British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 2

[Counsel Present - Witnesses Called]


The Commissioner:
Is Mr. Scanlan here?

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, my Lord.

The Commissioner:
Mr. Scanlan, can you tell me how many men there were on board this vessel who belonged to what is called the British Seafarers' Union?

Mr. Scanlan:
That I cannot tell your Lordship. The Seafarers' Union is a distinct body from the Union I represent.

The Commissioner:
I understand now (I did not know it yesterday) that it is an offshoot from your body. Can you tell me how many of your body were on the "Titanic"?

Mr. Scanlan:
Well, my Lord, our information is not quite accurate as yet on that point, because the officials of the Union have only just got the Ship's Articles, from which they are compiling a list. They have paid away quite a number of claims to widows of the deceased - somewhere over 30, I understand.

The Commissioner:
How many men do you suppose there were on board the "Titanic" belonging to your Union?

Mr. Scanlan:
I understand the number is less than 100.

The Commissioner:
Have you any idea how many men there were on board belonging to the new organisation, the offshoot - the British Seafarers' Union?

Mr. Scanlan:
We cannot say, my Lord.

The Commissioner:
Have you any idea of the number?

Mr. Scanlan:
The gentleman who represented that body yesterday, my Lord, stated that it was 200.

The Attorney-General:
Sixty or 70 out of 200, I understood him to say.

The Commissioner:
Can you communicate with him?

Mr. Thomas Lewis:
I am here, my Lord.

The Commissioner:
Can you tell me how many men belonging to your Union were on board the steamer?

Mr. Thomas Lewis:
There was a communication from the Chairman - I am not aware whether your Lordship has received it or not - to this effect -

The Commissioner:
About the number is enough for me.

Mr. Thomas Lewis:
The number is 228 on board the "Titanic," and the corrected figure of those saved, 77 out of the total number of 228 on board.

The Commissioner:
How long has the Seafarers' Union been in existence?

Mr. Thomas Lewis:
Since October 6th of last year.

The Commissioner:
Then it has been in existence about six months?

Mr. Thomas Lewis:
Six or seven months, my Lord.

The Commissioner:
Is it more closely connected with Southampton than the other Union?

Mr. Thomas Lewis:
It is all Southampton men, my Lord; it is at present a Southampton Union. It is called the British Seafarers' Union, but its headquarters are at Southampton, and the bulk of its members reside at Southampton, and it has a membership of about 4,000. Practically the whole of the seafarers of the "Titanic" are members of our Union.

The Commissioner:
I personally had never heard of this Union, but I have heard for many years past of the Seamen and Firemen's Union. I think, Mr. Attorney, in these circumstances it would be more satisfactory if the Seafarer's Union was also represented.

The Attorney-General:
My Lord, I quite accept it.

Mr. L. S. Holmes:
My Lord, might I renew my application as to the whole of the Officers and the deceased Officers who were members of the Union? The whole of the Officers were members; they belonged to the Imperial Merchant Service Guild.

The Commissioner:
I think they ought to be represented.

Mr. W. H. Champness:
With your Lordship's permission I desire to renew my application to represent a deceased passenger. With great respect I submit that the interest of the passengers is the most vital interest that can be affected by this Inquiry, and that interest can only be represented by someone who appears on behalf of one or two of the deceased. There is no association of passengers, and I submit that that is an interest which should be before your Lordship. I do not desire unduly to prolong the Inquiry - possibly I may not call evidence - but I do desire to have an opportunity to ask questions of the Witnesses.

The Commissioner:
I shall see about that later on. I do not accede to the application of a single person to be represented.

Mr. W. M. R. Pringle:
May I be allowed to make an application on behalf of two members of the crew who were assigned to the ship in respect of the trades which I represent; one was a ship's carpenter and the other a joiner, and I am appearing on behalf of the relatives of both the deceased?

The Commissioner:
There is no objection to your remaining here and listening, but I cannot at present allow you to interfere.

Mr. W. M. R. Pringle:
May I be allowed to put questions with your Lordship's permission?

The Commissioner:
Well, that depends upon the question and upon the circumstances of the case. Those circumstances have not arisen yet.

