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REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON SOUND-SIGNALS.
Resolved, that the Chair appoint two committees, each to consist of seven delegates, to be known as the Committee on Lights and the Committee on Sounci-Signals, whose present duty it shall be to examine and report to the Covference the literaiure on these two subjects which is in the possession of the Conference.
WASHINGTON, October 31, 1889. Rear-Admiral S. R. FRANKLIN, U. S. Navy,
President International Marine Conference: SIR: Since our first meeting, on the 23d instant, we have examined the numerous proposals that have been placed before the Conference and submitted to us, for indicating in fog, mist, or falling snow the direction in which a vessel is proceeding by means of sound-signals, in agreement with the course steered, the sounds or characters being made by one or more steam-whistles or fog-horns, and varying in number, length of note, or pitch of tone, to distinguish the course of a vessel. We have also had before us a memorandum prepared by the Com.
mittee of the Second Northern Maritime Conference, held at Copenhagen, dated 1888. It is there stated that
** The sound-signals in fog, mist, or falling snow, according to Article 12, are commonly regarded as insufficient, as hereby only is prescribed that a steam-ship under way sball make with her steam-whistle, or other steam sound-signal, at intervals of not more than two minutes, a prolonged blast, as by this means only the very incomplete information is obtained that a steamer is within the range of hearing. Proposals to the remedy thereof exist in a considerable number, partly as to sound-signals indicating alterations of a ship's course and partly as to indicating the courses of a ship. Fog sound-siguals for maneuvering seem to have gained only a few adherents, as they generally are considered to be more misleading than leading in crowded fair-ways. On the contrary, a steam-whistle system for compass course-signals' is commonly considered as practical and useful.
“The objections to a compass course-signal system seem to be derived from a fear, partly that such combined signals might easily be misunderstood, and thereby do more harm than good, and partly on account of the difficulty of deciding with certainty the exact direction in which the signals are heard. Nevertheless, as far as we can judge, it seems that if the whistling' which now only signifies here is a steamer' was arranged in such a manner that it did signify · here is a steamer steering a certain course, that this could not make the situation worse, but rather serve to better it. Adherents and non-adherents to such a system do, however, agree that neither the steam-whistle nor the fog-horn are, as a rule, of sufficient efficiency, and that this matter, therefore, ought to be regulated by international agreements.”
We have also considered (1) the replies to a circular sent out by the United States Hydrographic Office to the branch offices, asking for the opinion of practical men on the subjects referred to in the programme of the Conference, an epitome of which replies so far as they relate to the subjects on which we are to report we have prepared and have annexed (Appendix A); (2) the opinions expressed, in reply to a circular letter sent out by Captain Shackford, by a number of experienced seamen employed in navigating vessels in American waters and in the Atlantic, the majority of whom express themselves against the introduction of course-indicating sound-signals; and (3) a memorandum (Appendix B) on the use of such signals, prepared lately by the British Board of Trade, which discusses the whole subject and contains the opinions of the most experienced British shipmasters, a very large proportion of whom are against the introduction of such signals.
We have further considered certain proposals for the introduction of a general system of sound-signals for use in all weathers; for the adoption of a few sound-signals of an urgent or specially important nature, and for the adoption of sound-siguals to denote any movement of helm.
The present authorized compulsory signals made by a moving vessel at sea, in fog, mist, or falling snow, are a prolonged blast on the steamwhistle of a steam-ship, or one, two, or three blasts on the fog-horn of a sailing vessel.
We are informed and beliere that the custom of careful seamen, when navigating steam-ships in fog by means of these signals, coupled with the injunction to proceed at a moderate speed under Article 13 of the International Regulations, is, immediately the fog-signal of another ship not in sight is beard, apparently approaching from any direction before the beam, to reduce speed in agreement with the density of the atmosphere, and if necessary to stop and remain stopped until the other ship is located with as much accuracy as possible, then to proceed cautiously until all danger of collision has ceased to exist.
The principal difficulty in making use of a practical system of soundsignaling in foggy weather is in taking in the signal correctly, not in making it.
Until seamen are able to localize a sound with as great precision as they can the position of a light or object seen visually the results to the mercantile marine from the adoption of a system of course-indicating fog-signals are, in the opinion of the committee, of doubtful advantage. The chief use would appear to be to give facilities to approach. ing vessels, when not in sight of one another, and therefore when not certain of one another's position, to continue their respective courses without having first localized the direction and distance of the neighboring ship, and for the two vessels to try to pass close to each other without taking the precaution of first reducing, or, if necessary, stopping their way through the water.
