British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 7

Testimony of James Gibson, cont.

7611. (The Solicitor-General.) Yes, my Lord. (To the Witness.) You say you were told to report that the ship had disappeared. What. did you understand by "disappeared"?
- We could not see anything more of her.

7612. (The Commissioner.) Did it convey to you, and did the man who was speaking to you, in your opinion, intend to convey that the ship had gone down? That is what I understand by disappearing. Did you understand him to mean that?
- No, my Lord.

7613. What did you understand him to mean that she had steamed away through the ice?
- That she had gone out of sight.

7614. Oh, yes. A ship goes out of sight when she goes down to the bottom. What did you understand by the word "disappeared"?
- That is all I could understand about it.

7615. A ship that had been sending up rockets; then you are told to go to the Captain and say, "That ship which has been sending up rockets has disappeared." What did you understand the Second Officer to mean? Did not you understand him to mean that she had gone to the bottom?
- No.

7616. Then what did you understand, that she had steamed away through the ice?
- [No Answer.]

7617. (The Solicitor-General.) I want to follow out this last message and see what it means. You were to tell the Captain, and you did tell him, that this ship had disappeared to the S.W.?
- Yes.

7618. And that your own ship was heading W.S.W.?
- Yes.

7619. So that when this ship disappeared she was lying a little on your port bow?
- Yes.

7620. You see this piece of paper I am holding up. I call the top the north, here is the west, and here is the south. The S.W. is at this corner. If you were in the middle of the paper she disappeared to your S.W.?
- Yes.

7621. And you were heading W.S.W.?
- Yes.

7622. Now, shortly before that had this ship which had disappeared been lying on your starboard bow?
- Yes.

7623. So that you were more like that (Demonstrating.)?
- Yes.

7624. And as you swung round so that she passed from being on your starboard bow to being on your port bow, did you continue to see her sidelight or did her sidelight disappear?
- Her sidelight disappeared.

7625. That is her red light?
- Yes.

7626. And after her red light, disappeared could you still see her masthead light or her white light?
- Just a glare of it.

7627. Do you mean that it did not, shine as brightly as it had been doing?
- Yes.

7628. That. is what you mean?
- Yes.

7629. Did you look at her through the glasses after her sidelight had disappeared?
- Yes.

7630. Did you ever see anything which you took for her stern light?
- No.

7631. One other thing about the lights. You have told us how you saw her through your glasses and saw the glare of lights in her afterpart?
- Yes.

7632. When you saw her first. Now, tell me, when you first saw that glare of lights in the afterpart, could you see a line of lights?
- No.

7633. It was more than a single light, was it not?
- Yes.

7634. Could not you tell, when you first saw it, whether that glare of lights in her afterpart was running level with the water?
- No.

7635. You could not tell. But, at any rate, you could see it through the glasses?
- Yes.

7636. Now I wish you would just try and tell us what you mean when you say that later on, when you looked at her through the glasses, you thought she had a list, or you thought her lights looked queer; what was there about her lights to make you think that?
- Her sidelights seemed to be higher out of the water.

7637. The sidelights seemed to be higher out of the water?
- Yes.

7638. Do you mean that there was any time when you saw both sidelights?
- Her red sidelight.

7639. And you say that watching her, you thought that her red sidelight did not stay at the same level, but got higher?
- Yes.

7640. That was your impression was it?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
That would make a list to starboard?

7641. (The Solicitor-General.) Is that why you thought she had got a list to starboard?
- Yes.

7642. You thought her red light was rising out of the water, and so you assumed that the other side was dropping?
- Yes.

7643. Did you call the Second Officer's attention to that?
- Yes; he remarked it at the time; he told me to look through the glasses at it.

7644. He told you to look through the glasses at that very thing?
- Yes.

7645. (The Commissioner.) When did you first make that statement to anybody - the statement that you have just made that you were told to look through the glasses, to observe this list? When did you first tell anybody of that?
- This is the first time.

7646. You, never told it till now in the witness-box?
- I have spoken to the Second Officer about it since; that is all.

7647. But you have had a statement taken from you, have you not?
- Yes.

7648. Did you say anything about it when you made the statement?
- I do not think, so.

The Commissioner:
I suppose he did not?

The Solicitor-General:
We have asked a good many things, my Lord, which are not to be found in the statements.

The Commissioner:
I could tell quite well, you know, that he had never said it before.

7649. (The Solicitor-General - To the Witness.) Have you a clear recollection of that?
- Yes.

