Splendid behaviour or passive cowardice?

News reports offered conflicting accounts of the conduct of The Artisan's crew, the officers account reported by The Age suggested that “every man on hoard behaved splendidly in this emergency. Nothing approaching a panic occurred, and what orders the captain found necessary to give were obeyed promptly and expeditiously (The Age, 25 April 1901, p.5). The Australasian, however, provided a markedly different account, “The officers and European seamen, however, express undisguised contempt for the Filipino crew, who were too frightened to move throughout the long, terrible night. They did not give way to panic, it is admitted, but they exhibited passive cowardice of an extreme type (The Australasian, 27 April 1901, p.36).

The subsequent Board of Trade Inquiry revealed most of Filipinos did not speak English indicating that they had been taken on as cheap labour (Langenberg, 1999). Racial segregation occurred immediately following the rescue. The captain, his wife, and the first officer were provided lodgings at the only nearby dwelling, at the residence of the coal miner Mr. Jennings and his wife, while “the second officer and the European sailors were accommodated in a tent in one part of the scrub and the Filipinos in another” (The Argus, 25 April 1901, p. 5).

As The Age reported: "The subordinate officers and a few of the others took possession of the stables, while the Manila men were compelled to improvise shelter from the torrential rains and the bitterly cold weather by means of canvas sails slung across tree branches and pinned to the ground. During these two terrible days and nights they suffered miserably, and the captain remarked that if they were kept there much longer some of them would assuredly perish." (The Age, April 27 1901)

There was some compassion though, the Filipino seamen “were given some whisky to combat the chill they had received during the night, and it had such an effect upon them that a free high resulted on Tuesday night, but without serious result” (The Argus, 25 April 1901, p. 5).

[Photo: W. H Ferguson, 1901, State Library of Victoria Collection, http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/MAIN:Everything:SLV_VOYAGER1744810]