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The common iron lost 80 per cent. in the 17 days, the very pure iron only 5 per cent., and the general result of the experiment was that the metal corroded more or less as it was more or less impure. Setting aside the very pure iron, which was merely a curiosity, and would be too soft to be of any practical use, the mild steel came out of the test best, with a loss of only about ten per cent. In the discussion which followed the papers, Mr. Barnaby, of the Admiralty, stated that the result of some experiments made by his directions was not so favourable to mild steel as those of Mr. Adamson. Experiments made with dilute sulphuric acid, indeed, can hardly be relied on as indicating what will take place in sea water. We have heard that the general result of the Admiralty experiments appears to indicate that most of the cases of rapid corrosion are due to galvanic action, in some instances clearly between the black oxide which adheres to the plate, and the parts of the plate where the oxide has been removed. The black oxide is produced on the plate during rolling, being what is technically known as "scale." It is electro-negative with regard to the plate itself, and consequently when some of it is knocked off in the process of working, galvanic action will be set up in salt water between the covered and uncovered portions of the plate. It has been observed that the scale adheres much more firmly to mild steel than to iron, probably on account of the greater homogeneity of the former. It has also been suggested that galvanic action may be set up even when there is no black oxide, between different parts of the same plate, which may slightly vary in composition. We recently ourselves noticed a case of evident galvanic action in a case which would be inexplicable except on the hypothesis that a mixed metal may so vary in composition that some portions of the same plate may differ so much from other adjacent parts as to cause galvanic action between them in sea water. The yellow metal dovetail plate connecting the keel with the stem in a large wooden ship only a year old was clearly pitted, and no other metal was so near it as to be the cause of the mischief.
Evidently more experiments are wanted before anything can be said as to the durability of mild steel, and if such experiments are to be of practical use, the actual condition of the metal in salt
water as it would be in a ship’s bottom, supposing the paint rubbed off, must be as nearly as possible reproduced. It is further necessary that a careful analysis be made of each plate experimented upon, especially, we think, with a view of ascertaining the quantity of manganese contained in it. Carbon, sulphur, and the other elements which are present in iron and steel, if present in undue proportions, show their effects in the tests to which it is subjected. Manganese does not do so, and yet it may have as much influence in causing rapid corrosion as any of the more obviously injurious impurities.
SEAMEN COMMITTED TO PRISON.
CORRESPONDENT has written to us in a hot state of indignation to call attention to the large number of seamen (as he says) cruelly and wickedly committed
to prison every year. He writes as if he thought, and probably he does think, that the shipowners and the magistrates are leagued together with a view to sending seamen to prison, either for no offence whatever, or without taking into consideration “the touching and reasonable reasons they give for leaving their ships. “I am constrained,” he says, “ to enquire whether we live in a Christian land when I find that, because a fellow-creature is moved by the tenderest feeling and those sympathies which ought to be encouraged and cherished as adding nobility to our nature, he is committed to the common gaol.” We have not space in which to continue our correspondent's letter, and it is the more unnecessary, as it is founded on misconception, and written in entire ignorance of the peculiar conditions of sea service. Our correspondent is, however, an accurate man for a philanthropist, and though evidently incapable of listening to reason, shows wonderful power of breaking forth into ready and scornful indignation and vituperation when his feelings are worked upon. We have, ourselves, so much respect and sympathy for the genuineness of his motives, and so much real, because not misapplied interest in our seamen, that we have been at pains to find out what
really is at the bottom of our worthy correspondent's present troubles. In this view we hastened to procure a copy of the return from which he has informed as that he derives his information. It is “ a return of all seamen committed to gaol in Great Britain and Ireland for refusing to go to sea, or for desertion, in the years 1875-6-7.” The form of the return moved for, and the information given, could not have been devised in a more suitable way if the intention of the mover had been deliberately to mislead, and we therefore do not wonder at our sympathetic correspondent having fallen into error over it, nor that he has formed the conclusions on it with which he has favoured us. For instance, we find amongst other reasons given, the following :-"Left ship to visit a dying father, “wanted to see his wife," "dreamt the ship was going to be lost,” “ thought the ship's boats were too large," " did not like the ship,” “ thought the ship was unseaworthy," " did not like the cook," " the crewspace was leaky,” &c., &c., and there is not a single word to show whether the plea was good or bad, or was investigated at all ; and so it happens that the feeling hearts of persons like our correspondent are smitten; as it has seemed from this return, not that the excuse was silly, unfounded, or irrelevant, but that the men were actually sent to prison because they had left the ship on the grounds stated.