7650. Just tell us. You say the Second Officer spoke to you about it; what did he say?
- He said, "Have a, look at her now, Gibson; she seems to look queer now."

7651. You have not said anything about her port light yet, you know; did he say anything more?
- No; I told him, "She looks rather to have a big side out of the water."

7652. Did you tell him what you noticed with the glasses about her port light?
- I do not recollect.

7653. Did he speak to you about her port light?
- No.

The Commissioner:
I do not understand.

7654. (The Solicitor-General.) Just think it over and tell us as well as you can. You were asked by the Second Officer to look through the glasses at the ship?
- Yes.

7655. And I think you told me that when he asked you to look at her through the glasses he said that she looked queer?
- Yes.

7656. Did he tell you why she looked queer?
- No.

7657. Just think a minute; do not, hurry about it?
- No.

7658. Had you noticed that she looked queer before he spoke to you about it?
- No.

7659. You had not. Then you looked through the glasses?
- Yes.

7660. And when you looked through the glasses what was it you saw? What was it that struck you?
- That she seemed, to be heavily listed to starboard.

7661. You were looking at her port light?
- Yes.

7662. What did you see about her port light?
- It seemed to be higher out of the water than what it was before.

7663. Did, you tell the Second Officer that you saw that?
- I do not recollect it.

7664. Let us see. Had he got some glasses too?
- Yes.

7665. Was he looking through his glasses?
- I could not say.

7666. You were there, you know.
- Yes, but it is dark on the bridge.

7667. Did not you, say anything to him about what you noticed, about her red light?
- I said she seemed to have a big side out of the water.

7668. Did he agree with you or did he not?
- Yes.

7669. He did agree with you?
- Yes.

7670. When you looked at this ship's red light and thought that it seemed queer, did you also look at her lights in the afterpart of her?
- Yes.

7671. How did they stand in relation to the red light?
- They did not seem to be the same as they were before.

7672. They did not seem to be the same as they were before?
- No.

7673. You noticed that?
- Yes.

7674. Did you mention that to the Second Officer that you saw that her after lights did not seem the same as they were before? - No; I do not think I said anything at all about it.

7675. Can you help us about it; tell us if you can. What was it about her after-lights, this glare of lights in the afterpart, which made you think they were not the same as before? What was the difference?
- That I cannot say.

7676. Were they in the same position as they were before?
- They were in the same position, but they seemed to look different.

7677. They merely seemed to look different?
- Yes.

7678. Did you think from looking at them that the ship was lying on an even keel?
- Not by the white lights alone.

7679. You mean the white lights would not have suggested to you that she was not lying on an even keel?
- No.

7680. (The Commissioner.) Am I to understand that, as far as you could tell, the position of the white lights had not changed?
- They seemed to have changed, but I cannot say how.

7681. Changed in what sense? How had they changed?
- They did not look the same as they did before.

7682. I know; you have said that two or three times, and you have been asked what the difference was, and I should have thought you could have told us what the difference was. What was it?
- I cannot say, my Lord.

7683. (The Solicitor-General.) Were they shining as brightly as they were before?
- The same glare.

7684. Then it had nothing to do with the brightness of the lights?
- No.

7685. But though the lights were of the same brightness, it struck you that they looked different somehow?
- Yes.

7686. Cannot you tell us what the difference was?
- No.

7687. You have told us about this red light, that you thought it was higher out of the water?
- Yes.

7688. Did you look to see whether these after-lights seemed higher up out of the water, or lower in the water?
- I noticed them all at the same time.

7689. What, the red light and the others too?
- Yes.

7690. And do you mean that the white light seemed higher out of the water as well as the red light?
- Yes.

7691. Did the Second Officer say anything to you about the white lights?
- No.

7692. Or you say anything to him?
- No.

7693. Then I understand the red light disappeared; you did not see that any more?
- No.

7694. And the white lights continued to burn for a little time afterwards and then they disappeared; is that right?
- Yes.

7695. I do not think you did give evidence in America, did you?
- No.

Examined by Mr. SCANLAN.

7696. Did you know when the rockets were being sent up that they were being sent up as danger signals?
- No.

7697. What did you think they were sent up for?
- I thought they were some private signals.

7698. Who told you they were private signals?
- Nobody told me.

7699. Had you ever seen private signals of that kind?
- No.

7700. And never heard of private signals of that kind?
- I have heard of private rockets, private signal rockets.

7701. When you came on deck, was the Third Officer there?
- No, he had gone below.

7702. I understand you could not say whether or not the light was a masthead light or a signal light, until you took the glasses?
- Yes.

