Tag Archives: London

Eels from Killaloe

Great quantities of salmon have been recently exported from Limerick to England, and the abundant supply of eels in the Shannon is furnishing a new and productive traffic in the English market. There are ten tons of this prolific fish now in tanks at Killaloe, awaiting a conveyance to London, and a vessel adapted for the trade will take on board from Limerick in the ensuing week forty tons of eels for the London market.

The Dublin Monitor 23 October 1844

Cardboard and paper

Some folk have been sailing on the Thames in a boat made of cardboard.

Over two hundred years ago, Isaac Weld navigated the lakes of Killarney in a boat made of brown paper:

Whilst engaged in illustrating the scenery of that beautiful locality, Mr Weld derived additional pleasure from the occupation, in introducing a young and amiable wife to scenes so familiar to himself. To facilitate their rambles, and profiting by his Canadian adventures and his skill as a “voyageur“, he constructed with his own hands the model of an Indian canoe. In the absence, however, of birch bark, he had recourse to successive layers of stout brown paper, creating a sort of papier-maché boat, sufficiently roomy for two. In this paper skiff he actually had the hardihood to intrust himself and fair companion in sundry adventurous voyages on the Lakes.

That is from “Mr Foot’s Memoir of the late Isaac Weld, Esq” in The Journal of the Royal Dublin Society Volume I 1856–57 Hodges, Smith & Co, Dublin 1858. Wikipedia offers a shorter account of the life of the remarkable Mr Weld. His Statistical Survey of the County of Roscommon, Royal Dublin Society 1832, is an invaluable source of information about the Shannon and the Royal Canal, but Mr Weld is also notable for his voyage, along with his equally adventurous wife, on the steamer Thames [originally Argyle] from Dublin to London in 1815. There are brief accounts of the journey here and here; the captain, George Dodd, wrote a book An Historical and Explanatory Dissertation on Steam-Engines and Steam-Packets; with the evidence in full given by the most eminent engineers, mechanists, and manufacturers, to the Select Committees of the House of Commons; togerther with the Committees’ reports, distinguishing and defining safe and unsafe steam-engines, and their proper management: comprising particulars of the fatal explosions of boilers at Norwich, Northumberland, Wells-street, and in America: concluding with a narrative, by Isaac Weld Esq, of the interesting voyage of the Thames steam-yacht, from Glasgow, in Scotland, to Dublin and London [published for the author, London 1818] available here, and Isaac Weld’s account is available here. Mrs Weld may have been the first woman to take an extended sea voyage in a steam vessel.

 

Rivers of London

Map here [h/t CELR].

DUKWs? Fiat lux

I have written here about a series of misfortunes suffered by DUKWs in Liverpool and London. On 16 June 2013 I put up some photos of DUKWs in Dublin and Liverpool; I pointed to what seemed to me to be two differences between practices in the two cities:

First, before they enter the water at Grand Canal Dock, Ringsend, the DUKWs are fitted with extra buoyancy in cylinders that slide into racks along their sides. I saw the VikingSplash crew removing the cylinders from the yellow DUKW; it took only a couple of minutes, and I presume that it didn’t take much longer to put the cylinders on.

Second, the Dublin passengers are issued with buoyancy aids before they take to the water. I can’t see any buoyancy aids on the Liverpool passengers, although it’s possible that they are out of camera shot.

There are links on that page to photos, news reports and a seriously scary video of the sinking of a DUKW in Liverpool. Then, in September 2013, a DUKW went on fire on the Thames; my brief report and links here. In October 2013 the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch issued a safety bulletin (my report here, with links) pointing to foam buoyancy as a common factor. The Liverpool DUKWs did not have enough buoyancy to keep them afloat if they started taking water and MAIB thought it would be impossible to get enough into them. On the London vessel,

… the most likely cause of fire was the action of the rotating drive shaft (or other moving parts) on the oil contaminated surfaces of the buoyancy foam blocks.

In November 2013 I noted that the wearing of lifejackets had been discussed in London and I commented on the policy of the Dublin operator, VikingSplash:

The point that strikes me is that, in both UK accidents, passengers had little time to don lifejackets and would have been trying to put them on in a confined space and under less than ideal conditions. It seems to me that Viking Splash’s policy [having passengers don lifejackets before taking to the water] is the right one.