It is for the Conference to decide on the vital question whether to permit the use of such signals in the mercantile marine or not. But the committee submit that increased danger might probably result-owing to the inability of the large majority of men to localize sound with sufficient accuracy—if those in charge of steam-ships are encouraged to navigate their vessels past others not in sight in a less cautious manner than they do at present.
The committee are of the opinion that, however simple an adopted system of course-indicating sound-signals may be, and however distinct in character the symbols chosen are from the signals now authorized and used, if vessels were navigated in dependence on them, when neither can see the other, there would be a danger of the officer in charge reading the signal incorrectly; or, if read correctly, of interpreting it wrongly.
Further, if such signals were in use in crowded waters, we apprehend that danger would result from the uncertainty and confusion produced by the multiplicity of signals, and from a feeling of false security that would be created in the minds of many.
The committee would invite the consideration of the Conference to the following points:
(1) We are of the opinion that many of the steam-whistles, and the fog-horns and bells now in general use can not be heard a sufficient distance; we therefore recommend the use of instruments giving a louder sound; and we consider it desirable that the sounds given by steamwhistles and fog.horns should be regulated so that the tones of the steamer's fog-whistle should be as distinct as possible from the sound of the sailing vessel's fog-horn.
(2) As a vessel at anchor in a fog, etc., in a fair-way at sea, is in a more dangerous position, particularly while swinging round broadside to the main line of route with a change of tide, than if under way and sounding the authorized fog-horn, we would suggest that such a vessel should be compelled to use a more efficient sound-signal than the bell at present authorized.
(3) As in a fog, etc., a tug towing another vessel forms an exceptional danger, we would suggest that the tug and the one or more vessels towed should be compelled to sound a special fog-signal.
(4) We would suggest that a vessel "not under command” should be compelled to sound a special fog.signal.
(5) We invite attention to the desirability of not fixing the duration of the steam-ship's prolonged blast warning signal under Article 12 of the regulations at any minimum until exhaustive experiments have shown that the efficiency of the signal is not reduced thereby. On this subject wo attach some remarks on experiments made by M. Lefèbre in Holland (Appendix C).
(6) As regards the adoption of a general system of sound-signals, we learn by a return prepared by the British Board of Trade (copy of which is attached, appendix D), that the majority of ship-owners and master mariners are of opinion that there is at present no demand or necessity for such a system in the mercantile marine. Apart from the question. as to war necessities, we concur in this opinion. But we would recom. mend the Conference to consider the desirability of introducing a few urgent and important sound-signals, particularly one to denote that, when two neighboring ships are stopped in a thick fog, one vessel making the signal will remain stopped while the other is carefully feeling her way past her.
(7) As regards helm-signals by sound, we are of opinion that it is not desirable to alter the present universally-adopted signals.
(8) We consider it worthy the attention of the Conference whether the custom followed at present by careful seamen of slowing or stopping on hearing the fog-signal of another ship not in sight, unless cer. tain of her bearing and distance, could be made compulsory by a regulation so worded as not to relieve those in charge from full responsibility.
(9) As a relatively important matter, we would direct the attention of the Conference to the desirability of steam-ships being provided with means of blowing off the surplus steam when the engines are stopped in such a manner as to occasion as little noise as possible.
Delegate for Denmark.
G. S. NARES,
Delegate for Italy.
Delegate for Norway.
J. W. SHACKFORD,
HYDROGRAPHIC OFFICE, NAVY DEPARTMENT,
Washington, D. O., May 3, 1889. SIR: A copy of the programme of subjects to be considered by the International Marine Conference has been forwarded to you to-day. It is the desire of the chief of the Bureau of Navigation for you to discuss this matter thoroughly with all those who are interested and competent to judge, and to make a report in detail to this office. The object of this is to formulate practical views for the use of our commissioners on all or any of the subjects referred to, or on any others that may have been omitted. This matter must be taken up at once, although sufii. cient time will be allowed to do the subject that justice which its mag. nitude and importance demand.
Attention is called to the April number of the North American Review, containing articles bearing on this subject. Very respectfully,
G. L. DYER,