7703. Did you find that you could see perfectly well with the glasses at that time of night?
- Yes.

7704. When you signaled the Morse signals, what did you say to this ship?
- I gave her the calling up sign.

Examined by Mr. HARBINSON.

7705. You said you thought this was a tramp steamer?
- Yes.

7706. Why did you think so?
- She had no appearance at all of a passenger boat.

7707. What time did it first dawn on you that this was a tramp steamer?
- As soon as I looked at her.

7708. What time did you look at her first?
- About a quarter or twenty past twelve.

7709. Who first attracted your notice to this boat?
- I asked the Second Officer were there any steamers around.

7710. What did he say?
- He said, "There is one on the starboard beam."

7711. Did he say anything else?
- No.

7712. Had you glasses at that time?
- No, I did not look at it with the glasses then.

7713. Could you see it then without the glasses?
- I could see this white light.

7714. Only this white light?
- That is all.

The Commissioner:
All he saw was the lights, nothing else.

7715. (Mr. Harbinson.) Only the white light?
- Yes.

7716. Why did you get your glasses?
- I saw the light was flickering. I thought she was calling us up.

7717. And then you got your glasses and directed them on the boat?
- Not before I called her up.

7718. You called her up first and got no reply?
- Yes.

7719. And when you looked through the glasses what could you see beyond the masthead light?
- Her red sidelight and a faint glare of light on her after deck.

7720. Did you mention what you had seen to Mr. Stone, the Second Officer?
- No.

7721. Did you tell him about this glare of light on the after deck?
- No.

7722. Was he looking at this boat through those glasses at the same time?
- Not then.

7723. When did he commence?
- I went off the bridge at 25 past.

7724. And it was while you were away that you say he turned his glasses on the boat?
- I do not know.

7725. At any rate, when you came back he told you that she had fired rockets?
- Yes.

7726. Did he say anything else beyond the fact that she had fired rockets?
- He told me that he reported to the Captain and the Captain had told him to keep calling her up with the Morse light.

7727. Did you again call her up with the Morse light?
- Yes.

7728. (The Commissioner.) What was it made you think it was a tramp steamer? You saw nothing but the lights?
- Well, I have seen nearly all the large passenger boats out at sea, and there was nothing at all about it to resemble a passenger boat.

7729. What is it you expected to see?
- A passenger boat is generally lit up from the water's edge.

7730. This boat was apparently lit up, you know; there was all this glare of light. However, that is all you can say?
- Yes.

7731. (Mr. Harbinson.) Did the glare of light that you saw on the afterpart of this boat seem to be a pretty considerable distance from the masthead light?
- Yes.

7732. It seemed to be a pretty considerable distance?
- Yes.

7733. So that she seemed to be a big steamer?
- Well, a medium size steamer.

7734. Could you see how many funnels she had?
- No.

The Commissioner:
He could not see that; he could only see the lights.

7735. (Mr. Harbinson.) You used the expression that the Second Officer, Mr. Stone, told you she steamed away?
- She slowly steamed away towards the S.W.

7736. Did he use the words "steamed away"?
- Yes.

7737. Did he say he saw her?
- He said, "She is steaming slowly away towards the S.W."

7738. Steaming away?
- Yes.

7739. Towards the S.W.?
- Yes.

7740. Did you fix your glasses on her at this time?
- Yes, I was signaling her continuously.

7741. Could you see whether she was steaming away?
- No. The Second Officer was taking bearings of her all the time.

7742. (The Commissioner.) The message he sent you with was that she disappeared?
- Yes.

7743. (Mr. Harbinson.) Not that she steamed away, but disappeared?
- Yes.

7744. The Captain made no reply?
- He asked me if there were any colours in the lights, or were they all white.

7745. You saw no coloured rockets?
- No.

7746. As a matter of fact is not there a code of rockets for use at sea? Do you know as a matter of fact whether there is or is not?
- I know now there are only distress rockets used at sea and private signals used near the shore.

7747. And what colour are distress rockets?
- White - any colour at all.

7748. Did you say anything to the Second Officer, Mr. Stone, or did he say anything to you, with reference to these rockets that were repeatedly sent up?
- Yes.

