British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry
Testimony of Joseph Scarrott
Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.
332. Were you serving as A.B. on the "Titanic" on the occasion of this accident?
333. Was it your watch from 8 to 12 on the Sunday night?
334. What were your duties during that watch?
- To stand by for a call in case I was wanted for anything whatever.
335. Shortly before the ship struck the iceberg did you hear the bell strike in the crow's nest?
336. What did you hear?
- Three bells.
337. Do you know what time that was?
- Not to be exact I do not, but it was round about half-past eleven.
338. Shortly after that did you feel anything?
339. What did you feel?
- Well, I did not feel any direct impact, but it seemed as if the ship shook in the same manner as if the engines had been suddenly reversed to full speed astern, just the same sort of vibration, enough to wake anybody up if they were asleep.
340. Did you feel anything besides that?
341. Did you feel the ship strike anything?
- No, not directly.
342. "Not directly," you say?
- Not as if she hit anything straight on - just a trembling of the ship.
343. How soon did you feel this vibration after you heard the three strikes on the gong?
- As I did not take much notice of the three strikes on the gong, I could hardly recollect the time; but I should think it was - well, we will say about five or eight minutes; it seemed to me about that time.
344. Where were you at the time?
- Just about the forecastle head.
345. Did you remain there?
346. Where did you go?
- I rushed down to tell my mate that was in the bath room just at the bottom of the ladder. He asked me to give him a call if anything was doing.
347. What did you do after that?
- Rushed on deck with the remainder of those that were in the forecastle. The shock caused everybody to turn out, and we came on deck to see what was the cause of the vibration.
348. Did the boatswain give any orders to the hands?
349. What was his order?
- "All hands on deck; turn out the boats and take the covers off and place the covers amidships."
350. When you got on deck did you see anything; did you see any ice or iceberg?
- Oh, yes, when we first came up.
351. Tell me what you saw.
- When we came up, that was before the boatswain's call, we saw a large quantity of ice on the starboard side on the fore-well deck, and I went and looked over the rail there and I saw an iceberg that I took it we had struck. It would be abaft the beam then - abaft the starboard beam.
352. Was it close to?
- No, it seemed the ship was acting on her helm and we had swung clear of the iceberg.
353. But how far away from your beam was the iceberg, a ship's length or two ships' length?
- Not a ship's length.
354. You speak of this ship as if answering her helm - as if answering under which helm?
- Under the starboard helm - under the port helm.
355. Get it right?
- Under port helm. Her stern was slewing off the iceberg. Her starboard quarter was going off the icebergs, and the starboard bow was going as if to make a circle round it.
You must be a little more particular about this, and make me understand it.
I think what he means is that she was acting - correct me if I am wrong.
356. She was acting as if under port helm, her head going to starboard?
- That is correct.
The ship's head was going to starboard?
357. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Yes. (To the Witness.) Had your ship headway on at the time - or not do you think?
- I cannot say.
358. You do not know?
You can tell me this, my colleagues will know this, no doubt. After a collision of this character what is the order generally given to the engines? Is it an order to stop or an order to reverse?
It is difficult for me to say, my Lord; it depends so much upon the circumstances of each case.
Then you cannot give a simple answer.
No, my Lord, I am afraid I cannot. I do not know how they might be wishing to manoeuvre her.
With a ship going 21 knots, how soon after an order to stop will the way on the ship stop?
I should think, if the engines are only stopped and not reversed, a laden ship will carry her way for a very considerable distance.
Can you tell me what you mean by a very considerable distance?
I do not think I could give your Lordship any answer to that which would be of value.
Very well. And, of course, if the engines are ordered to be reversed, then the way upon her is stopped in a much shorter time?
That is so, and if the ship has run into something that, of course, is also a factor to be taken into consideration.
That arrests her course?
359. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Yes. (To the Witness.) You have told us that somewhere on your starboard beam, within a ship's length of you, was the iceberg. How high was the iceberg as compared with your vessel?
- I should say about as high as the boat deck; it appeared to be that from the position of it.
360. (The Commissioner.) How high from the water would that be - 90 feet?
- I cannot say.
I think about 60 feet.
361. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) What was the shape of this iceberg?
- Well, it struck me at the time that it resembled the Rock of Gibraltar looking at it from Europa Point. It looked very much the same shape as that, only much smaller.
362. (The Commissioner.) Like a lion couchant?
- As you approach Gibraltar - it seemed that shape. The highest point would be on my right, as it appeared to me.
363. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) You received the words, "Uncover and turn out the boats"?
364. Now which was your boat?
- No. 14.
