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The court cannot say that in every instance where a serious accident occurs the master is bound to disregard every other consideration and put into the nearest port, though, if the accident happens within a reasonable distance of such port, his duty to do so would be manifest. Each case must depend upon its own circumstances, having reference to the seriousness of the injury, the care that can be given the sailor on shipboard, the proximity of an intermediate port, the consequences of delay to the interests of the shipowner, the direction of the wind, and the probability of its continuing in the same direction, and the fact whether a surgeon is likely to be found with competent skill to take charge of the case. With reference to putting into port, all that can be demanded of the master is the exercise of reasonable judgment and the ordinary acquaintance of a seaman with the geography and resources of the country. He is not absolutely bound to put into such port if the cargo be such as would be seriously injured by the delay.
On the 23d day of July, 1903, Martinez, the appellee, sailed in the bark Margharita, as a seaman, from Pisagua, in the republic of Chile, on a voyage to Savannah, Ga. On the 15th day of August, 1903, at half past 10 o'clock in the evening, he was sent aloft to assist in reefing a sail. While aloft about this work he lost his footing and was precipitated into the sea. He was rescued by his fellow sailors, and when hauled onto the deck it was found that while in the water his left leg had been bitten off about four inches below the knee by a shark or some other marine monster. The vessel did not deviate from its course, but continued on its voyage to Savannah, where it arrived on November 11, 1903. After that city was reached, Martinez brought his libel, ascribing his injuries to the negligence of the master and officers of the bark and seeks damages therefor.
Was the master of the bark liable for negligence for not acquiring competent and effective medical and surgical treatment for Martinez at the earliest moment?
Taking the testimony of the master of the Margharita as conclusive, his vessel was as close to Port Stanley as was the Iroquois to Valparaiso. The deviation to Port Stanley from his course would not have been so great as that of the Iroquois to the Chilean city. According to other testimony he was in a very short distance of Port Stanley and this the court believed to be true. As in the case of the Iroquois, he knew that he must cross the tropics. There could be no doubt of the grave seriousness of the injury, none that he was unable to give the wounded sailor the proper care. The consequences of delay to the interests of the shipowner must have been trivial. The direction of the wind was favorable and continuous. A competent English surgeon would certainly have been found in the marine hospital at Port Stanley. That port is in a healthful climate and is widely known as a harbor to which vessels experiencing calamities of one sort and another in rounding Cape Horn repair for assistance. As far backas the date of the latest publication of the Encyclopaedia Britannica it is stated that as many as 50 vessels a year put in there on account of injuries. The British government keeps up a considerable military post at that point. How much stronger, then, is the case against the master of the Margharita than against the master of the Iroquois. It was not difficult to conceive the unspeakable agony -- indeed, torture -- which Martinez must have experienced in his long voyage of more than 7,000 miles to Savannah with the ragged extremity of his cruelly wounded leg incased at times in a box of hot tar and at other times rudely bandaged by the kind, but inexperienced, hands of his shipmates. According to his own testimony his sufferings were so great that he often lost consciousness. This seemed to have been inevitable from the nature of his injury and the terrible shock to body and mind it must have occasioned. According to the testimony of the physician in Savannah, his leg was in a lamentable condition when he reached that port. It was indispensable that in cases of serious injuries to seamen, or in case of their dangerous sickness, that in order to obtain proper surgical or medical assistance for them, the courts of admiralty, which proceed ever upon the broadest principles of humanity and justice, should enforce the reasonable rules so frequently announced by the courts, and as we have seen so clearly stated in the opinion of the Supreme Court in Re The Iroquois, supra. Such was the duty of the courts, not only to compensate the seaman for his unnecessary and unmerited suffering when the duty of the ship is disregarded, but to emphasize the importance of humane and correct judgment under the circumstances on the part of the master.