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Pass. These, at their widest divergence, are about twenty-two miles apart. The Southwest Pass has usually thirteen feet of water on the bar; the depth varies considerably, so that vessels drawing but fourteen and a half feet sometimes lie weeks in the mud, before being able to pass
The other passes are still more fickle and changeable, although admitting heavy draft vessels. The land at the entrance to the Mississippi River is nothing but mud banks, continually increasing, with reeds and rushes growing upon it, at the height of ten or twelve feet above the water. From the bar to New-Orleans is one hundred and twenty miles. The various passes converge, forming the delta, about twelve miles from the Gulf. At this point in the river two or three steamers could obstruct the navigation of the river for any length of time, and against an enemy approaching from any direction, except by a similar marine from the sea.
The city of New Orleans, wholly commercial, finds its only available access to the Gulf through the Mississippi. Below the city are two forts on either bank of the river, in the hands of the secessionists, but not considered of much protective value.
New Orleans has rail-road connections with the whole Union. A railway line, partly finished, connects it with Houston and Galveston, Texas. At the point where this road nearly approaches the Gulf is the only important harbor in Louisiana west of the Mississippi, Atchafalaya Bay, which has an entrance with but seven feet of water on the bar.
The mouth of the Sabine River has from six to eight feet of water on the bar. The sounds and channels along the coast from the Mississippi to the Sabine are navigable for vessels of three or four feet draft, and at certain seasons small steamers run for long distances up the various bayous that lead to the interior. There are no towns on the coast of any importance.
Texas. XXII. Galveston.—The town of Galveston is built upon the northern extremity of Galveston Island. The entrance to the bay of the same name, which forms its harbor, lies between Point Oliver on the north and eastern extremity of Galveston Island on the south. It has a width of two miles, broken by shoals into four channels, which have a depth of from nine to twelve feet on the bar. The blockade of this city would be easily effected by a single vessel. The same blockade cuts off Houston, whose communication with the Gulf is through Buffalo Bayou and Galveston Bay.
XXIII. Brazos River.—This entrance is about fifty miles southwest of Galveston. A channel with eight feet leads to Quintana and Velasco, which lie on opposite sides of the entrance, a mile and a half above the bar.
XXIV. Matagorda Bay.- Passing the shallow mouth of the Brazos River, and a long stretch of coast, the Pasa del Cavallo, a narrow entrance to Matagorda Bay, is reached. This inlet, something less than two miles wide, has a depth of nine feet of water on the bar. On the Bay of Matagorda are the towns of Matagorda and Indianola, the former at the mouth of the Colorado River, the latter on the San Antonio. One hundred and ninety miles of coast are shut in by four long, narrow islands, viz., Matagorda, San Jose, Mustang and Padre Islands. Aranzas Pass,
between the first two, gives a narrow inlet for light draft vessels to the bay of the same name. The pass of Corpus Christi, between the second and third, has but four feet of water, leading up to a town of the same
XXV. Brazos Santiago.— The pass of Brazos Santiago has a width of about two miles, and seven feet of water on the bar.
XXVI. Mouth of the Rio Grande.—The Rio Grande, forming the line of boundary with Mexico, has a shifting bar of from five to seven feet in depth.
XXVII. Espiritu Santo Bay is about fifteen miles long, northeast and southwest, by about five miles in width. It communicates with the Gulf of Mexico through two small bayous at the northeast end, and connects also with Matagorda Bay at Pass Cavallo. Through one of the bayous (McHenry's) the State authorities of Texas have caused a channel to be opened affording a depth of four and a half feet at average high water, and the digging of a channel of ten feet from the bayou into Pass Cavallo, to form a harbor or dock for steamers and other sea-going vessels, has been undertaken by private enterprise. The town of Saluria is situated at the east end of this bayou. Throughout the bay there is an average depth of seven feet, the bottom being generally soft mud and shells, except in one locality, known as the “ Middle Ground,” which is sand, and a portion of which is usually bare at low water. The shores are low and marshy on all sides.
XXVIII. San Antonio Bay is of an irregular and somewhat triangular shape, the greatest length being, from north to south, about twenty miles, and the width ranging from four to eighteen miles. It has no direct communication with the Gulf of Mexico, and is, therefore, but little affected by the Gulf tides. Frequently the water is made fresh by the discharge from the Guadalupe River, which enters at its northeast end, and it is almost always muddy.