365. On which side was she?
- The port side.
366. And was she well aft on the port side?
- In the after-section.
367. Did you go to that boat?
368. Did you go to any other boat?
- I went to 14 boat finally, but not at first.
369. Not at first?
- No, not at the first order.
370. Which boat did you go to first?
first boat on the port side - not the emergency boat. The first boat was the first boat to uncover. You understand we started on the port side and got those boats uncovered and cleared and turned them out, falls all ready for lowering, and then worked with the starboard boats. At the time we were working at the starboard boat - I think I was at boat 13 - the chief Officer came along and asked me whether it was my right boat. I said, "No, we are all assisting here." He said, "All right, go to your own boat," and then I went to No. 14 boat.
371. Then how comes it that you did not go to your own boat in the first instance?
- Acting on the boatswain's orders.
372. (The Commissioner.) Which boat did you go to first - what number?
- I think it is four, the first boat abaft the emergency boat on the port side.
Sir Robert Finlay:
It would be No. 4.
373. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) How many boats did you assist in getting out and down to the water before you went to your own boat?
- I think I assisted in getting four out ready for lowering, but not down to the water. I was at my own station then. By the time the order was passed for women and children first, by Mr. Wilde, I assisted to get them all out ready for lowering. I personally helped at four boats.
374. Was there any difficulty or not in getting them out?
- There was in one or two cases, but the difficulty was not great. It merely wanted a kick of the foot just to clear the chock.
375. That is a small difficulty, if it is a difficulty at all. It has always got to be done?
- Yes, you have to watch for that. That is common. That is a thing which is likely to happen at any time.
376. Apart from the difficulty, if it can be called a difficulty, the boats were got out readily and easily?
377. (The Commissioner.) What is the number of your boat?
378. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Then, later, having assisted at the other boats, you got to your own boat?
379. Does that boat belong to any particular Officer?
- Whether it does or not I do not know.
380. That you do not know?
381. Who was taking charge of that boat when you got there - was there anybody?
- When I got there I put myself in charge as the only sailorman there. I was afterwards relieved by the Fifth Officer, Mr. Lowe.
383. Yes, we will come to that. Now having got to boat 14, which was your boat, what was done about that?
- Directly I got to my boat I jumped in, saw the plug in, and saw my dropping ladder was ready to be worked at a moment's notice; and then Mr. Wilde, the Chief Officer, came along and said, "All right; take the women and children," and we started taking the women and children. There would be 20 women got into the boat, I should say, when some men tried to rush the boats, foreigners they were, because they could not understand the order which I gave them, and I had to use a bit of persuasion. The only thing I could use was the boat's tiller.
384. (The Commissioner.) When you say that foreigners tried to rush the boat, were they passengers?
- By their dress I should say yes, my Lord.
385. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Did the Fifth Officer assist you in this persuasion?
- He was not there then.
386. Did you get these men out of your boat, or prevent them getting in?
- Yes, I prevented five getting in. One man jumped in twice and I had to throw him out the third time.
387. Did you succeed in getting all the women and children that were about into your boat?
- Yes, when Mr. Lowe came and took charge he asked me how many were in the boat; I told him as far as I could count there were 54 women and four children, one of those children being a baby in arms. It was a very small baby which came under my notice more than anything, because of the way the mother was looking after it, being a very small child.
388. (The Commissioner.) How many women did you say?
389. And four children?
390. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Were there any other passengers in that boat?
- Not passengers; no, Sir.
391. Who else was in that boat?
- Myself, two firemen, and three or four stewards. I will not be certain as regards the exact number of stewards, but there were not more than four.
392. Two firemen and three or four stewards?
- Yes; not more than four.
393. Was Mr. Lowe, the Fifth Officer, also in the boat?
- We were practically full up. I was taking the women in when Mr. Lowe came. There was another Officer with him on the boat deck, but I do not know which one that was, and he said to this other Officer: "All right, you go in that boat and I will go in this." That would mean No. 16 boat; she was abaft us, the next boat. Mr. Lowe came in our boat. I told him that I had had a bit of trouble through the rushing business, and he said, "All right." He pulled out his revolver and he fired two shots between the ship and the boat's side, and issued a warning to the remainder of the men that were about there. He told them that if there was any more rushing he would use it. When he fired the two shots he fired them into the water. He asked me, "How many got into the boat?" I told him as near as I could count that that was the number, and he said to me, "Do you think the boat will stand it?" I said, "Yes, she is hanging all right." "All right," he said, "Lower away 14."