The Attorney-General:
If your Lordship pleases, in the statement of the case which I shall now make to your Lordship, of course you will understand, as I indicated yesterday, that our information, that is to say, such information as I can act upon in opening the case to your Lordship, is founded at present upon very slight material. I do not feel justified in referring to press statements which have appeared, or reports in the papers of statements made elsewhere until, at any rate, I know that I shall be in a position to call as Witnesses before your Lordship those who made the statements; and therefore, although it would be an affectation to pretend, certainly as far as I am concerned, and I have no doubt also with regard to your Lordship and those who are assisting you, that you did not know a good deal more than may be stated this morning, you will understand why it is that I am confining myself to basing my statement upon evidence which I know at present I shall be able to put before you. And I think it will be sufficient for the purpose, because all your Lordship will require is a short statement of the material facts and some indication of the particular points upon which we desire to lay stress.

Now, my Lord, the "Titanic" was constructed under survey in the usual way by the Board of Trade for a passenger certificate, and to comply with the American emigration laws. She was a triple-screw steamer, a British steamship built by Harland and Wolff, Limited, at Belfast, for service in the White Star Line between Southampton and New York. She was a vessel of gigantic dimensions, and her length (I am reading from the register, copies of which will be handed up both to your Lordship and to those who are associated with you) from the fore part of the stem under the bowsprit to the aft side of the head of the stern post (that is the system of measurement) was 852 feet. I need not trouble about the decimal. Her main breadth, that is measured to the outside of the plating, was 92 feet. The depth of the vessel from the top of the deck at side amidships to the bottom of the keel was 65 feet. There are other measurements, but I think I have given your Lordship the material ones. Now, my Lord, she had one turbine, and two sets of 4-cylinder triple expansion reciprocating engines, with a nominal horse-power of 6,906. The two reciprocating engines drove the wing propellers, and the turbine drove the centre. That I think is sufficient for the present purpose with regard to the engines. The horse-power was sufficient to give a speed of at least 21 knots. She was registered at Liverpool with a gross tonnage of 46,328 tons. Her registered tonnage was 21,831 tons.

Your Lordship will see from the plan (and I only propose to state quite simply the points with reference to the plan) that she had five decks amidships - it is rather important to bear in mind the number of decks fore and aft and amidships - seven decks in the No 1 hold, and six decks in the other holds. Apparently there was a lower Orlop deck in the No 1 hold, and that is what made the seven. She had a promenade deck. Your Lordship notices there is the boat deck which is the top deck, then there is a promenade deck, and a bridge deck. The promenade deck was about 500 feet long. My Lord, I will say something a little later about the bulkheads, but that is sufficient for the moment to indicate the size of the vessel, and she had a passenger certificate of the Board of Trade to carry 3,547 persons.

The Commissioner:
When you say "persons" you mean passengers?

The Attorney-General:
I did not mean passengers when I said "persons," and your Lordship will see why I am subdividing them. The 3,547 persons includes passengers and crew - 905 first class passengers, 564 second class passengers, 1,134 third class, and the complement of crew 944. She carried, as your Lordship may see from the model which is before you, a number of boats on her boat deck. Altogether she carried 14 lifeboats and two boats which were not lifeboats but wooden cutters, which were used as emergency boats or were swung out in case of anybody falling overboard or in case of any sudden emergency in the lowering of a boat. That made her total 16, and besides that she had four Englehardt collapsible boats, and, counting the collapsible boats, that gave her 20, with a carrying capacity according to cubic feet of 1,167 persons.

Mr. Laing:
I think it is 1,178.

The Attorney-General:
There is a very slight difference between us I know. According to the constructor's view there was a capacity for 1,178, but it is not very material; according to our view it is 1,167. Then besides that, my Lord, there were 3,560 lifebelts or other similar approved articles and 48 lifebuoys. Her draught forward, on leaving Southampton, was 33 feet 8 inches and 34 feet 4 inches aft.

This was the first voyage of the "Titanic," and, as your Lordship sees from the model, and I think the statement which I am reading from here, she was, if not exactly built on the same lines and principle as the "Olympic," her sister ship, substantially so. She left Queenstown on the 11th April on this first voyage bound for New York. She carried a total number of passengers of 1,316, and a total number of crew of 892. I cannot say that those figures which I have just given, and which make a total of 2,208, are agreed figures. There is a slight variation upon which I do not think for the purpose of this Inquiry we shall need to spend any time - I think my friend's figures make it 2,206, but we need not trouble about that. My Lord, before I proceed to describe the voyage I want to indicate sufficiently, for the purpose of your Lordship bearing it in mind, that this vessel had, I think I am right in saying, fifteen bulkheads.