In December 2014 the MAIB published its report into the two accidents. There’s a Guardian news report here [h/t gjb] and you can download the MAIB’s full report and annexes from this page. The London and Liverpool accidents are covered in the same report.

It’s well worth reading and pulls (as far as I could tell) no punches, even tearing strips off the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, both within the UK Department for Transport and both involved because the DUKW is an amphibian.

I took three main points from the report.

The Irish approach

First, the Irish authorities seem to have thought seriously about the safety problems. My understanding of the buoyancy requirements was mistaken: the UK DUKWs had added buoyancy (although not enough, and adding more foam caused fire) and the Irish buoyancy cylinders are not designed to keep the vessel afloat. Here’s what MAIB says:

In Ireland, APV operators have been permitted to operate vintage DUKWs without having to provide any residual buoyancy. To mitigate the consequences of serious flooding, the Irish regulator required the operators to:

  • Fit external buoyancy tubes designed to slow the sinking process and make the vehicle sink bodily [my emphasis].
  • Retract the canopy roof and open the side curtains prior to entering the water.
  • Require passengers and crew to wear PFDs while on the water.
  • Provide a fast rescue craft, rescue crew and an inflatable liferaft at the slipway.
  • Limit operations to a non-tidal area.

This approach focused on passenger survivability by reducing the risk of entrapment and drowning, rather than vehicle survivability, and introduced several of the interim measures recommended by the NTSB following the sinking of Miss Majestic.

The Irish model demonstrates that open topped APVs can be operated successfully in similar weather conditions to those experienced in the UK, and that passengers are willing to wear PFDs.

So big it up for the Irish Maritime Administration.

The speed of the sinking

Second, if you’ve seen the video of the Liverpool sinking you may have been struck by its speed. In both Liverpool and London passengers had very little time to get out and the report’s synopsis says

In both instances, the crew had little time to co-ordinate the evacuation process and the confined nature of passenger spaces made it almost impossible for them to control or assist the passengers.

And in 4.3 Common safety issues:

8.  It was extremely fortunate that all on board WQ1 and Cleopatra were able to evacuate into the water unharmed. In both cases the passengers were forced to act on instinct and exit the vehicles under their own initiative.

Any of several issues could have cut the time available and “the risk of entrapment and the likelihood of loss of life would have been considerably higher”.

So Figure 63 of a Dublin DUKW doesn’t just show the external buoyancy cylinders: the passengers are wearing buoyancy aids, there is a crewman already stationed at the stern and the side and roof canopies are open, all giving more chance of escape.

I’m not in any position to assess the overall safety of the Irish DUKW operation. What interests me here is a more general point about the evacuation of passengers from trip vessels: getting a large number of people out of a small space in a short time is not easy. And the recent problem of getting people off the Norman Atlantic didn’t make me feel any better.

Photo

Third, I am delighted that my photo of a DUKW in Liverpool was useful to the  UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (see the report’s Figure 16) but they really should have asked for permission to use it.

 

Carpenters Road Lock in London

Carpenters Road Lock in 2003

Carpenters Road Lock in 2003

Here is a page about an art (craft?) project happening at Carpenters Road Lock on the Bow Back Rivers in London: the lock has changed quite a bit since I took the photo (above) in 2003.

I should warn you that the link is to a very long web page, but the section headings stay on top so you can move around. However, if you allow Javascript, you’ll find that two places on the page show those very annoying sequences of photographs that change automatically.

What I thought was most interesting was the set of events organised at the lock. Canals of Dublin organises canal walks in, er, Dublin, but what about Waterways Ireland having lockkeepers doing talks and demonstrations?

Here are some links to sites with more information about the Bow Back Rivers in London:

London Canals and associated blog

An extensive Wikipedia article with schematic diagram

A political view from Mick Hartley

London’s Lost Rivers on pre-Olympic scenery (black background makes the text hard to read but the photos are good)

The most informative page I found: a superb piece of work. Well done Richard Thomas, to whose Steamers Historical site I have a permanent link.

h/t celr

Canal wildlife …

… in London.

It seems they don’t live entirely on crushed babies, which is nice.

The liveaboard life …

… in London.