394. Was she then lowered to the water?
395. And having been lowered to the water, was she disengaged?
- No, she hung up. The forward fall lowered all right, sufficiently far enough that the forepart of the boat was afloat and the forward fall slack. Her after-fall then would be about ten feet - we had about ten feet to go on the after-fall. Our boat was at an angle of pretty well 45 degrees. I called Mr. Lowe's attention to it. He said, "Why don't they lower away aft?" I know the man that was lowering the after-fall, it was McGough. I looked overhead naturally enough, seeing the boat did not come down, and the fall was twisted. It resembled more a cable hawser than a fall, and would not render at all. I called Mr. Lowe's attention to the fact. He said, "What do you think is best to be done?" I said, "I can case it. I will cut one part of the fall, and it will come easy. I have not the least doubt but what she will come away with her releasing gear." He said, "Do not you think the distance rather too much?" I said "No; she might start a plug, but I will look out for that." We dropped her by the releasing gear, and when she was clear I jumped to the plug to see if the impact of the water had started it, but it remained fast. After that we got clear of the ship.
396. Now you are clear of the ship?
397. Now, having got clear of the ship, what was done with that boat? Where did it go to?
- We just rowed clear of the ship. I suppose Mr. Lowe used his discretion to get clear of the suction which was likely to take place, and we saw four other boats then. Sixteen was the nearest boat. She had just got clear a little previous to us.
398. On which side of the ship?
- The port side.
399. On which side of the "Titanic," I mean?
- On the port side.
400. How many were rowing?
401. Do you know who they were - were they seamen?
- I can only account for two as regards their rating. I was pulling the after-oar on the port side of the boat, and on my left was a fireman; but as regards the other two that were further forward on the boat, I cannot say what they were as regards their rating.
402. (The Commissioner.) I thought you said they were stewards.<br />
- I do not know whether those stewards were rowing. There were more than four men in the boat.
403. Am I right in supposing that in your boat, No. 14, there were yourself, two firemen, three or four stewards, and Lowe?
- There is a correction there, my Lord. There was one man in that boat that we had been under the impression - when I say "we," I mean the watch of sailors - that he was a sailorman. That man was not a sailor at all, though acting in the capacity of sailor. That was another man that was in the boat.
404. What was he?
- A window-cleaner; he was supposed to be in the ship as a window-cleaner. [William Harder]
405. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Who was steering your boat?
- Mr. Lowe, the fifth Officer.
406. How far off from the "Titanic" was your boat rowed?
- I should judge about 150 yards.
407. Then did she lie there?
- She lay there with the remainder of the other boats - with the four other boats that we saw when we got clear of the ship.
408. Did you see four other boats there?
409. Did you speak them?
410. And was anything done with the other boats?
- Mr. Lowe asked them who was in charge of the boats, what Officers were there, and we got a reply from each boat individually to say they had no Officer in the boat. He said: "All right consider the whole of you are under my orders; remain with me," and when the ship sank, when there was nothing left of her above the water, he waited, I suppose, about a couple of minutes, not more, and ordered all our boats to row where we last saw the ship to see if we could pick up anybody.
411. You have gone on a little too fast. You spoke four other boats?
412. And you remained there?
413. Now what was happening as far as you could see, on the "Titanic" while you were lying off; was she sinking by the head, or what?
- She was sinking by the head.
414. You could see that?
415. Was she sinking at first fast or slow?
- Very slow it appeared to be.
416. As time went on did she sink faster?
- As the water seemed to get above the bridge she increased her rate of going down.
417. Going down head first?
- Head first.
418. (The Commissioner.) As the water got above the bridge did you say?
- As the water got above the bridge she started to go down faster.
I should have thought that when the water got to the bridge the boat would go to the bottom at once.
I should have thought so too.
She was right up on end then.
419. (The Commissioner.) Do you say the water got to the bridge?
- Yes, I am judging from what I saw. When the port bow light disappeared she seemed to go faster. That light is seen about level with the bridge, the port bow light.
420. Is it level with the bridge? Is not the bridge above it?
- The bridge would be above it, yes.
421. Put your finger on the bridge on that model. (The Witness pointed it out.) Do you want me to understand that the fore part of the ship was so deep in the water that the bridge was touching the water?
- All this part (pointing on the model) was in the water; you could just see the port bow light. Of course, that would be the other side. This would be the starboard light, here.
He said she was standing end-on.
422. (The Commissioner.) What do you mean by that?
- This part of the ship was right up in the air. You could see her propeller right clear, and you could see underneath the keel; you could see part of her keel.
