up and unserviceable. Quarter-boats when launched are not so likely to be swamped alongside as paddle-boats, which must be lowered where they are in imminent danger of being caught by the outer paddle- beams or the wing-walla, if the vessel rolls or there is any sea on. Make what use you please of these hurried remarks, even if that should be to burn them. I have had some experience of engineering matters; though, as you will see from the accompanying card, my interests do not lie at all in

that way at present. Yours very truly, &mums&