DUKWs and lifejackets

On 31 October 2013 I mentioned the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s safety bulletin about the DUKW fire in London and the DUKW that sank in Liverpool. There is more on the London fire today with a Guardian report on proceedings at the London assembly’s Thames passenger boat investigation committee. The Guardian headline read …

Duck boat passengers not wearing lifejackets when jumping into Thames

… and the story reported the Maritime Coastguard Agency’s maritime safety and standards director as saying that wearing of lifejackets would not have been usual on “such boats” and that lifejackets were safely stowed above the seats. The story also said that

London Duck Tours’ managing director, John Bigos, said the Cleopatra had the required legal number of lifejackets on board and that it was company policy that lifejackets were not worn on tours. He went on: “We have our reasons for this (non-wearing) but they are not to do with commerciality.”

There is a different policy in Ireland, where the Dublin Viking Splash operation says

Lifejackets: At the water entry point, customers are required to put on a lifejacket after the driver delivers an outline about safety on the water. The lifejackets supplied by Viking Splash Tours are Solas and CE approved buoyancy aids […].

The point that strikes me is that, in both UK accidents, passengers had little time to don lifejackets and would have been trying to put them on in a confined space and under less than ideal conditions. It seems to me that Viking Splash’s policy is the right one.

London Docklands

Big it up for the Museum of London Docklands, near Canary Wharf. You can go there on the DLR, always a bonus, which will counteract the queasiness you feel at proximity to a large number of bankers, accountants and lawyers.

Apart from any temporary exhibitions, the Museum offers a chronological account of the ports of London from Roman times to the present day; you start on the third floor and work downwards. The timeline anchors the narrative, but there is no attempt to pretend that there is a single uncontested history: conflicts over slavery, dock labour schemes and modern redevelopment are all presented, using a mixture of text, displays of artefacts large and small, models, paintings, audio and video. Easy to spend several hours there; the Docklands at War section was particularly interesting.

And if you have time afterwards, nip around to The Grapes for bangers and mash (£6.50) [or whatever you like] and a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, which (weather permitting) you may be able to consume on the balcony overlooking the Thames, with the shingle below on which the mudlarks worked, while you remember all those Conrad novels and sing “Sweet Thames flow softly” .

DUKWs

In June 2013 I reported on the sinking of a DUKW in Liverpool, the second of the year, and in September on the fire aboard a DUKW in London. Oddly enough, it seems that the two accidents had a common element: the foam added inside the hulls to improve buoyancy.

The UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch has found that the DUKWs in the Liverpool fleet had not been fitted with enough foam to provide 110% buoyancy, enough to keep the vessel afloat when flooded. MAIB’s tests on the Liverpool vessels

… raised serious questions about whether the operators of DUKWs could fit sufficient foam internally to comply with the current requirement for 110% buoyancy without compromising the safe operation and the practical day to day maintenance of these vehicles.

The “safe operation” part affected the London vessels. In July 2013, a DUKW had to be towed in after a drive shaft universal coupling failed when it overheated and ran dry of lubrication: engine bay temperatures were too high because of the volume of foam inserted. And a report commissioned by the London Fire Brigade into the September fire concluded that:

… the most likely cause of fire was the action of the rotating drive shaft (or other moving parts) on the oil contaminated surfaces of the buoyancy foam blocks.

MAIB has issued a safety bulletin [four-page PDF] with this conclusion:

The MAIB identified significant difficulties in fitting a DUKW with the volume of foam required to meet the buoyancy standards set out in MSN 1699 (M). Further, the nature of these old amphibious vessels, specifically their weight in relation to their size and the complexity of their propulsion arrangements, makes it difficult for operators to comply with the standards applicable to more conventional craft by solely using internal foam buoyancy. An alternative standard, ensuring that DUKWs have the necessary level of damage survivability, therefore needs to be established if they are to be operated safely.

It has recommended that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency should

… ensure that the means used by DUKW operators to achieve the required standard of buoyancy and stability for their vessels does not adversely impact on their safe operation. Furthermore, these vessels should not be permitted to operate until satisfactory levels of safety can be assured under all feasible operating conditions.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s website doesn’t seem to be working, but there is a BBC report here quoting an MCA person as saying

We will not be permitting the vessels to operate until we are satisfied that the necessary safety measures have been achieved.

VikingSplash DUKW in Dublin

VikingSplash DUKW in Dublin

All of this may help to explain why the VikingSplash DUKWs operating in Dublin are fitted with additional external buoyancy.