Since we directed attention to the necessity f inventing improved means for saving life, md preventing such calamities as befell the ibove unfortunate steamer, we have received everal communications on the subject; but we nust say, that while it is not so difficult to uggest new and good plans of safety, it is rery difficult to have them carried out by the >wners at'vessels, if they entail extra expense. [his is a miserable piece of policy on their >art, as every means which they take to enure the safety oftheir vessels and the lives of lieir passengers, even at considerable extra mtlay, ultimately leads to enlarged profits, )y an increase of traffic. A correspondent writing to us from Stock-;on, Cal., on this subject, suggests that all steamers CSfrying passengers should have the )erths made witfi galvanized iron bottoms ; md cylinders or tubes capable of being opened, md closed by tight covers, for the reception )f passengers effects, and provisions and water n bottles, should be placed in some of them for :ases of emergency. These berths may be fastened with clasp rings and bolts, to enable them to be rapidly put up and taken apart. In case of an accident to the vessel, the captain can order each passenger on deck with his berth, a number of which berths can be fastened together by their rings and clasps to form several life-boat rafts of a very superior character. But if the sea is too high to admit of them being formed into rafts, each passenger has his own berth as a personal life-boat to snsure him a means of safety, if the ship should go down. If such berths had been on the Central America, in all likelihood nearly every person on board would have been saved. That they can be applied to all passenger vessels, we do not entertain a doubt, but will they ? that is the question. Life-boat berths are not altogether a new idea, as cork and india rubber life-preserving mattresses, which are so well known, embrace the same features ; but they have never been generally adopted on board of vessels, so far as we know. Another correspondent writing to us from Baltimore, Md., on the same subject, states that a very old seaman in that city suggests that every vessel which goes to sea should be provided with a false deck, which should be made so as to float from the true one, if the vessel should sink, and thus form a life-raft for passengers and crew. This false deck may be made in sections to lie upon the true deck, and should be supplied with hold-fasts, to prevent persons being washed overboard. Provisions and water casks should be kept lashed on it, for the hour of necessity. This is also a good suggestion ; but while it is right to make every provision for such dangers when they occur, attention should be chiefly devoted to the prevention of such catastrophes by insuring, ifpos- ible, the perfect safety of the vessels themselves. The committee of enquiry in this city, ap-ointed to examine into the cause of the loss f the steamer Central America, have just made . report in which they positively assert that it ras lost from sheer carelessness on the part of hose who had charge of the engines. They ay, "On the morning of the 11th Sept., at 7 'clock, the ship labored to such an extent as to larm the passengers and arouse the captain jid chief engineer, who were in their berths r state rooms ; and about noon, the gale still ncreasing, she fell off from the wind, and it then ,ppeared that the fires in the engine-room had, iy someunexplainedcarelessness, been allowed o go down, had become so low that the ngines gradually relaxed their speed and inally stopped working, and the steamer fell iff into the trough of the sea." The plain inference to be drawn from this s, that the Central America would have weathered the storm had the steam been kept ip, and that from carelessness on the part of he engineers, this steamer, with quite a num-)er of passengers, was lost. There seems to )e defective organization in the management )f our steamships. Most of the passengers on he ill-fated Arctic, we believe, would have )een saved, had proper discipline ruled on >oard. The Central America had a defective jrew, was without a carpenter or carpenters' ;ools, and the engineering department and ;hat of the general government of the vessel inder the captain appear to have been nearly nclependent of one another. This should not De ; the whole management of steamers, like ;hat of sailing vessels, should be under one supreme head. This is a regulation which should be carried out, and for this purpose, it s necessary that the captains of steamers should br a tolerably good acquaintance ,vith the marine engine, to do their duty efficiently.
This article was originally published with the title "The Steamship Central America" in Scientific American 13, 14, 109 (December 1857)