Monday, December 31, 2007

An old theory re-surfaces

At the beginning of December, a new book saw the light of the day. Fishing Explorer – authored by Ernest Suddaby, a former skipper of the Gaul, and published by Maritime Info UK Ltd - makes a very pleasurable read.
Put together with brilliant literary skill, printed in excellent graphic conditions and warmly prefaced by Alan Johnson MP, the book offers the reader a rich source of documentary information and photographic material.
The book carries two main narrative threads: one which depicts the author’s trip to the Falklands and one recounting his time as skipper onboard the Gaul, interspersed with personal memories and anecdotes.
In his account of the Gaul, along with his impressions and recollections of past events and more recent developments in the Gaul saga – many of which are well worthy of note - the author also shares with us his disagreement with the results of the 2004 Formal Investigation, and his personal opinions as to the causes that might have led to the loss of the vessel.In the author’s view, the sinking of the Gaul was caused by foul weather and bad luck, which led to flooding through the two fish loading hatches cut into the trawl deck. These hatches, it is suggested, could have been opened by the pull of gravity, when the vessel rolled beyond 90 degrees in heavy seas.
Mr Suddaby’s hypothesis is not that new, in fact it has been, if we may say so, previously enjoyed. It is what the results of the first formal inquiry, held in 1974, implied. The MAIB also flirted with this theory for a while, although, after the 2002 underwater survey and further reflection, they decided to abandon it. They did not, however, explain very well why.
Therefore, we have taken it upon ourselves to try and present the reasons why this loss scenario is merely a conception (so as not to say mis-conception) rather than a real possibility.
To elucidate matters, we have compiled the video clip below, which, in a simplified manner, attempts to show how the fish loading hatches on the Gaul would have behaved under various roll conditions. The model presented therein shows that gravity – which inexorably acts downwards at all times and circumstances - would have had the effect of keeping the hatch covers closed and prevented seawater from getting inside the ship, when the ship rolled to an angle of 90 degrees from its vertical position. The model also shows that, when the ship rolled beyond 90 degrees, the hatch covers would have still been kept closed by seawater pressure, and that this would have happened even without taking into account the effects of the hydraulic ram system, which was connected to the hatches.

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