Mr. Laing:
Yes, that is right.

The Attorney-General:
Fifteen watertight bulkheads with a number of watertight doors. My Lord, I have no doubt it will be necessary, during the course of the case, to go more fully into the design of these watertight doors and also for the purpose of ascertaining how many compartments there could be divided up with these doors closed. I understand, but I do not for a moment profess to say more than that it is what I understand at the present moment with regard to this vessel, that she was designed and constructed on the principle that she would remain afloat in the event of any two adjoining compartments being flooded. That I understand to be the scheme of the design of this vessel with regard to the bulkheads and the watertight doors. She was so built and strengthened that in the event of any two of the adjoining compartments being flooded, the vessel nevertheless would float, and assuming that two of the adjoining compartments were flooded that there would still be a freeboard of some 2 feet 6 inches to 3 feet in the bulkhead. That is the design of construction; that is, to put it in another way, that the bulkhead would in the event of two of the compartments being flooded extend to 2 1/2 to 3 feet above the waterline - that she would then float and the top of her bulkhead would be 2 1/2 to 3 feet above the waterline. Therefore the result would be, according at any rate to the design of this vessel, supposing that she had come into collision either with another vessel, or even with an iceberg or any other obstacle, that so long as not more than two of her adjoining compartments were flooded she would float in perfect safety, particularly if you assume, as we do here, a calm sea. That is the position, and I understand that is the design upon which she was built. Your Lordship, of course, will hear a good deal more about this. We shall call those who were responsible for her construction. I am not quite sure for the moment, and therefore I will not go into it, how many watertight sliding doors there were. Obviously there must have been a considerable number, because there would have to be a passage in the ordinary course through the bulkheads; but it is a considerable number, and your Lordship will hear what the number was later. The watertight doors as I understand are closed some by gravity and some by gear, and we will have to go into that in greater detail later.

Now, my Lord, I come back to the commencement of her voyage from Queenstown on the 11th April. All went well. It was a quiet and successful voyage up to the casualty, which I am going to refer to directly. The weather was very fine all the way, the sea calm, and the wind west-south-west during the whole voyage. The temperature was rather cold, particularly on the 14th April, which is the date of the casualty, which took place, as your Lordship knows, between eleven o'clock and midnight of the 14th. So far as one is able to fix it (it is not possible, I think, to fix it with precision, at any rate with the material before me at present), it must have been about 11.40 that the casualty happened, at night. It was a starry night on the night of the 14th, the atmosphere was clear - some Witnesses say particularly clear. There was no moon, and the vessel, at any rate beyond all question up to the point of time to which the examination now before your Lordship relates, that is the casualty, was proceeding at the speed of 21 knots. So far as I am able to gather from the evidence, that speed was never reduced, and she continued travelling at that speed during the whole of the 14th April, right up till the time of the collision with the iceberg, and, according to the evidence which we shall place before your Lordship, notwithstanding warnings that there were icebergs in the neighbourhood and that in the track in which she was proceeding she would meet them or would be likely to meet them. My Lord, at the present moment we are able to bring before the Court evidence of two vessels, one the "Caronia" and the other the "Baltic," which by means of wireless telegraphy informed the "Titanic" during that day that icebergs, growlers, and field ice were reported in the track along which the "Titanic" was proceeding. I think, my Lord, that the distinction, so far as I follow it, between a berg and a growler is that a growler is an iceberg, with but very little protruding above the water. Now, my Lord, in that connection I think it would be useful if your Lordship would just look at the North Atlantic Route Chart for the purpose of following the track which is marked for vessels between Queenstown and New York. I have marked the place on my chart, which I am going to hand up to your Lordship, where we say the collision occurred, but I just want my learned friend to see it.

(The chart was handed up to his Lordship.)

The Attorney-General:
Now does your Lordship see the blue cross which I have made - it is on the left half of the chart?

The Commissioner:
Yes.

