From Our Seamen. An appeal, republished online by American Libraries.
‘A great number of ships are regularly sent to sea in such a rotten and otherwise ill-provided state that they can only reach their destination through fine weather, and a large number are so overloaded that it is nearly impossible for them also to reach their destination if the voyage is at all rough. And I can show you that from these two causes alone (and they apply only to one portion of our merchant ships) rather more than a full half of our losses arise.
‘As to the first of these statements, it would need no support if you lived in a seaport town, for you would then know it from observation and common conversation; but I suppose you to be an inhabitant of one of our large inland towns (it being far more important to convince this population than that of the others, for reformation can
only begin when our people inland are well informed on this subject).
‘The statements in the following quotation are taken from “The Life-Boat” for Nov. 1, 1870, the journal of the Committee of the National Life-Boat Institution, a body having
ample information and knowledge, and not likely to make any statement without careful consideration (the italics are my own) : —
‘A noticeable feature of this list is, that ships comparatively new are lost in greater proportion than those which are old. Thus we find that up to fourteen years 1,130 were lost, and from fifteen to thirty there were 750, while there were 341 old ships between thirty and fifty, and 87 very old ships, one of which was 94, and another nearly a hundred years old ! The last-named vessel was a collier, and it had seven persons on board when it was wrecked, one of whom only was saved.
‘We have repeatedly through the medium of this journal, strongly called attention to the terribly rotten state of many of the ships above twenty years old; in too many instances on such vessels getting ashore their crews perish before there is any possibility of getting out the life boat from the shore to their help.’