423. And at the stern she was so much up that you could see the propeller?
And part of the keel.
424. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) You saw the port light disappear?
425. And then after that the ship went?
- Yes, she seemed to go with a rush then.
426. (The Commissioner.) How soon after you saw the bridge level with the water did the ship disappear?
- Well, I cannot say as regards the time, but when it got there the ship went with a rush, and you could hear the breaking up of things in the ship, and then followed four explosions. To the best of my recollection that is the number of the explosions.
427. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) As soon as the ship went down, what was done with your boat? Did she remain where she was for a little time, or did she row in to where the ship had sunk?
- She rowed in in company with the four other boats, under the orders of Mr. Lowe, to see if we could pick up anybody from the wreckage.
428. The whole five of you rowed in?
- The whole five of us.
429. Was there much wreckage?
- No, not so much as you would expect from a big ship like that.
430. Did you see many people in the water?
- Later on, but not then. We did not see many then when we got right over the top of the ship. There did not appear to be many people in the water at all.
431. Did you hear cries?
- Yes, rather a great deal.
433. Now did you succeed in rescuing anybody?
- Not our boat individually, but the other boats in our charge did get somebody, but how many I cannot say.
434. (The Commissioner.) You mean people who had dropped from the vessel into the water?
- I take it that is where they came from.
435. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Your boat got none of them?
- We got none of them. The boats that got them were the boats away to our right; they would be to leeward, where the wreckage would drift.
436. Did you see anything of a raft or rafts in the water?
- Later on in the morning we saw one.
437. That was not till later on?
438. You succeeded in rescuing no passengers?
439. Now, after seeing there was no chance of rescuing passengers, what did you do; did you remain there or did you sail away in any direction, or row, or what?
- Mr. Lowe ordered four of the boats to tie together by the painters. He told the men that were in charge of them, the seamen there, what the object was. He said, "If you are tied together and keep all together, if there is any passing steamer they will see a large object like that on the water quicker than they would a small one." During the time that was going on - we intended to make fast ourselves, of course, with the four - we heard cries coming from another direction. Mr. Lowe decided to transfer the passengers that we had, so many in each boat, and then make up the full crew; it did not matter whether it was sailors or anything, and make up the full crew and go in the direction of those cries and see if we could save anybody else. The boats were made fast and the passengers were transferred, and we went away and went among the wreckage. When we got to where the cries were we were amongst hundreds, I should say, of dead bodies floating in lifebelts.
440. Was it dark then?
441. Still dark?
- Yes, and the wreckage and bodies seemed to be all hanging in one cluster. When we got up to it we got one man, and we got him in the stern of the boat - a passenger it was, and he died shortly after we got him into the boat. One of the stewards that was in the boat tried means to restore life to the man; he loosed him and worked his limbs about and rubbed him; but it was of no avail at all, because the man never recovered after we got him into the boat. We got two others then as we pushed our way towards the wreckage, and as we got towards the centre we saw one man there. I have since found out he was a storekeeper; he was on top of a staircase; it seemed to be a large piece of wreckage anyhow which had come from some part of the ship. It was wood anyhow. It looked like a staircase. He was kneeling there as if he was praying, and at the same time he was calling for help. When we saw him we were about from here to that wall away from him, and the boats, the wreckage were that thick - and I am sorry to say there were more bodies than there was wreckage - it took us a good half-hour to get that distance to that man to get through the bodies. We could not row the boat; we had to push them out of the way and force our boat up to this man. But we did not get close enough to get him right off - only just within the reach of an oar. We put out an oar on the fore-part of the boat, and he got hold of it, and he managed to hold on, and we got him into the boat. Those three survived. There was one dead in our boat, and that was the passenger, the first one we picked up.
442. You got four on board, one of whom died - is that it?
- Yes, that is correct.
443. And three were saved?
444. What did you do after that?
- We made sail and sailed back to take our other boats in tow that could not manage themselves at all. We made sail then, but just as we were getting clear of the wreckage we sighted the "Carpathia's" lights.
445. Then what did you do; did you go back to the four other boats?
- Yes, we went back to the four other boats. On our way back we saw one of our patent rafts.
446. (The Commissioner.) What is a patent raft?
- I can give the details of the construction of it. These are air boxes with a seat construction on them, and on the top of them there is a sort of canvas bulwark. It is not a Berthon boat at all; it is not collapsible. It is constructed, and there is a canvas bulwark to it. This one we saw was awash. There seemed to be about 18 or 20 people on it. I particularly took notice of two women that were there, and we made straight for them first and got them off and got them into our boat.