The Attorney-General:
According to our view, and according to the evidence, as far as we know it at present, when she struck ice she was in or near latitude 41º 46' North, and longitude 50° 14' West. The spot I have marked with a cross I have shown to my learned friend, Mr. Laing, and he agrees that that correctly indicates the spot according to that latitude and longitude. Now, if your Lordship will look at that chart for a moment you will find New York on the extreme left, and if you follow the line indicated to the blue cross from the extreme left the course from the blue cross to New York is what she still had to do to complete the voyage. And if your Lordship will look a little way to the right you will see a curve, which follows right up to Ireland, and that is marked "Mail steamers outward, 15th January to 14th August." There are homeward tracks and outward tracks. There are tracks for the steamers outward, from the 15th August to the 14th January, and more southerly tracks for the mail steamers outward from the 15th January to the 14th August, and also for homeward voyages. The only point for the moment to which I desire to direct your Lordship's attention, as I think the Court will probably consider these tracks during the course of this investigation, is to indicate that there are these more southerly tracks for the vessels in this period from the 15th January to the 14th August - obviously and undoubtedly, I think, because it is thought necessary on account of ice to make a more southerly track during that period.

The Commissioner:
Give me the tracks again. I have got the point marked by the blue cross.

The Attorney-General:
Now will your Lordship follow along a little way to the right from the blue cross, and there you have the beginning. You see there the point at which two tracks converge.

The Commissioner:
From Queenstown.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, one of them is from Queenstown, or from Ireland at any rate, and if you follow right along the higher of the two, you will find a few inches to the right, under the more northerly of these two tracks, the words "Mail Steamers outward, 15th January to 14th August."

The Commissioner:
That is not the dotted line at all.

The Attorney-General:
No my Lord, the dotted line is the homeward track; we have nothing to do with that. That is the indicated track for these mail steamers during this period of January to August, and along which, as I understand, the "Titanic" travelled. Your Lordship sees that when she gets to a certain point, the converging point of these two curves, she then proceeds in almost a straight line along the track to New York, past the cross which I have indicated. So that your Lordship will see, as far as I follow it, she was substantially travelling along the track which is marked for her for this time of year upon this chart. If your Lordship will look just a little above the spot with the blue cross you will see there, "Field ice between March and July," which is indicated upon the chart, and a little above that the great bank of Newfoundland. We may have to refer to the chart later, but for the moment I wanted your Lordship to appreciate that because of the evidence of the "Caronia."

The Commissioner:
Where I see the words on the chart, "Icebergs, field ice," I suppose that means to the north of the line?

The Attorney-General:
I understand so - that is, that the field of ice and icebergs have got so far south.

The Commissioner:
This chart says, "Field ice between March and July."

The Attorney-General:
Yes; that is to the northward of the striking point.

The Commissioner:
But then further south there are these words, "Icebergs have been seen within this line." That means north of this line?

The Attorney-General:
Yes, and there is another which your Lordship might note, as you have observed that, which follows immediately underneath it, "Icebergs have been seen within this line in April, May, and June."

The Commissioner:
I saw that. That is a line to the southward again.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, and it continues to the eastward of the indicated line of field ice. Now, I told your Lordship that these two vessels in any event, from the material now before us, gave this notice. My Lord, as it is, in our view, of importance to remember that notice was given and received by the "Titanic" during the day of the 14th that there were icebergs within this latitude and longitude, I call further attention to this, that in the case of the "Caronia" the notice was given in the morning.

The Commissioner:
The morning of the 14th.

The Attorney-General:
The morning of Sunday, the 14th of April. At nine in the morning the message was sent to the "Titanic," and at 9.44 of that same morning the "Titanic" acknowledged the message. I gave your Lordship the substance of the message, and it was that these bergs, growlers, and field ice were reported in 42° N., from 49° to 51° W. That was the message which the "Titanic" acknowledged.

The Commissioner:
I think you have other copies of this chart.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, I will hand them up. I am sorry we did not have them before. Certainly, I quite agree that it is very important that the gentlemen who are with your Lordship should have them. I handed you up my own, my Lord.

The Commissioner:
I should like something to be marked on my chart at all events to show these icebergs.

The Attorney-General:
Certainly, my Lord.

The Commissioner:
What I should like, Mr. Attorney is - perhaps Mr. Aspinall will do it for me - to have the points indicated on my chart which correspond with the information given by the "Caronia" as to the position of the ice. I do not know, Mr. Aspinall, whether you could mark it with a red pencil.

The Attorney-General:
We could do that if your Lordship will hand the chart down to us.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
I do not know, my Lord, if I might make this suggestion - that on of the Assessors, Captain Clarke, would do it with much greater accuracy than we could.