XXIX. Mission Bay is a small, shallow sheet of water, cut off from the head of San Antonio Bay, on the east side, by the delta of the Guadalupe River, and having not over eighteen inches of water into or through it. A small bayou, entering on its east side, drains Green Lake, which is a small sheet of fresh water lying some miles further up the delta.
XXX. Hines Bay, on the west side of the delta, is of the same character, but is larger, being about three and a half miles in diameter and shaped like a horse-shoe. It is also deeper than Mission Bay, affording about three feet of water to its head. On the north side is the swamp of the delta, but on the south a prairie bluff twenty feet high bounds the shore, and here, within a space of three miles, some twenty or thirty houses form what is called “ Crescent Village.”
Note.—In the August No. of The Merchants’ MAGAZINE AND ComMERCIAL Review we propose to publish a full list of all the harbors and rivers of the United States—showing the least water in the channels of the harbors, rivers and anchorages on the coasts of the United States, with the limits between which depths are given. From the Report of the Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey. Revised, with additions and tidal data.
MARINE STATISTICS OF THE UNITED STATES.
From carefully compiled tables of marine disasters, the relative value of the risks between different ports may be correctly deduced. An analysis at the end of the year, showing the whole number of voyages between any two ports, in connection with the disasters occurring on such voyages, would be the best criterion of the value of risks in that trade. So, again, the whole number of disasters, taken in connection with the whole number of vessels of each class, would enable us to set a proper value on hull risks.
There are also lucky and unlucky vessels, and it only needs a reference to the disasters of the past few years to show an extraordinary recurrence of disasters to the same vessels and under the same masters. The mere tabulating and printing of these facts serve to impress them on the memory of those to whom it is very important to recollect at all times such fortuitous chances. The bare recollection of a single name may be the means of saving thousands. It is an axiom, that a perfect knowledge of details is essential to the thorough working of any theory, and we need not go out of the annals of marine insurance to forcibly illustrate this idea.
One of the most important public documents to the mercantile community, which are annually presented to the British Parliament, is the "abstract of the returns of the wrecks and casualties which occur on and near the coast of the United Kingdom.” A description of its contents will serve both to show the importance attached to this subject on the other side of the water, and will also be useful as a model for similar efforts for the collection of like data, which we may hope will one day be made in our own country. The United States has already set a noble example to the world, in the munificent patronage it has afforded to the efforts of [the late] Commander Maury, at the extension of our knowledge of all that relates to the physical geography of the sea. His "charts and sailing directions” have been distributed with a lavish hand, and thousands of sailors, guided by the information contained in them, have contributed in their turn intelligent observations, made in the navigable waters of all parts of the world, to swell the vast fund of nautical knowledge already obtained. The importance of this enterprise is universally & Imitted, but the necessity of collecting, arranging and preserving for future use a record of facts about shipwrecks, is not so generally appreciated. The reasons for this indifference are easily understood; Mr. Maury's observations have a practical value that is readily appreciated, and while, with the aid of the mercantile marine, they are gradually forming a great addition to our scientific knowledge, they also serve as a daily guide to the operations of the navigator, while statistics of disasters at sea, though of immense value (when made for a sufficient length of time and collected by proper methods) in the regulation of insurance premiums, possess no particular interest for the community at large. It is true that the whole commercial world are interested in the fair distribution of insurance charges, but the excess of one rate or the diminution of another, which a more exact system might cause, would
affect mercantile transactions so slightly that business men, engrossed in their private concerns, can hardly be expected to feel much interest in dull collections of facts and figures, which must be patiently tabulated for many years before they become of practical importance. It is true that the great facts of science have only been arrived at by similar laborious efforts; it is true, that
age, patient workers have accumulated, step by step, that vast fund of knowledge which is at the basis of our modern civilization; and it is also true, that those who have done the world most service have been the worst rewarded for their pains. We do not always learn by experience, or we would not so readily condemn labors, the importance of which cannot be appreciated in a hasty glance, nor dismiss as useless collections of marine statistics, because we cannot form exact conclusions from limited observations of this kind; and because, if carelessly collected or arranged without method, they are not worth the paper they are printed on. In every branch of science instances can be shown where apparently insignificant and unimportant facts, collected together, form the basis from which we discover some of the important laws of nature, and these, in their turn, practically applied, add greatly to the comforts and happiness of life. When a sufficient number of tables are collected about wrecks and accidents at sea, we will be able to discover the law which governs them, just as surely as the life-underwriter is now able to discover, from the facts in his possession, the law upon which the duration of human life depends, and we will then be able to make calculations about marine insurance just as exact as those which are now made about life risks.