7749. Did not you think it very curious that so many rockets should be sent up so close to one another?
- Yes.

7750. Did you say anything to him about going to see the Captain and saying this seemed to be a serious matter?
- No, he told me he had reported it to the Captain and the Captain had told him to keep calling her up.

7751. Did Mr. Stone say this vessel seemed to be in distress?
- No; he said there must be something the matter with her.

7752. Did he make any remarks to you as to the Captain taking no action? Did he say anything to you at the time?
- No.

7753. Are you sure?
- Yes.

7754. (The Commissioner.) Did you say anything to yourself about it?
- I only thought the same that he thought.

7755. What was that?
- That a ship is not going to fire rockets at sea for nothing, and there must be something the matter with her.

7756. Then you thought it was a case of some kind of distress?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
We are anxious to get the other Witnesses from this steamer into the box, and unless you have something really important, I suggest you should finish.

Mr. Harbinson:
I have finished, my Lord.

Mr. Clement Edwards:
I have no question.

Mr. Lewis:
I have no question.

Examined by Mr. LAING.

7757. I should like to ask one question. Did you hear any explosive signal?
- No.

7758. Were those rockets which you saw go up explosives? Did you hear any explosion?
- I did not, hear any report at all.

7759. Any stars?
- Yes.

7760. You could see stars?
- Yes.

7761. You mean stars from the rockets?
- Yes.

7762. Were they stars of any colour or were they white stars?
- White stars.

7763. Do you know that a distress signal, the regulation distress signal, is a rocket throwing stars?
- Yes.

7764. You knew that?
- Yes.

7765. (The Commissioner.) And you knew it then, did you?
- Yes.

7766. (Mr. Laing.) And each of those rockets which you saw, which you have described as white rockets, were they throwing stars?
- All throwing stars.

7767. You have told us your ship's head was E.N.E. when you first saw this vessel?
- Yes.

7768. And you saw her red light on your starboard beam?
- Yes.

7769. Did you continue to see her red light?
- Yes, it was about 2 points on the starboard bow.

7770. When the Officer told you she was going away to the S.W. were you still seeing her red light?
- No, it had disappeared then.

7771. Did you ever see her green?
- No.

7772. To show you her red light she must have been heading to the northward of N.N.W., on your story?
- Yes.

7773. And your head was falling away; which way?
- To northward.

7774. To northward and westward?
- Northward and eastward.

7775. You were heading E.N.E.?
- Yes - to northward and westward.

7776. To the northward it was at any rate, and if you pass to northward you would get to the northward and west?
- Yes.

7777. I understand you to say you got to W.S.W.?
- Yes.

7778. What was causing that?
- We were swinging round.

7779. You told us you never saw the green light of this vessel?
- No.

Mr. Robertson Dunlop:
May I ask one question?


7780. Was the glare of light which you saw on the afterpart of this vessel forward or aft of the masthead light?
- Abaft the masthead light.

7781. So that you would be seeing her starboard side?
- No, her port side.

7782. The glare of light which you say was aft, was aft of the masthead lights?
- Yes.

7783. Was that to your left or your right as you were looking at her?
- To the right.

7784. Do you mean the masthead light was to the right?
- No, the masthead light was to the left.

7785. Was that before you saw her apparently steaming to the south-west?
- Yes.

7786. Did you see her turn round?
- No.

7787. Had you a good opportunity of seeing whether she had two masthead lights or not - I understand you only saw one?
- I only saw one.

7788. How long had you the one masthead light under observation?
- From the time I first saw her to the time she disappeared.

7789. How long would that be?
- A quarter-past twelve to five past two.

7790. And during that time were you using glasses?
- Yes.

7791. Do you think you could have missed the second masthead light had it been there?
- No.

7792. Had you a discussion with the Second Officer as to whether this vessel was a tramp or not?
- Yes.

7793. And did he agree with you?
- Yes.

7794. (The Commissioner.) Did he give his reason?
- That she was probably burning oil lights; that was the cause of the white head mast light flickering.

7795. (Mr. Robertson Dunlop.) How long have you been at sea?
- Three and a half years.

7796. And have you seen passenger steamers?
- Yes.

7797. Large passenger steamers?
- Yes.

7798. And medium-size steamers?
- Yes.

7799. Seen them at night?
- Yes.

7800. And have you been able to tell the difference between a large liner like the "Titanic" and a tramp?
- Yes.

7801. From the appearance of her lights?
- Yes.

7802. From the height of her lights?
- No, from. the quantity.

(The Witness withdrew.)