§ SIR E. GOURLEY
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will be good enough to inform the House the cause of the capsizing of Her Majesty's new yacht "Victoria and Albert" when in Pembroke Dry Dock; whether extensive alterations are being made in the vessel's deck and masting arrangements; will he also state the nature of her ballast and if there are water-ballast tanks in all the holds and peaks, and the yacht's draught of water when empty and when filled; and where the coal bunkers are placed, and whether filled in part or wholly when the ship capsized.
§ MR. W. ALLAN
I beg at the same time to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty what was the number of tons of pig-iron ballast put into Her Majesty's new yacht at Pembroke to bring the vessel into an upright position; whether there is a serious mistake in her design, seeing the centre of gravity of the vessel is too high, necessitating the adoption of iron ballasting to secure stability; will this pig-iron ballast remain in her during her trials at sea; if so, why will it not be removed so that the vessel's stability as designed can be substantiated; and what is the cost and nature of the repairs the vessel is now undergoing at Portsmouth Dockyard.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I think I had best answer these questions by a clear, consecutive statement of the actual facts. In the calculations on which the design of the 280 Royal yacht was based many of the weights, especially those connected with the structures composing the upper portion of the ship, must have been greatly under-estimated, and various additions to these weights, among which was an in crease in the height of the masts, were sanctioned during her construction for the sake of improving her appearance and comfort, under the idea that the original estimate had been a sufficiently liberal one to justify these changes. The result was that while the dockyard officers supposed that at the time the vessel was floated she would be in the condition she was designed to be in when empty of coal and stores, and therefore perfectly safe, she was actually unstable when upright, and heeled over to a considerable angle. Owing to a defect in the caisson at the entrance to the dock the water could not be retained at its full height, and the vessel's bilges rested on the blocks and against the side of the dock. A considerable amount of crushing in of the outer bottom occurred, but the inner bottom was only injured to a slight extent. This damage is now being made good at Portsmouth, and the cost is being kept separate. Until fresh calculations, which are in progress, have been made of all the weights that have still to go into the ship it is impossible to say exactly what the extent of the error in estimate was, or what alterations will be necessary to ensure satisfactory conditions of stability, but they will probably include the shortening of the masts and funnels, the removal of large quantity of silicate cotton which was introduced between the cabin bulkheads and in other places for the sake of deadening sound, and the removal of the greater part of the forecastle. In the alterations that are made the greatest care will be taken to interfere as little as possible with either the comfort or appearance of the vessel, or with her efficiency in any way. When the vessel was first floated her bunkers and holds were empty. On leaving Pembroke she had 270 tons of coal on board, and about 550 tons of water and iron ballast. In this condition she had a mean draught of 19ft. 6in. On the passage from Pembroke to Portsmouth she experienced a heavy sea, and proved herself an excellent seaboat with very easy motion and a total absence of vibration from the engines. Sir W. White, who throughout his long 281 and distinguished career has had conspicuous success in producing ships which have invariably almost exactly fulfilled their design, accepts full responsibility for the mistake, for which at present he is unable to account. The matter will, of course, form the subject of a careful inquiry as soon as the necessary calculations to establish the actual facts have been completed.
§ MR. W. ALLAN
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is the intention of the Admiralty authorities to keep pig-iron ballast in Her Majesty's yacht so as to render it stable?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The whole matter is under inquiry. I have nothing to add at present to what I have stated, and, of course, I shall be perfectly prepared to give every possible information.
§ MR. W. ALLAN
This is a matter of national importance. Do I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that there has been a mistake made, as his words imply, in the design of this yacht and in her construction, rendering her unstable for Her Majesty whenever she goes abroad?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
A mistake has been committed. That is fully acknowledged by Sir William White; but in remembering that mistake I trust the enormous services he has rendered to the shipping of the nation will not be forgotten. He admits he has made a mistake for which he is at present unable to account.