Now, we must look at the facts as we find them, and we find as follows:
The numbers of seamen, including apprentices and mates, committed to prison during the five years ending 1877 for refusing or neglecting to proceed to sea according to agreement, or for simple desertion, and the number of ships in respect of which they were committed, were as follows :
Allowing for a residuum, consisting of persons who regard shipowners as lawful prey and the swindling of boarding-house keepers as a pleasant diversion, a residuum who spend a large proportion of their time in gaol, it will be seen on taking these .parliamentary returns as a basis that the percentage of deserters to the whole number of seamen in the Mercantile Marine is almost infinitesimal. If it could but be found how many of the men included in the return have appeared in it more than once, then the return would be useful as showing more completely how very little the general body of seamen are affected by the present power of arrest without warrant. As the matter stands, however, it is obvious either that desertion is small, or that shipowners do not rigorously exercise their power of arrest, for we find that the proportion of seamen committed for desertion in the three kingdoms, including repeated convictions, gives only an average of about one in 563, or •177 per cent. per year. The number of entries and clearances at ports in the United Kingdom for one year show that, as regards voyages (i.e., opportunities of desertion), the above proportions should be greatly reduced. As nearly as can be computed 2,300,000 seamen, reckoning their repeated voyages, enter ports in the United Kingdom in British vessels during one year. It should also be remembered that the returns include committals of apprentices who ran away because they were tired of the sea, or wanted to get rid of their apprenticeship. Foreign vessels are apparently included in the return list, but are not reckoned in calculating this proportion. We may, with certainty, infer from the figures that the number of cases to which Clause 10 of the new Act would have applied were comparatively few. The desertions and refusals in the majority of cases were simply the acts of individuals, and very seldom the acts of one-fourth of the seamen belonging to the ship. As regards the reasons urged by the seamen in justification or extenuation of their desertion, we assume, of course, that they were carefully inquired into, and were deemed by the magistrates to be unfounded or absurd, or committal would not have taken place ; but in order to place before our readers all the information that can possibly be gleaned from this very loose return, we have classified the excuses of the men as follows:
Unseaworthiness No. of Men 139
of Vessels No. of Charge3 32 Drink
No. of Men 44
(No. of Charges 34 Various Excuses
No. of Men 167
(No. of Men ... 88 No Excuse
No. of Charges 71 Not stated in No. of Men ... 194 Return
99 118 83
43 27 227
97 160 121 138 88
57 190 136 91 72
923 439 721 538 722 497
No. of Charges 127
Total Namber of Men Committed 632 ... 633 ... 663 ... 634 ... 553 *3115 Total Number of Charges
343 ... 374 ... 387 ... 352 ... 322 ...1778
As regards the pleas of unseaworthiness, we find that 156 men were committed to prison in 31 cases after the ships had been surveyed and declared seaworthy by the Board of Trade Surveyor. In the cases of 353 men who alleged unseaworthiness, the magistrates did not order, nor did the men demand, any survey.
When we take into consideration the efforts that have been made in late years to convince the public of the general unseaworthiness of merchant ships, and when we read of an eminent philanthropist recently stating on a deputation to the Board of Trade, that
seamen are still sent to prison because they refuse to proceed to sea in unseaworthy ships," we are altogether surprised to find that the returns show how little the seaman himself believes in unseaworthiness. It is the more remarkable, because the State affords the seaman the services of a staff of surveyors to do his work gratuitously or at the cost of the owner, while it refuses to the shipowner all aid whatever in the same way even if he is willing to pay for it.
We do indeed see here and there in the return the effect of fear or of folly, as in the plea of one man who deserted because he “dreamt that the ship was going to be lost," and of seven others who deserted because the "ship’s boats were too large." In the latter
* In a note under Liverpool we find reference to a batch of cases which are not included in the body of the Return, and cannot therefore be classified.