The Commissioner:
Very well, I will ask Captain Clarke to do it for me.

The Attorney-General:
If your Lordship will just pursue the line for about an inch to the right of the blue cross, that is the exact spot as I make it.

The Commissioner:
It is no use my going along unless I have got it accurately in my mind.

The Attorney-General:
I think that is right, my Lord.

The Commissioner:
I daresay, but I want to see it on the chart, and I want to know also whereabout the "Titanic" would be on her course at 9.44 in the morning of the 14th.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, that, of course we do not know, we shall have to form an opinion from calculation.

The Commissioner:
She was steaming 21 knots an hour you say, and you can put her back to 9.44 in the morning and ascertain where she was then, so that I may see what her relative positions were with the ice that was indicated. When you talk about 9.44 in the morning you are taking that time I suppose from the "Caronia"?

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
Does that mean the "Caronia's" mean time, or what is it?

The Attorney-General:
I am not quite sure what it means. It may mean, of course her time, I do not know. I rather gathered it was, but I will not be sure; but I know in the "Baltic," which is the other vessel, that is given as New York time. So that we shall have to ascertain that as we proceed, I do not know myself; I have made a note to ask the same question.

The Commissioner:
I do not know if it is of very serious consequence.

The Attorney-General:
No, I do not think it is, because, put it at what time you like, it is a considerable time before the casualty.

The Commissioner:
Yes, it is more than twelve hours before the casualty.

The Attorney-General:
Yes it would make a difference The "Baltic" (I have given you the "Caronia" and I am dealing now with documents so that I can be precise) passed on reports of ice by wireless telegraphy to the "Titanic" from 49° 9' W., to 50° 20' W.

The Commissioner:
When did she pass on those reports?

The Attorney-General:
They were passed on and acknowledged by the "Titanic" at 1 p.m. New York time on the same day.

The Commissioner:
At 1 p.m.?

The Attorney-General:
Yes, quite roughly, I think it would work out to about 3 p.m. by the "Titanic."

The Commissioner:
About 3 p.m. by the "Titanic's" time?

The Attorney-General:
Yes, that is it, and my Lord, while I am upon that, having given your Lordship 49° 9' W., longitude to 50° 20' W., I ought to have added "on the outward southern track." That was the message. That is the track to which I called your attention.

The Commissioner:
I want to see if I have got the "Baltic's" figures right - 49° 9' N., 50° 20' W.?

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
I notice that the ice was between those points?

The Attorney-General:
Yes on the outward southern track. Now if your Lordship would look just below the blue cross marked there, you will see the outward southern track is that line which you see immediately underneath.

The Commissioner:
What are the figures again for the "Baltic"?

The Attorney-General:
The only figures I have given you are longitude -

The Commissioner:
For the "Baltic;" I want them.

The Attorney-General:
49º 9' W to 50º 20' W longitude on the outward southern track.

The Commissioner:
Where was the "Titanic" at the time that she received the "Caronia's" message, and where was she at the time that she received the "Baltic's" message?

The Attorney-General:
All we can give your Lordship with reference to that is the distance that she must have travelled and for that you must have the times.

The Commissioner:
Yes, you can form an idea, by the speed she was making, where she would be at the time that she received these two messages; and I want that.

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
Mr. Attorney, am I right in supposing that she ran right into the locality where the ice was after the warning that the ice was there?

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
That is what it comes to.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, that is the point, and if you work it out with the chart, as we have been doing, it follows that she did that; because taking the point at which she struck the iceberg, and the indication to her by the "Baltic," you will observe that will work out the position which I have just told your Lordship, immediately below the spot of the collision, actually on the southern track.

The Commissioner:
Mr. Laing, do you agree about this?

Mr. Laing:
No, my Lord, I cannot agree without seeing my figures of the exact spot. We are not quite certain of the exact spot, at the moment, of the collision.

The Commissioner:
It is not a question of the exact spot. According to the indication made for me by my colleagues upon this chart, if, that is to say, the figures given to me by the Attorney-General ae right, it looks as if she, having had warning, made for the ice.

Mr. Laing:
Well, my Lord, we are not quite satisfied about the exact place of collision; we think there may be a substantial difference.

The Commissioner:
Very well, if you say so, I will wait.

Continued >