447. How many?
- I will not be exact to the number, but I think there would be about 20, because we were under sail at the time. My attention was directed to the sail while the Officer manoeuvred the boat alongside this raft.
448. How many on the raft were women?
- I only noticed two.
But what is this patent raft? Is it a thing which is carried on board the boat?
Yes, my Lord.
Is it a thing which is constructed by the passengers or by the crew?
I think it is part of the equipment of the ship.
I have not heard of it.
I think they are so constructed; they are put all about the deck, are not they?
Yes. I will show you on this model. There is one at the end of this boat and there is one on the other side on the boat opposite to this one.
Are these things which are carried in accordance with the Regulations of the Board of Trade? I never heard of them.
I have heard of them before, my Lord.
Do you know anything about them, Mr. Attorney?
449. (The Attorney-General.) Yes. It is a frame, and you can make round it by the arrangements there are there a bulwark of canvas. That is as I understand it. (To the Witness.) Is that right?
- That is correct, Sir, but there are air boxes there that form the seats of that raft. Those are tanks.
Those are air boxes which help to float the thing.
450. (The Attorney-General.) I presume so, my Lord. (To the Witness.) Do you know what an Engelhardt collapsible boat is?
- No; the only collapsible boat I have had any dealings with is the Berthon boat and I understand that thoroughly.
451. I am not sure what he is dealing with in regard to collapsible boats. Do you know how many there were?
- No, I do not know how many there were.
Is he talking about collapsible boats?
He may be.
No, not collapsible boats.
Is there anyone here, Sir Robert, connected with the White Star Line who can give us any information about these rafts, because I know nothing about them?
Sir Robert Finlay:
Yes, my Lord. Captain Steele, the Marine Superintendent, will.
Will you tell me, Captain Steele, what these things are?
They are similar to an ordinary boat; just like the bottom of an ordinary boat, only there are air spaces in them, and they have canvas bulwarks.
They are things which have to be rigged up I suppose when they are needed?
They have; the bulwarks have to be raised, yes.
How many of those are carried on board the boat?
Two on each side?
Two on each side.
Will your Lordship ask him whether they are things we have been calling the Engelhardt collapsible boats?
Yes, they are.
Are they the collapsible boats?
Yes, they are, the Engelhardt collapsible boat.
They are the collapsible boats that you spoke of, Mr. Attorney.
Yes, I spoke of four Engelhardt collapsible boats.
Now I understand. They are not something additional to what you mentioned in your opening?
Now, Mr. Aspinall, please go on.
452. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Did you leave any dead bodies on this collapsible boat, what you call a raft?
- Yes, two.
453. Were they men or women?
454. Having got these persons off this structure, what did you do then?
- We took another collapsible boat, as you term what I mentioned just now, one of a similar kind, not a Berthon boat, a similar kind, to the one I said was awash - we took her in tow; she had passengers on board.
455. Do you know how many?
- No, I do not.
456. You took her in tow and towed her in what direction?
- Towed her to the "Carpathia."
457. The "Carpathia" was in sight then?
458. Did you then go to the "Carpathia"?
459. And get alongside of her?
460. Was it dark - or light by the time you got alongside of the "Carpathia"?
I understood it was 8 o'clock in the morning when they got to the "Carpathia."
Between 7 and 8, my Lord.
461. (Mr. Butler Aspinall - To the Witness.) And then, did you all go on board the "Carpathia"?
462. When daylight came that morning, was there much ice about?
- Yes, an enormous quantity of ice about.
463. Were there bergs about - icebergs?
- Yes. I did not count them, but I saw half a dozen that I took notice of.
465. How long do you think it was from the time the "Titanic" struck the iceberg until she sank?
- Roughly, about two hours and a half.
466. How long was it from the time she struck the iceberg until you got your boat into the water?
- It was about one o'clock when we got our boat into the water.
467. (The Commissioner.) And would that be about an hour and a half?
- It would be about an hour and a half.
468. Or an hour and a quarter?
- I judge that she struck about twenty minutes to twelve, and it was about one when we got out boats into the water.
469. It was about an hour and twenty minutes before you got your boat into the water?
470. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) What were you doing during that hour and twenty minutes or hour and a half? How were you occupied?
- Getting other boats ready for lowering - not the whole of the time.
471. What were you doing during the rest of the time?
- Well, there was an interval between when Mr. Wilde sent me to my boat. I was there a fairly decent while, time enough for me to give a good look round to see my boat was ready for lowering before we had orders to take the passengers in. I would not say how long, but I had ample time to look round the boat and see she was all in perfect order.