For the past two months the pages of this magazine have contained a series of tables relating to casualties and wrecks which are well worth the attention of underwriters; they consist of an alphabetically arranged list of steamers, ships, barks, brigs and schooners, the masters' names, when and where built and owned, the voyage on which the disaster occurred, its nature, locality and date, and the estimated amount of loss on hulls and cargoes. These risks form the basis from which many important tables might be made, and, with the assistance of the published registers of ships made in this country, in England and France, and also of the commercial documents of exports and imports published by the governments of the three countries, a mass of information on the subject might be digested, the value of which can easily be conceived. The undertaking, however, is an expensive one, and unless its importance can be made evident to underwriters, and their sympathies and assistance secured, it cannot possibly be prosecuted. If the thing is undertaken at all, it should be done thoroughly. The basis of the doctrine of chances is to ascertain how often a certain event occurs in a given number of trials. It is evident, then, that the losses themselves are of no importance, unless they are compared with the whole number of ventures. If it could be proved by statistics, that year after year one ship was lost out of every sixty-seven that made a particular voyage, and supposing that they were all of equal value, it would be mathematically certain that one and one-half per cent. on the value of each ship would make good the loss. But if we merely know that there are ten ships on an average lost in this trade, and five in that, we have only ascertained that one business is twice as dangerous as the other; but without knowing the number exposed to loss in either case, we could make no calculation as
to the exact loss of the one or the other. It is evident, then, that it is necessary to have a basis of comparison in some trades, although it is unnecessary, and indeed it would be impossible to make the same series of observations for every voyage that could be undertaken.
A description of the British Board of Trade report, alluded to in the beginning of this article, will, as we have said, show how important these statistics are considered in England, and may, perhaps, serve as an incentive to similar efforts on this side of the water.
The prominent feature of the work is a chart of the British Islands, on which the spots where wrecks have occurred, and the nature of the various disasters, are designated by appropriate symbols, thus showing at a glance where the dangerous places are. Next in order is a detailed description of the various tables made in the work, and a summary and commentary on their contents. This is followed by an article on the gales of October and November, of 1859, made by Rear-Admiral Fitzroy. After this we have twenty-one tables of wrecks and disasters, the contents of which may be summed up as follows:
The first table contains the wrecks and casualties for five years, giving the number and tonnage of vessels and the number of hands employed. The second contains the same matter, distinguishing British from foreign ships, sailing ships from steamers, and coasters from over-sea. The third contains the same matter as the second, with the addition of the numbers of voyages made by all ships of each class, and the per centage of losses as compared with the voyages. The fourth, wrecks and casualties, distinguishing the cargoes of the ships. The fifth, the same, distinguishing the ages of the ships. The sixth, the same, distinguishing the description and tonnage of the ships. The seventh, the points of the coast on which they happened. The eighth, according to the direction of the wind. The ninth, according to the force of the wind. The tenth and eleventh tables, according to the certificates held by the masters and according to insurance respectively. The twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth, distinguishing the kind of losses. The seventeenth, distinguishing collisions and noting the time and the state of the weather when each collision happened. And finally, the remaining four tables contain the localities where the accidents happen, the number of lives lost, and general summaries of the preceding tables. This is followed by a description of the life-saving apparatus on the British coast, and the number of lives lost and saved. And finally, comes an inquiry into the causes of the disaster. These investigations are only made where there is reason to doubt the capacity or trustworthiness of the master or mate, and upon their results it depends whether he is deprived of his certificate or not. This latter branch of the report is certainly a matter of practical rather than theoretical interest; and as so much depends upon the skill and intelligence of masters of ships, it is well that they should have an opportunity of clearing themselves against unfounded suspicions before such a court of inquiry, and it is also well, that when, by their ignorance or wickedness, they have sacrificed human life or valuable property, that they should, by the same agency, be held up to the scorn and contempt they deserve, and should also be deprived of the means of committing the like crimes again.